Assembled in Sprague Field on the University Campus, 500 of 680 soon-to-be College of the Arts graduates in attendance were celebrated by the University faculty, administration, and nearly 3500 cheering guests on May 18th. It was an evening filled with joy, excitement and expressions of tribute, as students gathered to be recognized, once more, before heading to Commencement. The students, as did the faculty, had much to say as they reflected on their college experience and in anticipation of their next chapters that await.
“We are thrilled to see them grow and move on, but we’ll certainly miss them,” said Prof. Neil Baldwin of the Department of Theatre and Dance. Dressed in regalia and grinning from ear-to-ear, students posed for photos with their teachers, while laughing, embracing and trading stories. The boisterous energy was infectious as they lined up before the grand procession onto Sprague field, where staff and faculty beamed with excitement, joining students as they celebrated their accomplishments realized at the College of the Arts, and of all those to come.
Music Theory and Composition student Carlos Bandera, from the John J. Cali School of Music, will be attending The Peabody Institute at The Johns Hopkins University in the fall, where he will continue his studies after graduating, pursuing a Masters degree in composition. “I was interested in applying to Johns Hopkins because it’s a renowned program, and I was encouraged by my teacher Prof. Kenneth Lam, who also attended the Conservatory,” said Mr. Bandera enthusiasm, “I’m ready to take the next step, to start the next chapter of my life.”
Heather Pollak, a Dance major and Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society member who after graduation is attending the prestigious Master of Science in Performing Arts Leadership and Management program at Shenandoah University. “Graduation is exciting, but bittersweet, as I’m leaving behind my dance performance family,” said Pollak of her classmates in the Department of Theatre and Dance. With a lifetime of dance and focused performance study while at the College of the Arts, Ms. Pollak is looking forward to her bright future in leadership and administration in the performing arts.
A recent School of Communications and Media (SCM) graduate who completed her studies early, Nina Baratti returned to Convocation as a full-time reporter at local news organization SNJ Today. “Everyday I’m reporting on television or radio,” said Ms. Baratti who explained how the College of the Arts prepared her for her new role. “I learned how be on camera, edit, and write within the extremely hands-on program that helped prepare me for the real world.” When asked about her career plans, Ms. Baratti said she’d like to continue and grow as a reporter with her organization, and “because I acquired so many skills at Montclair State, I feel I can do so many things.”
John Caliendo, a Musical Theatre graduate who felt “the four years here flew by” also felt prepared and excited as he moves on after Convocation. “The arts professional training program has readied me for what’s to come,” said Mr. Caliendo, who will be performing in next month’s production of Steven Sondheim’s “Company” at The Bucks County Playhouse, a theatre in New Hope PA widely known as a stepping-stone to Broadway. “I can say that with one-hundred-and-ten percent confidence because as I have come to work with highly experienced people in the production, and the program prepared me for that professional environment.”
Honored with the Dean’s Scholar/Artist Award and the College of the Arts Art Education Award, Rebecca Zuniga, with her parents and family, attended the Department of Art and Design awards ceremony at the bustling George Segal Gallery, where the BFA Thesis Show Exhibition was also on show. “I feel very honored,” said Ms. Zuniga, who explained how she completed her art education studies in four years rather than the typical five years that the program prescribes. “It was a lot of hard work and late nights, but winning the awards was like the cherry on top of my experience at College of the Arts.” Ms. Zuniga is moving on to continue her career in arts education to a teaching position Rutherford High School in NJ.
Each of the College’s graduates has contributed immensely to the vitality, spirit, and vast accomplishments of the vibrant arts community. They will always be an essential part of Montclair State’s history and future, and will always have a home at the College of the Arts–as alumni!
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