Ten highlights of a memorable 2019-20 school year

Though the 2019-20 school year hasn’t ended the way we anticipated, our resilient community of artists has continued to power creativity. They’ve brought light, levity and love to a world who needs it most. Take a look back at some defining moments of our year:

1. Powering Creativity: The Campaign for UNCSA
In September, UNCSA announced the most ambitious fundraising campaign in our school’s history, seeking support for five areas: scholarships, faculty support, innovation, living and learning environment and community engagement. The on-campus kickoff was followed by a New York City launch in January.

Powering Creativity campaign launch

Sasha Papernik and School of Music alumnus Justin Poindexter perform at the New York City campaign launch. / Photo: Chris Lee

2. Guest Artists, Friends and Fighting Pickles
Guest artists enrich the curriculum for students across conservatories. This year, they ranged from filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who chose UNCSA to host Array’s Ascend Summit, to alumni artpreneurs Juel D. Lane and Camille A. Brown, Artist-in-Residence Tichina Vaughn, David LaChapelle, Brett Gelman, Jay Duckworth, Brandon Victor Dixon, “Nutcracker” conductor Karin Hendrickson, Jonathan Majors and many more.

Ava Duvernay

Ava DuVernay and Phillip Youmans answer audience questions after a screening of "Burning Cane" at UNCSA. / Photo: Raunak Kapoor

3. UNCSA in the rankings
Several industry trade publications highlighted or ranked UNCSA schools this year, continuing to bolster the reputation of our excellent conservatory education. Both Variety and Backstage magazines recognized the School of Filmmaking, while TheWrap ranked the conservatory sixth in their annual list of Top 50 Film Schools. The Hollywood Reporter ranked UNCSA number 11 on its list of the nation’s best film schools, 16 on its list of the Top 25 Music School for Composing for Film and TV and highlighted the School of Drama as a top 5 school for an acting degree. The same publication included the School of Design & Production in their list of top 10 costume design programs in the world. 

"Top Girls" costumes

Design & Production costume students created a red ensemble look for the spring 2020 production of "Top Girls." / Photo: Peter J. Mueller

4. Record-breaking Nutcracker
UNCSA’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” broke records in 2019, with more than 16,000 attendees seeing the show. The production grossed nearly $700,000, with proceeds supporting student scholarships.


Lelan Lewis performs in the 2019 "Nutcracker" production. / Photo: Peter J. Mueller

5. School of Music faculty members perform as Reynolda Quartet
The Reynolda Quartet, comprised of faculty members Ida Bieler, Ulrich Eichenauer, Janet Orenstein and Brooks Whitehouse made their debut performance at Reynolda House Museum of American Art in January to a sold-out crowd. They will continue to collaborate in the coming year.

Reynolda Quartet

The Reynolda Quartet rehearses at Reynolda House Museum of American Art.

6. Groundbreaking Weekend of Women+
The School of Design & Production hosted Weekend of Women+, a first-of-its-kind event that brought together women+ leaders from across the entertainment industry to lead conversations with UNCSA students about challenges and changes in their fields. Their opening weekend panel was livestreamed, and attendees also participated in small group meetings and a collaborative art project.

Quinn Mishra and Jamie Call-Blankinship share ideas for the "Past" project. / Photo: Raunak Kapoor Jennings Leonard and Kate Baxter attach strips of cloth to a wooden frame. / Photo: Raunak KapoorAlex Jarus attaches strips of cloth to a wooden frame. / Photo: Raunak KapoorKaren Walcott, Shannon Hacker and Camryn Banks work on their strips of cloth for the "Future" project. / Photo: Raunak KapoorKris Julio and Adia Matousek work on weaving strips of cloth together. / Photo: Raunak KapoorDean Michael Kelley addresses attendees at the Reception & Exhibition. / Photo: Raunak KapoorDesign & Production students view the "Future" project. / Photo: Raunak KapoorSpeakers Christina Benvegnu and Karen Walcott view the "Present" art project. / Photo: Raunak Kapoor

7. Students lead powerful live art museum
In February, the “Pain & Triumph” live art museum explored how fear motivates people and communities. Visitors explored music, film, visual arts, theater and dance exhibitions, curated by costume design senior Trey Gray and presented by UNCSA students, with support from the UNCSA Artists of Color student organization and the School of Design & Production.

Live Art Museum

Students showcase powerful artwork during "Pain & Triumph." / Photo: Alex Jarus

8. METL launches residency program
After a busy first year, which included hosting the inaugural Future of Reality Summit, the Media + Emerging Technology Lab announced a new immersive storytelling residency program through an exclusive feature with Variety. The program, which welcomed four fellows earlier this year, focuses on immersive art, technology and visual storytelling.

Navid Khonsari

iNK Stories co-founder Navid Khonsari is an industry advisor for the METL residency program. / Photo: Anida Kleege

9. #PoweringCommunity
As it became clear that COVID-19 would disrupt much of the spring semester, UNCSA announced a new hashtag, #PoweringCommunity, to highlight and promote how UNCSA students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends are creating art from home during social distancing.

Emma Cilke

Emma Cilke shares practices her form from home in New Mexico.

10. UNCSA at Home
The UNCSA at Home hub launched in May to provide audiences a way to enjoy UNCSA performances from the comfort of home. It includes student films, music and dance performances, drama classes and more. It will soon premiere the full-length performance of “Polovtsian Dances,” choreographed by Susan Jaffe, on May 28.

"She Follows Close Behind"

"She Follows Close Behind" is among the student films included in UNCSA at Home. / Photo: Cameron McCormack

by Hannah Callaway

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May 15, 2020