Meet the 2017 faculty
Claudia Benack – Associate Teaching Professor, Voice, Carnegie Mellon University, received both her BFA and MFA degrees in Vocal Performance from CMU’s School of Music where she studied voice with Beatrice Krebs and Opera Workshop with Mildred Miller. She continued her vocal studies with Ellen Faull of the Juilliard School, the late Margaret Hoswell of the Manhattan School of Music, and Gary Race, formerly of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the University of Iowa. Benack is a member of NATS, Sigma Alpha Iota, and has served as Vice-President of the Pittsburgh Chapter of NSAL. As a performer, Benack is comfortable in a broad range of settings. In the operatic genre, she is an award-winning lyric soprano: MTNA National First place winner in Voice (1983), NSAL Regional winner and National semi-finalist (1987) and recipient of the Minna Kaufmann Ruud Fund grant. She was a leading soprano for twenty years with Pittsburgh Opera Theater, and performed frequently with Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Pennsylvania Opera Workshop, and other regional opera companies. Benack also boasts an impressive array of musical theater credits. Favorite productions include BABY (Arlene), THE SOUND OF MUSC (Maria), Guys and Dolls (Sarah), OKLAHOMA! (Laurey), A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (Charlotte), OF THEE I SING (Benson), and MY FAIR LADY (Eliza). Benack is a true advocate and promoter of healthy singing through solid vocal technique and training and continues her studies in vocal teaching by attending singing workshops throughout the country and working with numerous vocal therapists and throat doctors. She also maintains her own thriving private studio. Benack’s favorite part of her career has become watching and enjoying former and present students appear in countless national tours and regional productions. Broadway shows that presently have or have had her students as cast members include 42ND STREET, JERSEY BOYS, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, MARY POPPINS, WICKED, 9 TO 5, DRACULA, FLOWER DRUM SONG, RENT, THE PAJAMA GAME, GOOD VIBRATIONS, ALL SHOOK UP, THE PRODUCERS and PACIFIC OVERTURES.
Kevin Covert – Director of Musical Theatre and Assistant Professor of Theatre, Shenandoah University. As an Actor, he has been seen in the Original Broadway casts of SPAMALOT, MEMPHIS (Fred Astaire Nominee 2010), and most recently the hit revival of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING starring Daniel Radcliffe, Darren Criss and Nick Jonas. Kevin can be heard on the Original Broadway Cast Albums of all three. He has toured the country with SOUTH PACIFIC, CATS, GRAND HOTEL, and the 50th Anniversary production of OKLAHOMA!. In addition to being a Broadway Actor, Kevin also serves as one of Tony Award Winner Christopher Gattelli’s (NEWSIES) associates, working with him on the Broadway revival of SOUTH PACIFIC as well as the World Premier of EMMET OTTER at the Goodspeed Musicals. He has directed and choreographed all across the US. Kevin has studied with Jose Quintero, Craig Carnelia and Fred Chappell. Kevin is a proud BFA Music Theatre graduate of Florida State University.
Kaitlin Hopkins – Head of Musical Theatre, Texas State University is an award-winning actress, director, and educator. She has worked internationally, on and off-Broadway, in major regional theaters, opera, film, television, and radio over 30 years. Hopkins currently heads the BFA Musical Theatre program at Texas State University, recently ranked in the top 10 programs in the nation by collegemagazine.com. In 2016 she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching from Texas State University, and in 2013, she was recognized by the Broadway Dreams Foundation as an innovative voice in education, participating in a panel as one of the 6 top women educators in the country.
During her time at Texas State, Hopkins launched the first musical theater training program in Chile, and is pioneering groundbreaking research on mental wellness and performing artists. Her recent TEDx Talk on the subject has garnered international attention, along with her research at Texas State, which utilizes curriculum-based training for performing artists. She is also the proud creator and President of Fontus Dry Throat Lozenges. Originally designed for performers, Fontus Dry Throat Lozenges are the lozenge of choice of many Broadway and touring companies and is the official lozenge for Hamilton.
As an actress, Kaitlin has a half dozen cast album credits to her name, originating the role of Meredith Parker in Bat Boy-the Musical for which she received Drama Desk and Ovation award nominations, Claire in the cult-hit bare: a pop opera, Jeannie in The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Diane in Disney’s On The Record and Margorie in Dirty Dancing (National Tours). Kaitlin’s Broadway credits include Belinda in Noises Off, the original Mama Who in How The Grinch Stole Christmas and she also played the role of Hope in Anything Goes with Patti Lupone. She originated the role of Tiffany in the international tour of John Adams’ opera I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw The Sky directed by Peter Sellars, and received an Ovation nomination for the role of Ilona in She Loves Me with Rebecca Luker as part of the Reprise Series. Hopkins has appeared in over 50 television shows (including three years on Another World as Dr. Kelsey Harrison), 11 feature films (including The Nanny Diaries, Confessions of a Shopaholic, How to Kill Your Neighbors Dog with Kenneth Branagh and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. As a director, Hopkins productions have been recognized by the Austin Critics’ Table Awards with 11 nominations and 7 wins, including Best Musical in Austin for Oklahoma and Anything Goes. She recently directed and co-produced the world premiere of The World According to Snoopy, and will be launching a national tour in 2019.
