2021 Creative Arts Awards Recipients

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2021 Awards in the Creative Arts! Full bios are available below, listed alphabetically by last name.

Sarah Brailey headshotSarah Brailey (Lyman S.V. Judson and Ellen Mackechnie Judson Student Award in the Creative Arts)

Soprano Sarah Brailey has been hailed by The New York Times for her “exquisitely phrased” singing and by Opera UK for “a sound of remarkable purity.” Recent highlights include Handel’s Messiah with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; performing with Kanye West and Roomful of Teeth at the Hollywood Bowl; and The Soul in the world premiere recording of Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Prison, for which she received a 2021 GRAMMY Nomination for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. Co-founder of Madison’s Just Bach concert series, Sarah is also the Artistic Director of the Handel Aria Competition, and co-host of the early music program Musica Antiqua on WORT 89.9FM. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Music from the Eastman School of Music, a Master of Music degree from UW–Madison, and began her DMA in vocal performance in 2018 with Professor Paul Rowe. Her research project focuses on how to commission effective new works for the voice.

The award recognizes Brailey’s professional accomplishments in a career in music and performance, as well as her contributions to musicianship, scholarship, and academia.

Daniel Grabois headshotDaniel Grabois (Emily Mead Baldwin Award in the Creative Arts)

Daniel Grabois, Associate Professor of Horn at the Mead Witter School of Music, performs in the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and serves as the Curator of SoundWaves, a series he created that combines science lectures with music performances. The Director of the Electro-Acoustic Research Space (EARS), a facility he founded with funding from a UW2020 large-equipment grant, Grabois is also the hornist in the Meridian Arts Ensemble, a brass quintet with whom he has toured worldwide. A freelance musician from 1989 to 2011, Grabois performed with many classical music ensembles in New York. He appeared on numerous recordings of classical music, rock, and jazz, and played in Broadway pits in thousands of performances. Grabois recently released his first solo album, Air Names, for electronic horn, for which he wrote all the music. His compositions, including three etude books and numerous chamber and solo works, are published by Brass Arts Unlimited.

Grabois will use the award to create two recordings, Earth Names and Water Names, using equipment from the Electro-Acoustic Research Space (EARS), a research lab funded by UW2020. Earth Names, grounded in the solid tradition of classical music, would comprise works written for or by Grabois for solo horn or horn and piano. Water Names will be an album of music all composed by Grabois for horn and electronics using equipment from EARS, with horn parts. This music will be written by Grabois, blending various kinds of rock music with classical and world music sounds. Recordings will take place in the Hamel Music Center, using microphones, interfaces, and other equipment from EARS.

Aaron Granat headshotAaron Granat (Edna Wiechers Arts in Wisconsin Award)

Aaron Granat is a videographer, cinematographer and instructor in the Department of Communication Arts. In response to one of the impacts of the pandemic rendering attending artistic performances impossible, the award will be used to create a virtual platform from which artists in music, dance, video arts, architecture, painting, and other mediums will be streamed regularly to an online presence of art appreciators around the state.

Mark Hetzler headshotMark Hetzler (Emily Mead Baldwin Award in the Creative Arts)

Mark Hetzler, Professor of Trombone – Mead Witter School of Music, received his BM from Boston University and MM from New England Conservatory of Music and was a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and New World Symphony. Since joining the UW–Madison faculty in 2004, Mark has served on the Division of the Arts Creative Arts Awards Committee, the Graduate School Arts and Humanities Fellowship Committee, numerous School of Music service and faculty search committees, and committees for national and international professional organizations, including the International Trombone Association’s Board of Advisors. As a member of the Empire Brass from 1996-2012, Hetzler performed internationally and throughout the United States. Former Principal Trombone of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Hetzler has performed with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Boston Pops. Hetzler has released fourteen professional solo recordings, including twelve on the Summit Records label.

The award will be used to produce an album entitled Spectaculous, a studio recording of original music in the style of hip-hop, neo-soul, jazz, classical, art rock, R&B, funk, 50’s & 60’s pop, and experimental music. The album will involve collaboration with Atlanta-based singer/songwriter Dequadray James White, and Madison-based music ensemble “Mr. Chair,” and will feature Hetzler’s efforts as lead music producer. The project’s title is derived from Mr. White’s fictional character SPECTACULOUS, an inter-dimensional being who enters the human world to observe the “human comedy,” and then commences a musical journey discovering love, identity, and self-realization. The music will include a wide range of orchestrations, from the stripped-down simplicity of a single piano to the rich sound of a live symphony orchestra. This recording will be produced in Madison with a planned 2023 release via numerous formats, including vinyl, CD, digital download, and streaming platforms.

