Goodbye, Class of 2021

July 29, 2021

Because of pandemic precautions, the ISM was not able to celebrate its graduating students and award them their certificates in person this year. The ISM’s virtual celebration featured recorded selections from the Yale Camerata’s virtual spring concert, gathering music by Mark A. Miller, a response by the Yale Black Seminarians Choir, and an anthem by Yale Schola Cantorum.

The School of Music held its commencement virtually, while Yale Divinity School held an in-person commencement with attendance limited to participants and the graduates themselves.

The ISM is, however, very proud of this strong and resilient class of 2021, and readers are invited to watch the celebration on YouTube.

As always, many of our graduates took advantage of the opportunity to reflect on their ISM experience and look ahead to their future plans.

Nia Campinha-Bacote (M.Div.) says that her time with the ISM has solidified her belief in the transformative, holy, and healing power of music. “My time spent hearing the stories of Black Death Doulas and listening to the sounds of the world around me, from the cries of protestors gathering for Breonna Taylor to the weeping whispers of the trees of Lake Wintergreen, have shown me the sonics of this world are dripping with the presence of Divine Love,” she writes.

Rhianna Cockrell (M.M.A.) is grateful for her time at the ISM and for her generous, wonderful, brilliant colleagues. She’s proud to know many of the incredible minds who will change the world!

Carolyn Craig (M.M.) is deeply grateful for her two years at the ISM, from the fantastic education to the wonderful community. She fondly remembers organist food truck hangs, being silly and being serious at Trinity on the Green, the choral communities of which she’s been a part, the Woolsey Hall organ, and almost all of her coursework. While the pandemic has been an obstacle to collaboration, 2020–2021 was a fruitful year for solo work; Carolyn won the top prize in the 2020 Arthur Poister Organ Competition online, performing from Woolsey, and will get to go to Kaliningrad for the next round of the Tariverdiev International Organ Competition in September. Carolyn looks forward to a third year at Yale, pursuing a Master of Musical Arts in organ performance, during which time she will continue to grow as a solo and collaborative organist, conductor, singer, and activist (visit In 2021, Carolyn will become the first female music director of The Episcopal Church at Yale.

James Davis (M.M.) feels “blessed to have been part of such a vibrant, unique intellectual community. All the best to the incoming ISM class and a special shout out to the rising senior conductors. Peace and love!”

While a student in the ISM, Caryne Eskridge (M.Div.) joined classmates and instructors to explore traditions of pilgrimage and religious tourism, Christian liturgical developments across time and space surrounding death and dying, the theologies of digital media, and more. Encouraged by her time with the ISM community, she looks forward to incorporating art, material culture, and storytelling into her ministry as a (soon-to-be) ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

Mark Florig (M.A.R.) writes that he is “surprisingly glad that I got to live through one of the most interesting years in Yale Divinity School and the Institute of Sacred Music’s history; I just wishes that I could have enjoyed more time on campus with friends, colleagues, and the ISM’s free coffee machine. Although I have no memories of the quashed trip to Peru, I rejoice that I was able to journey to Salisbury and Winchester, England with several of my colleagues and Dr. Spinks.” Mark is looking forward to taking a gap year, during which he will “pass the time by attempting to earn some money, attending Liturgy conferences, and of course, trying to get published in peer reviewed journals. (The fact that I will be in church is a given). Hopefully, I will report back in subsequent years from a Ph.D. program that will set mr up to perhaps become an ISM fellow someday.”

Clara Gerdes-Bartz (M.M.) writes, “There have been many highs (and some lows) these past two years! Of all the parts of my ISM experience, I will definitely most miss her classmates, particularly the organ studio, who all became closer with one another while navigating the challenges of living under COVID. Next year, God willing, I will continue my musical work at a Catholic parish in the greater NYC area.”

Ingrid Goetz (M.A.R.) has used her time at the ISM to “broaden and complicate” research from her previous degree. She focused on the material and visual culture of the Scandinavian Reformation, as well as its reception in the 19th and 20th centuries and impact on encounters between Lutheranism and Orthodoxy in Finland. Courses taught by ISM faculty and fellows on subjects ranging from Russian iconography to ethnomusicology have been the highlight of her YDS academic career.

