Welcome, Students!

October 14, 2020

Each autumn we welcome new students who bring a breadth and depth of diverse backgrounds to our interdisciplinary enterprise, and we welcome back our continuing students for another year of study and fellowship. 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.

Compiled by Stephen Gamboa-Diaz.

Matt Bickett (M.A.R. theology ’22) works on the boundary of performance and scholarship. An organist and harpsichordist equally at home with historical and contemporary music, he centers his performances around historically informed playing styles and techniques. His research focuses on the interdependence of music, history, and theology. Having completed an M.M. in historical performance at Oberlin Conservatory, Matt comes to Yale to explore how theology might inform performance practice of both sacred and secular music, and how our understanding of music might provide deeper insights into Christian theology. Matt’s recent performance and research work begins to challenge prevailing conceptions of musical canon, to bring the music of Florence Price to wider audiences, and to explore the implications of musical time on Jürgen Moltmann’s Christian eschatology. When not practicing or reading, Matt enjoys sampling local craft beer and baking banana bread.

Maddie Blonquist (M.A.R. religion & visual arts ’21) received her undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University in 2018 where she pursued a double major in music and interdisciplinary humanities. While at BYU, she became involved with various curatorial and performance projects, many of which involved bringing music into exhibition spaces and engaging viewers in interdisciplinary museum experiences. She plans to pursue a career as a museum curator and “specifically explore the ways various religious narratives influence the visual interpretation of the female form in contemporary art.”

Ben Bond (M.Div. ’22) is a second year student in the master of divinity degree at Yale Divinity School on ordination track with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Ben hails from southern California, where he earned his undergraduate degree in religious studies at Chapman University. He is currently the founder and co-chair of DivineAbilities, Yale Divinity School’s first student disability organization. Ben has a passion for exploring and developing the ways in which the intersection of religion and music can be used as a liberative tool for working toward social justice. He has a background in music, documentary filmmaking, and activism. He hopes to use his Yale Divinity degree “to serve the Church, work in the non-profit sector, and later pursue a PhD. with the goal of ultimately becoming Rev. Dr. Bond.”

Emily Boring (M.Div. ’23) returns to Yale from the tide pools of Oregon, where she earned her M.S. (’20) as a National Science Foundation graduate fellow studying the genetic resilience of sea stars. During her undergraduate study at Yale (B.S. ’18), she traversed the space between laboratory and chapel, finding resonance between courses in religious literature and poetry, and her research on speciation, evolution, and ecology. At the ISM, she hopes to join writers who are pushing the vocabulary of faith in new directions. She envisions a shared language at the intersection of science and religion—a vocabulary of wonder, discovery, connection, and pattern-seeking—that will speak to modern audiences and help address ethical problems related to climate change. Her interdisciplinary writing has appeared in academic journals (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith; DISTILLED) and creative outlets (Yale Scientific Magazine; Yale Literary Magazine; The Christian Century, forthcoming).

Clare Byrne (M.A.R. religion & music ’22) is a songwriter and dancer pursuing an M.A.R. in religion and music at the ISM. She is passionate about American musical histories and canons of songs, including blues, folk, rock, and gospel traditions. Clare has been an experimental choreographer and taught contemporary dance at Muhlenberg College, Long Island University, and the University of Vermont. She has a B.A. in dance from Connecticut College and an M.F.A. in dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her long-term interdisciplinary projects have included Weekly Rites, a five-year dance and writing blog, and “The Poor Sister Clares Traveling Dancing Monk Show,” an experiment in gardening and liturgical dancing in Vermont.

EmmaRae Carroll (M.A.R. liturgical studies ’21) writes “Hi, my name is EmmaRae, and my spouse and two cats live with me in New Haven. I am a second year M.A.R. studying contemporary American evangelicalism, particularly the ways the pastor, sermon, and homiletics in general shape the ecclesial life of their church. In my free time, I love crocheting and playing board games.”

Fiona Chen (M.A.R. history of Christianity ’22) comes to Yale from Fordham University, where she received her B.A. in theology, medieval studies, and classics. She is a former choral scholar (alto) at Fordham Schola Cantorum and greatly enjoys sacred choral music from the Renaissance to present day. In spring 2019, Fiona studied abroad at Trinity College Dublin, where she developed her interest in early Christian (voluntary) martyrdom. She is primarily interested in the history of early and medieval Christianity and their material culture, especially artifacts related to death, dying, and the afterlife. Recently, Fiona has also developed interests in philosophical and religious ethics, Christian existentialism, and religion and public life in the United States. When she is not studying the (art) history of (premodern) Christianity, she enjoys listening to choral music, cooking and baking, crafting, and learning about American religious history.

