Department of Music, Theatre and Dance

Outstanding Student Awards

Magna Cum Laude— No more than the top 1%
Logan Svihovec-McCarty

Cum Laude —No more than the top 5%
William Hadley

Latin Honors

William Hadley

Julie Ewert

Ben Spiess

Kaila Roach

Nick Ellena Aspiring Music Educator Award - Cristian Araiza

 cristian araiza

As this year’s recipient of the Nick Ellena Aspiring Music Educator Award, I would like to thank the Department of Music and Theatre, as well as Dr. Scholz, for the recognition and support you have provided me through this award. My past 4 years here at CSU Chico have been nothing short of amazing, with countless new memories and friends being made along the way. I would like to personally thank Ryan Heimlich, Dr. Michelle McConkey, and Professor Christopher Navarette for all their knowledge they have shared with me during my time here. Through working with our department's talented faculty, I feel that I have not only been able to grow as a musician, but also as a future educator. I am incredibly excited to enter the teaching credential program this coming fall, and hope to continue learning even more.
Thank you all!
Theatre Social Justice Award - Mundo Ballejos

mundo ballejos

The push for growth and reformation in the theatre industry parallels the same struggles we see daily in our country. As this year's recipient of the Theatre Social Justice Award, I have experienced firsthand the need for justice, growth, and positivity in a world that is built against people that look like me and others alike. 

This award is awarded to one person, but deep down I recognize that this award reflects the hard work, dedication, and passion for Social Justice that has come from the students and professors in my earliest days at Chico State up until present time- many of whom who are Alumni and dear friends, and Professors whom have turned to colleagues. And it’s all led up to this monumental moment for the Department of Music and Theatre. Watching the department change for the better right before my eyes, and being a part of that change, has and always will inspire me to be an educator in this field. The work I’m being recognized for was only possible because of the people who have consistently created space and time for to become the human I am today. These people include, but are not limited to: the students I worked side by side with in the fight for change, my parents and family, my roommates that turned into dear friends, and my professors that never gave up on me and embraced me for my mistakes. Thank you for the patience, grace, and love thats been present at all times. 

An enormously huge shoutout is required for the person who made this award possible- and he just so happens to be the greatest teacher and mentor anyone could ever ask for. Endless amounts of thank you’s to Matthew Teague Miller and his dedication for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in an industry that isn’t set up for the success of people that identify within the global majority. Your efforts for progression and uplifting the voices of underserved communities is admirable beyond words. The world is a better place because you consistently go out of your way to better it and the lives of your students. Your efforts do not go unseen. Thank you for your hard work! 

This award goes out to all theatre students of color. Past, present, and future. To all the students who came before me and fought hard for change, and to all the ones who have yet to fight. You all make this award possible. I am incredibly proud to receive this honor, especially as it follows a once in a lifetime opportunity I had to travel to NYC and give a presentation on Social Justice in Theatre at the Musical Theatre Educators Alliance Annual NYC Conference in Times Square. Being recognized for my efforts is so heartwarming and something that I will remember and carry with me as I continue to pursue a career in theatre. 

With love,

Mundo Ballejos ‘23

Edith Gould Award - Sophia Simmons

sophia simmons

Hello all, 

Thank you so much for the honor of receiving the Edith Gould award. I am a fourth year General Music and Spanish student at Chico State with an emphasis on Jazz Studies and Composition. Many thanks to all of the wonderful educators and staff in our music program, including professors Christopher Navarrete, Rocky Winslow, Ryan Heimlich, Dr. David Scholz, Dara Scholz, and many more for their guidance and wisdom that have helped me become a better musician. In this upcoming year, I am looking forward to giving my culminating recital and creating more pieces for our ensembles on campus. Lastly, I want to give a special thanks to my family for being my rock while I finish out this last year in my two bachelor's degrees. I am very excited for the opportunities that lie in my future and am looking forward to pursuing a graduate level degree in music. 


Sophia Simmons

Outstanding Student Award: General Music - Griffin Rhoads-Albert


I am honored and thankful to have been chosen to receive this award. I want to thank Dr. Scholz and the Department of Music and Theatre for choosing me for this award and providing me with support and opportunities throughout my time at CSU Chico. I have been fortunate enough to have made many amazing friends and memories in this department and know I will cherish them moving forward. This award will help me as I pursue more opportunities as a post-baccalaureate. Thank you to all of my professors, particularly Rocky, Professor Christopher Navarette, and Professor Ayako Nakamura for their guidance, inspiration, and support. I am grateful that you chose me to be a recipient of this award, and I appreciate the opportunities it has given me!



