FPA Student Spotlight
Braylee Polson, a junior from Surgoinsville, Tennessee, is a second-semester junior at ETSU majoring
in theatre and minoring in dance and entrepreneurship. The Fine and Performing Arts
Scholar enjoys being involved in every aspect of theater and combines her interests
in both theater and entrepreneurship through her own small business, Once Upon a Party
TN. She has directed theater productions for the past four years. “I’ve always really
liked ETSU. It feels like home to me …it was the perfect choice. My professors know
me and care about me. Read more>>
Kate Trabalka, a junior from Oak Ridge, is an ETSU Fine and Performing Arts Scholar who is pursuing
a degree in media and communication with a concentration in journalism and a minor
in dance. Last year, Trabalka auditioned for a popular reality television show for
dancers, and while she did not make it, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that
helped her to focus on where she wants to take her career, both as a dancer and as
a journalist. As a student at ETSU, Trabalka is a reporter for the East Tennessean,
the university’s student newspaper, and co-captain of the ETSU Dance Team. In addition,
she shares her talent elsewhere in Johnson City as a dance coach at Liberty Bell Middle
School and as a teacher at The Dance Company. Read more>>
Zoë Hester, a 2018 graduate is now studying English and ESL education as a graduate student
at ETSU. Along with her studies, she works part-time at an elementary school in Johnson
City, privately tutors children in French, and teaches English online to children
in China. She also finds time to travel as often as she can. "I’m super passionate
about cooking and love spending my free time in the kitchen." She lives a low-waste,
plant based lifestyle and enjoys sharing with others through her bolg and Instagram
account. Read more>>
Callie Dowd, theatre and dance major, knew she wanted to go away to school, so when she visited
ETSU, her grandmother came with her. Her grandmother, a graduate of ETSU, loved seeing
all the changes that had occurred on campus. While visiting ETSU, they saw a performance
of “Othello” that was presented by ETSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance, which was
a major factor in Callie's decision to attend ETSU. Another major drawing factor was
the Honors College art scholars program. "Programs like the Fine and Performing Arts
Scholars program are very unique, and I was fortunate to receive one of the scholarships."
Zakary McGaha is a writer, reader, dog-lover, and complete horror nut case, currently living in
the eastern, mountainous part of Tennessee. He lives and breathes horror. He has been
writing since he was a teenager and has had stories appear in a couple anthologies.
His comedic horror novella Locker Arms is coming soon from Kensington Gore Publishing.
Avery Lew is has a special opportunity to leave his footprints at ETSU. Last fall, he became
a founding member of the university’s first chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.
In addition to being a Fine and Performing Arts Scholar, he is heavily involved in
POLO. Avery is spending the summer helping new students enjoy orientation activities
held outside the Culp Center for the first time due to major renovations. After graduation,
he plans to incorporate both music and finance into his career. Read more>>
Shelby Maiden says ETSU has given her a future she’s excited about. The Campbell County, Tennessee,
native walked across the stage at Spring Commencement earlier this month, receiving
a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design with a minor in English literature.
As a Fine and Performing Arts Scholar, Shelby took advantage of study abroad and research
opportunities made available through the Honors College. She was named student of
the year for graphic design and will move to London in the fall to attend The Courtauld
Institute of Art to pursue her passion to study art history with the goal of eventually
working in a museum. Read more >>
As a kid Evin McQuistion loved to pretend. It began at the age of 2, pretending to be a cat after seeing The Lion King for the first time. From there it developed into something more. Evin grew out of the cat phase and started to create his own super hero characters. His most memorable was "Goggle Man" whose costume included a dinasaur blanket cape, and of course, goggles. At 10-years old, Evin got his first paid gig; his older brother asked Evin to pretend to be a butler for a date and offered Evin $5.
When it comes to mixing her passions for digital media and dance, senior Ali Gibson never thought she would find a way to meld the two. When she entered her freshman
year, she never guessed that she would accomplish so much in her four years at ETSU.