Jake Cunliffe (M.Div. ’22) is seeking ordination in the Episcopal Church. His time at the ISM follows prior study on the historical interaction of Majority World church movements with Western/Northern churches and present-day ecclesiological disputes within church institutions with global membership. Intending to bring what he learns into congregational ministry, he hopes to explore how pastoral care can be done through creative liturgy using different media, particularly during times of limited in-person worship, and collaborate with musicians to better understand how liturgical music can be a catalyst for spiritual growth. He also likes to cook, hike, and follow sports avidly (particularly cricket!).

Alexandra Dreher (M.A.R. religion & music ’21) comes to the ISM after teaching English under the Fulbright Program and Pädagogische Austauschdienst in Cologne, Germany. She graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, with a B.M. in vocal performance and B.A. in German. Outside of her research interests addressing intersections of the sonic and sacred, she enjoys exploring New Haven on walks, runs, and bike rides.

Mark Florig (M.A.R. liturgical studies ’22) is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, now studying liturgical theology and history at Yale Divinity School and the ISM. Mark’s major projects are receptive ecumenism in liturgical rites, particularly in variants in Roman Catholic and Anglican forms of worship. Additionally, Mark works to expand the definitions of what might be considered liturgical participation.

Elisabeth Gray (M.Div. ’23) is thrilled to be joining the ISM for a voyage into the intersections of language, image, and faith. She writes, “A native of the ‘Christ-haunted South,’ as Flannery O’Connor once named it, my tragicomic sensibility and multifarious creativity have led me into simultaneous lives in playwrighting, filmmaking, acting, and entrepreneurship.” Through her female-focused production company Das Egg Productions, recent work includes the film The Parable of the Disappearing Recliner starring Amy Sedaris, and the live theater event WOMANIFESTO starring Oscar-nominee Kathleen Turner. She completed her B.A. (Hons) and M.A. in English literature and language at the University of Oxford.

Ethan Haman (M.M. organ ‘21) from Fremont, California, studies organ with Craig Cramer and is the organist of Noroton Presbyterian Church in Darien, Connecticut. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.Mus. in organ performance studying with Cherry Rhodes and in composition with Morten Lauridsen, Andrew Norman, Donald Crockett, Sean Friar, and Daniel Temkin. At USC, Ethan was organist for both Knox Presbyterian Church in Pasadena and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, as well as an improvisation instructor for the San Francisco Peninsula Organ Academy. He went on four organ and improvisation study trips to Lyon and Paris on scholarships from USC and the SFPOA. His compositions can be found at SheetMusicPlus.com. Ethan also enjoys recording organ videos for his YouTube channel as well as studying foreign languages; he currently speaks English, French, Spanish, European Portuguese, Cantonese, and is learning German, Mandarin, and Korean.

Emily Helferty (M.M. voice ’22) is a mezzo soprano originally from the small rural town of Douglas, Ontario, where she grew up singing and performing with her nine older siblings. She graduated in the class of 2020 from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario with a bachelor of music degree specializing in vocal performance. She is excited to be continuing her education in New Haven with the ISM Voxtet, where she can combine her two passions—vocal performance and faith—in such a meaningful way. When she isn’t singing, Emily enjoys painting, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

Haven Herrin (M.Div. ’22) writes, “I bring to my work in the ISM interests in dance, sound, and somatic healing work that explore liberation from Christian Supremacy. I worked for many years in queer and trans justice in the context of Southern Christianity, which grew in me a love of earth, solidarity, and arts-as-sacred-activism. Now, I am a dual degree student between the Divinity School and the School of Management because I am excited about cultivating a set of skills for surfacing theological undercurrents and re-wiring beliefs about bodies, land, and economics to support kinship and wholeness.”

Margaret Kearney (M.A.R. religion & literature ’22) grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and studied English at Yale as an undergraduate. After college, she joined the NYC Teaching Fellows program and taught English at public schools in Brooklyn at the middle and high school level for twelve years. She writes, “I’m excited to be returning to New Haven and Yale. My interests include the connections between religion, language, and systems of power; the ways that white supremacy have shaped American Christianity and education; and the subversive power of storytelling and literature.”

Clare Kemmerer (M.A.R. religion & visual art ’22) is a first year ISM student from Palo Alto, California. She received her B.A. in art history and religion from the University of Chicago, where she focused on the visual culture of German convents. She will continue her research of medieval art in Germany at the ISM. Her other interests include labor history, mycology, modern Catholic leftism, and projects to decolonize the academy.

