Student Success Stories

December 6, 2023
Baylor Opera Theatre

A scene from Baylor Opera Theatre's national award-winning production of Monsieur et Madame Denis.

We’re thrilled to share that Baylor Opera Theatre has won its third national competition of 2023! The 2023 Baylor Opera Theatre production of Monsieur et Madame Denis was chosen from among 87 applicants to be awarded first place in the National Opera Association’s Production Competition, Division I (a three-way tie). Congratulations to the entire cast, creative team and crew for their award-winning work.

Congratulations to all the students who advanced to the semifinals and finals at this year’s National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition.

Gigi Bautista, finalist, senior treble
Jessica Kelly, finalist, freshmen treble
Kate Bishop, 2nd place, graduate treble
Alexia Rivera, 2nd place, sophomore treble
Blayne Stonecipher, 2nd place, sophomore tenor/baritone/bass (TBB)
Mackenzie Block, 3rd place, sophomore treble
Micah Espree, 3rd place, freshmen TBB
Monica Malas, 4th place, sophomore treble and hall johnson
Davian Raggio, 4th place, senior TBB
Alan Saldaña-Silva, 5th place, graduate TBB

Sylvia Jones, graduate treble
Emily Perry, graduate treble
Rebecca Walsh, graduate treble
Jack Fanselau, graduate TBB
Troy McDonald, graduate TBB
McKenzie Comeaux, senior treble
Elleana Vines, senior treble and hall johnson
Elizabeth Irby, junior treble
Ellie McBride, junior treble
McKenna Schenck, junior treble
Nalani Defensor, sophomore treble
Audrie Liles, sophomore treble
Ella Selden, sophomore treble
Bryce Comeaux, sophomore TBB
Matthew Cox, sophomore TBB
Zack Miller, sophomore TBB
Jackson Phillips, sophomore TBB
Amy Elliott, freshman treble
Jessica Reed, freshman treble
Travis Driver, freshman TBB

Fiama Andrade (M.M. piano pedagogy and performance) was competitively selected to give a lightning talk at the 2024 MTNA Collegiate Symposium in Ann Arbor, MI, in January. Her presentation is titled, “Enriching Beginner Piano Education with Brazilian Folkloric Rhythms.”

Emily Brinsfield (B.M.E. choral music education) became the first Music Education major to participate in the Interns in Australia program that has been an ongoing partnership between the School of Education and the Camp Hill Sate Infant and Primary School in Brisbane, Australia, for more than 30 years. Participants in their student teaching year spend four weeks during November and December, observing and teaching at the Camp Hill School. They learn about the Australian school system, their state curriculum, and get to experience teaching Australian style. In a true educational exchange, each year Baylor student teachers share about the American Thanksgiving holiday and even prepare traditional Thanksgiving foods to share with their new Australian students and colleagues. Brinsfield taught at both the upper and lower campuses at Camp Hill, teaching about American jazz, film score music and American holiday music and traditions, among other things. She also got to experience primary and intermediate choirs, string classes, a ukulele ensemble, their graduation band, and the biennial school musical (Matilda Jr.).

Cezary Karwowski (M.M. performance ’22 and current advanced performer’s certificate) wascompetitively selected to give a presentation at the 2024 MTNA Collegiate Symposium in Ann Arbor, MI, in January. His presentation is titled, “Josef Hofmann–The Forgotten Polish-American Piano Legend and Much More.”

Stephanie Lawrencia Christianto (M.M. piano pedagogy and performance) had a research poster accepted to the 2024 Music Teachers National Association conference in Atlanta, GA, in March. The title of her research poster is, “Musician Burnout is Real! Addressing Mental Health Crises Among Musicians.” She also presented a research poster titled, “Engaging Color Analysis in Music Reading” at the Graduate Research Showcase at Baylor University on November 6.

Davian Raggio (B.M. vocal performance) was offered the opportunity to represent Baylor University at the 2023 Music On Site, Inc. Winter Festival in Wichita, KS, as the principal role of Alfred in Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss. The company received a wide pool of applicants, 357 artists from 39 states and seven countries. During his time at this festival, held mid-December, he will have the opportunity to perform a principal role in a fully staged opera with a chamber orchestra, while participating in lessons, masterclasses and career networking opportunities.

Sabrina Watson (B.M. pedagogy) had a research poster accepted for presentation at both the 2024 Music Teachers National Association conference in Atlanta, GA, in March and the 2024 MTNA Collegiate Symposium in Ann Arbor, MI, in January. Her research poster is titled, “Incorporating Taiwanese Folk Music in Teaching Beginner Piano.”

Conor Wilson (B.M. performance) won the bass trombone position with the U.S. Army Band “Pershing's Own” in Washington, D.C. Wilson will join trombonist Austin Westjohn (M.M. ’17) in Pershing’s Own. The premiere service bands in Washington, D.C. are highly coveted positions and “Pershing's Own” is one of the elite. Musicians enter as non-commissioned officers and serve with distinction in multiple capacities including, tours, ceremonial tasks, inaugurations, political functions, and musical support for the Military District of Washington and the White House. Conor is a student of Professor of Trombone Brent Phillips.


Baylor is an extraordinary place, and according to Melinda Coats, Academic Administrative Associate for Graduate and Academic Studies, the School of Music has exceptional students, too. This was made very clear when several of our music students donated money to buy Coats flowers of appreciation for the coffee she offers outside her office.

“Since I work mostly with graduate and Church Music students, I wanted to find a way to bless, encourage and get to know more of the students who pass my door in the Waco Hall East basement on their way to class,” said Coats. “As I considered how to do this, the Lord gave me the idea of providing coffee and tea. Such a simple thing. I could do that, pray for them as they paused outside my door, and bless them as they continue through their day. It has been about five years since I started making coffee, providing hot water and tea bags, tea biscuits, and hot chocolate in winter. Nothing fancy. It has been such a blessing to me to see their delight in the refreshment before or after class and to get to know them.”

One day after lunch, a student brought Coats a beautiful bouquet of fall flowers with a notebook full of notes of appreciation from nearly 40 students thanking her for the coffee and tea.

“I am humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude to God that He has allowed me to touch so many lives in this small way,” Coats said. “I am also proud of these students as they are becoming the young adults God created them to be, developing the talents He has given them, accepting responsibility, becoming servant leaders, and influencing others for good while making beautiful music. I cheer them on as you pursue your goals!”