Welcome, New Students

October 18, 2016

Each autumn we welcome new students who bring a breadth and depth of diverse backgrounds to our interdisciplinary enterprise. Many of them accepted our invitation to tell a bit about themselves so that our alumni and friends can catch some of the enthusiasm that abounds at this time of year.

As usual, the ISM community celebrated the opening of the academic year at the ISM picnic at the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden.

(Picnic photos by Derek Greten-Harrison; see slideshow at end of article)

Compiled by Omar Dairanieh (M.A.R. ‘16)

Gabriel Benton (M.M. organ ’18) is a keyboardist with a passion for bringing early music alive to contemporary audiences. He received his bachelor’s degree in harpsichord performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he also worked as a church organist and keyboard technician. In addition to performing on historical keyboards and organ, Gabriel sang in choirs and played recorder with the Oberlin Baroque Orchestra and Mountainside Baroque. He then received a master’s degree in historical performance at the Juilliard School, where he played keyboards and recorders with the period instrument orchestra Juilliard415. He has performed across the country, recently appearing at the Boston Early Music Festival, and with the New World Symphony. He has won several awards including the York Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, the Harold Hunt Organ Scholarship, the Earl Russel Award in Historical Performance, and two summer workshop scholarships from Early Music America.


Elizabeth Bickley (M.A.R. ’18) is interested in the distinction and overlap between sacred and public space and the various communal activities enabled within each. In particular, she will investigate the private and public divide ingrained in societal norms and how such organization shapes religious worship, play, the position of the arts, and communal memory in today’s pluralistic society. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2014 with a degree in English Literature and Latin American Studies, and spent the last two years working as an administrative and research assistant at a research institute for social science and humanities scholarship. Off the clock, she led tours at her local art museum, served as a stagehand for outdoor performances, and volunteered at city festivals.


Ting (Hedy) Bok (M.A.R. ’18) hails from Hong Kong and has a professional background in innovation consulting, counseling, social media marketing, translation and journalism in Greater China. At the ISM, she engages in the interdisciplinary inquiry of religion and the arts, exploring how Christianity’s many inconvenient truths can become experientially accessible (even transcending linguistic, social, and cultural barriers) through literature, visual arts, and the performance arts. She looks forward to category-defying conversations about the ‘East’, the ‘West’, all that is beyond, and all that is in between. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature and visual arts at Princeton University. Having lived and worked in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Greece, and the U.S., she is committed to bridging diverse cultures and communities of faith through artistic and scholarly work, as well as personal example. 


Stephanie Burette (M.Div. ’19) comes from Paris where she studied French literature and paintings. She holds a Ph.D. in French Literature and specialized in the study of art theory and art criticism in the 17th and 18th centuries. She primarily focused on the evolution of the discourses on paintings at a time exhibitions became public at the Louvre. Her interests now are particularly centered on theological questions raised by European religious paintings in the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s also in the course of her Ph.D., while doing research in Oxford, that she joined the Anglican communion and was confirmed at New College in 2010. After teaching French literature in high school, Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle and Paris 6, she is now a Postulant for Holy Orders (priesthood) in the Episcopal Church (Convocation of Europe).


Ambre Dromgoole (M.A.R. ’17) is a second-year M.A.R. candidate who dreams of consolidating black religion in the African diaspora and religion and the arts into one concentration. She is interested in studying the complexities in agency that occur for contemporary black women musicians who perform sacred music in secular spaces. She was born and raised in Nashville, TN and received her B.A. in musical studies and religion from Oberlin College & Conservatory. In addition to attending Yale Divinity School, she is passionate about promoting the importance of arts advocacy for communities of color in New York City.


Samuel Ernest (M.A.R. ’17) is a graduate of Seattle Pacific University, where he studied English literature. During his undergraduate years, he spent two terms at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, interned at Image Journal, and studied violin under Ilkka Talvi. His interests surround the intersection of sexuality and writing. They include the reading and writing practices of queer Christians, contemporary gay spiritual autobiography, and gay fiction. During his time at YDS and Berkeley, he has begun to spread his tendrils into queer marriage rites and the theology of desire, and he looks forward to exploring these topics in all of their rich complexities with the ISM. Sam also enjoys playing the violin and, on the rare occasion, reading aloud with loved ones.