Quanda Johnson headshotQuanda Johnson (Graduate Student Creative Arts Award)

Quanda Johnson, a PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, examines the African diaspora/performance activism. A Fulbright Scholar (2013 – 2014), she coalesced Nova Scotia Africadian communities to chronicle their history through her original theatrical concert, Beyond the Veil of the Sorrow Songs.

The award will be used in support of Johnson’s dissertation project, Trauerspiel: Subject into Nonbeing, a three-part exploration into violence Black bodies and psyches navigate during their time in Atlantic modernity. Hegemonic psychological and physical violence, and trauma within Black domiciles will be examined in four performative bricolage vignettes. The first, In Search of Negroland: a different study of the negro race (projection art, spoken word, West African djembe, and traditional Ghanaian dance as represented by basic Adowa dance forms) presents a “close-read” of psychological violence through the ridicule of the sub-Saharan phenotype. The second, The Ballad of Anthony Crawford: a love letter to america presents two parts (Engineering 1: projection art, spoken word, African drum, visual art, contemporary dance, tap dance, and recorded sound; Engineering 2: projection art, spoken word, Ghanaian Seprewa harp, and hip-hop dance) chronicling a victim of mob violence in the early 20th century examining the affect and effect on the Black community and the effect on the victim. The final installment, Trauerspiel: subject into non-being (projection art, poetic reading, hip-hop dance, and mirrors) is a study in simulacra of generational trauma.

Roberto Torres Mata headshotRoberto Torres Mata (Graduate Student Creative Arts Award)

Roberto Torres Mata is an artist from Huntington Beach, California, and Rockford, Illinois, currently located in Madison, Wisconsin pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Western Illinois University of Southwest Illinois. Exhibiting his work nationally and internationally, Mata has been published by The Capital Times and in On Wisconsin. He has exhibited work at the Figge Art Museum, at the Quad Cities, Illinois, and Zhou B Art Center at Chicago, Illinois. Mata is a current recipient of the Education Graduate Research Scholars fellow and a recent recipient of the Chazen Prize.

The award will be used to produce In the Routes We Take, a contemporary art exhibition spotlighting the issues of migration from both human and animal perspectives. The project aims to direct attention to migration as an important issue that has far-reaching impacts on society as a global phenomenon, bringing attention to the ecological, economic, and social issues that are centered in the Americas. Held in the Chazen Museum, the exhibition will consist of materials that expresses an emotional and physical sense of reality of human migration as well as the routes that animals depend on for long-distance movement for survival. The goal for this exhibition is to create a space that becomes interactive and functional for the viewer, as this can help shape a dialogue while removing the idea of creating barriers of division and to promote compassion and humanity.

Nick Moran headshotNick Moran (Graduate Student Creative Arts Award)

Bassist Nick Moran has performed both nationally and internationally for over 20 years. He has collaborated with a diverse collection of internationally renowned acts including Ben Sidran, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Clyde Stubblefield, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, Ana Laan, cajón ambassador Juan ‘Cotito’ Medrano, Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, and hip-hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc. Currently, Moran performs with internationally recognized Golpe Tierra and Phat Phunktion. In 2014, Moran joined the jazz studies faculty at the UW–Madison Mead Witter School of Music as the Jazz Bass Instructor, a position he held till 2020. He is also the director of the UW Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble. In fall of 2020, he enrolled at UW–Madison Mead Witter School of Music in the Masters of Music graduate program. In addition to his music career, Nick works as a production and development consultant for The Greater Madison Jazz Consortium and The Arts + Literature Laboratory. In 2014, Nick was awarded “Jazz Personality Of The Year” at The Isthmus Jazz Festival by mayoral proclamation.

The award will be used to produce and release a recording of 5 original compositions and arrangements for Golpe Tierra, a music project that aims to deliver a message of social change. These compositions feature themes of social change and calls to action with lyrics in Spanish. Golpe Tierra is a musical group founded by Moran and Richard Hildner, both first generation Peruvian Americans born in Madison, Wisconsin. The project will record 5 or more original compositions and arrangements that have already been composed. The award will allow a unique opportunity to record the music in a more controlled and deliberate manner.