Daniel Kim (M.A.R. liturgical studies ’21) writes, “I was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina but raised in South Korea for most of my life. Before coming to ISM, I studied choral music and philosophy at University of Southern California and worked for two years as a teacher at a Christian school and as a choir director at a Korean church in Los Angeles. My primary interest is usage of choral music in worship.”

Nilaya S. Knafo (M.A.R. religion & visual art ’22) comes to Yale from Washington, D.C. She earned a B.A. in international studies from American University in 2019, where her research focused on the Egyptian Coptic Christian community and sectarian violence regarding church preservation and construction. Upon graduating, she began a peacebuilding career focusing on providing educational trainings on conflict resolution, dialogue, and mediation to youth leaders and United Nations peacekeepers. At YDS and the ISM Nilaya hopes to explore the visual arts, architecture, iconography, and music of religious communities in the Middle East, in order to serve U.S. efforts focusing on the protection of religious minorities and their cultural and religious heritage.

Abigail Kromminga (M.A.R. liturgical studies ’22) studied history at Smith College and graduated in 2019. Most recently, she spent a year in Hamburg, Germany as a Fulbright teaching fellow. She cares about medieval worship, the liturgical experiences of the laity, and what rituals the medieval church used to draw its social boundaries. She is excited to expand and grow her interests over these next two years.

Jane Potthast (M.A.R. religion & literature ’22) holds an M.A. in comparative literature. She writes, “My interest is to participate in the way God reveals Himself through beauty and ideas, along with the transformative effects of this on both a cultural and personal level.”

Sean Rodan (M.A.R. Asian religions ’21) is a 2017 graduate of Harvard College, where he received a B.A. in music. He has just returned from a year of Japanese language study in Yokohama in order to continue his second year of study at the ISM. His current academic interests include the religious history of modern Japan and the history of Christianity in East Asia.

A West Coast native, Kyler Schubkegel (M.A.R. religion & literature ’21) returns to New Haven and the ISM for his second year of his M.A.R. He holds a B.A. in English and philosophy from George Fox University and has written on subjects ranging from Nietzsche’s aesthetics to liturgical hymnody. His work at the ISM centers on theological readings of issues in poetics, such as rhythm and repetition, notions of closure, and embodiment—and how these issues open up the relationship between lived experiences of text and of spirituality. When he’s not at the mercy of an overgenerous pile of readings, you’ll find him at the piano, on a bike ride pining for the Pacific Northwest, or in the kitchen (slowly) learning how to cook.

Elizabeth Searcy (M.Div. ’22) is an art historian and photographer with a Ph.D. in African American art. Her dissertation examined the early photography of Carrie Mae Weems. Also affiliated with Andover Newton Seminary, she is interested in exploring the connections between ministry and the visual arts. She is an avid knitter and has two cats who try to attack and eat her yarn. As a native of the great state of Arkansas, she is happy to be somewhere cold enough to knit.

Leah Silvieus (M.A.R. religion & literature ’21) is the author of three poetry collections, most recently, Arabilis (Sundress Publications 2019), and is the co-editor, with Lee Herrick, of The World I Leave You: An Anthology of Asian American Poets on Faith and Spirit (Orison Books 2020). She holds a B.A. from Whitworth University and an M.F.A. from the University of Miami. She is a Kundiman fellow and a National Book Critics Circle emerging fellow. Her interests focus the intersections of religion and contemporary poetry, Christianity and adoption/orphan narratives, and literature and hospitality.

Jenny Claire Smith (M.A.R. liturgical studies ’22) studied history and liturgy at the University of Notre Dame with a focus on early modern Europe. She also completed paleography training in early modern English and Dutch at the Huntington Library, Columbia University, and the Universiteit Antwerpen. Her archival research in London and Antwerp was generously supported by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts. She was also editorial assistant for the scholarly journal Archiv für Reformationgeschichte. Jenny serves as a lay catechist, usher, lector, and communion server at her church. She began classical ballet training at the age of four and completed over twenty-five hours of elective coursework in ballet and pointe as an undergraduate. She has also been a member of the ballet faculty of various local studios where she has taught ballet to children and youth.

Christy Stang (M.Div. ’22) graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2019 with a B.A. in psychology and English. Now studying at Berkeley Divinity School, she is on track for ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota. She is passionate about the ways in which faith and creativity intersect, and in 2011, she contributed to research and led quantitative analysis in the international effort to examine the speaking women of the Bible, ultimately published in 2014 in Lindsay Freeman’s book, Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. In 2017, she collaborated with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music in the International Episcopal Church to transcribe and analyze interviews pertaining to prayer book revision. More recently, she continues her love of faithful creative expression through preaching, which she has been pursuing since age sixteen. In her free time, she continues to explore the themes of spirituality and the arts through poetry, singing, and dancing.