Josiah Hamill (M.M. ’18) is an organist, violinist, and pianist who is already known for his passion, musicality, and virtuosity. He has received numerous awards and recognitions in both organ and violin. As an organist, he was twice selected as one of six finalists in the Arthur Poister Scholarship Competition in Organ Playing, an international competition based in Syracuse, NY. He was runner-up in the American Guild of Organists Regional Competition for Young Organists. Josiah received his B.M. with dual concentrations in organ and violin, graduating summa cum laude with distinctions from Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver, where he studied under Dr. Joseph Galema (organ) and Linda Wang (violin).  He was Lamont’s Presser Scholar and is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda.


Octavia Houha-McAloon (M.M.’18) is at Yale to study choral conducting, after completing her B.M. in classical voice in Seattle.  She loves singing all types of music and is usually humming something to herself, but is particularly interested in new music.  After her time at the ISM, she plans to go on to either a doctoral program in conducting, or work with a small chamber choir towards keeping a strong presence of modernity in the genre of choral music.


An Ohio native, Andrew Hendrixson (M.A.R. ’18) studied art and English as an undergraduate at Mount Vernon Nazarene University before earning an M.F.A. in painting and drawing in 2011 at the University of Florida. Before coming to Yale, he returned to Mount Vernon as a professor in the department of art and design, had an extended residency at the Whale and Star Studio in Miami, Florida, and drove around the country in a rented van as part of an experimental and performance-based art piece entitled “The House Shows Project.” In addition to engaging the theological implications of the arts, he seeks to find ways to reimagine the discourse of contemporary art away from the cynicism in which it seems content, and toward a more rigorous, embodied, and humanizing endeavor.


Joseph Kemper (M.M. ’18), a native of Oregon, comes to Yale after working five years as a choral director at Winter Park High School in Winter Park, Florida. Prior to that, he attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota where he received a B.M. in vocal music education and graduated with distinction. He found his passion for choral music during his time in the Youth Choral Academy at the Oregon Bach Festival. In addition to choral music, Joseph loves to hike, bike, play board games, and spend time with his wife.


Kathleen E. Kilcup (M.A.R ’18) is a first year M.A.R. student concentrating in religion and literature. After spending five years in the US Army as a Russian linguist, she studied philosophy as an undergraduate and later earned an M.F.A. in poetry from University of California, Riverside. Her interests include the lyric, Eastern Christianity, and notions of incarnational and sacramental language. She is from Oregon.



James Simon Lee (M.M. ’18) grew up in a musical family, and has sung in church choirs since the age of six. At the age of 8, he started playing the clarinet, and at the age of 11, added the saxophone. Having played in the Lancashire Youth Jazz Orchestra, James then studied for a bachelor of music degree at the University of Leeds, with a year focusing on solo performance at the University of North Texas. Upon graduation from Leeds in 2009, he took up the role of Lay Clerk at Durham Cathedral. In 2011-12, he studied for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (with Qualified Teaching Status). Since then James has delivered curriculum classroom music across the North East of England.


Stephen McCarthy (S.T.M. ’17) is originally from Lincoln, Massachusetts, and has recently completed a curacy at the Episcopal Cathedral in Birmingham, Alabama. His research interests center on the application of earlier Christian sources in later liturgies, as well as the relationship between early Christian ritual practices and canon formation. He earned a diploma in Anglican studies from Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, which honored him with the Thomas Phillips Memorial Award for exceptional achievement in the study of Anglican liturgy. During the middle year of his M.Div. (YDS ‘14), Stephen was a visiting student of the Evangelisches Stift at the University of Tübingen. He taught Latin at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, New Hampshire between his undergraduate and seminary studies. At Vassar College (A.B. ‘10), he concentrated in German literature, with correlate sequences in classics and philosophy; his senior thesis on Friedrich Hölderlin was awarded the Lillian B. Stroebe Prize for excellence in German.


