SOU Digital Cinema makes best film school list

SOU Digital Cinema named as a top film school

(Ashland, Ore.) — It’s official: Southern Oregon University’s Digital Cinema program makes SOU one of the best film schools in North America. The current edition of MovieMaker magazine, which bills itself as the world’s most widely read independent film magazine, includes SOU among its picks for the “30 Best Film Schools in the U.S. & Canada.”

“When we launched the Digital Cinema program in fall 2019, one of our big aspirations was to become a nationally-ranked film school,” said Andrew Gay, a professor of Digital Cinema and director of SOU’s School of Arts & Communication. “This is a huge achievement, especially for a program of this size, based outside of a major production center.”

The MovieMaker article – which lists the 30 top film schools alphabetically rather than in a ranked order – points out that SOU’s Digital Cinema program gives students opportunities to hear from accomplished speakers from the film industry and to network with professionals at organizations including Film Southern Oregon and the Ashland Independent Film Festival.

“The curriculum merges theory with practice, emphasizing hands-on learning through the moviemaking process, leading to a professional portfolio upon graduation, all supported by the Digital Media Center, an 8,500-square-foot teaching and production facility, as well as an equipment office loaded with state-of-the-art gear,” the magazine story says.

SOU is the only Oregon school to make the MovieMaker list, and one of just two from the Pacific Northwest – the other is the Vancouver Film School, in British Columbia. SOU and the University of Colorado at Denver are the only two four-year programs on the list that participate in the Western University Exchange – an initiative that makes tuition discounts available to students from 16 Western states and territories. The MovieMaker listing for SOU also includes a photo of students on location during a production for the program’s annual “Crew Experience” project – one of just nine photos from the listed schools.

“I’m excited to finally see the recognition of one of Oregon’s best kept (and now known) secrets: SOU’s film and media programs,” said Tim Williams, the executive director of Oregon Film. “I have been lucky enough to watch the amazing growth of this program in such a beautiful part of our state, and then work with the talent that has graduated from it and into our industry. We are grateful and lucky to have SOU in every way.”

SOU’s Digital Cinema program offers three bachelor’s degree options – including Oregon’s only bachelor of fine arts degree in film production – and nine stand-alone certificates that prepare graduates for careers in film and entertainment. Program highlights include its Credit for Prior Learning option, which offers many incoming students academic credit for the knowledge and skills they have gained through previous life experiences, and its groundbreaking, 12-credit annual immersion project called “The Crew Experience.” Student filmmakers in the Crew Experience spend an entire term learning on location and collaborating under the supervision of experienced professionals on the set of a significant film project.

Students can also pursue a dual-degree pathway beginning this fall – a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Film Business, and a bachelor of fine arts degree in Digital Cinema Production Arts with a concentration in Producing & Production Management.

The Digital Cinema program is rooted in the film school tradition, but is highly experiential and embraces entrepreneurship and innovation as it prepares students for dynamic careers in an expanding world of video arts and entertainment.

SOU is a member of the Green Film School Alliance – a collaboration of leading film schools that have committed to industry-level sustainable production practices in their programs.

MovieMaker magazine – which is geared toward the art and business of filmmaking – has named Ashland a “best place to live and work as a MovieMaker” since 2014, citing picturesque filming locations such as Lithia Park and Mt. Ashland, and an influx of moviemakers and actors to the area.

“Southern Oregon is home to a film community rich in expertise and love – it’s a haven for artists who don’t want the Hollywood life – and SOU exemplifies its commitment to real filmmaking,” said Tim Molloy, editor of MovieMaker magazine.

He called the area “a cinematographer’s dream,” with easy access to “some of the most lushly beautiful locations on the planet.”


IAS Innovation Fund launches junk-to-art initiative

Junk-to-art program spotlights SOU’s IAS Innovation Fund

Impact of the SOU Institute for Applied Sustainability’s Innovation Fund will be on display when an exhibition of the Recology Ashland-SOU Artist-in-Residency program opens on Friday, May 17, at the university’s Temporary Sculpture Garden.

Recology Ashland partnered with SOU student artists last year to raise public awareness of environmental needs, such as reduction of waste sources, recycling and resource conservation. The award-winning program, led by SOU sculpture professor Michael Parker, helps students learn about turning waste into art, by using materials found at Recology’s Valley View Transfer Station to create works of art.