Anders Nienstaedt headshotAnders Nienstaedt (Graduate Student Creative Arts Award)

Anders Nienstaedt is an artist, writer, and filmmaker from Madison, Wisconsin. He is currently an MFA candidate in Fine Art at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (expected graduation spring, 2021). He has exhibited artwork and films nationally and internationally, and has completed residencies with Franconia Sculpture Park in Shafer, Minnesota and Yes We Camp!, a French organization dedicated to community-building through experimental architectural spaces in Marseille, France. In addition to working as a sculpture instructor, he works as a freelance writer, illustrator, and cartoonist.

The award will be used to construct a lasting functional design object serving the changing storage and display needs of the Kohler Art Library. Part furniture object, part interactive sculpture, Nienstaedt will create an adaptable, playful, and functional display for a variety of library resources, including books, artwork and sculptures, and digital screens or tablets.

Darcy Padilla headshotDarcy Padilla (Creative Arts Award)

Darcy Padilla, Associate Professor in the Art Department, is a documentary photographer and member photographer of Agence VU’ in Paris. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California, Davis, and holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from San Francisco State University. Padilla has won multiple major photography awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship, Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship, Getty Images Grant, International Photo-reporter Grant, Canon Female Photojournalist Award, World Report Master Award, three World Press Photo Awards (first recipient for Long-Term Projects), and a W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography. Padilla focuses on long-term projects about struggle and the trans-generational effects. Her monograph, Family Love, published by Éditions de La Martinière in France, follows a family for 21-years —an intimate story of poverty, AIDS, and social issues.

The award will be used to produce a new artistic project entitled Aftermath, a series of original photographic essays documenting the experiences of Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic and aftermath. Photographing the challenges facing Americans at this particular time in history, the work will tell the stories of people around the country who are coping with the profound social and economic disparity. The inspiration for the project is the work done by iconic photographers Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and others employed by the Farm Security Administration to document the experiences of Americans during the Great Depression and World War II. The project will produce exhibitions, publications, lectures, and in the long-term, the photographic essays will be collected in a monograph. The goal is to create a visual resource that draws attention to a critical aspect of American society and leaves a historic record.

Michael Peterson headshotMichael Peterson (Emily Mead Baldwin Award in the Creative Arts)

Michael Peterson is a Professor of Art and Director of the Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies graduate program. For almost 15 years Peterson has produced dozens of art projects around the world with Spatula & Barcode, his collaboration with Laurie Beth Clark. Their work is best described as “social practice art” – art formed out of human interaction. Sometimes almost indistinguishable from daily life (“the conversation is the artwork,” they sometimes say), this has also taken many other forms, including parades, picnics, parties, installations, scholarly and creative writing, and public gift-giving. They often use food as a tool for transforming social situations, but in 2015 Spatula & Barcode took food and food culture as the specific subject of their Foodways series. This involved multiple large-scale public artworks, first in Germany, then Australia, and then at home in collaborations with the Madison Public Library, the Dane County Farmers Market, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

The award will be used to produce COVID Foodways, an artistic investigation of food culture during the pandemic. Peterson will produce a series of “social practice” participatory art events that consider the COVID-19 era through food culture. These events will in turn form the basis for visually creative documentary films that “re-vision” COVID food culture. COVID Foodways will analyze the weaknesses and inequities revealed in current food systems, and, more importantly, emphasize the creative resilience demonstrated by consumers and small-scale producers and distributors as they responded to the pandemic by remaking food culture.

Jen Plants headshotJen Plants (Joyce J. and Gerald A. Bartell Award in the Arts)

Jen Plants has been a Faculty Associate in the English Department since 2015. A Carl Djerassi Playwriting Fellow (2014), Plants has taught contemporary theatre making practices, critical race theory, and dramaturgy. Committed to the Wisconsin Idea, Plants has collaborated with international, national, and local institutions including the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, and the Open Society Foundation in Budapest, Hungary. She is a prolific director, member of Actors’ Equity, and nationally known dramaturg. She was a founding artist of the London-based immersive theatrical event No Feedback and, more recently, directed world premieres for Four Seasons Theatre and Fresco Opera. As founder/artistic director of Third Ridge Theatre, Plants produced and directed Miss American Pie, the first part of House Work, a site-specific project that will present a play in every room of Plant’s home designed to reach new audiences in unexpected places.