David McNeil (D.M.A ’18) is at Yale working toward a doctorate. in choral conducting. He comes most recently from Indiana University-Bloomington, where he earned a M.M. in choral conducting, studying with Betsy Burleigh, Dominick DiOrio (M.M. ’08; D.M.A. ’12), and Walter Huff. David’s interests include the performance of 17th and 18th century sacred repertoire and the place of vocology and voice pedagogy in choral settings. Before beginning graduate study, David earned a B.A. at Trinity International University in music education, and then for five years taught 1st-12th grade choral music, instrumental music, and drama. When he isn’t in rehearsal, David enjoys time with his wife, Chelsey, and their two sons. He also enjoys woodworking and fishing.


Julie Pinsonneault (M.M. ’18), a native of Montreal, holds a master’s degree in organ and musicology from the University of Toulouse, where she recently studied and graduated under the guidance of Michel Bouvard and Jan Willem Jansen. She is also a graduate of McGill University (B.M. ’14), where she studied with John Grew and Hans-Ola Ericsson. Julie is currently co-organist and choir director for the Berkeley Wednesday Eucharist. She wishes to explore new paths in sacred music and liturgy.


Nicholas Quardokus (M.M. ’18) comes to Yale from Indiana University, where he completed his undergraduate degree in organ performance in 2016. He currently studies organ with Martin Jean and serves as organ scholar at Trinity Church on the Green. His interest in the organ is deeply rooted in liturgical music. He has previously served as assistant organist at Trinity Church, Indianapolis, as well as organist for the Royal School of Church Music summer course in St. Louis in 2016. In addition, as competition prize-winner and recitalist, he has played throughout the eastern United States. During his time at the ISM he hopes to continue exploring the organ within the rich context of other sacred art.


James Reese (M.M. ’18) is a Philadelphia native earning his masters in voice as part of the Voxtet at Yale. He earned his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, and has since sung throughout the U.S. as an ensemble and solo performer. He is interested in the perspective early sacred music can bring to music being newly written today.



Hans-Jacob Schmidt (M.A.R. ’18) is a visual artist working with performance, sculpture, and text. He received a M.F.A. in sculpture from Yale University in 2015, as well as a B.A. in art practice from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Beyond showing his own work internationally, he has taught sculpture at California State University, Los Angeles, and most recently worked in the education department of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Using the genealogy of Christ, his most recent work engages questions of image ethics, non-representation, and failed identity formations.


Addy Sterrett (M.M.’18) was raised in a musical family in the forests of northern Michigan, and discovered her passion for singing at a young age. After graduating from Interlochen Arts Academy, she began her undergraduate studies at Michigan State University, and later graduated with a bachelor of music degree from DePauw University. Addy enjoys all things outdoors, biking, kittens, and baking. As a performer, she hopes to have the privilege of sharing the profound beauty of music with those who need it most.


Abigail Storch (M.A.R. ’18) graduated summa cum laude from the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University in 2016, where she studied literature and music. While at Eastern, she served as managing editor of the university’s student newspaper and senior editor of the undergraduate research journal. In the fall of her junior year, Abbie spent a semester at the University of Oxford, where she was awarded both the Frederick Buechner Prize for Creative Writing and the de Jager Prize for her research on early modern devotional poetry. Before joining the ISM, she served as the Luci Shaw Fellow at Image Journal, a literary quarterly of religion and the arts. She looks forward to studying a theology of embodiment and the role of metaphor in spirituality while at the ISM.



