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NATS 2018 Winter Workshop

Featured Presenters

Michael Cassara, casting director

Michael_Cassara_-_Headshot_-_crop16x9_-_250w.jpgMichael Cassara, CSA is a Casting Director and Educator in New York City, where he and his team have cast over 400 theatre and film projects since the formation of Michael Cassara Casting in 2003. Recent credits include Spamilton (dir. Gerard Alessandrini - NYC and Chicago companies), 9 Circles (off-Broaway premiere/Sheen Center), Gigantic (dir. Scott Schwartz/Vineyard Theatre), Forbidden Broadway (last two editions/cast albums), The 12 (Denver Center/world premiere), Caroline, or Change (Tantrum Theater), My Fair Lady (Gulshore Playhouse).  Regional credits include frequent productions for top regional theaters including Gulfshore Playhouse, The Old Globe, Denver Center, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Great Lakes Theater, Hangar Theatre, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, American Theater Group, and more.  Film: The Hyperglot (dir. Michael Urie, Artios nomination for excellence in casting), Grantham & Rose (dir. Kristin Hanggi). Resident Casting Director for the New York Musical Festival (NYMF) since 2007, and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) since 2013.  As an educator, he regularly teaches at many of the nation's top universities and training programs, including Baldwin Wallace University, The Boston Conservatory, Elon University, Indiana University, NYU, Texas State, Wright State University, and many others. Michael is a native Clevelander and an obsessive family historian: he is the only person to ever hold membership in both the Casting Society of America and the Association of Professional Genealogists. BFA, Otterbein University.

MORE INFO - / @michaelcassara 

Kristin Cowdin, artist manager

Kristin_Cowdin_Sempre_Artists_Management_-_wall_bkgd.jpgKristin Cowdin brings over twelve years of dedicated experience in artist management to Sempre Artists, of which she is the founding President and Artist Manager. Prior to establishing the company she was Artist Manager at Guy Barzilay Artists and held previous positions with Barrett Artists and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. She has concurrently served as artistic and planning consultant, working alongside Will Crutchfield at Bel Canto at Caramoor during the past three seasons and will continue her work in that position for Teatro Nuovo, his new company. Committed to nurturing the next generation of singers, she has been a judge for Fort Worth Opera’s Marguerite McCammon and Opera Columbus’ Irma M. Cooper vocal competitions and has given master classes and workshops for young artists programs and training institutions that include Los Angeles Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Utah Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Seagle Music Colony, McGill University, Boston Conservatory, Potomac Vocal Institute, Bel Canto in Tuscany, and the New World School for the Arts as well as several times at Classical Singer magazine’s annual convention. Additionally, she has joined OPERA America as a panelist for its Feedback Auditions and Making Connections series.

Ms. Cowdin is a frequent feature article contributor to Opera magazine, certified mediator for Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts’ MediateArt program, and past grant panelist for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She earned a Master of Arts in performing arts administration from New York University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in music and English from Hollins University, where she has returned as an invited panelist for the university’s C3: Career Connection Conference.


Mikki Sodergren, artistic director

Mikki_Sodergren_250w16x9.jpgYoung soprano Mikki Sodergren has created a niche for herself as a performer who can effortlessly glide between genres. As the 2014 winner of the American Traditions Vocal Competition in Savannah, Georgia, she took home not only the Gold Medal, but also awards for best Johnny Mercer song interpretation and best jazz performance. Recently, Sodergren was appointed to the role of Artistic Director for the American Traditions Vocal Competition. She cherishes this opportunity to give back to the musical community of which she is a proud member.



Ian Derrer, artistic director

Ian_Derrer_headshot_16x9_cr_250w.jpgRecently appointed as General Director of Kentucky Opera in 2016, Ian Derrer previously served as Artistic Administrator of Dallas Opera. His love of opera began as a member of the children’s chorus in Tosca for Opera Carolina. Ian completed a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University. He worked as a freelance Assistant Director and Stage Manager for Santa Fe Opera, Atlanta Opera, Opera Carolina, Opera Pacific, and Washington Opera.
Ian completed master’s degrees in Opera Production, Voice, and Performing Arts Management from Northwestern University and Brooklyn College. For three summers he was Scheduling Coordinator for the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Chiari, Italy. In the spring of 2004, he interned at Columbia Artists Management, Inc. in the office of Ronald A. Wilford. That summer he was orchestra manager for Sinfonia Orchestra at the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Ian joined the staff of New York City Opera in 2004 as rehearsal and music coordinator. Two years later, he moved to Lyric Opera of Chicago, starting as rehearsal administrator and moving up to Director of Production and head of the rehearsal department. He spent eight seasons at Lyric Opera of Chicago, with one summer as Rehearsal Director for Santa Fe Opera.