Outstanding Student Award: Music Education - Kara Gorr

kara gorr

I am extremely grateful to have been chosen as this year’s recipient of the “Outstanding Student in Music Education” award. I would like to extend a special thanks to the department of Music and Theatre Arts, professor Christopher Navarrete, Dr. Michelle McConkey, Cristiana Franzetti Dr. Natalya Shkoda and Luke Nicolay for their consistent support throughout my undergraduate education. Together, we have navigated the Covid 19 pandemic and the special challenges associated with the zoom classroom format. Through this experience, I have learned to adapt to and overcome unusual circumstances, which I believe will help me to be a more flexible and well rounded student-teacher when I enter Chico State’s credential program this Fall. I have built so many memories and friendships that I will cherish after I graduate and I owe a big piece of my success to the camaraderie from my peers and the faculty here at Chico State. 
Thank you! Best, Kara Gorr
Outstanding Student Award: Music Industry - Logan Svihovec-McCarty

logan svihovec mccarty

I am forever grateful to Chico State’s Department of Music and Theatre. The help and guidance I received during my time in the program has impacted my life’s trajectory in tremendous ways. I want to say thank you to Dr. McConkey and Dr. Martin for their gentle patience during my early years in Chico. Setting time aside to provide me additional help was a key reason I was able to continue through the program. A huge thank you to Judy Hamamoto for always being a resource and always sharing a smile. There have been many instances in which my day was brightened by the subtle interaction of passing by in the hallways of the PAC. I would like to give a special thank you to Dr. Paul Young, who has been my professor and mentor over the past four years. I am truly piggybacking off the work and insights that he provided me during his classes. I would not be the person I am today without his generous guidance and innate ability to see potential in everyone around him. Dr. Young fostered an atmosphere of open discussion and expressed genuine passion for the industry. These are core learning experiences I wish to maintain throughout my career. Thank you to Dr. Sholz and all of those who have allowed my time at Chico to be as amazing as it's been. I am honored to have been chosen for this award, and I am eternally grateful to those who have helped and guided my experience.


Logan Svihovec-McCarty

Outstanding Student Award: Recording Arts - Kyra Gallagher

kyra gallagher

Firstly, I would like to thank Dann Sargent for everything he does for the major. We would not be the students we are today without Dann and everything he does. I would also like to thank Dr. Scholz and the music department for having recording arts as a major. I always knew I wanted to do something in music, but I never really felt like I had a fit until I started with recording arts. I would also like to thank my fellow recording art students. They make it a wonderful community that I am excited to be around every day and makes me want to come here and learn. Finally, I would like to thank everyone involved who selected me for this award. It’s not why I do the things I do, but it is certainly nice to be appreciated! Thank you all!

Outstanding Student Award: Musical Theatre - Jessie Grimaldo

jessie grimaldo

I am so grateful to be receiving the Outstanding Musical Theatre Award, but mostly I’m grateful for the incredible professors and mentors that have supported and guided me throughout my time here. A special thank you to Matthew Teague Miller for being such a passionate and supportive mentor that has always advocated for me, taught me so much and kept my love for musical theatre alive. I would also love to thank Megan Glynn Zollinger, Elizabeth Grace Davis, and Dara Scholz for everything they’ve taught me as well. I have grown so much as a performer and a person in my time here thanks to all of these mentors, and I’m so excited to use all of the tools I’ve gained in this incredible department to continue to pursue my dreams in Musical Theatre.  I am forever grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had here at Chico State to learn and grow all while doing what I have always been so passionate about. Thank you to my family, friends and professors for always supporting me and pushing me to continue to do what I love. 

Outstanding Student Award: Theatre Arts - Gaby Saxon

gabriella saxon

I began my journey at Chico State as a freshman theatre major trying out technical theatre just to see if I liked it. Since then, I have grown to lead performances at Chico State and in the professional world. Unceasingly, this department has supported me. When I had nothing, they gave me everything. I am honored to receive this award, but it is truly because of my mentors that I am here. I would like to thank Matthew Teague Miller. He believed in me when I did not believe in myself; I would not be here if it were not for his guidance and support. Jami Witt Miller and Erin Horst have been my role models for female directors in theatre, and I am in awe of their work. Jacob Brown and Elizabeth Grace Davis have taught me so much, and continue to guide me. I am grateful for so many in this department, but these individuals in particular have made me the theatre artist I am today. I would also like to thank Julie Ewert. A musical theatre student graduating with me, she is the hardest working woman I have ever met. She constantly challenges and supports me. I am lucky to know this truly outstanding woman. 

 The students, staff, and faculty in the theatre program at Chico State have become my family. These past four years have been the most special of my life. I will always be grateful that God brought me to this campus. My life will never be the same.