This week’s show marks the second year of the residency program, and features work by student artists Adam Garrett, Cameron Daniel Whiting, Carli Lamberto, Mel Villarreal and Naia Duggan.

The artists’ work will be featured from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday at the temporary public sculpture garden near SOU’s Center for the Visual Arts, the halls of Susanne Homes Hall Two & Three, the Sculpture Studio and the CVA Galleries. The show will celebrate the community collaboration and innovative solutions of the five artists.

The SOU Institute for Applied Sustainability was created in September 2022 as part of a $12 million gift to the university from Lithia Motors and its GreenCars division. The overall gift included $4 million to establish the SOU Institute for Applied Sustainability, which works with Lithia on initiatives including an academic credential in corporate sustainability, a national sustainability demonstration site, a sustainability conference and the IAS Innovation Fund – which offers micro-grants for innovative projects by SOU faculty and staff, such as the Recology Artist-in-Residency program.

The micro-grants are intended to serve as strategic investments, supporting SOU’s sustainability efforts and setting the stage for longer-term funding opportunities.

SOU's Hannon Library and the legacy of Tony and Betty Shively

Past to present: The Hannon Library’s Shively legacy

T.S. Eliot famously penned that “the very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future,” beckoning toward the treasured Hannon Library at SOU. Located in the heart of campus, the Hannon Library is a remarkable place of knowledge. More than just a quiet space to study, the Hannon Library serves as a vital resource for students and the wider community. Its extensive collections, both physical and digital, empower learners to navigate the ever-expanding world of information. The Hannon Library bridges the gap between past and present with its historical archives, ensuring that students and community members alike have the tools they need for research and academics.

One such member of the Hannon Library community was Thornton T. Shively – known by most as Tony – who left his mark on SOU in more ways than one. Not only was he a resident of Ashland, but he also actively participated in the community’s renowned cultural scene. He graced the stage of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) between 1948 and 1952. His love for literature extended beyond performance, as he transitioned to working at Southern Oregon College (now SOU) as a librarian from 1959 to 1962. Shively even explored the world of authorship under the pen name “Thorne Lee,” with his book “Summer Shock” drawing inspiration from a local Ashland production of “King Lear.”

The Shively family established the Thornton T. Shively Memorial Fund at Hannon Library in 1980, after Tony’s death. The fund was created to acquire important editions of William Shakespeare’s works and the works of Shakespeare’s contemporaries for the Hannon Library’s Margery Bailey Renaissance Collection.

Tony and Betty were close friends with Dr. Margery Bailey, who particularly admired Tony’s reading of Shakespeare. Tony was cast as the Earl of Kent in the OSF’s 1951 production of “King Lear.” Family lore has it that Dr. Bailey believed Tony should have instead been chosen for the lead role of King Lear. Tony’s wife, Betty, also worked at the library and volunteered actively with the OSF’s Tudor Guild and costume shop.

The Shively Memorial Fund has significantly enriched the Hannon Library’s collection of Shakespeare and early dramatic works. The very first item acquired with the fund was a landmark piece: the fourth folio edition of Shakespeare’s collected works, published in 1685 and presented by Susan Elizabeth Shively, also known as Betty, in 1981. This acquisition was followed by others of equal importance, including the Beaumont and Fletcher second folio of 53 plays (1679), the William Pickering edition of Shakespeare’s plays (1825), and the Nonesuch edition of Shakespeare’s plays (1936).

The fourth folio includes 36 plays found in the earlier folios, plus another seven plays thought at that time to have been written by Shakespeare. The Shively copy is bound in 19th century calf by Bayntum of Bath. The folio can be viewed by appointment in the archives at SOU’s Hannon Library. In fact, as SOU’s Theatre Department is bringing Shakespeare’s “Pericles” to life on-stage this spring, a curious theatre arts student cast in the production came to the archives to examine a copy of the fourth folio. To their surprise, they discovered a single word variation between the historical text and the script used in the current production. This encounter exemplifies the enduring value of the SOU archives. Even today, these resources serve as a vital resource for scholarly exploration, enriching the understanding and appreciation of theatrical works such as “Pericles.”

Betty passed away in 1984, and the name of the fund was changed to the Thornton T. and Susan Elizabeth Shively Memorial Fund.