Emily Wing (M.A.R. ’18) graduated from McGill University with first class honours in art history. A research internship at the McGill Faculty of Arts in the summer of 2015 affirmed her love for asking questions and trying to find answers to them. During this internship, Emily committed her summer to digging up eighteenth and nineteenth-century fugitive slave advertisements, which has led to a chapter she is authoring on a Canadian fugitive slave in a book to be published next September. In light of the scant scholarship on Canadian slavery, Emily seized the opportunity to fill a hole, an art she is fervently committed to within and beyond academia. Holes of different kinds can be found in the intersection of contemporary art and religion, which Emily is excited to address throughout or after her aspired doctorate studies!



Sze-Long (Aaron) Wong (M.A.R. ’18) was born and raised in Hong Kong, but now calls Canada his home and native land. He has served as a chorister, choir conductor, and cellist in Anglican churches in Hong Kong and Canada. Before joining the ISM, he was an M.Div. student at Fuller Theological Seminary, and served as a lay worship leader at Richmond Hill Christian Community Church, a Chinese evangelical church in the suburb of Toronto. Aaron holds a B.M. in cello performance from Peabody Conservatory, an M.M. in cello performance from the Juilliard School, and an M.A. in performance arts administration from New York University. He is passionate about guiding faith communities in cultivating their own worship language that is ecumenically minded, historically conscious, theologically nuanced, and culturally distinct. He is grateful that his family is able to join him in New Haven and looks forward to this special season of formation and learning.


Laura Worden (M.A.R. ’18) is originally from Sacramento, California. She graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in both art history and fine art. Her research interests include the interaction of the Abrahamic faiths, sacred spaces, and rituals in the Middle Ages. As a practicing artist, Laura’s work explores themes of social justice and the art historical canon. She looks forward to further developing a multisensory understanding of the Medieval world and contemporary culture through her studies at the ISM.


Other students entering in 2016: William Doreza (M.M.A. ’18), Sally Hansen (M.A.R. ’18), Bradley Sharpe (M.M. ’18).


Several returning students who did not submit biographical information last year took the opportunity of doing so now.


Emma Langham Brown (M.A.R. ’17) is a second-year M.A.R. student with a focus on the visual arts and material culture of the Middle Ages. Her academic interests include manuscript illumination, paleography, hagiography, and other forms of medieval storytelling and meaning making. She graduated from Harvard University in 2014 with a concentration in history and literature and a secondary field in French.


Bradley Burgess (M.M. ’17) is a South African organist and pianist who comes to Yale via New York, where he was Director of Music & Organist at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (Islip, NY), and maintained a busy teaching studio. He has appeared in recital throughout his home country, and in the UK, Finland, and the US. Bradley holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music and the University of Cape Town.


Joey Fala (M.M. ’17), a native of Honolulu, graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2015 with a B. Architecture and M.S. in lighting. He currently serves as organ scholar at St. Paul’s Episcopal, Norwalk, CT and is excited to be expanding his knowledge into the realm of choral music at the ISM.



Katherine Scahill (M.A.R. ’17) received her B.A. in music from Wesleyan University. After college, she worked at the Garrison Institute, a non-profit organization in the Hudson Valley that combines contemplation and socially engaged action to increase the presence of self-reflection, mindfulness, and social and emotional learning in education. At the ISM, she has worked on projects at the intersection of musicology, ethnomusicology, and religious studies, focusing on both Christian contemplative traditions as well as Buddhist chanting practices. Through these studies, she seeks to explore the purposes chant and music serve in devotional practices and communal rituals. She is also particularly interested in the writings and devotional music and chant of female ascetics and monastics in Christian and Buddhist traditions.


Matt Sullivan (M.M. ’17) is a bass-baritone whose most recent season included performances of Bach’s Missa Brevis (BWV 235) and Matthäus-Passion, Handel’s Messiah, Pärt’s Passio, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, and Faure’s Requiem. Previous seasons have included performances with the Folger Consort, the Boston Early Music Festival, Peabody Consort, Baltimore Baroque Band, Mountainside Baroque, Opera Lafayette, and the American Opera Theatre. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Matt is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory, where he studied under John Shirley-Quirk and William Sharp.

  • ISM class entering 2016 (courtesy Omar Dairanieh)