Award winning alumni will speak at UNCSA commencement ceremonies

Students graduating from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in May will hear commencement addresses by award-winning alumni. Costume designer Paul Tazewell, winner of a Tony Award and an Emmy Award, will speak at University Commencement at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 5, and two-time Emmy Award-winning musician Katreese Barnes will speak at High School Commencement at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 18.

Both ceremonies will take place at UNCSA’s Stevens Center at 405 West Fourth St. in downtown Winston-Salem.

“Paul and Katreese went on from UNCSA to inspire and delight audiences across the world,” said Chancellor Lindsay Bierman. “Their storied careers span theater and television, movies and music, and we’re thrilled to welcome them back as mentors and role models for our graduates.”

Paul Tazewell

Costume designer Paul Tazewell will speak at University Commencement on May 5.

Tazewell, who received a B.F.A. from the School of Design and Production (D&P) in 1986, won a Tony Award for costume design for the Broadway smash “Hamilton” and an Emmy Award for costume design for NBC’s “The Wiz: Live” in 2016. He has been nominated for five other Tony Awards. He has won two Lucille Lortel Awards, four Helen Hayes Awards and many regional design honors. The Princess Grace Foundation named him a young artist of note in 1993, and in 2013 it honored him with its most coveted prize, the Princess Grace Statue Award.

Trained as a classical pianist in the School of Music, Barnes received her high school diploma from UNCSA in 1980. For a decade she was musical director for “Saturday Night Live” on NBC, earning Emmy Awards for music and lyrics for a Justin Timberlake digital short and a Timberlake monologue. A producer, composer and singer, Barnes has written songs for Chaka Kahn, Diddy and Alicia Keys and has performed as a backup singer for Sting and Mariah Carey.

Katreese Barnes

Pianist, singer, composer and producer Katreese Barnes will speak at High School Commencement on May 18.

At University Commencement, 205 undergraduates are expected to receive Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees, and 65 graduate students will receive Master of Fine Arts and Master of Music degrees and Professional Artist Certificates.

“We are thrilled to have Paul back on campus as Commencement Speaker,” said D&P Dean Michael J. Kelley, who was a classmate of Tazewell’s. “He’s been back as a guest artist several times, and students have been enthralled. His experience and his wisdom about the arts and entertainment industry will resonate with artists across all disciplines.”

Tazewell designed costumes for Jimmy Buffett’s “Escape to Margaritaville,” which opens on Broadway this week after a month of previews, and for NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert,” which will air on Easter Sunday, April 1.

A costume he designed worn by Lin-Manuel Miranda in “Hamilton” will go on display March 22 at the Smithsonian Institution’s “Giving in America” exhibition.

He also designed the costumes for the HBO movie “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne.

Originally from Akron, Ohio, Tazewell received an M.F.A. from New York University.

Approximately 122 high school students are expected to graduate on May 18 at a ceremony featuring Barnes, who grew up in Enfield, N.C. and attended the School of the Arts her senior year.

“Katreese Barnes personifies  many of the skills we foster in the School of Music today,” said Music Dean Brian Cole. “She is versatile and multi-talented, hard-working, and passionate about music. She’s had an astounding career, and I know our students cannot wait to hear about her experience and her insights.”

Barnes’ career began early, performing with her brother in the ’80s R&B duo Juicy. Their 1986 single “Sugar Free” reached No. 57 on Billboard’s R&B chart. She began working on “Saturday Night Live” as house pianist and was promoted to musical director.

As a producer, her credits include the Grammy-nominated "Roberta" for Roberta Flack on Atlantic Records and the Grammy winner "Woman I Am" for Chaka Khan. She composed the Emmy-nominated “I Love Sports” for Justin Timberlake hosting the Espy Awards in 2016. Barnes performed as a vocalist for Sting’s “Live from Tuscany” special for A&E network, which won two Emmys in 2002.

More about Katreese Barnes


Katreese Barnes is a two-time Emmy Award-winner.

Two-time Emmy Award-winner and Grammy-nominated pianist, producer and composer, Katreese Barnes has been a hidden hand at orchestrating some of our cherished cultural sounds.

After years of background work, Barnes took center stage with her EP “Something To Consider,” and marshaled an ensemble into a land where jazz, classical and soul roam together. “Something To Consider” is a five-track effort that showcases Barnes' arranging as well as song writing. With its non-traditional rhythm section, Barnes uses a string quartet instead of guitar layers, creating a signature sound that is acoustic and modern.

Barnes is currently working on “Welcome 2 My House,” a live-streamed internet show that she created, in which she surprises people in their living rooms with their favorite artist singing their favorite song. The program showcases artists in a very intimate environment while playing with a string quartet, bass, and percussion. The motto of the show is “We’re going to keep the music alive, one living room at a time.”

Raised a military brat, Barnes started playing piano at the age of 10, and landed her first record deal in her teens. In her early 20s she wrote songs for Chaka Khan and Roberta Flack, and in 2000 she began at “Saturday Night Live,” where she worked for a decade and composed music for several reoccurring sketches, including hits like Deep House Dish, Lawrence Welk, What Up with That and the Christmas classic “D*** In a Box” featuring Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg. She was the band leader for season one of the comedy game show “Oh Sit” on the CW network and “The Rosie Show” on OWN.

In her personal life, Barnes is a cancer survivor who has overcome adversity by taking her usual unorthodox approach—embracing what’s natural with alternative therapies and treatments.

More about Paul Tazewell 


Paul Tazewell won a 2016 Tony for his work on "Hamilton: An American Musical."

Paul Tazewell has been designing costumes for Broadway and regional theater, film and television, dance and opera productions for more than 25 years.

Starting his Broadway career with the groundbreaking musical “Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk” directed by George C. Wolfe, he followed that with work on the original Broadway productions of “In the Heights,” “The Color Purple,” “Dr. Zhivago,” “Memphis,” “Caroline, or Change,” “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” “Russel Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam,” “Lombardi,” and “Magic/Bird.” Revival work includes “Side Show,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Guys and Dolls,” “A Raisin in the Sun” and “On the Town.”

In the United States and across the world, Tazewell has designed for such renowned companies as the Metropolitan Opera, the Bolshoi Ballet, the English National Opera, Theatre du Chatelet, The Public Theater, the National Theatre, the Kennedy Center, the Guthrie Theater, Arena Stage, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera and many more.

Tazewell holds an M.F.A. from New York University and a B.F.A. from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has instructed students as a guest artist at New York University and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. From 2003-2006, he held a faculty position at Carnegie Mellon University.

He currently lives in New York City and works across the globe. 

by Lauren Whitaker

March 19, 2018