Looking Back: Commencement 2015

August 17, 2015

Goodbye, Graduates!

compiled by Kathryn McNeal

On Sunday, May 17, the ISM presented its newest graduates with their ISM certificates at a banquet at the New Haven Lawn Club. Some of them accepted our invitation to reflect on their experience at the Institute, and their plans and hopes for the future.

Photos from the 2015 ISM Commencement Banquet.  All photos by Matthew Fried and Katharine Luce. 

Robert Bennesh (A.D.) will return to his native Sweden and assume the post of Director of Music Ministries in the beautifully situated parish of Skanör-Falsterbo in the southwestern corner of the country this fall. In addition to being the principal organist, he will direct the semi-professional parish choir and be the artistic director of the bi-weekly concert series as well as the parish’s summer music festival. Furthermore, one of his first tasks will be to make plans for a new organ. He writes, “The ISM is a place with unlimited talent, knowledge, and warmth. There is not a single professor, staff member, or fellow student that has not made a deep impact on me.” He would, however, want especially to thank his main professor, Thomas Murray, for the guidance he has given him. He says, “Professor Murray is an inspirational force, and his guidance as my organ teacher as well as my mentor at Christ Church has forever changed my approach to music.”

Martha Brundage (M.A.R.) will begin a Ph.D. in theology at Boston University’s School of Theology this fall, concentrating in theological aesthetics as she continues to explore the intersection between theology and music. “I am grateful to the ISM for sponsoring my studies, to the faculty and staff for their work and support, and to my talented colleagues for their inspiring studies and friendship.”

Mindy Chu (M.M.) writes, “Being a part of the ISM has allowed me to approach my studies in early and sacred music in a more spiritual, meaningful, and informed manner. I especially enjoyed the ISM 2014 focus on translation and early Christian history. Our study trip to Italy made the year’s teachings come to life and gave me an opportunity to experience Christian history in a way I would never have imagined. The Voxtet program provided me with a unique musical education–an absolute blessing to my life. I will remain in New Haven for the time being to freelance and work in the music industry. Highlights for the year include: singing in the 2015 PMF Festival in Sapporo, Japan and coincidently in December, I will be back in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan performing as a soloist under the direction of former ISM alum Kathleen Allan (M.M. ’14) in John Rutter’s Magnificat and Handel’s Messiah.”

Emilie Rose Coakley (M.A.R.) is “profoundly grateful for the past three years of learning and discernment alongside the brilliant and compassionate students, staff, and faculty who comprise the ISM.”  Following a call recently realized, Emilie will begin a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at the University of Pittsburgh in the fall, where she will explore questions of national identity, power, and politics at play in the music of the Roman Catholic community in Indonesia.

Meredith Jane Day (M.Div.) thoroughly enjoyed her years as a student in the Yale Institute of Sacred Music! She found that the most rewarding aspect of her time in the ISM was the Colloquium experience. From listening to her peers’ research every week to working on her own senior presentation with her partner Daniel O’Connor (M.M.), each part of the colloquium process became a breeding ground for intellectual inquiry and imagination. She is grateful for the time she got to spend with her peers and professors during this large-scale project.

Max Holman (M.M.) will be accompanying at New Haven Ballet and at American Repertory Ballet in Princeton, NJ, this summer, and spending a month as a collaborative pianist at the Ad Astra Music Festival in Russell, KS. In September, Max will go to Madrid, Spain to teach English and make music abroad. To the ISM community, he says, “Peace out ISM, and thanks for everything!”

According to Mark Koyama (M.Div.), “The Institute of Sacred Music is an interdisciplinary hotbed.  Each student has a remarkable wealth of opportunities for learning – not only from an outstanding faculty, but from each other.  In this setting I spent a full academic year reading and discussing Dante’s Divine Comedy; attended innumerable sublime concerts that featured my extraordinarily talented colleagues; learned about time, translation, and the Civil War from a myriad of different angles; went to readings offered by many of America’s leading literary voices; and, of course, sojourned through the vast landscapes of Italian art and religion.  What an honor!  It is impossible to express my deep gratitude.”

Patrick Kreeger (M.M.) begins his D.M.A. in the fall at New York City’s Juilliard School as a C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellow studying with Paul Jacobs (M.M.’02, A.D.’03). Remarking on his time at Yale, he says, “The past two years at Yale have been filled with not only academic/musical developments, but also a lot of personal growth. The demands and expectations are high, and the ISM provided the resources for students to pursue studies in academia and musical performance. This, coupled with the invaluable atmosphere at the ISM – the brilliant and challenging faculty, the kind staff/administration, and most importantly, the supportive students – made my time at Yale full of positive experiences and cherished memories.” This summer, Patrick returns to his alma mater, The Curtis Institute of Music, to serve on the piano and choral conducting faculties at their Summerfest program for advanced high school and college students.