“It pleases me to know this resource is available to scholars, educators and interested visitors,” says Susan Zare, Tony and Betty Shively’s daughter. “I recall reading in a library newsletter about an actor from the festival who used the folio for research. This cross-fertilization between SOU and OSF, and the value this collection brings to the university and the local community, feels truly rewarding.”

Zare and her sister, Sally Legakis, continue to support the Hannon Library as a cornerstone of SOU and the Rogue Valley community’s cultural heritage. It houses irreplaceable archives and collections that not only tell the stories of the past but also inspire creativity and scholarship for future generations.

Story by Melissa Matthewson, SOU Director of Development Communications

Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors graduated from SOU

Four SOU actors take the stage at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

(Ashland, Ore.) — If you’ve seen a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival over the past 10 years, chances are you’ve seen Southern Oregon University students on stage.

Professor Jackie Apodaca saw opportunity when she first arrived at SOU in 2011. With a world-class Shakespeare festival just down the street, and a budding performance bachelor of fine arts program, she set to work building the SOU/OSF Acting Trainee Program. Along with Scott Kaiser, OSF’s former director of company development, Apodaca turned what was once a rare opportunity – open to one or two SOU student actors every once in a while – into a unique and robust annual partnership.

The SOU/OSF Acting Trainee Program has been operating for over a decade, channeling actors directly from SOU classrooms to professional stages for life- and career-changing experiences. The opportunities provided to these young artists rival, and often exceed, internship opportunities offered through graduate programs across the country.

“Before the pandemic, we regularly had eight to 15 actors on stage at OSF every single year,” Apodaca said. “The numbers, of course, dropped during 2020, but we are quickly building back the pathway. Not only do we have four recent graduates in the OSF 2024 acting company through the Acting Trainee program, we have recently developed internships with OSF’s education department.

“And of course, we’re eager for OSF’s FAIR program to be rebuilt, which will catalyze even more opportunities for our design, technology and management students. OSF’s new leadership has been incredibly welcoming and responsive, and I am really excited for what’s to come. The OSF/SOU theatre partnership is stronger than ever.”

Here’s more about the recent SOU graduates taking center stage at OSF in 2024:

Aleeyah Enriquez from Hood River graduated from SOU in the spring of 2023. Aleeyah will be playing a watchman in “Much Ado About Nothing” and understudying this year at OSF.

“I’m so grateful to have done my BFA at SOU because not only did I have access to the amazing performance faculty for my voice, movement and acting classes, but I also had the opportunity to work with guest artists/educators directly from the festival,” Aleeyah said. “SOU is well-equipped with incredible professors and the amount of knowledge I’ve obtained has prepared me for these next steps into my career.”

Jennie Babisch from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, graduated in spring of 2023. She will understudy several roles in this year’s OSF production of “Macbeth.”

“My favorite thing about SOU was the diversity of training I received,” Jennie said. “I studied commedia del’arte, viewpoints, masks, Meisner, Greek, Shakespeare and clowning, and so much more from so many incredible teachers at SOU – several of whom were also working actors at OSF!”

Nicole Villavicencio Gonzalez from Reno, Nevada, graduated SOU in the spring of 2023. She will be playing Fleance and other ensemble roles in this year’s production of “Macbeth.”

“Some of my favorite things about SOU theatre are its connection to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the opportunity to take workshops and classes from OSF actors,” Nicole said. “I also appreciated experiencing the amount of student collaboration it takes to put on shows at SOU. It’s a good reminder that you are a small part in comparison to the larger collaborative production.”

Thilini (Lini) Dissanayake from Eugene graduated SOU in the summer of 2023. Lini will be playing Young Jane and Adele in “Jane Eyre,” and understudying roles in “Much Ado About Nothing” at OSF this year.

“The potential to work at OSF was one of the primary reasons I came to SOU, and I am so grateful for my time here,” Lini said. “I felt so challenged, supported, and uplifted by my classmates and my professors in the BFA Performance program. Being a part of the OSF Repertory is a dream come true, and it came to fruition through my training and industry connections at this school. See y’all at the Elizabethan (Theatre) this summer!”