Deborah Stephens (M.M. voice ’22) graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia in December 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance. She is passionate about religion, choral music, singing, and mentoring. Deborah founded the Veritas Vocal Ensemble in 2017, a select group of collegiate singers with the mission of raising money to support music education for underprivileged youth. Deborah is also sought-after freelance soloist and has sung with the professional choral groups Kinnara, Coro Vocati, Seraphic Fire, and the Lake Junaluska Singers.

Meghan Stoll (M.M. choral conducting ’21) joins the ISM having recently received her bachelor of music degree from Oberlin Conservatory, where she studied conducting with Gregory Ristow and voice with Timothy LeFebvre. She has conducted with Oberlin Chamber Ensembles and Oberlin Musical Union. In addition to her work as a choral conductor, Stoll is active on the operatic stage. She has portrayed Mère Marie in Dialogues des Carmélites and Dinah in Trouble in Tahiti with Oberlin Opera Theater.

Christopher Talbot (M.M. voice ’21) is a soloist and ensemble singer specializing in early music, art song, and new music. Highlights of his time at Yale include Telemann’s Der Tag des Gerichts at Alice Tully Hall with Masaaki Suzuki and Julliard415, Schoenberg’s Friede auf Erden with the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, and an Argentinian song recital with the Voxtet under guest director Bernarda Fink. Before coming to Yale, Christopher lived in Boston where he appeared as a soloist and ensemble singer with the Harvard University Choir, Boston Choral Ensemble, Canto Armonico, and Carduus. He earned a dual degree in music and Spanish from Drew University, and studied opera, early music, and composition for a term at IUNA, a national conservatory in Buenos Aires. A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, he began singing at age eight in the choirs of All Saints Church. When not performing, Christopher is an audio engineer and computer programmer, and is passionate about the intersection between music and technology.

Aaron Tan (M.M.A. organ ’21) is a Canadian organist, engineer, and pianist. He has won numerous noteworthy contests and scholarships on both instruments including the first prize and audience prize at the prestigious AGO National Young Artists (NYACOP) competition in 2018. Other competition prizes and awards include the Toronto RCCO Young Organists Competition, the Osborne Organ Competition of the Summer Institute of Church Music (Ontario), the RCCO’s National Organ Playing Competition, the Charlotte Hoyt Bagnall Scholarship for Church Musicians, the Lilian Forsyth Scholarship, the West Chester University Organ Competition, the Arthur Poister Scholarship Competition, the Sursa American Organ Competition, and the XVI Poland International Piano Festival Competition. His primary musical tutelage has been with John Tuttle, David Palmer, and Joel Hastings. In addition to attending the ISM, Aaron also serves as organ scholar at Church of the Resurrection in New York City. Previously he has served as organ scholar at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, artist in residence at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Detroit, and assistant organist at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. As a scientist, Aaron holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Michigan and worked there as a postdoctoral researcher, studying polymer thin films. More information about Aaron’s musical interests and activities can be found at www.AaronTan.org.

New Jersey native, Maura Tuffy (M.M. choral conducting ’21), is a conductor and vocalist who currently serves as the director of chapel choir at Marquand Chapel. She holds bachelor’s degrees in choral music and vocal arts from the University of Southern California, where she studied with Jo-Michael Scheibe and Thomas Michael Allen. While at USC, she conducted the USC Thornton Concert Choir, USC ACDA BA Choral Lab, and served as the Concerto Chamber Orchestra’s first choir director. During the latter half of her collegiate studies, Maura focused on integrating other art forms, such as dance and visual art, into choral music. Through her music, she aspires to catalyze collaboration across all artistic fields.

Christine Veillon (M.Div. ’23) is a writer, graphic designer, and postulant for ordination in the Episcopal Church. She comes to Yale from Manhattan, where she worked for nine years in communications at a cardinal parish. Christine has an M.F.A. in creative writing and publishing and hopes her formation through the ISM will bridge and fuel her dual vocations.