Ben Reiser headshotBen Reiser (Joyce J. and Gerald A. Bartell Award in the Arts)

Ben Reiser graduated from SUNY Purchase in 1988 with a BFA in Filmmaking. For his senior thesis, Ben wrote and directed A Day at School, a 40-minute narrative film, shot and edited on 16mm, chronicling a day in the life of students on campus. Returning to his hometown of Brooklyn, New York after graduating, Ben wrote two feature length screenplays (as of this writing, unproduced) and was hired by successful independent filmmaker Bill Sherwood (Parting Glances) to write a detailed scene-by-scene synopsis of Ball of Fire (1941) for an un-produced Madonna remake. Reiser later became Sherwood’s all-around assistant until Sherwood died in 1990. Next, Ben focused on music and songwriting, forming the band All About Chad with his bass-playing friend, Chad Pilieri. All About Chad eventually got signed to an independent music label, Big Pop, and the album Down in Front was released in 1994. Around that same time, We’re Not Gonna Make It, a song Ben wrote while still in college, was featured on the debut album for The Presidents of the United States of America on Columbia Records. That album went on to sell three million copies, and with the royalty checks Reiser received as a result, he and his college sweetheart, Katie, moved from Brooklyn, to Madison, Wisconsin, where, in 1997, they bought a house, and along with their two dogs, started a new chapter in their lives.

Reiser has been involved with the Wisconsin Film Festival since 2010, holding the title of Festival Coordinator since 2014, and UW Cinematheque since 2013.

Chris Rottmayer headshotChris Rottmayer (Graduate Student Creative Arts Award)

Chris Rottmayer is pursuing a DMA in Piano Performance and holds a Teaching Assistantship at UW–Madison (Theory department). He is also currently the Instructor of Jazz Piano at the University of South Florida, where he has taught since 2007. A jazz pianist, composer, and jazz vibraphonist, Rottmayer has been a freelance jazz pianist since 1990, including for Walt Disney World from 1999 to 2020, and has released three albums as a leader: Reactive Synthesis (2013), Sunday at Pilars (2020), and So In Love (2020). So In Love has charted for 12 weeks, peaking at #3 on the Roots Music Report Top 50 Jazz Album Chart. Sunday at Pilars has charted for 3 weeks, peaking at #21 on the RMR Top 50 chart and #19on the NACC Top 30 Jazz Albums chart. Both continue to chart.

The award will support Rottmayer’s DMA research, focusing on the piano playing of Mulgrew Miller, one of the most influential voices in jazz piano during the 1970s to 1990s. The project examines his playing with the band of trumpeter Woody Shaw, another influential jazz performer from the same era. Miller played with Shaw from 1981-1983, and his playing in Shaw’s band was unique and important. Rottmayer will use style analysis of Miller to inform an album of original compositions which will be recorded with well-known veteran jazz musicians of Mulgrew’s era. The recording will include eight original songs and be approximately 60 minutes in length. The aim is to connect compositional research to Miller’s legacy, paying respect to one of the most influential of all jazz pianists.

Midori Samson headshotMidori Samson (Graduate Student Creative Arts Award)

Midori Samson (she/her) began a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in bassoon (minor in social welfare) at UW–Madison in 2018. Currently, she is the Lecturer of Bassoon at UW–Stevens Point and 2nd bassoonist of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Other recent activities include engagements with Yo-Yo Ma and Youth Music Culture Guangdong (China), Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Artists Striving to End Poverty (India/New York), Ubumuntu Arts Festival (Rwanda), and Project Tumugtog (Philippines). She is happiest participating in creative projects that exemplify social justice and anti-oppression; her dissertation suggests how musicians can operationalize social work principles as anti-racist action. She brings this philosophy to her role as the Artistic Director of Trade Winds Ensemble, a group of teaching artists that host composition workshops with social impact organizations in Nairobi, Chicago, and Detroit. She holds degrees from Juilliard and the University of Texas at Austin.

The award will support the production of a series of asynchronous interactive online “modules” by Trade Winds Ensemble (TWE), a group of professional teaching artists who offer composition and songwriting workshops for children worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic has paused the ensemble’s ability to conduct any in-person activities with students, despite the continued desire of TWE partners to still offer arts programming to the youth they serve. To meet this need, Samson will create musical activities that all existing and new partners will be able to access.

