Ohio Wesleyan Music Department Alumni Share Their Stories of Success

Rachel Ballitch'19, B.M., Voice Performance, B.A., Music

As a music student and recent alumna of Ohio Wesleyan University, I attribute every educational and professional success in my career thus far to the faculty of the music department therein.  I received a double-disciplined Bachelor of Music Degree in Vocal Performance and Piano Performance and am now studying Opera Performance at The University of Cincinnati - College Conservatory of Music. OWU's phenomenal music faculty provides one-on-one instruction, individualized attention, and practical experiences that one would not receive elsewhere. I can say with absolute certainty that OWU's music department prepared me academically, musically, artistically, and personally for the next step in my career

Joshua Zoppa’ 19, B.A., Music, Pre Theology

At Ohio Wesleyan University I was exposed to a diverse education, a professional atmosphere and an extremely talented group of professors. 

In every class I was challenged to perform my best by my academic advisor and the professor teaching the class, and that motivation greatly fueled my desire to achieve. There were new obstacles with every class and growing difficulty as I advanced into the upper level courses, but this didn't discourage but it rather encouraged me to continue pursuing my goals. The degrees I pursued involved real world experience which I truly valued during my experience.  During my time at Ohio Wesleyan I had many opportunities to see my professors perform with orchestras, jazz bands and as Soloists. What a motivation it was to know that I was learning and taking private lessons with a three time European tour soloist and an outstanding performer known by some of the most talented musicians in the world. Having an example to follow pushed me to practice, study and focus harder. Going to Ohio Wesleyan was a blessing to me and my pursuits both as a musician and future pastor. 

Jiamo Zhang ’18, B.M., Piano Performance

I spent four wonderful years at Ohio Wesleyan University as a music major. The friendly environment and supportive professors in the department of music motivated me and prepared me to continue my musical journey as a graduate student at Bowling Green State University. 

Despite the small Liberal Arts setting, performance and learning opportunities are abundant and well prepared by every participant. Ensembles including the Chamber Choir, Choral Art Society, Chamber Orchestra, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and musical productions offered incredible rich resources that have enabled me to become a mature musician. 

Professors are informative and responsive at OWU. My professors were always accessible when I requested assistance with schoolwork. 

Students at OWU are passionate musicians and love to collaborate and learn. As an international student, I embraced the unity and friendship in the department of music. Ohio Wesleyan University was an excellent choice for me and the school embraced me as a valued student. I enjoyed a positive and challenging educational experience at OWU.

Liam Keller ’17, B.M., Instrumental Music Education

The Department of Music at Ohio Wesleyan has fundamentally shaped who I am as an educator and as a musician. Thanks to professors such as Dr. Griffin, Dr. Wasserman, Dr. Roden, and many others, I was able to perform with every group on campus and even lead the Wind Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra during my time is a student. I am now in my dream job as the Director of Orchestras in a top-five district in New Jersey and am performing regularly with acts all over the tri-state area.  

Melody Smith Oberschlake ’17, B.M., Choral Music Education

Ohio Wesleyan, and most importantly the music department faculty, truly allowed me to flourish as the educator I aspired to be as a prospective student. With hard work in ensembles, the classroom, private lessons, and my cooperating teacher classrooms, OWU gave me the challenges, connections, and support I needed to be the teacher I am today. I am more than grateful for each opportunity and valued relationship during my time at Ohio Wesleyan.


Jessica Stanik ’17, B.A., Music, Chemistry, and Pre-Dentistry

When selecting which undergraduate university to attend, I looked for a school that would allow me to pursue not only the discipline which would define my career path, but also permit the continuation and expansion of my passion for music. Ohio Wesleyan provided me this opportunity. While at OWU I majored in Music, Chemistry, and Pre-dent, and was able to not only complete these degrees but also thrive within them. The experiences I received during my time in the music program shaped me as a musician, a student, and a professional, and the music department faculty were an integral part of making this happen. The education shared with me within the various ensembles, lessons, and classes both in and outside of the music department taught me lessons that I know I will carry with me throughout my life. Thanks to the skills and connections I cultivated during my time at OWU I am now completing my dental degree at the Ohio State University and continue to perform in various ensembles and venues during the majority of my available time. I will always cherish the experiences I had at OWU and credit it with shaping the path I am on today.

Josh Decker ’13, B.M., Instrumental Music Education

The time that I spent at Ohio Wesleyan University was invaluable. I chose OWU because I wanted to play the trumpet extremely well, and I craved a challenging environment. The performance opportunities were unlike any other that I have seen, at even the largest of universities. I played everything!!! I am convinced that this is why my versatility as a trumpet player has led me to such a successful freelance career today.
I cannot thank Dr. Larry Griffin enough for the persistent push that he presented to me daily. Dr. Griffin and I remain close. He has aided in many of my successes post OWU, including a successful graduate school audition at Carnegie Mellon University.
Additionally, I was provided top-notch education in my music education, music theory and music history course work. To this day I still benefit from the meticulous history paper editing of Dr. Roden, who I am convinced taught me how to write academically. I am also thankful for the standard of which Dr. Edwards held for me as a young educator. 
The greatest take away of my OWU experience is that I developed relationships with people that remain present both in my social and professional life. I regularly perform in ensembles with alumni and faculty, I met my wife at Ohio Wesleyan, and I find comfort in knowing that the individuals that make-up this fantastic institution will always have my back. 

Annie Moosa ’11, B.M., Choral Music Education

As a current middle school choral director in the central Ohio area, I often find myself reflecting on my education and how I feel so blessed to have OWU as part of my resume. 

