UNCSA announces Kenan Excellence Scholars, Sarah Graham Kenan and Frank H. Kenan scholarship winners

UNCSA has announced the recipients of the 2024 Kenan Excellence and Sarah Graham Kenan and Frank H. Kenan scholarships, the most prestigious merit-based scholarship programs at UNCSA.

Recipients of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Excellence Scholarships are Brennan Mitchell of Jacksonville, Florida, School of Drama; Eridan Jardine of Virginia Beach, Virginia, School of Design and Production (D&P); Lexi Schubert of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, School of Design and Production; Mia Meadows of Williamsburg, Virginia, School of Drama; and Paulina Pietras of Katowice, Poland, School of Music. The scholarship provides selected incoming students with full tuition, required fees, and room and board for four years of undergraduate study.

The recipient of the Sarah Graham Kenan Scholarship is Aniyah Wilkinson of Tortola, British Virgin Islands, School of Dance. The scholarship provides full tuition, required fees, and room and board for a rising fourth-year college student.

The recipient of the Frank H. Kenan Scholarship is Ryan Holland of Marion, School of Music. The scholarship covers educational expenses and required fees for a UNCSA high school student from North Carolina, studying in the School of Dance or Music, who wishes to attend UNCSA as a college degree-seeking student.

The ability to award scholarships allows UNCSA to attract the most talented student artists from throughout North Carolina, the U.S. and the world.

“For nearly two decades, the Kenan Excellence Scholarship program has honored some of the best and brightest young artists from across the nation,” Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Patrick J. Sims said. "This year's cohort of scholars join a long list of student artists who have distinguished themselves in the arts, academics and service to their communities. We are proud to call them Fighting Pickles and beyond thrilled that they've chosen to expand their artistic journeys at UNCSA.”

The Kenan Excellence Scholarship recipients

The dean of each of the five arts schools nominates candidates for the scholarship from among their best newly admitted students each spring term. The scholarship selection committee reviews each nomination, considering criteria that include each student’s ability in the given arts discipline, capacity to lead and motivate, extracurricular achievement, grade point average, and standardized test scores. The committee then interviews the finalists for selection. Awards are made to the students judged to have the best potential as artist scholars, regardless of the program in which they enroll or their area of residence.

Additional information about the recipients is:

Brennan Mitchell

Brennan Mitchell

Brennan Mitchell

Brennan Mitchell, School of Drama, is an actor, singer, writer and musician.

“This is an incredibly driven young artist with huge potential and will naturally contribute to the heart and soul of our campus,” said Quin Gordon, Drama acting and directing faculty member and director of recruitment.

Mitchell attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Florida, for musical theater where he has had the opportunity to play roles such as Pierre Bezukhov in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”; Mark Cohen in “Rent”; and Konstantin Treplev in “The Seagull.”

Mitchell has been playing guitar for most of his life and loves listening to and writing music. He is a huge fan of the music of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and loves the movies of Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick. Additionally, Mitchell has been a part of programs including Youth Leadership Jacksonville and the StandWithUs Leventhal High School Internship. He is focused on advocating for human rights and fighting for peace and justice in the world. He hopes to use his art to accomplish this goal while highlighting many voices within the community.

Eridan Jardine

Eridan Jardine

Eridan Jardine

Eridan Jardine, School of Design and Production, specializing in stage properties, is a graduate of The Governor's School for the Arts in Norfolk, Virginia, and Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach. From freshman year, Jardine has been part of The Governor’s School’s Theater and Film Department and has worked in technical theater since sophomore year, studying under D&P alumnus Sean Blue.

“It's distinctly evident that Eridan's passion is not just for honing his skills and creating meaningful work, but supporting the environment in which he studies,” said School of Design and Production Dean Michael J. Kelley. “He brings a strong academic work ethic and a passion for craftsmanship, and he has continually risen to creative challenges in each theatrical experience. It was without question that he will have much to offer the stage properties concentration.”

Jardine has worked on props for numerous productions at The Governor’s School, including “The Piano Lesson,” “Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley” and “Metamorphoses.” He has also explored other jobs in shows, stage managing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in his junior year and “Immediate Family” in his senior year. He has also worked on an escape room called “The Necromancer’s Hideout” and is in the process of building another.

Jardine discovered his love for theater in early middle school, taking part in his school’s one-act plays and frequenting shows in his hometown. He realized his preference for crafting and physical creation of a show while in school and dove headfirst into technical theater, building his skills in carpentry, 3D print and design, and other artistic expressions.