Ava Shadmani headshotAva Shadmani (David and Edith Sinaiko Frank Graduate Fellowship for a Woman in the Arts)

Ava Shadmani is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts Degree with a minor in Arts Administration at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She studies with distinguished violinist David Perry and is a member of the UW graduate string quartet, the Rabin Quartet. Prior to that, she was a Hunt Quartet fellow where she prepared numerous recitals and outreach programs through both UW and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. A native of Tehran, Iran, Shadmani began playing violin at the age of 11. She moved to the United States in 2016 and received her Masters of Music at the University of Maryland. Her UMD attendance was supported by the prestigious Smith Scholarship. Shadmani holds a Bachelor of Music in violin performance from the University of Tehran. Shadmani is an active solo and chamber musician, and has performed various concerts in her country, as well as Europe and the United States. She is a former violinist of the Arvand String Quartet, one of the only active chamber ensembles in Iran that has appeared in several performances and recordings with the goal of bringing classical music into more accessible venues. In addition, she worked with the professional Iranian orchestras such as Tehran Symphonic  Orchestra, Parsian Chamber Orchestra, and Tehran Philharmonic Orchestra. Since she moved to the United States, Shadmani has been frequently invited to collaborate with orchestras and chamber groups throughout the country.

The award will be used in support of Shadmani’s research project, Unheard Voices of Iran, in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at University of Wisconsin–Madison. This project introduces five folk-inspired compositions by Iranian composers and it consists of two parts: live performances and professional recording of both premieres, and commissioned pieces with the goal of fostering an understanding of two cultures seemingly impossibly divided, East to West, ancient to modern.

Lawren Brianna Ware headshotLawren Brianna Ware (David and Edith Sinaiko Frank Graduate Fellowship for a Woman in the Arts)

Lawren Brianna Ware, a Gadsden, Alabama native, is a doctoral student who is pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Music Composition at UW–Madison. She is minoring in historical musicology. Ms.Ware is a Mead Witter School of Music teaching assistant for the Music In Performance classes and is the Secretary of the Graduate Association of Interdisciplinary Music Students (GAIMS). Outside of school, she owns her own private Madison-based piano studio, B. Ware Works Piano Studio. She accompanies vocalists and instrumentalists, and performs regularly. Ms. Ware has been awarded the Mullen Prize for Sacred Music (composition, 2017), and was named the 2017 Overture Center Rising Stars Grand Prize Winner. As a result of the Rising Stars win, she opened for The Branford Marsalis Quartet in April of 2019. She holds degrees in piano performance from Samford University (BM) and The University of Wisconsin–Madison (MM).

Nominated by Michael J. Johnson (DMA Candidate, Instructor, and Teachers Assistant in Choral Conducting), the Sinaiko Award will fund and premiere a new choral work by Lawren Brianna Ware on the life and death of Elijah McClain (1996-2019), who fell victim to police brutality last fall. This performance will take place during a spring lecture recital where a small ensemble will premiere Brianna’s work. The recital will be recorded and made available for streaming. In-keeping with the mission of the Frank Fellowship, great effort will be made to not only premiere the specific piece, but also to promote and support Brianna’s larger body of work.

Timothy Yip headshot

Timothy Yip (Lyman S.V. Judson and Ellen Mackechnie Judson Student Award in the Creative Arts)

Tim Yip began his studies at age four at the​ Preucil School of Music​ in Iowa City, a capital for Suzuki string education. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and studied intensively with Byung Woo Kim, concertmaster of the San Jose Symphony. Yip went on to study at UCLA with Mark Kaplan, a student of Dorothy DeLay. Yip continued studies with Movses Pogossian and Guillaume Sutre. Yip was a student of the late ​​Aaron Rosand​, Curtis faculty, at the teacher’s intensive program in New York. Yip studied abroad at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia. He studied with Alexander Kirov in Moscow and Anatolly Davidovitch Reznikovsky in St. Petersburg, and obtained a special performance certificate from St. Petersburg. Now at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Yip is writing his dissertation on John Kendall. At UW, Yip was both a teaching assistant and a program assistant. He serves as a manager at the Division of Diversity at UW–Madison where he supports students of color as they navigate work and academics on campus. Yip conducts dissertation research in the field of string pedagogy.  In 2017 and 2019, he attended the Juilliard teachers’ symposium for violin studies, where he observed and learned from leading teachers in the field. He has performed extensively in Los Angeles, northern California, and Madison, Wisconsin. He has performed in Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall in New York. Yip has performed chamber music collaborations with Anne Akiko Meyers, Richard O’Neill, Guillaume Sutre, Stuart Canin, Mark O’Connor, and Antonio Lysy.

Yip was nominated for the Judson Award by professor of violin David Perry for being one of the most “resourceful and meritorious doctoral students in the School of Music whose research into the career of John Kendall, the foremost pioneer of the Suzuki Movement in the United States of America, is culturally significant and worthy of support.”