Phoenix Gonzalez (M.A.R.) is grateful for the infinite diversity of her three years at the ISM. From staging a medieval play set to the tune of our current climate crisis to a Colloquium Presentation about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s lost musical treatise to a Zoom play about megachurches to co-leading the Roman Catholic Fellowship and planning Marquand Chapel worship—all of her experiences “have helped illuminate how ‘liturgical studies’ can mean the ‘performance studies’ of the church. I would have not been able to explore any of this without the support and grace of this community, including its staff, faculty, and her truly amazing fellow students.” She is grateful for all of the musicians, visual artists, dancers, poets, and other performers she has met along the way, whose work and approach to that work have been eye opening. She is especially grateful to her advisor Teresa Berger, all of her professors, to Martin Jean, Kristen Forman, Caitlin MacGregor, Ray Vogel, her classmates, her fiancé Tim, and her mom and dad.  She will carry with her the friendships and interdisciplinary approach nurtured here as she begins her Ph.D. in theater and drama at Northwestern University. She says, “Thank you, all! May we be blessed as we continue our work in a world that needs faith and the arts now more than ever.”

After getting married to his fiancée Bridget in June, Richard Gress (M.M.) plans to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Notre Dame this coming fall. He is excited to enter the studio of Olukola Owolabi (M.M. ’03).

Ethan Haman (M.M.), from Fremont, California looks forward to staying at the ISM for one more year to complete a Master of Musical Arts degree in organ performance. He has enjoyed serving as organist of both Yale’s Marquand Chapel and Noroton Presbyterian Church in Darien, CT for the past two years while pursuing further study in foreign languages at Yale College alongside his musical studies at the YSM and ISM. Ethan is thankful for the excellent instruction he has received from the wonderful faculty who have helped him to advance his organ performance, composition, and improvisation skills, and he is especially grateful for many memorable experiences collaborating with talented classmates here.

Gabe Kepler (M.Div.) will be residing in Fullerton, California following his graduation, as he discerns his eventual transition into full-time ministry. Among many other things, Gabe is especially grateful for the opportunities the ISM has provided to him to study Spanish abroad, given that he is interested in the possibility of soon ministering internationally. Some of his fondest memories over the past three years come from the summer he spent studying Spanish in Costa Rica, which was made possible through the help of a language grant provided to him by the ISM.

Daniel Kim (M.A.R.) is grateful for the depth and breadth of experiences he had at the ISM. He explored his academic interests ranging from sacred music and liturgy to law, theology, philosophy, and history, while singing in Yale Schola Cantorum and working as a youth minister for a Korean congregation in New Haven. In the fall, he will begin his legal education at Stanford Law School and continue to explore the intersections of arts, religion, and law. 

Joe Lerangis (D.M.A. expected ’25) is interested cross-cultural and transnational art, issues of musical hybridity, and disintegrating the walls around what is considered notions of musical canon and genius. He writes: “I am a passionate educator and hope to be teaching at the college or high school level after leaving Yale. I am grateful for all the people I met here at the ISM and the wonderful thought-provoking discussions that permeated my time here.”

Despite a strange year, Alex Longnecker (M.M.A.) is very grateful for the opportunities, friends, and stories gained from being at Yale. Alex will most remember the incredible time spent with the players of Juilliard 415 in Norfolk, coaching Teleman and Schütz with Masaaki Suzuki, and Evangelist coachings with James Taylor and Jeff Grossman. Alex would additionally like to thank his family for support, Tomoko Nakayama for her beautiful collaborative playing, and “East Rock Park for its role in maintaining my COVID sanity.”

Molly Martien (M.A.R.) is thankful for her experience at the ISM.  She values the close relationships she has formed with fellow classmates as well as the helpful, steadfast guidance she has received from mentors within the program.  Upon graduation, Molly is excited to work in a museum setting where she can apply her recently acquired knowledge.

Skyler Neberman (M.A.R.) is deeply grateful for the many opportunities afforded by the ISM, from incredible professors, the library, and ISM funded trips to the Met, as well as the chance to live among the vibrant communities of New Haven. He looks forward to working in diocesan liturgy offices, and potentially pursuing doctoral studies “sometime in a paradisiacal future where COVID time feels like a distant fever dream.” Until then, he will be pursuing independent research into the Sarum Use, Medieval Organa, the Knights Templar, post-modern approaches to Medieval metaphysics, and writing epic fantasy and the occasional poem.

Kelly Norris (M.A.R.) is thankful for two wonderful—albeit unconventional—years at the ISM. Despite the pandemic, there have been numerous bright spots. Chief among these are the colloquium project she completed with Andréa Walker on Libby Larsen’s song cycle, Try Me, Good King, and collaborating on the digital music and art exhibition Silent Fire with fellow ISM students Maddie Blonquist, Maura Tuffy, and Andréa Walker. She will always be grateful for the role the ISM has played in shaping her as a collaborator, musician, and scholar.