His experience with major companies in Dallas, Chicago, Santa Fe, and New York has also given Ian an opportunity to learn from some of the leading general directors in the field about fundraising, audience development, branding, and engaging fully with the community. He has developed a unique perspective in fundraising, learning why people give to opera and how to articulate the needs of the company to potential individual and institutional donors.


Ricky Ian Gordon, composer

Ricky_Ian_Gordon_crop_16x9_250w.jpgRicky Ian Gordon studied piano, composition, and acting at Carnegie Mellon University. After moving to New York City, he quickly emerged as a leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera, and music theater. Mr. Gordon’s songs have been performed and or recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Nathan Gunn, Judy Collins, Kelli O’Hara, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Nicole Cabell, the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Frederica Von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, and Betty Buckley, among many others.

A highly prolific composer, Ricky Ian Gordon’s catalog includes Morning Star (2014, libretto by William Hoffman); 27 (2014, libretto by Royce Vavrek); A Coffin In Egypt (2014, libretto by Leonard Foglia); Rappahannock County (2011, libretto by Mark Campbell); Sycamore Trees (2010, libretto by composer); The Grapes of Wrath (2007 and 2010, libretto by Michael Korie); Green Sneakers (2008, libretto by the composer); Orpheus and Euridice (2005); My Life with Albertine (2003); Night Flight to San Francisco and Antarctica (2000) from Tony Kushner’s Angels In AmericaDream True (1999); States Of Independence (1992); The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1996); and Only Heaven (1995).

Upcoming and recent projects include the opera Intimate Apparel with playwright Lynn Nottage, The House Without A Christmas Tree (libretto by Royce Vavrek), Private Confessions with playwright Richard Nelson, Ellen West (libretto by Frank Bidart), and The Garden of the Finzi Continis with librettist Michael Korie.

Mr. Gordon has been a visiting professor at colleges and universities throughout the country and has been the featured Composer-in-Residence at Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, Van Cliburn Foundation, Voices of Change, Santa Fe Song Festival, Songfest at Pepperdine University, Chautauqua, Aspen Music Festival, and Ravinia.


Chuck Hudson, stage director

Chuck_Hudon_Headshot_-_16x9_crop.jpgBased in New York City, Chuck Husdon has directed opera productions at major international companies including Cape Town Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Minnesota Opera, Atlanta Opera, and Sacramento Opera, among others. He has directed award winning theater productions in New York and regionally, including Pearl Theatre, Chester Theater, Cape May Stage, Children’s Theatre Festival of Houston, New City Theatre, and Chicago’s Fox Valley Shakespeare Festival.

In addition to directing professional artists, Chuck continues to focus on his work with artists in training. Chuck has directed productions at San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Santa Fe Opera’s Apprentice Artist Program, Florida Grand Opera’s Resident Artist Program, IU Opera Theatre, and CCM Opera Theatre, among others. Chuck uses his enormous experience as a performer, director, and coach in his many Master Classes and private coachings at various Professional Artist Training Programs for singers and actors. He is also in great demand as a private audition coach in New York City.

Chuck was Artistic Director of The Immediate Theatre in Seattle: a physically based company committed to the creation of visually exciting dramatic works. Chuck’s specialty in movement comes from a background in gymnastics as well as being one of three Americans to have received a diploma from the Marcel Marceau International School of Mimedrama in Paris. He is the only American to be appointed to teach at Marceau’s School, and he performed with Marceau on his 1991 European Tour and in Klaus Kinski’s film Paganini. Chuck also studied at the Paris School for Theatrical Fencing and was awarded an Honorary Diploma from the French Academy of Arms.


Mikey Nagy, music theater agent

Mikey_Nagy_-_Headshot_16x9cr_250w.jpgHaving served at the boutique talent agency of The Krasny Office for almost six years, Mikey Nagy is a full-service agent representing his clients for film, television, theater, commercial, voice-over, industrial and print.

Clients in productions currently running on Broadway, or opening this season, are cast in 1984, Anastasia, Bandstand, Beautiful, A Bronx Tale, Cats, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Chicago, Frozen, Groundhog Day, Hello Dolly!, Mean Girls, Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet Of 1812, The Phantom of the Opera, Spongebob Squarepants and Time and the Conways.  National tour clients include An American in Paris, The Book of Mormon, Finding Neverland, Hamilton, The Bodyguard, The Phantom of the Opera and Wicked, as well as The Book of Mormon in London. Clients are also in many Off-Broadway and regional theatre productions across the country.

Besides theatre, clients have booked films, commercials, voiceovers, print and about every episodic cast out of NYC. Mikey holds a BFA in Musical Theatre, Minor in Piano from Shenandoah Conservatory.


