Music Alumni

Zheyu (Crystal) Jiang (MM, Piano Performance ’21)

Originally from China, Crystal came to the United States in 2014 as a member of the students’ group from the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music. Has performed around the world from among others Vienna, Israel, Germany, Austria, France , Beijing, Tianjin, and the U.S.  In 2022, she won the grand prize at the 78th Naftzger Young Artists Competition.   Entered the Doctoral program at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in the Fall of 2023.  

Ezgi Karakus, (DMA, Cello performance, ’18)

Ezgi is a highly accomplished Turkish cellist. After moving to the United States, she was awarded first prize in the Belle and Lynum Jackson Balshaw Music Competition. Ezgi has performed internationally with renowned orchestras like the Topeka Symphony, Tulsa Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony. She was also featured as a soloist at the esteemed Springfield Symphony and Yo-Yo Ma’s Master Class at the Kauffman Center of the Performing Arts. Furthermore, she is currently a co-director of Soundwave Academy and an accomplished cellist of Ensemble Iberica. She recently made her debut at Carnegie Hall.

Luis Víquez (DMA conducting, 2017)

Latin Grammy-nominated conductor and clarinetist Luis Víquez enjoys a versatile career as a guest conductor, performer, and also as a recording artist. He has been featured in albums with the University of South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and the Heredia Symphony in Costa Rica. After a successful seven-year tenure as an Associate Professor of Music at USD, he was recently appointed as the Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Rhode Island and serves on the National Board of the College Orchestra Directors Association.

Ariel Downs (DMA vocal performance ’22)

Ariel is the recipient of the Koch Cultural Trust Artist Grant, the 2019 Coeur d’Alene Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition, and finalist in the 2021 Artist Presentation Society Competition. In the 2023 season includes her debut roles as Musetta (La Boheme) and Lucy (The Telephone) with Midwest Opera Theater, Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi) with Mid-Ohio Civic Opera, and a self-produced film production of Debussy’s cantata La damoiselle élue. The 2022/23 season includes her Carnegie Hall debut, as well as role debuts as Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi) with Mid-Ohio Civic Opera and Mabel (The Pirates of Penzance) with Heartland Opera Theatre.

Ben Gulley (DMA, vocal performance ’11)

American tenor Ben Gulley’s recent artistic and critical triumphs include his 2022 Broadway World “Best Actor In A Musical” debut as Quasimodo in Dennis DeYoung’s (STYX) HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME with Skylight Music Theater (2022) heading to London’s West End to debut the Summer of 2024, debut as Foresto in ATTILA with Opera Festival of Chicago 2023, The Prince in RUSALKA with Portland Opera 2023, Radames in AIDA with Fort Worth Opera, debut as Cavaradossi in TOSCA with Sarasota Opera 2022, Tenor Soloist in Hartmut Haenchen’s final Bruckner’s 9 & TE DEUM with Belgian National Orchestra 2023, debut as the Tenor Soloist in Verdi’s REQUIEM with Orchestra Iowa 2023, debut Tenor Soloist in Mahler’s DAS LIED VON DER ERDE with Belgian National Orchestra in Brussels and Namur, Belgium 2022. Upcoming 23-24 highlights: Manrico in IL TROVATORE with Piedmont Opera, recital debut with pianist and NPR’s FROM THE TOP Peter Duggan with FONTANA CHAMBER MUSIC, debut as Tristan in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE in concert with Belgian National Orchestra, Romeo in ROMEO ET JULIETTE with Opera Idaho, and Edgardo in LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR with Opera Orlando to name a few.

Alice Chung (Artist’s Certificate ’18)

Recognized for her “operatic tonal glamour,” American mezzo-soprano Alice Chung has performed with Naples Philharmonic, Kansas City Symphony, Hawaii Opera Theater, Arizona Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and San Francisco Opera, to name a few (Parterre).  Recent awards include those from the Sullivan Foundation, the Shoshana Foundation, the Gerda Lissner Foundation, and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Recently making her Carnegie Hall debut, Ms. Chung enjoys performing in chamber and recital settings as well as raising awareness through her initiative Wear Yellow Proudly.

Dominic Zanaboni (BME, ’15) began his teaching career as the Director of Bands for Spokane school district from 2015 to 2019.  He later became the Associate Director of Bands for Camdenton School district in fall of 2019 later becoming the Director of Bands in 2021 and has been since.   Dominic received the Missouri Music Educator Association's Outstanding Young Educator Award in 2020 and is very involved in adjudicating both marching and concert band events. 

Lyle Simpson (BME, ’21)

Lyle Simpson (BME 2021) is starting his third year as Band Teacher at Central Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas. He also serves as a Trumpet Player with the 35th Infantry Division Band of the Kansas Army National Guard. Lyle has worked as a freelance trumpet player and private lessons teacher in Kansas City since 2017.

Julia Janda: (BM, clarinet performance, BME, instrumental ’15)

Assistant Director of Bands at Blue Valley High School.  Julia is a private clarinet instructor, a former VP of Membership of Missouri NAfME-C and former President for UMKC and Missouri NAfME-C.

Karah Chappel (BA, Music Therapy Dec. ’23) is building a music therapy program at Millwood Hospital, an acute inpatient mental health facility serving the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex in Texas. Inspired by professors at UMKC who mentored her interdisciplinary research, Karah continues to conduct research post-graduation and is pursuing a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy starting Fall 2023.

Austin Thorn (BA, Music Therapy '21)

Austin works as a medical music therapist and is pursuing a master's degree in music therapy at Florida State University.

Gavin Brivik  (BM, composition, ’16) 

Gavin recently scored NEON's How to Blow Up a Pipeline, starring Lukas Gage and Kristine Froseth, which premiered at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival and hit theaters on April 7th.; and Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.’s Wild Indian, starring Michael Greyeyes, Jesse Eisenberg and Kate Bosworth, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, and earned Brivik a World Soundtrack Award nomination. Other recent projects include A&E’s Documentary Series The Secrets of Playboy; and the Paramount/Blumhouse film The Visitor, directed by Justin Lange.

Hu Xiaoou (DMA, ’10)

Studied with Drs. Chen YI, Zhou Long, James Mobberlery, and Paul Rudy. Xiaoou graduated in 2010. He won George Enescu International Festival Composition Competition 1st prize in Bucharest in 2007;he is a very well-known film score composer. His film and TV series works include “Chinatown Detective”(2 and 3), and “The Knockout”.

Hermon Mehari, (BM jazz performance, ‘10) 

Hermon was a semifinalist in the 2014 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition, 2015 winner of the Carmine Caruso International Trumpet Competition and the winner of the 2008 National Trumpet Competition. He has just released his third album as a leader, Asmara, influenced by the harmonies and melodies of  music of his Eritrean origins.  Mehari maintains a touring schedule around the world with his own group and as a sideman, while additionally running a weekly radio show called "The Session" on the NPR-affiliated station KCUR 89.3.