Academically, Jardine has maintained a 4.0 GPA and is part of the principal's advisory committee and equal opportunities committee, organizations committed to improving Virginia Beach schools by increasing student involvement. He hopes to make connections and bring joy to the community by helping build the worlds where stories take place.

Lexi Schubert

Lexi Schubert

Lexi Schubert

Lexi Schubert will study sound design in the School of Design and Production.

“Lexi is a unique and impressive student and is well-deserving of the kind of scholarship support provided by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Excellence Scholarship,” Dean Kelley said. 

Schubert’s love of theater started at a young age and she found her passion for sound design in middle school. With hard work, she became the lead audio engineer and designer at her high school.

Schubert developed her skills as a sound designer through productions such as “The 39 Steps,” “Miss Witherspoon,” “Chicago” and “Trap.” Her personal favorite was “The Tempest,” where she tested her talents by not only sound designing the show but also leading the production as stage manager. The production was performed in the round and was judged as one of the best high school productions in the state by the Colorado State Thespian Conference.

Schubert has spent time volunteering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation where she used her audio and production skills to help grant wishes for kids who face severe health challenges. She helped produce a full week of events and fundraisers, which were recognized as the top Make-A-Wish high school fundraisers in the country. She has also won several awards for her work on short films, live events, sport coverage and promotional videos.

When not in school, Schubert has spent summers volunteering with a youth theater company in her hometown, where she builds sets and designs lighting, props and sound for musicals. This year, she will be the assistant technical director for “Mean Girls” and “Matilda,” as well as the technical director for “Seussical.”

Mia Meadows

Mia Meadows

Mia Meadows

Mia Meadows will be studying acting in the School of Drama. Meadows is a senior at Jamestown High School in Williamsburg. Her involvement in theater began very early on when she displayed a talent for singing during preschool.

She began to appreciate the power of storytelling while participating in an elementary school show about the works of Dr. Seuss. She became involved in community theater, working with StageLights Theatre for Children and Williamsburg Players. At age 12, Meadows was cast as Charlotte in the Cadence Theatre Company’s production of “13 the Musical,” an experience that cemented her love for musical theater and the theater community. Meadows’ credits also include “Jane Eyre: the Musical,” “Shrek JR,” “Frozen JR,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Mean Girls.” In Jamestown High School’s annual spring musical, Meadows performed the title role in “Mary Poppins.” As a member of the Jamestown Competition One-Act Team, she originated lead roles in two one-act plays, “The Seven Loves of Audrey Munson” and “The Donut Dollies.”

For her role in “The Donut Dollies,” Meadows received the 2023 All Star Cast Award at the Virginia Theatre Association High School Theatre Festival, was named a 2024 Best Actor in the Virginia High School League Region 4A Theatre Festival and was given a 2024 Top Actor Award at the Virginia Thespian Society One-Act Festival.

Meadows is valedictorian of her high school class, and vice president at large of the Thespian Honor Society, a role that allows her to mentor young artists. As a member of both Rho Kappa Social Studies National Honor Society and the National English Honor Society, Meadows has tutored local elementary school students. She is also a member of Jamestown’s Asian Student Union and is committed to advancing social justice initiatives as a necessary component of both academic and artistic excellence.

“Even given her rigorous academic and artistic obligations, Mia still finds time to give back to her community, donating her time to assist local elementary schools as a mentor and tutor to first- and second-graders struggling with their classwork,” Drama faculty member Gordon said. “This a young person of the highest character, helping to lift up the generation behind her.”

Paulina Pietras

Paulina Pietras

Paulina Pietras

Paulina Pietras will be a percussion student in the School of Music. Pietras began her adventure with percussion at the age of 7 at the Stanisław Moniuszko State Primary Music School and later graduated from the Karol Szymanowski State Secondary Music School. She will study percussion under the guidance of Music faculty member Ksenija Komljenović.

“Being so accomplished at this age on the world stage is truly impressive,” said School of Music Dean Saxton Rose. “She is highly motivated, immensely talented and has a proven record of excellence and service.”

Pietras has placed in several national competitions including earning the grand prize at the 13th Bernard Lewański National Percussion Competition for primary and secondary music schools, second place at the National Percussion Competition of the Center for Artistic Education, and an award for the best interpretation of Krystian Skubała's "The Source of Everything," granted by the composer. She has also won international competitions, including first place at the Australian Marimba Competition and the Ninth International Marimba Competition in Opole. She is a scholar of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, the National Fund for Children and a three-time scholar of the Mayor of Katowice. This year, she is participating in the final of the most prestigious Polish Competition, "Young Musician of the Year," a national Eurovision for musicians.

For Pietras, music is a way to express herself. She says that during her performance you can hear melodies illustrating her deepest hidden feelings. Additionally, she emphasizes that music has completely transformed her life and it has continuously accompanied her through the most difficult moments offering unconditional support.

Besides music, Pietras is interested in literature, philosophy and Japanese culture. She was a volunteer at the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra Academy and actively helps animals. In the future, she would like to establish a foundation offering psychological support in Polish music schools.

Sarah Graham Kenan Scholar

The Sarah Graham Kenan Scholarship goes to a rising college senior with outstanding characteristics in talent and artistic achievement, excellent academic performance, and exceptional leadership and citizenship qualities. The Sarah Graham Kenan Scholarship was established in 1984, and one rising UNCSA college senior has received this scholarship each year since the 1984-85 academic year.

Aniyah Wilkinson

Aniyah Wilkinson

Aniyah Wilkinson

A contemporary dancer, Aniyah Wilkinson received the following glowing recommendation for her award: “With a flawless 4.0 GPA, innate talent, remarkable applied skills and an unparalleled work ethic that enriches any creative endeavor, Aniyah embodies the very essence of excellence,” said Dean of Dance Endalyn T. Outlaw.

Wilkinson currently holds the following positions within UNCSA student organizations: president of Artists of Color, director of UNCSA Pageantry, executive member of the International Student Association, student ambassador and class representative of her third-year class.

During her time at UNCSA, Wilkinson has been in several original works choreographed by Dance alumni Juel D. Lane, Trey McIntyre and Ashley Lindsey, Associate Dean of Dance Brenda Daniels, and Darrell Grand Moultrie. She has also voice acted in a fourth-year student animation film.

Beyond UNCSA, Wilkinson is an international member of the Elevated Dance Company in the British Virgin Islands and is also closely associated with the performing and visual arts scene within the Winston-Salem community. She has participated in events run by the DOSE Arts Collective and the Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, both as a dancer and a creative. She also runs her own crochet business called Amimono Designs, where she sells handmade crocheted clothing, plushies and accessories. 

Frank H. Kenan Scholarship

Established in 2019, the Frank H. Kenan Scholarship covers educational expenses and required fees for a UNCSA high school student from North Carolina, studying in the School of Dance or Music, who wishes to attend UNCSA as a college degree-seeking student. Recipients have demonstrated excellence, imagination, originality and great promise in their discipline, as well as academic excellence, earning at least a 3.5 GPA in each set of UNCSA courses. 

Ryan Holland

Ryan Holland

Ryan Holland

Ryan Holland is a clarinetist at UNCSA, studying under Music faculty member Oskar Espina Ruiz. He attended McDowell High School in Marion, where he was first in his class before transferring to the High School program at UNCSA. He completed his high school diploma in the School of Music’s clarinet studio with a GPA of 3.85.

“He is an outstanding clarinetist and an accomplished scholar,” said Dean Saxton Rose. “However, it is his resilience and leadership potential that truly set him apart. Ryan loves to volunteer and has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills. He is self-motivated, well organized, and a creative driver in the department.”

Before entering UNCSA, Holland was part of McDowell High School’s marching band, concert band and wind ensemble. During this time, he competed and performed in the North Carolina Bandmasters All-State Honors Band and All-District Orchestra and Western North Carolina All-District Bands. His past honors also include performing with the American School Band Directors Association (ASBDA) National Honor Band in St. Augustine, Florida, in 2021, and the 2022 ASBDA National Honor Band in Denver, Colorado. Holland was the principal clarinetist in the 2021-22 Asheville Symphony Youth Orchestra season as well as the bass clarinetist of the 2022-23 Winston-Salem Symphony Youth Orchestra season.

While attending UNCSA, Holland has performed with the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra, UNCSA Wind Ensemble, Nu Ensemble, Chamber Winds, “Nutcracker” Orchestra, Composer Orchestra and various chamber groups. He most recently was invited to the Idaho Orchestral Institute to play as principal clarinetist for the piece “Mathis der Maler” by Paul Hindemith under the direction of Music alumnus Robert Franz.

Holland enjoys playing in a classical music setting where he can share his passion for music on multiple clarinets including E flat, B flat, and A clarinets. Favorite pieces he has performed include Overture to “Candide,” Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Stravinsky’s “Firebird.” Holland looks forward to obtaining his Bachelor of Music in clarinet performance.

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May 15, 2024