Patrick J. Landers (M.A.R.) describes his experience with the ISM: “Being part of the wonderfully talented and diverse ISM community is a true blessing, affording one the chance to learn as much from classmates as from professors. It was a wonderful enhancement to the already special YDS experience.”

Kathryn McNeal (M.Div.) is “incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to engage in the wide variety of rich resources of the ISM. From the stimulating course offerings to the diverse professional relationships formed to the opportunity to experience first-hand the remarkable presence of the sacred arts in Italy, exploring the interdisciplinary offerings of the ISM has been formative in my continued ministerial identity development.” She looks forward to continuing her relationship with her colleagues and the faculty of the ISM as she works on her S.T.M. project dealing with the sacred arts in congregational identity formation.

Edmund Milly (M.M.) is “excited for my impending post-academic life,” but also sad to be leaving behind the close and nurturing community of the ISM – particularly his teacher, James Taylor, and his colleagues in the Voxtet. This fall, he joins the choir of Trinity Wall Street, alongside several other Voxtet alumni, and plans to base a solo and ensemble singing career out of New York, which he says is “close enough to occasionally hop on the Metro North and crash the odd colloquium….”

Joanna E. Murdoch (M.A.R.) describes her time with the ISM: “I had never been to a poetry reading when I entered the religion and literature program at the ISM. My two years at YDS/ISM gave me the privilege of hearing such literary giants as Fanny and Susan Howe, Peter Cole, Danielle Chapman, Nate Klug, Mary Karr, Marilynne Robinson, and more. What I experienced in those readings –  the hard bite of lecture chairs, fine cheese and wine with luminaries, striking new registers of spiritual discourse – so electrified my studies of medieval vernacular theology that I had to find a way to stay at the junctions of religion and literature, antiquity and the now, speech and silence.” She is delighted to begin her doctoral studies at Duke University’s English department, where, she trusts, “the Word and the voices of the writing world will intertwine just as insistently and mysteriously as in Peter Hawkins’s and Christian Wiman’s ISM courses.”

Jon Seals (M.A.R.) thanks the faculty and staff for their guidance and inspiration throughout his studies at the Institute of Sacred Music. He offers “a special note of gratitude to Kristin and Leo Seals, for their patience and love.” While a student, Jon taught visual art courses at The College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, New York and worked at Yale University Art Gallery. His essays, reviews, and works of art were published in “ArtPulse” magazine; “Letters Literary Art Journal”; “Palimpsest,” the Yale literary and arts magazine; and “Reflections” magazine at Yale Divinity School. Jon exhibited his art in solo and group art exhibitions throughout the United States and curated two group exhibitions in the halls of the ISM and YDS. He holds an M.F.A. in painting from Savannah College of Art and Design. Jon will continue making art, writing, teaching, and curating.


Wyatt Dustin Smith (M.M.) will begin a D.M.A. this fall at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he will study organ performance as a student of Dr. Carole Terry. He writes, “I will be ever grateful to the Institute for the experience that I have been given over the last two years. The environment that is fostered at the Institute has prepared me to step out into the real world, not only as a better organist and musician, but as one who is more receptive to new ideas and how they can relate to me and what I do. Thanks most of all to Martin Jean who has provided unparalleled guidance to me in these two years, along with staff members Jacque Campoli and Kristen Forman who help the Institute to run at its best! Thank you!”

Peter Thompson (M.Div.) will begin as Assistant Rector of St. Paul’s on the Green in Norwalk, CT, in June, after being ordained as a priest there in May. He served as seminarian at St. Paul’s during his second and third years at YDS/BDS/ISM and is “very happy to continue at a place that values liturgy and music as integral parts of the Church’s life.” Peter will also remain close to the ISM both geographically and through working with several ISM alums and current students who function as musicians at St. Paul’s. He appreciates the opportunity the ISM gave him “to make liturgy and music a key part of my vocational formation and [I] look forward to maintaining such a focus in the months and years ahead.”

Other 2015 graduates: Kenyon Adams (M.A.R.), Tate Addis (M.M.), Nicole Benevenia (M.A.R.), Mark Biggins (M.M.), HeeChan Chang (M.Div.), Christian Crocker (M.M.), Jamilah George (M.Div.), Wesley Hall (M.M.), Francis Kim (M.M.), Juyeon Lee (M.A.R.), Megan Mitchell (M.A.R.), Jack Norman (S.T.M.), Daniel O’Connor (M.M.), Michael Racine (M.A.R.), Will Stanley (M.Div.), Gene Stenger (M.M.), Sarah Svendsen (M.M.), Michael Weinberg (M.M.A.), Jeremiah Wright Haynes (M.Div.), and Sarah Yanovitch (M.M.)