As a YDS and Berkeley student, Andrew Ogletree (M.Div.) is thankful for his colleagues and professors at the ISM for making his experience richer and more robust. He writes: “The diverse offerings, research, and perspectives that I have encountered through the ISM bear witness to the abundance of God’s creative spirit in this broken world. In following a call to Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church, I look forward to taking the ethos of interdisciplinary collaboration, engendered through the ISM, into my future ministry, empowering the people of God to use their diverse gifts, and experiences together in creative service to one another, to humanity, and to God.” As he continues to seek fellow collaborators from across disciplines in this work, he will always remember that working together is not just an academic exercise, but one that is made better through “fellowship, laughter, and of course, a little sherry.”

Sean Rodan (M.A.R.) did a program concentration in Asian religions. For the past three years, Sean has enjoyed reflecting on the various connections between music, literature and religion in Japan. Some of his most cherished memories at the ISM were made singing in choir as a baritone. This year, he sang virtually with Yale Schola Cantorum and the Episcopal Church at Yale Choir, and in his first year was a member of Battell Chapel Choir, Marquand Chapel Choir, and Repertory Chorus. 

Leah Silvieus’s (M.A.R.) interests are religion and literature broadly; the conversations to be had at the intersection of religion, poetry, and music; the role of creative expression in community building; and political discourse.

Chris Talbot (M.M.) is grateful for all the wonderful friendships he’s made during his time at the ISM, and is stunned by the resilience shown by his colleagues throughout the year. He’s looking forward to a return to in-person music-making, and he hopes to start a private voice studio as well as continue his work as a freelance singer and audio engineer. 

Maura Tuffy (M.M.) is most grateful for the community at the ISM. Though these two years have been different from what anyone could have imagined, she has been inspired by the art that her friends have made, the connections built, and the dedication of her teachers during this period. Next year, Maura will continue her studies at the ISM/YSM to pursue a Master of Musical Arts in choral conducting.

Andréa Walker (M.M.) is grateful for her classmates and teachers at the ISM who have helped shape her personally and musically with their kindness. While at the ISM, she enjoyed diving deep into the music of American composer Libby Larsen with her Colloquium presentation partner Kelly Noris and was thrilled to be a part of the team (with Kelly, Maura Tuffy, and Maddie Blonquist) that put together the online multi-media exhibition ’Silent Fire’ featuring art and music by and about women. Inspired by many of her colleagues at the ISM she hopes to continue championing repertoire that challenges the status quo within the art music community. Andréa is happy to be continuing her studies in the fall at Case Western University where she will pursue a D.M.A. in historical performance practice.

Abe Wallace (M.M.) fondly remembers Camerata rehearsals, and is grateful to have had so many opportunities to make music with his classmates. He plans to continue his education at the University of Michigan in the fall, pursuing a D.M.A. degree in pipe organ performance with an emphasis in sacred music.

Bin Xia (S.T.M.) is grateful for his study and for the community life at the ISM, with special thanks to his advisor, Prof. Teresa Berger, who provided academic and pastoral support to him and to his family. His study in historical Chinese Anglican prayer books helped him develop a better understand of Chinese Anglican liturgy as well as his own faith identity. He is working as a content specialist with a Bible app developing team to create new features including daily prayer and spiritual formation for future versions. He hopes in a couple years to go back to school and continue his research on historical Chinese Anglican liturgy.

Other graduating students: Wyatt Reynolds (M.A.R.), Meghan Stoll (M.M.), Aaron Tan (M.M.A.).

Departing Fellows

Blenda Im (M.A.R. ’12) is deeply appreciative of the ways in which the ISM community warmly welcomed her back, first as a lecturer, then as a postdoctoral associate. She has been encouraged by the community’s sensitivity and commitment to making the ISM a safe and equitable institutional home, and will treasure the brilliance and kindness of her colleagues and students. Next year, Blenda will continue her scholarly pursuits as a Global Korean Diasporas Postdoctoral Fellow at the Korea Institute at Harvard University. She welcomes community members to keep in touch!

Jean Ngoya Kidula writes: “My year at ISM was much appreciated for physical, mental, intellection and spiritual rejuvenation by the people, in the space and for the season.”

Other departing fellows: Meg Bernstein (M.A.R. ’13), Rebecca Dirksen, Christopher-Rasheem McMillan, Marie-Ange Rakotoniaina, Riley Parker Soles.