Xanadu production by SOU Theatre Department

Xanadu: Greek Gods, scrunchies, roller skates

What happens when you combine Mt. Olympus, 80’s outfits, and chalk murals? SOU Theatre presents “Xanadu,” a musical about art, inspiration, and ridiculousness—all on roller skates. The neon-colored-plot follows Sonny (played by Aidan Jenkins), a struggling artist whose inspiration is running low until he meets Kira (played by Corrine Maddox)—or, Kleio, a Greek muse who disguises herself as a human. Throughout the show, Kira gives Sonny more and more reason to believe in himself and his art. Most importantly: to follow his dreams.

“Xanadu” has 12 actors who are on roller skates throughout the entirety of the show. This has been one of SOU’s most difficult shows to pull off due to the athleticism needed while also focusing on music, acting, and choreography. Jenkins and Maddox both have spent hours outside of rehearsals just practicing on the skates.

“We’ve had a few people really bite it,” Maddox says. “The first rehearsal with the skates, I was really shaky. It was intimidating. But, now, I barely have to think about it at all.”

“Musical theatre is already tricky,” says Jenkins. “Roller skating kind of adds a whole other element on top of singing, dancing, and acting. It’s hard.” Both lead actors expressed their gratitude for Mary Ellen McGinnis, the assistant director for the show, who already knew some tricks in roller skating; she assisted in teaching all of the actors how to feel confident and comfortable in skates. From skating workshops to TikTok tutorials, the “Xanadu” actors put in the hours to polish their skills to put on a fantastic, colorful, and ridiculous show.

Lauren Blair, the director of “Xanadu,” insists on everyone helping each other out. During rehearsals, if someone falls, everyone pauses and checks in before moving along. This is one of the things that Jenkins takes to heart.

“I love my cast,” he says. “The community is great and everyone gets along. Lots of inside jokes going on. It’s fun. We’re all goofballs and Lauren just finds it so endearing.”

“I am always laughing,” Maddox says. “It’s such a good time, all the time.”

With roller skating being the top challenge for most of the actors, the music itself for others was the biggest challenge. For Jenkins, the show is mostly in the tenor range in regards to male voices—SOU doesn’t have many tenors in theatre. So, he’s been working with a vocal coach from the music department, learning how to sing higher than he’s used to. Maddox, however, adores the musical aspect of the rehearsal process. Having always had a passion for musical theatre, some of her favorite moments were in the music room with the music director. Both Jenkins and Maddox have worked hard and are confident in their singing and their roller skating.

Both actors are excited for the audience to come see the feel-good show. Opposed to previous productions, “Xanadu” is light-hearted and wacky, packed with music and disco, and will be giving the audience a glimpse into what it was like in the 80’s (and what it’s like when a Greek muse appears out of thin air—on roller skates!). The show opens Thursday, February 15th and runs through Sunday, February 25th with both evening and matinee performances. For a full list of performance dates go to 

Tickets are available online at or in person at the OCA Box Office Monday-Friday from noon-6pm and one hour prior to performances. SOU faculty, staff, and students get two free tickets by emailing with show requests. Seating is limited and ON the SOU Main Stage Theatre. Get your tickets while they last. Talk backs after shows on Feb. 22, 23 and 24th with the actors and director will also be offered. For VIP or reserved ADA seating requests, please contact the OCA Box Office at 541-552-6348.

Story by Sierra Jameson, OCA at SOU Staff Writer 

Andrew Gay, director of SOU School of Arts & Communication

Internal candidate hired for SOU director position

(Ashland, Ore.) — Andrew Kenneth Gay, a professor and chair of Communication, Media & Cinema at Southern Oregon University, has been hired as director of SOU’s new School of Arts & Communication – which includes the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU.

Gay has taken on numerous leadership roles since joining the SOU faculty in 2014, including his current, two-year appointment to the SOU Board of Trustees. In addition to his academic roles, he has served two years as chair of the Faculty Senate and led a recent three-year effort to transform SOU’s general education curriculum.

“I am especially excited to know that our students will benefit from Andrew’s collaborative and interdisciplinary vision for the future,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, in announcing Gay’s promotion to the campus community.

SOU’s School of Arts & Communication, which was initiated this fall, combines the university’s Theatre, Music and Creative Arts departments with its Communication, Media & Cinema department, among other programs. All share components related to performance, creativity and production, and new opportunities for collaboration are created by placing them under the same school.

All of the university’s 46 undergraduate and 10 graduate-level academic programs have been distributed among four “schools” beginning this fall, rather than the seven “divisions” that previously administered the programs. The shift leads to more efficiency in SOU’s administrative structure, and was a key part of the cost management plan adopted last spring by the Board of Trustees.