She didn't know that she would be able to pursue her passion and succeed while doing
it. In 2017, Ali gibson was honored to receive the Digital Media Student of the Year
For some, writing is simply an expression of thought. For others, writing is a painstaking
task that can only be muddled through. But for Alexandria McQueen, writing is the key to making a difference in the world. A first generation college
student who graduated high school in just 3 years with a 4.0, McQueen received a full
ride to ETSU through the Honors College. Additionally, she will graduate from ETSU
one semester early, at the age of 20. Read more >>
Levi Braford is on summer break from his studies as a theatre major at ETSU.hool has not meant
a break from the theater. In fact, since he left campus on May 4, Bradford has been
in a theater every single day, with the exception of two days off (and one of those
was spent in the Bud Frank Theatre for this interview). Bradford is spending the summer
as technical director at Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville, North Carolina, which is
also his hometown. A typical day starts at 9 a.m. where he performs duties like hanging
and adjusting lights and working on sound cues. He finishes at 5 p.m., heads home
for dinner, and is back at 6:30 p.m. for rehearsals, which usually wrap up around
9:30 p.m. Read more >>
Jessica Augier would describe her upbringing as interesting and diverse. She moved around a lot
from San Francisco to virginia, to Florida, eventually settling in Tennessee. Jessica's
father was a designer of concept cars and sculptures, her grandfather an architect,
and her grandmother was an artist. Clearly the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Jessica comes from a well rounded and artistic family. She recalls being inspired
through literature as a child; especially from John Tenniel illustrations for Alice's
Adventures in Wonderland. Her love for painting developed as a teenager thanks to
a gift set of Windor and Newton oil paints.
"It is important to remember that we all have magic inside us." - from J.K. Rowling's
Dumbledore. This quote perfectly embodies Hannah Justis, a 20-year-old art student at ETSU. What started as an inspiration through two generations has blossomed into her beautiful passion for art in everyday life. "Art has always been there. I remember when I was little, my mom used to take me with her when she painted murals. There's pictures of me when I was little with my paintbrush right beside mom," says Justis.
A native to Johnson City, Jessica Vest pursues a dream of dancing far beyond just the floor at East Tennessee State University.
However, dancing was not always her dream. Growing up, Jessica was a bona fide tomboy
who loved to play basketball and football with her older brother Adam. She was not
a stranger to getting dirty outside or getting into mischief. But her parents saw
it in her best interest to branch out from more than just the sports fields. Jessica's
mother was excited to learn that their new neighbor from Kansas City owned a dance
studio and both were eager to get Jessica involved.
Anthony Gray was a Fine & Performing Arts Scholars from 2012-2016, graduating with a BM degree from the Department of Music. Anthony received the Outstanding Student award from his department that year and completed his thesis "Re-Discovering the Art of Bel Canto" under the mentorship of Dr. Maria Niederberger.
Growing up in Limestone, Tennessee, Anthony fell in love with music at a young age at church and started taking piano lessons when he was six years old. Asked why he loves studying music, Anthony replied: "I love studying music because it is limitless. It is limitless both in how much you can learn and how much you can express. Music has a wide array of uses from expressing deep emotions to praising God. Music transcends speech and can relate emotions and ideas were words are insufficient." Talking about his time at ETSU, the professors he studied with, and how his music developed, Anthony said: "Dr. Esther Park is one of the professors that had the most impact on my musicianship. She is an incredible pianist and person that really inspired me to "make beautiful music." Karen Smith also had a big influence on my studies as she gave me many opportunities with accompanying singers and opera which is the ultimate goal of my career. Another big influence was Dr. Maria Niederberger who mentored my thesis and really taught me a lot about composition. These and other professors really inspired me by their confidence, humility, patience and professionalism."
Anthony has been accepted into the graduate program at West Virginia University to
study for his Masters of Music in collaborative piano with Dr. Ching-Wen Hsiao and
is not only going to receive a full scholarship but will be the opera accompanist
while receiving a yearly stipend. Needless to say, the Honors College and the Fine
& Performing Arts Scholars program are very excited about Anthony's future graduate
studies and we look forward to hearing about his plans to pursue a doctorate in musical
arts, conduct opera and enter academia.