The small class sizes, personable and talented professors, amazing resources, and fantastic learning opportunities were just a few of the many reasons why making OWU my second home an easy decision. One of the highlights was traveling to Salzburg, Austria with our choral director Dr. Jason Hiester. I received private piano instruction from a world renown pianist, and attended concerts by famous musicians each evening. 

It was a trip I'll never forget! Thank you, OWU!

John Landis ’10, B.M., Music Education

I am grateful for the time I spent at Ohio Wesleyan University. My professors and peers are among the most inspiring people I know, and I am still reaping the benefits of the thinking and performing skills I developed as a Battling Bishop.

The music department boasts wonderful faculty and excellent facilities. While students may not get many performing opportunities at other schools, I was playing in many groups at Ohio Wesleyan from the beginning of my studies. Even as a freshman trumpet player I was able to participate in the chamber orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz ensemble, large brass choir, and trumpet ensemble. Additionally, I had exposure to Central Ohio’s rich network of performing arts institutions, such as the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Columbus Jazz Orchestra, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, Central Ohio Symphony Orchestra, Newark-Granville Symphony Orchestra, etc. Gray Chapel is a musical treasure and the campus is well-manicured and beautiful.

The academics at Ohio Wesleyan University are truly incredible. The school is devoted to the student experience, meaning that professors - and not graduate assistants - are the ones teaching the classes. The faculty in all departments are extremely devoted to excellence in education as well as curating a challenging but supportive atmosphere. While professors at other institutions struggle to balance their research/fieldwork with their classroom teaching, the professors at Ohio Wesleyan are fully committed to undergraduate education. It was not uncommon for my music courses to have 10 or fewer students, which made for a lot of personal interaction, meaningful discussion, field trips, and lab scenarios that would not be possible with larger class sizes. How many schools can boast such a wonderful student: teacher ratio?

The liberal arts paradigm has proven to be incredibly important. In this time of technological innovation, increasing world-wide connectivity and information sharing, new careers and ways of thinking are emerging as old ones fade away. With the social, political, and economic landscape constantly changing, it has become clear that it is more important to learn how to think, rather than knowing what to think. This is the crux of the liberal arts model: a broad exposure to many subjects and the ability to think critically about them. The Ohio Wesleyan curriculum exposed me to a wide variety of disciplines and helped me to discern between reliable and spurious information.

My work in the music department prepared me for my life after OWU, which included graduate studies, third prize in the 2015 National Trumpet Competition, and my work as trumpet instrumentalist in the U.S. Navy Fleet Bands. I have the confidence to play a leadership and supporting roles in a variety of ensembles because of my work with Dr. Griffin. I have a love and curiosity about music theory because of my work with professor emeritus, Mr. Griffith. I have a sound base of music history knowledge and scholarship because of my work with Dr. Roden. I also learned about musical versatility from Dr. Gamso, new frontiers of music education from Dr. Edwards, and high musical standards from Dr. Hiester. I am grateful for my time and experiences at OWU.

Qiana McNary ’07, B.M., Voice Performance

Attending school and being a music major at Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) was the start of my vocal career and journey toward becoming an operatic diva. Before starting college, my life goal was to become an anesthesiologist in order to support my love for the sciences and my ever growing shoe habit! However, plans changed the moment I auditioned for the music department. Upon becoming a candidate for the Bachelor of Music degree, a new world was handed to me.

While at OWU, I not only learned music and all of its fundamentals, but inherited the positive characteristics and integrity of being a successful operatic singer. I valued my professors and their wealth of knowledge they imparted to me.

At OWU I studied with Marilyn Nims. She molded my raw talent voice into a voice of gold. I tip my hat to Dr. Larry Griffin for keeping me grounded and focused while studying music. Having support and encouragement goes a long way, and I know I would have never received that had I not gone to OWU.

During my educational experience at OWU, I was involved in the operas, set design, choir, The Park Avenue Jazz Band, Mu Phi Epsilon, and was a soloist with the OWU Chamber Orchestra. The opportunities I received at OWU have further propelled me into my music career.

I graduated in May 2010 from Roosevelt University Chicago College of Performing Arts with my Master of Music in Vocal Performance. As I transitioned into graduate school I had the pleasure of studying with Judith Haddon. I am currently singing with the South Shore Opera Company of Chicago, just completed a premier Hip-Hop opera with Hoperaworld productions, and performing all around Chicago as a soloist and recitalist. OWU Music Department set the foundation for my success in music.

David Crawford ’00, B.M., Voice Performance

I chose OWU instead of a traditional conservatory because of many reasons. I wanted to experience college life but at the same time be able to refine my craft at the highest level. And OWU was one of the few places where I saw both of those options available. As a Liberal Arts school OWU was able to offer me a wonderful college experience and began preparing me for a career as a singer. I had no idea how far it would take me. I am currently singing full time at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. This season alone (2010/2011) I am involved in 8 different shows (50+) performances. Midway through the spring I will celebrate my 100th performance on the Met stage already. The attention to detail that OWU provided has not only helped me on the stage, but in life as well. The support that was found in the music department made me more confident after I left to be creative and to push myself higher and faster. I am so lucky to have made it this far already, and am hoping to continue this success.. I owe most of my gratitude to OWU.

Department Contact Info


Sanborn Hall
23 Elizabeth St.
Ohio Wesleyan University
Delaware, OH 43015
P 740-368-3700
F 740-368-3723
E musicd@owu.edu

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Department Contact

Co-Chair: Frank Chiou
Associate Professor of Music
Sanborn Hall 106

Co-Chair: Richard Edwards
Associate Professor of Music
Sanborn Hall 204