Gay will succeed David Humphrey, Ph.D., who created the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU and led that division for 11 years. Humphrey is retiring at the end of December.

“Ashland and SOU have always been internationally recognized destinations for creativity, storytelling and human connection, and our new School of Arts & Communication continues that tradition with a renewed focus on interdisciplinary collaboration,” Gay said. “I’m thrilled to lead the new school and the Oregon Center for the Arts as we build a hub for creative careers and meaningful expression in our region and work to realize our students’ most ambitious dreams.”

The university’s undergraduate program in Digital Cinema was created under Gay’s leadership in 2019. The program launched an innovative, 12-credit spring immersion course called “The Crew Experience” in 2022, and later that year the program was accepted as a member of the prestigious Green Film School Alliance.

He received the Teaching Excellence Award from the University Film and Video Association (UFVA) in 2022 and earned SOU’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2021.

Gay teaches digital cinema courses in storytelling, screenwriting, directing, producing, production management, film festival programming, career design and development, and short film production. He is the former board president of Film Southern Oregon, previously sat on the board of the Oregon Media Production Association, has been a programmer for the Ashland Independent Film Festival and serves on the Teaching Committee for EDIT Media (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Teaching Media) and on the board for the University Film & Video Association (UFVA).

He came to SOU in 2014 from the University of Central Florida, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Film and Digital Media, and his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film Production. He has a bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy/Religion from Flagler College.

Gay has also worked as a freelance production coordinator, production manager and assistant director in commercials, reality television and independent film, and for such companies as Red Bull, Discovery and Disney. He has written, directed and produced for both fiction and documentary media.


Jerron Jorgensen, director of Choral Studies at SOU

Invigorating choral arts: bringing lyric theatre to SOU

The immersive realm of music and vocal arts defines the vibrant Music Program at Southern Oregon University, attracting a multitude of students who follow the enriching curriculum and ultimately forge dynamic careers in the performing arts. From powerful choral ensembles to the intimate cadence of solo performances, SOU’s commitment to musical excellence resonates, providing a captivating blend of education and artistic passion.

Jerron Jorgensen, the new director of Choral Studies at SOU, brings a wealth of experience from his tenure at the small liberal arts college Coker University, where he – along with his wife, Christi Mclain – revitalized the vocal arts program into a wholly reimagined experience. Before landing at Coker University, Jerron completed his doctorate in musical arts at the University of Hartford after finishing his masters at Arizona State University. Jerron came to SOU in 2022, filling the vacancy that Paul French left when he retired.

Christi McLain, SOU adjunct faculty memberComing to SOU was an easy choice for Jorgensen – the combination of a small campus, the beauty of the geographic area and the vibrant arts community of the Rogue Valley made this an attractive location to teach vocal music. His musical journey is marked by a diverse range of experiences, encompassing professional roles as a conductor, soloist, chorister, teacher and arranger. He is also the new music director for the Rogue Valley Chorale.

Christi McLain, an adjunct instructor of music at SOU with her roots in Nebraska, discovered her passion for singing at a young age. She fondly recalls watching a performance of Cleopatra and falling in love with the opera form. She has since been dedicated to making this art form accessible to diverse audiences.

Christi and Jerron are creative partners – married with two adopted children – and together, they have brought to SOU Lyric Theatre, a new program and class scheduled for the 2024 winter term, that aims to redefine traditional notions of chamber music and the vocal arts by supporting creativity, accessibility and relevance in the contemporary artistic landscape. Students will learn, produce and perform an intimate retelling of the story of Zelda as a jazz opera with the composer and the libretto coming to SOU as visiting artists. The class and program, as designed by Jerron and Christi, embodies the ethos of an adapting performing arts world that draws inspiration from diverse musical traditions.

“Our main goal is to stay nimble from year to year, allowing our programmatic choices and the unique cohort of students to shape our performances, venues and community engagements,” Jerron says. “The idea is for it to look a little bit different every single year, reflecting the evolving dynamics of our artistic pursuits. We want to promote the works of living American composers in both the voice and choral realms.”

This vision aligns with the way the performing arts is changing in the United States, and Christi and Jerron see the opportunity to expand SOU’s program to meet those changes.