Texas native Andréa Walker (M.M. voice ’21) is a second year soprano in the Voxtet at the ISM where she has studied with Bernarda Fink and James Taylor. She received her bachelor of music degree from the University of Houston. A keen collaborator, Andréa has had extensive experience performing with a variety of choral ensembles, including the Grammy award-winning Houston Chamber Choir, Bach Society Houston, Yale Schola Cantorum, and the 2018–2019 Voces8 USA Scholars. Recent performances as a soloist include a world premiere with Apollo Chamber Players, a concert of Mozart arias with Echo Orchestra of Houston, Messiah with the Yale Symphony Orchestra, and her Lincoln Center debut with Masaaki Suzuki and Juilliard415 in Der Tag des Gerichts by Telemann.

Originally from Goldsby, Oklahoma, Abraham Wallace (M.M. organ ’21) is a second-year organist at the ISM. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Oklahoma, receiving bachelor’s degrees in piano and geophysics. During his undergraduate years, he also studied the pipe organ with the faculty members of the American Organ Institute. An aspiring professional church musician Abe was previously appointed the director of music at Trinity Lutheran Church in Norman, Oklahoma. He also served as the organ scholar at St. Paul’s on the Green in Norwalk, Connecticut, and organist at St. Thomas More Catholic Parish in New Haven.

Nate Widelitz (M.M. ’14; D.M.A. choral conducting ’26) returns to the ISM after his most recent six-year journey through the wild world of the working musician. Originally hailing from the sleepy exurban community of Perkasie, Pennsylvania, his recent ventures have taken him to Blairstown, New Jersey and back to his spiritual home of Los Angeles, where he is coming off of stints as a faculty member at California State University, Los Angeles; Mt. San Antonio College; and Fullerton College; and also as the assistant conductor of Pacific Chorale. With degrees in vocal arts from the University of Southern California and choral conducting from Yale already under his belt, he is looking forward to earning yet another music degree. Nate spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he conducted research on the women’s dvuglas of the Shopski Kray region, and he has retained his affinity for Southern Slavic culture ever since.

Bin Xia (S.T.M. ’21) was born and raised in Wuhan, China. He is from the independent/house church movement in China. He majored in humanities studies and received his B.Phil. from Wuhan University. He had six years of leading campus ministry and church ministry in East China before going to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts to study for his M.Div. More recently, he was doing church planting and theological education ministries in Southwest China. He is interested in studying Anglican liturgy and how liturgy could shape Christian identity. Bin is married to Nan Xu and they have two children, Thomas and Vera.

Gloria Yin (M.M. choral conducting ’22) is a conductor, pianist, and singer from London, U.K., now based in New Haven and Princeton. She received a B.A. in mathematics from Princeton University in 2018; she also received the certificate in piano performance and the Isidore & Helen Sacks Memorial Prize for extraordinary achievement in the arts. She continues to work regularly with the department of music at Princeton University in various professional capacities as a collaborative pianist, conductor, and arranger, and is currently director of the Trenton Youth Singers at Princeton. While an undergraduate, she was president of the Princeton Pianists Ensemble, co-director of Contrapunctus XIV, concert manager and assistant conductor of the Glee Club, and a member of the Chamber Choir. In her spare time, she loves backpacking, baking desserts, drawing, and meeting new people over coffee or tea.

Other students include C. E. Aaron (M.A.R. religion & music ’22), Nia Campinha -Bacote (M.Div. ’21), Teddy Cheng (M.M. organ ’21), Rhianna Cockrell (M.M.A. voice ’21), Carolyn Craig (M.M. organ ’21), Jim Davis (M.M. choral conducting ’21), Rebecca Ehren (M.M. organ ’22), Caryne Eskridge (M.Div. ’21), Ben Ferriby (M.M. voice ’22), Clara Gerdes (M.M. organ ’21), Ingrid Goetz (M.A.R. religion & visual arts ’21), Phoenix Gonzalez (M.A.R. liturgical studies ’21), Richard Gress (M.M. organ ’21), Ethan Haman (M.M. organ ’21), Madeleine Hutchins (M.A.R. religion & literature ’21), Matthew Ingwersen (M.M. organ ’22), Gabe Kepler (M.Div. ’21), Joe Lerangis (D.M.A. choral conducting ’25), Alex Longnecker (M.M.A. voice ’21), Michael Lukin (M.M. choral conducting ’22), Molly Martien (M.A.R. religion & visual arts ’21), Patrick McGill (M.M.A. voice ’22), Sydney Mukasa (M.M. choral conducting ’22), Skyler Neberman (M.A.R. liturgical studies ’21), Kelly Norris (M.A.R. religion & music ’21), Andrew Ogletree (M.Div. ’21), Manuel Piazza (M.M. organ ’22), and Nyoman Usahi (M.A.R. religion & music ’22).