Ron DeJesús – Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre, University of Michigan, who is the founder and director of Ron De Jesús Dance, joined the Department of Musical Theatre as assistant professor in 2012. De Jesús is the artistic ambassador of Northeastern Illinois University and artistic associate for StagePlays Theater Company in New York. He has received many awards including the New York Musical Theater Festival Award for Excellence for Best Choreography and the Chicago Music & Dance Alliance Award for Best Choreographer. A Chicago native, he has danced with Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, Joseph Holmes Dance Theater, Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago where he was a leading dancer for 17 seasons. He was in the original cast of the Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel musical MOVIN’ OUT, was part of the creative team of Tharp’s COME FLY AWAY and is a repetiteur for Twyla Tharp Productions. De Jesús has created works for film, theatre, television commercials, festivals, special events and dance companies including Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, HS2, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Luna Negra Dance Theatre, Sacramento Ballet, Momenta, and Thodos Dance Chicago, among many more. De Jesús has served as a guest teacher and choreographer at numerous major universities including Harvard, the State University of New York at Purchase, Point Park, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Pepperdine University.
David H. Bell – Director of Musical Theatre, Northwestern University has served as Artistic Director of the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. and Associate Artistic Director to Kenny Leon at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, and is currently the Artistic Director of the American Music Theatre Project and Director of the Music Theatre Program at Northwestern University. As director, choreographer, or author, David has received 44 of Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Award nominations (winning 11), 5 Carbonell nominations (Florida), as well as the Dramalogue Award (LA), the Helen Hayes Award (DC.), and numerous awards in Atlanta. His musical Hot Mikado (book, additional lyrics) was nominated for the Olivier award (London’s West End). David has written and directed Cowboys and Lawyers (Goodspeed Opera House) and The Good War (Northlight Theatre), both with Craig Carnelia; Fanny Brice (Maltz Jupiter, Asolo Rep); Matador (Coconut Grove Playhouse); The Bowery Boys (Marriott Theatre); The Rules of Love (AMTP); Don’t Stop the Carnival
(Coconut Grove Playhouse); Hot Mikado (Ford’s Theatre); A Christmas Carol (Pittsburgh CLO, Alliance Theatre); The Theatre of Dreams (Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, England); and Die Schone und das Biest (European Tour). He directed the world premieres of Murder for Two (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, HERO, Marriott Theatre, and Asolo Rep), Elmer Gantry (Ford’s Theatre), Peggy Sue Got Married (Marriott Theatre), and many others. He has worked on original musicals with Cy Coleman, Dolly Parton, Jimmy Buffett, Herman Wouk, Joe Kinosian, Kellen Blair, Russell Baker, George Stiles, and Daniel Green. David collaborated with Northwestern University and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland presenting ATLANTIC – a pair of new musicals at the Edinburgh Festival in 2017.
Sean McKnight – Professor of Musical Theatre, Pace University, made his choreographic debut with the Los Angeles Area premiere of HOT MIKADO. His work on the show earned him Best Choreography nominations for both the Ovation! and LA Drama Critics Circle Awards. In New York, he is proud to have directed/choreographed the sold-out concert Broadway Classics at Carnegie Hall starring Carolee Carmello and Cheyenne Jackson. He served as co-associate director/choreographer to Kathleen Marshall on the NETworks Theatricals tour of ANYTHING GOES. Broadway/National Tour performance credits include: ANYTHING GOES, SHREK, A CHRISTMAS STORY, CURTAINS, THE PRODUCERS, 42ND STREET, CINDERELLA, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, and THE RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR. Other credits include the Encores productions of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, STAIRWAY TO PARADISE, and GIRL CRAZY as well as MAME, CARNIVAL, and RAGTIME at the Kennedy Center. Mr. McKnight recently returned from Australia where he was a guest artist at Victoria College for the Arts – University of Melbourne. His other collegiate credits include work at the The University of Michigan, Northwestern University, the University of Nebraska, Ohio Northern University, Manhattan School of Music, and The Juilliard School. Mr. McKnight holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from The University of Michigan and is currently on faculty at Pace University and The New School.
Brian Kremer – Assistant Professor of Voice and Music Theatre, Elon University, received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University and his Master of Music from Manhattan School of Music. At Elon, Brian teaches courses in voice specializing in contemporary singing and performance styles including music theatre, rock, pop, jazz, country, R&B and Hip-Hop; and vocal coaches main-stage musical productions. Brian’s current and former students can be seen performing on Broadway, off-Broadway, on tours and and at various concert and commercial venues. As a performer, Brian’s has been seen in operas and musicals with various companies across the country. He has extensive experience performing in different commercial capacities, having fronted “rock” bands, and performed in various venues including jazz clubs, coffee shops, concert halls, and outdoor festivals. Beyond the classroom and stage, Brian is researching and writing The Singing Teacher’s Guide to Transgender Voices; a resource intended to aid in the development of a successful vocal pedagogy for the training of transgender singers. He has presented on this topic on several occasions including the Music Theatre Educators Alliance (Oslo, Norway), The Voice Foundation Symposium (Philadelphia, PA), and the International Congress of Voice Teachers (Stockholm, Sweden). Brian lives in North Carolina with his wife Jen and his 6-year-old daughter Harlequinne. He loves playing basketball and tennis and secretly obsesses over all-things superheroes! He also maintains Kremer Voice Design, a private voice studio providing individualized vocal instruction. www.kremervoicedesign.com.
Call 561-651-4376 for more information.