“The vocal arts landscape is undergoing a metamorphosis, with major companies redefining their seasons, diversifying repertoires, and embracing a departure from the traditional canon,” Christi says.

It’s a departure not just in terms of repertoire but a paradigm shift toward living composers, contemporary narratives and a harmonious blend of styles – a fusion that extends beyond the operatic realm. Jazz influences, musical theater nuances and a medley of styles converge to create a rich, dynamic narrative.

Jerron explains that boutique companies have become a groundbreaking force in reshaping the vocal arts landscape. Their emergence signifies a departure from the traditional, prompting a reevaluation of the storytelling standard, demonstrating that impactful narratives can thrive without the need for extravagant expenditures. This signifies a grassroots movement in the realm of chamber music. These small-scale productions offer artistically compelling narratives and music, and present a practical accessibility. The productions are innovative in that they challenge traditional notions of the art form, breaking away from the confines of concert halls and adapting to spaces more accessible to diverse audiences – like bookstores, houses or other experimental locations.

This is the vision of lyric theatre that Jerron and Christi want to bring to students at SOU, and this artistic vision is reflected in the teaching styles they’ve each developed over years of practice.

At the core of Jerron’s teaching philosophy is his commitment to cultivating a safe and inclusive space for students. This safety is about creating an environment where student opinions and identities are respected and celebrated. Jerron aims to affirm student experiences and foster a creative atmosphere. Simultaneously, his role extends to challenging and pushing students, not solely in technical aspects, but in expanding their worldview and understanding their societal impact through the art form they are immersed in.

“It’s about nurturing growth, both artistically and as individuals making meaningful contributions to their communities,” Jerron says.

The guiding principle of Christi’s teaching philosophy is integrity – a commitment to the students, the art form, their voice and the repertoire presented to them. She encourages an environment where bravery and vulnerability thrive, urging students to embrace risks, potential failures and the inherent messiness of artistic exploration. Rather than molding them into replicas of renowned singers, Christi emphasizes the journey of becoming their best selves as singers. The intense focus on details, such as tongue position and jaw release, creates an immersive and fulfilling experience. Amid this intensity, she emphasizes the profound significance of their artistic endeavors, dispelling any notion that their contributions lack importance.

“It’s about helping students recognize the immense value that the vocal arts hold in society and empowering them to find and articulate their unique voice in this powerful art form,” Christi says.

Jerron and Christi – stewards of vocal artistry at SOU – are redefining the academic landscape by acknowledging the evolving reality for singers in today’s world. Their visionary approach imparts technical expertise and also instills an entrepreneurial spirit, guiding students toward the realization that a career in the arts is a nuanced journey, often marked by freelancing and carving one’s own path. This educational model echoes the sentiment that success in the arts is found in the innovative spirit of creating, administering and performing in non-traditional spaces. The students, under the tutelage of Jerron and Christi, will embark on a transformative journey where the intersection of creativity and pragmatism defines their narrative.

“While not everyone may go on to sing at iconic venues like The Met, we want to prepare students for diverse career paths, connecting them with relevant repertoire, composers and librettists,” Christi says.

Their collective goal is to ensure that their students graduate with the skills needed to succeed in various aspects of the performing arts world, from regional companies to graduate schools, contributing to the preservation and evolution of the vocal arts.

Jerron highlights the profound upheavals underway in the performing arts, catalyzed by factors such as shifting demographics and technological advancements, even before the pandemic. COVID-19, however, acted as an accelerant, forcing a reevaluation of longstanding traditions within the performing arts. The classical music and operatic realms, traditionally reliant on older generations for support, are now facing an existential challenge as this model proves unsustainable. Jerron foresees a necessity for widespread adaptation across the country. As attention spans shrink in the era of smartphones and streaming services, the very nature of the art form must evolve to captivate contemporary audiences, presenting a unique set of challenges and opportunities for those invested in its future.

“In our approach, we embrace the entrepreneurial nature of our activities, shaped by the curated repertoire we undertake,” Jerron says. “Unlike the rare, full-time positions with benefits found in large orchestras or renowned opera houses, the reality for most artists, including ourselves, is a freelance existence. This reality prompts the question: ‘How do we navigate, discover, and curate works that can be executed with a modest budget in unconventional settings?’”

Jerron emphasizes that the answer lies in a commitment to self-discovery, innovative programming and the administration of performances that carve out a niche for students.

