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Piano professor recipient of USD College of Fine Arts Knutson Award

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Susan Keith Gray, D.M.A., is the 2014 recipient of the Wayne and Esther Knutson Distinguished Professor Award presented by the College of Fine Arts at the University of South Dakota. Keith-Gray, professor of studio piano, collaborative piano and class piano, was selected following a committee review of several applicants.

In addition to her teaching responsibilities at USD, Keith Gray is acclaimed as a specialist in collaborative playing and has performed in recital with a number of artists. She is also a member of the award-winning Rawlins Piano Trio. With the Rawlins Piano Trio, Keith Gray has toured in Taiwan and Panama and has recorded four CDs of American piano trios. Individual awards include prizes in the Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Artist Competition, and solo appearances with the South Dakota Symphony, Dakota Chamber, Spartanburg, Savannah, Huron, Cherokee and the USD Orchestras.

Keith Gray holds degrees in piano performance from Converse College and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the Doctor of Musical Arts in Chamber Music and Accompanying from the University of Michigan. She joined the USD faculty and the Rawlins Piano Trio in 1995, and she is the 2005 recipient of the USD’s prestigious Belbas-Larson Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“Dr. Gray’s portfolio and research and creative scholarship are outstanding at all levels of work at USD, as well as nationally and internationally,” stated Larry Schou, D.M.A., dean of the College of Fine Arts. “Susan is to be commended for her achievement in winning this award and for her work in the profession.”

The biennial Knutson Award, presented for the first time in 2006 to Susanne Skyrm, was named for Wayne Knutson, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor Emeritus, who provided 35 years of service to USD as a professor, chair of the Department of English, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Additionally, Knutson directed 70 plays at USD, the Black Hills Playhouse, and community theatres across South Dakota, and wrote 10 plays and opera librettos, which all were produced. He and his wife, Esther Johnstad Knutson, continue to reside in Vermillion.

A photo of Keith Gray is available at


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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Hanna DeLange
USD News