Mary Saunders-Barton, voice teacher


Mary Saunders-Barton is a Penn State Professor Emeritus, currently residing in New York where she maintains a musical theatre voice studio for Broadway performers. While at Penn State, she created an MFA in Musical Theatre Voice Pedagogy to meet the growing demand for voice teachers who specialize in vernacular techniques. In this and recent seasons her students have been seen on Broadway in Wicked, Mamma Mia, Lion King, Pippin, The Book of Mormon, Newsies, Kinky Boots, Bandstand, A Bronx Tale and Beautiful among others and in recent revivals of The King and I, Miss Saigon and Sunset Boulevard and in many national tours and regional productions. Her own performing career spanned twenty years and included Broadway, off Broadway, regional, film and television credits.

Mary received a Master’s degree in French language and literature from Middlebury College and the Sorbonne, Paris. While in Paris, she studied French art song with the great baritone, Pierre Bernac. She is an unapologetic Francophile.

She is frequently invited to present her workshop Bel Canto Can Belto for singers and teachers of singing at universities and voice conferences in the U.S. and abroad. Mary has been a featured presenter for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), the National Opera Association (NOA), the Voice Foundation Symposium, the New York Singing Teachers Association (NYSTA) and the Musical Theater Educators Alliance (MTEA) She was the keynote musical theatre speaker at the 2013 International Congress of Voice Teachers (ICVT) in Brisbane, Australia. She has served twice as a master teacher for the prestigious NATS Intern Program.

Mary has produced two video tutorials, Bel Canto/Can Belto: Teaching Women to Sing Musical Theatre and What About the Boys? She is a member of The American Academy of Teachers of Singing.


Resources from the Presenter - Click to download:

Arlene Shrut, collaborative pianist

Arlene_Shrut_Headshot_-_wide_background_16x9_250w.jpg“With superlative teamwork between singer and pianist and an evident sympathy with these deeply moving songs..."
University of Waterloo Gazette

As a collaborative pianist, Arlene Shrut has collaborated with Renée Fleming, Thomas Hampson, Angela Meade, Isabel Leonard, Carla Rae Cook, Michael Fabiano, Anton Belov, Alissa Deeter, and Takaoki Onishi.

She regularly serves as official pianist and judge for international opera competitions sponsored by The Gerda Lissner Foundation, the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, The Giulio Gari Foundation, The Loren Zachary Society, The Marcello Giordani Foundation, and the Fritz and Lavinia Jensen Foundation.

While many of Arlene's professional activities focus on collaborations with singers, she is in demand with instrumentalists as well, featuring engagements such as her NYC debut with the Yoav Chamber Ensemble, touring with the Grand'Arte Trio, and as a finalist in the Munich International Competition in the violin-piano duo category with Julie Rosenfeld of the Colorado String Quartet, as well as winning the outstanding pianist award at the Music Academy of the West. In January 2014 Arlene teamed with pianist Anna Shelest in a four-hand version of the Brahms Requiem with Voices of Ascension, under the baton of Dennis Keene, featuring soloists Martha Guth and Richard Zeller. Arlene has recorded for Dorian, Albany, Summit, Centaur, and Orion labels. Her discography includes works from the classical canon and recording premieres by contemporary composers.


Resource from the Presenter - Click to download: Successful Auditions - handouts (Arlene Shrut)

Jason Styres, casting director

Jason_Styres_bxw_16x9_cr_250w.jpgJason Styres, CSA, has cast such shows as A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Broadway and National Tour), Dames at Sea (Broadway), The Lion King (Broadway and National Tour), Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (National Tour), Trip of Love (Off-Broadway), and Nice Work If You Can Get It (Broadway), and for over 15 different productions for the prestigious New York City Center Encores! series.

Jason has worked with such directors and choreographers as Darko Tresnjak, Randy Skinner, Camille A. Brown, Warren Carlyle, Josh Bergasse, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Marc Bruni, Casey Nicholaw, Kathleen Marshall, Josh Rhodes, John Doyle, and James Lapine, amongst many others. Other credits include Hartford Stage, New York Philharmonic, Shakespeare Theatre Company (D.C.), San Francisco Symphony, Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS), TUTS Underground, and North Shore Music Theatre.

Jason also cast the three-time Emmy nominated production of Carousel (produced by the NY Philharmonic/PBS), the smash hit television show So You Think You Can Dance, and the highly praised HBO documentary Six by Sondheim. Some recent favorite projects include Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Prancing Elites Project, and How You Look At It - a brand new dance short by Wendy Seyb, currently gathering awards across the country in various film festivals.

Jason's upcoming projects include the new musical Missed Connections: A Craigslist Musical, the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of F****d Up... (dir. Tricia Brouk), The Cocktail Party Effect (a new play by Scooter Pietsch), as well as Josh Prince’s Broadway Dance Lab. He is a proud supporter/friend of the Cancer Support Community, serving as their casting consultant for their galas and benefits.