“Students nowadays are navigating a dynamic landscape in vocal performance,” Jerron says. “It’s about creating your own opportunities, discovering works, and embracing the entrepreneurial aspects of the field. Our program is pioneering this perspective, preparing students for diverse and innovative careers.”

“I’m eager to astonish our students with music that defies their expectations,” Christi adds. “The beauty of lyric theatre resonates deeply within us, and I’m committed to pushing boundaries and surprising our audience. I’m excited to reveal the true awesomeness of lyric theatre to everyone.”

Jerron and Christi have arrived at SOU at a pivotal moment, offering renewed passion and energy to SOU’s Music Program and to students studying music at SOU.

“There’s a sense of immense promise and the feeling that we’re standing at the edge of significant change,” Jerron says. “The university’s direction holds vast possibilities, and it’s exciting to witness the transformation. There’s a collective effort to revamp, reimagine and introspect. Under the guidance of strong leadership, there’s a palpable eagerness among the faculty and students to be part of this renaissance.”

To learn more about SOU’s Music Program, visit SOU Music.

Story by Melissa Matthewson, SOU’s director of development communications

Master of Theatre Studies scenic design class

Master of Theatre Studies program wraps up for far-flung participants

SOU recognized 11 students in the Oregon Center for the Arts’ Master of Theatre Studies graduate program last weekend for completion of their third and final year of coursework.

This year’s MoTs contingent was made up of almost 40 theatre teachers from U.S., Canadian and Korean middle schools, high schools and community colleges. The program, limited to a maximum of 20 new participants each year, is made up of first-, second- and third-year cohorts whose members stay in SOU residence halls and eat at The Hawk dining commons as they participate in the intensive skill-building program on all aspects of theatre production and design.

The 11 third-year students who completed the program this year were Stefanie McConnell of Lewis Center, Ohio; Steven Munoz of Montclair, New Jersey; Carlene O’Connor of Red Hook, New York; Sara Rideout of Portland; Emily Ruiz of Victorville, California; Scott Sackett: Orem, Utah; Kendra Schroeder of Surprise, Arizona; Meli Hickenbottom of Incheon, Yeonsu-gu, South Korea; Denis Houyoux of Woodberry Forest, Virginia; Alex Konen of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; and Leis Depeche of Rotterdam, New York.

Faculty and staff in SOU’s Theatre Program including Jonathan Spencer, who Zoomed in from Colorado, made congratulatory presentations to the graduates. SOU President Rick Bailey, Provost Sue Walsh and OCA Director David Humphrey also congratulated the graduates. A BBQ dinner followed the ceremony, whidh concluded with the graduates boxing up their projects and preparing to return to their home states armed with intensive skills, knowledge, and goals to improve their high school theatre programs.

Coursework for the MoTs degree is designed specifically for high school theatre teachers, with three summer sessions of 12 credits each and three elective classes of nine credits each which can be taken during pre-summer or post-summer sessions, or online during winter term. The program’s third year wraps up with a thesis project that consists of evidence of students’ work accompanied by a self-evaluation paper that describes their graduate school experience.

The concentrated curriculum includes lecture, discussion and practical hands-on work, with required classes in script analysis, costume, lighting, sound design and production. Stagecraft, scene painting, stage properties, management, drawing, watercolor, stage make up and creative conceptualization are also part of the hands-on experience.

More information about the program is available online.

New degrees in Music Industry and Production

SOU offers new degree in Music Industry and Production for 2022-23

(Ashland, Oregon) The Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University has launched its newest degrees – a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science in Music Industry & Production Studies (MIPS).

“I am so thrilled to see MIPS take off,” said Derek Keller, Ph.D., assistant professor of music at SOU. “Imagine yourself as an ‘artist in residence,’ composing, producing, performing your own music and preparing for a career in the industry. The MIPS program is an incubator for musical creatives and entrepreneurs who seek an open, welcoming environment to prepare for a career in tomorrow’s music industry.”

The new degree program is a robust one that features course sequences in audio & music production, music theory, aural skills, piano proficiency, music industry, business, and economics. Certificates in Music Industry and Production, and Sound Design – and a micro-credential in Audio and Music Production – are also offered for individuals that do not wish to pursue the full degree.

