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College of Fine Arts News
The Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts has very talented faculty and successful alumni. Read about their latest achievements.
Costume designer and drama professor Yuanting Zhao has been named the new director of the Helmerich School of Drama in the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma.
A native of Jinan, China, Zhao comes to OU after previously serving as chair of the Nazareth University Theatre and Dance Department in Rochester, New York. She joined the Nazareth faculty in 1996 as assistant professor and costume designer and earned associate and full professor titles before moving into the department chair role in 2013.
As a passionate educator, Zhao has taught costume design, costume construction, makeup and acting at the collegiate level.
“After 27 years at Nazareth University, I am thrilled to join the Helmerich School of Drama and become a Sooner,” Zhao said. “I am committed to working alongside the faculty, staff and students to propel our school forward, building on the already excellent acting, design, dramaturgy and stage management programs OU is known for. Our students show such great enthusiasm for learning, and I look forward to helping facilitate incredible opportunities for them.”
During her time as chair at Nazareth, Zhao launched several new majors and helped build the existing programs through innovative partnerships. One such partnership was with the REV Theatre Company which brings professional guest artists to Nazareth as well as opportunities for students to perform at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse/Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival.
Zhao also helped increase the number of artists and agents based in New York City coming to Nazareth’s campus to direct and design productions and conduct master classes and workshops, fostering relationships and networking that benefitted students upon graduation.
“We are delighted to welcome Professor Zhao to the leadership team of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts and to the position of director of the Helmerich School of Drama,” said Mary Margaret Holt, dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts. “As one of the oldest and most established schools of drama in the country, it is uniquely poised to continue to expand its excellence in all programs with the added benefit of Zhao’s significant experience and expertise in program development, partnership development and outreach.”
As a costume designer, Zhao has designed more than 90 collegiate productions, ranging from plays and musicals to dance performances. Professionally, she has designed costumes for Rochester City Ballet’s original production of Blood Countess and Nine Parts of Desire for Geva Theatre Center.
Zhao received her master of fine arts degree in costume design from the University of Arizona and bachelor of fine arts degree in acting from Shandong University of Art in Jinan, Shandong, China.
Accomplished saxophonist, educator and administrator Jonathan Nichol, DMA, has been named the next director of the University of Oklahoma School of Music. He previously served as interim director for the 2022-2023 academic year and has been on faculty as professor of saxophone since 2013.
“The OU School of Music is home to a remarkable community of dedicated faculty, staff and students,” Nichol stated. “As the director of the School of Music, I am thrilled to lead a program with such a rich history of academic and performance excellence. Teaching and working with our more than 450 amazing students is the best job in the world! I look forward to continued collaboration with my faculty colleagues as we not only uphold our longstanding tradition of excellence but develop new programs to improve the human experience and intersect with modern trends in music education, research, performance and technology.”
As an accomplished saxophonist, Nichol has performed extensively in the United States and abroad as a featured soloist with several orchestras and has premiered compositions by renowned composers. Additionally, Nichol is a founding member of the h2 quartet, a dynamic chamber ensemble that won the Gold Medal at the 2007 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and the First Prize at the inaugural North American Saxophone Alliance Chamber Music Competition in 2008. Nichol has recorded and released seven studio albums with the h2 quartet, two solo albums and several more with other artists.
Nichol is the recipient of the University Distinguished Teaching Award (2017), recognizing teaching excellence at the undergraduate level. His saxophone students are highly accomplished and have won prizes in prestigious competitions such as the Music Teachers National Association National Chamber Music Competition, the MTNA Young Artist Solo Competition and the NASA Quartet Competition.
“It is a pleasure to announce the appointment of Jonathan Nichol as director of the OU School of Music,” said Mary Margaret Holt, dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts.
“He is without question an accomplished musician and educator with achievements on the international, national and regional levels,” she said. “As interim director of the School of Music during the 2022-2023 academic year, his leadership resulted in the addition of a popular series of faculty recitals, the appointment of an exciting new cadre of faculty members and success in undergraduate student recruitment. We welcome Dr. Nichol to this position with enthusiasm and confidence and look forward to the continued excellence of our School of Music."
Nichol has served the School of Music on numerous committees at OU including the Strategic Planning committee, Graduate and Undergraduate Studies committees and the Outreach and Community Engagement committee. He is also a member of OU’s Faculty Evaluation Working Group, the Fine Arts Council, the Faculty Senate Advisory Committee to the Vice President of Research and the Faculty Appeals Board.
His regional service includes Region IV coordinator of the North American Saxophone Alliance and serving as the site host and co-chair of the Oklahoma Music Educators State Competition from 2018-2020.
Nichol is also director of the Great Plains Saxophone Workshop, the premier summer camp for high school and collegiate saxophonists. The workshop has grown into one of the largest single-instrument workshops in the country, starting with 38 students in 2014 to over 150 saxophonists from 20 states in 2019, ranging from middle school students through DMA candidates.
A Michigan native, Nichol received his doctor of musical arts and master of music in saxophone performance at Michigan State University. He studied with his father, John Nichol, professor of saxophone at Central Michigan University, where he received his bachelor of music education.
Nichol is a Yamaha and Vandoren Performing Artist.
MARY MARGARET HOLT, dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts, was selected in 2020 for a lifetime achievement award in honor of her significant contributions to ballet excellence in higher education.
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