Originally from Knoxville, Jake Ingram graduated from ETSU with a Bachelors in Fine Art from the Department of Art & Design
and moved to New York City to attend the graduate program at the New York Academy
of Art. He graduated with a Master of Fine Art in 2015 in drawing with a concentration
in printmaking and received the Robert Blackburn printmaking award that year from
the Academy. During this time he exhibited in New Jersey, Virginia and back in Johnson
City while working on collaborative projects with Blek le Rat, Lesley Dill and Will
Cotton (which led to Jake being featured in the New York Times). He has also travelled
to Belgium and the Netherlands and participated in the Southern Graphics Council International
When asked about his career, Jake said: I've been making art for as long as I can remember. I love art because it is a visual form of storytelling and its a way of recording my thoughts and stories. Even if people are not quite sure what my art objects are about, I think they still find something familiar with the imagery that allows them to enjoy them. I love making things especially in printmaking and fibers because they are so process oriented. I find that the steps involved are very meditative and calming. Also both mediums are have this sense of community where people come and work together. I really enjoy working with others and seeing what they make and learning from them.
Asked about which artists have inspired him, Jake replied: Will Cotton! One of the major reasons I went to the Academy. I took his master class, visited his studio and have had the honor to print for him. Other influences, Albrecht Drer, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Marcel Duchamp, Louise Bourgeois, Beauvais Lyons, Walton Ford, Ben Venom and Luke Haynes. He also said: I don't think that I would have made it as far as I have if it wasn't for the advice and support from Andrew Scott Ross, Scott Contreras-Koterbay and Mira Gerard. Their knowledge and classes were very formative to the artist that I am today. And the Honors College was important part of my time at ETSU because it gave me the opportunity to really explore who I was a person. I think the most important thing about the Art Scholars were the people in the program. They basically became my family and I stay in contact with the majority of them.
Looking to the future, Jake is planning on continuing to develop his own work and
build a portfolio of student work so that he can apply for teaching positions. He
has bought his own printing press as the foundation for his future studio work and
intends to establish a community print shop someday His work will also soon be featured
at Art Southampton, curated by Brooke Shields, for the Academy.
Mithra Alavi was a Fine & Performing Arts Scholar student in the Honors College, graduating from ETSU in 2011 with a BA degree in Theatre and Mass Communications and concentrating in Broadcasting; not only did she receive the Faculty Award for Outstanding Student of the Communications Department she also received the award for Outstanding Senior in Theatre that year. During that time she was studied through the Washington Center Internship program and was a Smithsonian Associates Discovery Theater Intern in 2010.
Asked what she liked most about the FPA program, Mithra said: "What I liked most about the program was it enabled me to combine the academic challenge that I wanted with the resources and encouragement to pursue my creative goals. I was able to get academic credit for creative performances and projects that I may not have been able to do in other honors programs."
Since then, Mithra earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Production at Florida State University in 2014. During that time, shes been incredibly successful, notably with her film Threes a Crowd that was accepted into the Humboldt International Film Festival 2014, the Fort Meyers Beach Film Festival 2014, the Indie Spirit Film Festival 2014, the Broad Humor Film Festival 2014 and, most spectacularly, winning the Student Emmy from Academy of College Television Awards 2014.
Mithra has been a member of the College of Motion Picture Arts Casting Committee, where she organized and ran auditions in cities around the nation including New York City, L.A., New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, working with talent agencies and online platforms to advertise auditions.
Looking back, Mithra noted "FPA actually benefitted my career in a most profound way when I think about it. Since I had to do a thesis for the program and was encouraged to make it a creative project, I took my first stab at writing, directing, and producing a short film. This was how I found out film was the love of my life. When I graduated and couldn't find a job, I decided to apply for film school and was soon accepted at Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. And it was pretty awesome!"