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Fine & Performing Arts Scholars Program

East Tennessee State University

Student Spotlights


Anthony Gray

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.


Jake Ingram

Originally from Knoxville, Jake 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 printmaking conference.

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

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!"

The Honors College is really excited about everything that Mithra has accomplished, and proud to feature her as our first Student Spotlight!


















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