May 19, 2011 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / photos below
Media Contact: Marla Carpenter, 336-770-3337,




WINSTON-SALEM – Six faculty members at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) have received Excellence in Teaching Awards. They were honored at the school’s annual Awards Day on Wednesday.

They include: Franco Colavecchia, School of Design and Production; Wanda Coyle, High School Academic Program; Dr. Steven LaCosse, School of Music; Greg Shelnutt, Visual Arts Program, School of Design and Production; Greg Walter, School of Drama; and Dr. David Winkelman, School of Music.

Franco Colavecchia retired in 2010 after teaching set and costume design for 15 years. In 2008, he received a Distinguished Achievement Award in Scene Design from the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology. Previously, he served as head of scenic design at DePaul University, and was a resident designer and faculty member for 25 years at The Juilliard School. He studied both stage design and painting at St. Martin’s College of Art, London, and the Slade School of Art, London University. 

“Franco’s command of the subjects he teaches is unparalleled,” a student wrote in his letter of nomination. “His painting style is unique, one-of-a-kind, and graspable to the students because of his magnetic and personable teaching style.” A colleague wrote: “Franco’s candid but nurturing critiquing style has always been a benchmark of his teaching; so has his willingness to share experiences and processes with his students.”

Wanda Coyle has taught high school mathematics since 1989. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts from Appalachian State University.

In a letter nominating Coyle, a student wrote, “She has always made learning easy by relating math to real-life situations, and she was always available for extra help if needed.” A fellow faculty member said, “Wanda is one of the most intelligent individuals I have taught with. She learns so quickly, and as a teacher is able to explain difficult material in a down-to-earth manner, using practical examples, until her students ‘get it.’”

Coyle’s teaching philosophy states, “When students learn mathematical concepts through a real-world problem setting, rather than rote symbolic manipulation with no context, they feel empowered by their ability to understand the concepts, which in turns gives them confidence in their mathematics ability. And when students begin to gain confidence, even students with a math phobia begin to experience success.”

Dr. Steven LaCosse has taught voice at UNCSA since 1997. He is assistant dean for enrollment and recruitment in the School of Music, and managing director of the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute.

Reviews by students and peers reflect the energy that LaCosse brings to the classroom, and the enthusiasm that he fosters in students. A consistent theme is the manner in which he creates a "safe environment" in which students can make mistakes as they develop their artistic skills. He is praised for the manner in which he has concern for each individual artist with whom he works.

His teaching philosophy centers on an obligation "to teach the whole artist." He pursues that goal by providing students with the basic artistic skills they need to become accomplished artists, and by engaging in thorough and ongoing assessments tailored to each individual student. LaCosse emphasizes this need to challenge students to improve based upon continuing assessment, so that they ultimately understand what it is "to be good citizens of the artistic world." LaCosse believes strongly that all students should accomplish this goal, and he models this kind of citizenry to his students.

LaCosse earned a Bachelor of Music in voice at Indiana University (South Bend), a Master of Music in voice at the University of North Texas, and a Master of Science in opera stage direction and a Doctor of Music in voice at Indiana University. He remains active professionally in opera production at UNCSA, and with opera companies and festivals throughout the United States.

Greg Shelnutt is a graduate of UNCSA’s Visual Arts Program, which he has directed since 2005. He has been on the faculty of the School of Design and Production, which includes the Visual Arts Program, for 11 years.

Of Shelnutt, a student said, “He always gives constructive criticism and motivates me to push my ideas to the next level.” This continual process of evaluation and growth was also referenced by a fellow faculty member: “Students feel encouraged by Greg to explore their potential, individuality and personal visual style through their manipulation of materials and space. While Greg is a leader and disciplinarian, he urges experimentation which plays a vital role in self-expression. His critique sessions are introspective experiences.”

Shelnutt has a Bachelor of Arts from East Carolina University and a Master of Science from the University of Georgia. He has taught sculpture at the University of Mississippi, Victoria College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia, and for the University of Georgia’s study abroad program in Cortona, Italy. He has held residencies in North Carolina, Tennessee, Minnesota, and Australia.

Greg Walter has taught voice to actors since 2004. A fellow faculty member spoke to Walter’s ability to integrate a demand for artistic excellence with a caring and supportive approach, saying “I am amazed at what he is able to do with singers and non-singers alike. It is quite evident that Greg’s standards are high, yet he is good-natured, courteous and patient. As a teacher, Greg is always encouraging and approachable.”

A student wrote, “When I first arrived at the School of the Arts, I could not carry a tune; I could not even match pitch. I was too bashful to sing and simply believed I could not do it. Greg Walter brought out the voice in me that could sing. He believed in me with great enthusiasm, and made failure a step towards success, instead of a pit of embarrassment.”

Walter has a Bachelor of Music in voice from Belmont University in Nashville and studied at the Sherwood Conservatory of Music in Chicago. He has been an accompanist in university theatre and music departments and has worked for more than 15 years as a vocal teacher, coach, and accompanist in Nashville and Chicago. He is also a songwriter and arranger whose works have been sung and recorded by many artists.

Dr. David Winkelman has taught aural skills in the School of Music since 1995, and also serves as assistant dean for undergraduate and high school programs. Serving others is his primary role, according to his philosophy statement. A colleague supported that mission, stating in a letter of nomination, “The lengths that David will go on behalf of the students is legendary.”

A student wrote, “I knew Dr. Winkelman’s class to be an environment of genuine learning and fairness. He is very honest in communicating the aspects that are being done well and those that need work, and while he does not settle for inadequate effort on the student’s part, he rewards true effort, and is more than happy to meet with students having difficulty.”

Winkelman holds a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Music from The Juilliard School, and a Doctor in Musical Arts from the Manhattan School of Music. He previously taught at Manhattan and Juilliard.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors established a series of “Excellence in Teaching” awards in 1994. The policy notes that the awards are to “encourage, identify, recognize, reward and support good teaching within the university.”   

At UNCSA, six teachers are chosen each year from those current, full-time members of the faculty who are nominated by faculty, students and alumni to receive an award. One of them is then forwarded on to the UNC Board of Governors to receive a system-wide teaching award.

This year, UNCSA faculty member Steven LaCosse won that award, which includes a commemorative bronze medallion and a stipend of $7,500: www.uncsa.edu/pressreleases/Releases2011/Mar11/LaCosse.pdf.  He will be honored at UNCSA’s commencement exercises on May 28.

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is the first state-supported, residential school of its kind in the nation. Established as the North Carolina School of the Arts by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, UNCSA opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. More than 1,100 students from high school through graduate school train for careers in the arts in five professional schools: Dance, Design and Production (including a Visual Arts Program), Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. UNCSA is the state’s only public arts conservatory, dedicated entirely to the professional training of talented students in the performing, visual and moving image arts. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.



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       Franco Colavecchia         Wanda Coyle                      Steven LaCosse          Greg Shelnutt               Greg Walter                     David Winkelman