“MIPS is a unique blend of academics, specialization in music and entrepreneurial development,” Keller said. “I want our graduates to be ready to meet the future with poise, critical thinking and cutting edge audio tools, and to be adaptable with both academic rigor and vocational skills. We also happen to be an AVID learning partner, one of only two in the state!”

AVID is the software developer of Pro Tools, the industry-standard audio/music production software, as well as Media Composer and Sibelius. Students put their developing knowledge and skills to work in the MIP Lab and the Control Room of the Music Recital Hall at SOU.

“Students produce their own and their colleagues’ music, manage and direct live events, and contribute to our social media outlets,” Keller said. “All of this leads to network building and work experience that is résumé worthy.”

The MIP program is already gaining attention both locally and within the music industry.

“I wish they had this curriculum when I was in school,” said Andy Osborn, Artists & Labels Operations Manager at, and a featured guest artist in one of the SOU Music Program’s music industry courses this year.

“It is so terrific that you are offering these new opportunities to students and providing the cutting-edge tools and training they need; I would love to help any way I can,” wrote Ryan Wines, CEO of Marmoset Music, an SOU Alum and member of the SOU Foundation Board.

MIP classes feature regular guest artists and presenters from all sectors of the music industry.

In MUSIX, MIPS’ flagship ensemble, students compose, rehearse, produce and perform their own music. This music is released and accessible through both public/live performance and regular media outlets.  MUSIX has already released two EPs, and will release its first full-length LP in fall 2022.

“Our next release event will be in Lithia Park,” Keller said. “MUSIX recent performances are available on the OCA YouTube page, on Spotify, Pandora, or Bandcamp, or follow MUSIX on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.”

“We want our students to have complete control over their creative work, learn the power of their copyright, create a network of professional colleagues and write, produce, teach, arrange compose for film/video/radio, work in merchandising/retail/promotions/social media, manage performance venues, etc. – the industry is vast,” Keller said. “You can land a successful career in music outside of pursuing rock stardom, or performing cover music.”

The new BA/BS in Music Industry & Production Studies is now available to prospective and current students. SOU features open enrollment with rolling admissions, which means that any student can enroll at any time and begin pursuing their degree path. To apply to SOU go to

To assist students, SOU’s Music Program offers over $160,000 in music scholarships, and many opportunities for work study and student employment. For more information on scholarships go to:

For more detailed information about the new degree programs, contact Keller at


Digital Cinema capstone project breaks new ground

Digital Cinema capstone project breaks barriers at SOU

Digital Cinema student Tabitha Wheeler is spearheading a capstone film project unlike anything seen before at SOU. The project is likely to catch the eyes of movie lovers in the Ashland community and beyond, following its successful crowdfunding campaign, backing from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a passionately committed cast and crew.

Wheeler, a senior at SOU, wrote and is director and head producer of the film, “The Lost Years of Shakespeare.” She developed the script in early 2021, with the story following a woman who finds herself entwined in a mystery surrounding the cryptic death of Shakespeare. The film is set mostly in Ashland, and features landmarks such as the Ashland Springs Hotel and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It features professionally choreographed sword fights, and ties in with real historical events.

Wheeler began her career at SOU as an athlete, playing soccer. Having a long time love for filmmaking, dating back to elementary school, she chose Digital Cinema as her area of study and quickly flourished in the program. She has taken a break from soccer over the past year, and has gone full speed into her capstone project.

She began an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in March, and met her goal by the middle of April. There was an outcry of support from the Rogue Valley community, and the project quickly caught the attention of the local film community. More than $7,000 was raised through crowdfunding, exceeding Wheeler’s original goal and setting records for Digital Cinema capstone budgets.

The film is currently in production, with plans to wrap up shooting in mid-June and to begin post-production work shortly after. Wheeler and her crew plan to have a finished product by November, and to submit the project to various film festivals. They’ve had multiple location shoots, including trips up to Portland and the Oregon Coast. A shoot inside the OSF’s Elizabethan Theater is planned for this summer.

The capstone for Digital Cinema usually takes the form of a long term film project, with a full, student-run crew. Students typically spend a whole year in pre-production and research before filming even begins. The Digital Cinema capstone is intended to allow students to show their specialized skills, and get experience working on a long-term film project.

SOU News sat down with Tabitha Wheeler in this podcast interview. Listen here and subscribe to SOU News podcast with Nash Bennett on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or Spotify.

Story by Nash Bennett, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer