Students dancing

Music | Theater and Dance

Firmly grounded in the spirit of the liberal arts, the arts departments at Macalester College provide world-class learning experiences in dance, the fine arts, music, and theater. The Music, Art and Art History, and Theater and Dance departments welcome students at all levels of expertise, offering a wide range of studio and academic courses, as well as varied performance and showing opportunities. First-year students are invited to attend the Arts@Mac lunch, which takes place yearly in the first week of the fall semester, when they can meet majors and minors, faculty and staff, and learn about auditions and the curriculum.


The Macalester Music Department offers courses and performance opportunities in Western concert music, jazz, pop, African music, Asian music, Scottish piping, early music, electronic music, and other musical traditions. Individual instruction at all levels and musical ensembles by audition are available for all interested students. Students may major or minor in music.

The Music Department at Macalester College aims both to celebrate music as a source of beauty and an agent for positive change and to interrogate music from critical perspectives that reveal its powerful and direct social influences. In lessons and ensembles in various traditions (Western art music, African music, Jazz, Scottish Highland, and various folk and popular musics of the world), we train students in the practical arts of music-making, with regular opportunities for recital participation, ensemble tours, master classes, and interaction with guest artists. In our varied curricular offerings, we place music within the broader context of the liberal arts, leading students to a deeper appreciation of music’s social and political status across time and space. Graduates of Macalester’s Music Department find themselves well poised to pursue graduate study at the nation’s top music schools, whether it be as performers or in an academic fields such as musicology, ethnomusicology, composition, and music theory. Other participants of the program, from the most committed to the most casual, leave Macalester’s Music Department enriched by their experiences making music and thinking more imaginatively about the many roles that music plays in their lives and in the world around them.

Macalester College Music Department

Full-Time Faculty
Chuen-Fung Wong, Associate Professor and Chair (ethnomusicology)
Randall Bauer, Associate Professor (theory/composition)
Victoria Malawey, Associate Professor (theory)
Mark Mandarano, Associate Professor and Director of Instrumental Activities
Mark Mazullo, Professor (musicology and piano)
Michael McGaghie, Assistant Professor and Director of Choral Activities 
Laura Nichols, Visiting Assistant Professor (voice)

Continuing Full-Time Staff
Sowah Mensah, Director of the African Music Ensemble
Mike Breidenbach, Director of Piping
Rachel Hest, Music Department Coordinator

Continuing Part-Time Staff
Joan Griffith, Director of Mac Jazz
Peter Hennig, Director of Jazz and Pop Combos
Clea Galhano, Director of Early Music Ensemble
Kaarin Evens, Concert Supervisor

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Macalester Music Ensembles and Audition Schedule

These groups are open to both music majors and non-majors. Auditions for incoming students are generally held during Orientation week, and auditions for returning students are held the first week of classes.

Auditions for most ensembles are held during Orientation Week. (More specific information will be available on the Music Department website as Orientation nears).

African Music Ensemble
The Macalester African Music Ensemble performs traditional African music primarily from Ghana, but also from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Guinea, The Gambia, Kenya, and Tanzania. In addition to singing, the Ensemble performs with a variety of African instruments including xylophones, marimbas, flutes, horns, an assortment of drums and gourds. The 40-member ensemble is open to all members of the Macalester College community. Auditions are held once a year in September after classes begin; no prior experience in African music is required. Directed by Sowah Mensah. African Music Ensemble rehearses 6:45 – 8:15 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays in M116 (Crawford Hall).

Asian Music Ensemble
The Macalester Asian Music Ensemble specializes in the performance of chamber instrumental music from southeastern Chinese and other Asian traditions. Core instruments include a variety of plucked lutes and zithers, bowed fiddles, bamboo flutes, dulcimer, among others. Performers are primarily students and faculty members at Macalester College. Directed by Chuen-Fung Wong, the Ensemble rehearses once weekly on Tuesday or Thursday at 4:45–6:15 or at another time when all participants are available.

Chamber Music Ensembles
Coached by faculty and studio instructors, these ensembles include groups such as String Quartets, Woodwind Quintet, Brass Sextet, Trombone Choir, Flute Ensemble, Saxophone Ensemble. The ensembles perform in concerts once each semester. Chamber Music Ensemble rehearsals are arranged according to the schedules of the participants and coaches. Organized by Mark Mandarano.

Concert Choir
The Concert Choir is a chamber mixed ensemble open to all students at the College. The singers in the Concert Choir are full-time, undergraduate music and non-music major students committed to innovative and quality performances and community outreach through choral music. Repertoire of the choir includes both a capella and accompanied Western and Non-Western vocal traditions. The Macalester College Concert Choir tours annually throughout the United States or abroad. Past international tours have included Japan, Scotland, Poland, Costa Rica and other countries throughout the world. Directed by Michael McGaghie. Membership is based on an audition and callback. The Concert Choir rehearses Mondays, Wednesday, and Thursdays 4:45 – 6:15 pm in M113 (Hewitt Hall).

The Chorale is a large mixed ensemble open to all students interested in singing at Macalester. Likened to the Renaissance “camerata” which was made up of musicians, poets, intellectuals, and humanists, this group reflects the diverse interests and talents represented here on campus. The music of the ensemble will include such styles as classical, folk, and pop. In addition, each year the choir will combine with other Macalester Choirs to perform a major work. Past works have included Mozart’s Requiem, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Vivaldi’s Magnificat and Orff’s Carmina Burana. Consideration for this group will be based on balance of parts and the ability to match pitch. Chorale is directed by Michael McGaghie, and it rehearses Tuesdays 4:45–6:15 and Thursdays 6:30–8:00 pm in M113 (Hewitt Hall).

Early Music Ensemble
Directed by Cléa Galhano, this ensemble specializes in instrumental and vocal music from the Medieval period through the Baroque, with occasional contemporary pieces. Early Music Ensemble meets on Wednesdays 7:00 – 8:30 pm in Music 121.

MacJazz is an auditioned 18-piece big band directed by Joan Griffith, performing classical and contemporary big band jazz. Mac Jazz rehearses on Mondays and Wednesdays 4:45 – 6:15 in M116 (Crawford Hall).

Pop and Jazz Combos
Coached by Pete Hennig, combos are open to students who want to play jazz or original pop in a small combo setting. Combos rehearse on Mondays 7 – 9 pm in M113 (Hewitt Hall) and various other spaces in the Music Department.

The Macalester Orchestra is a select ensemble of 50–60 students directed by Mark Mandarano. The orchestra plays one or two concerts a semester and its repertoire spans the 18th through the 21st century. Recent concerts have included Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite, Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony and Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. The orchestra has collaborated with soloists including Manny Laureano and Erin Keefe, principal trumpet and concert master, respectively, of the Minnesota Orchestra. The orchestra periodically collaborates with the Macalester Choirs and the African Music Ensemble and has gone on tours to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Duluth. Student soloists are given the opportunity to play concerto movements in the annual Concerto Contest held in the spring. The Macalester Orchestra rehearses on Tuesdayand Thursday afternoons from 4:45–6 p.m. in Crawford Hall (M116).

Pipe Band
The Pipe Band is the premier pipe and drum corps in the upper Midwest. The band carries a 60-year tradition of musical excellence and is one of only a handful of college pipe bands in the United States. Bagpipe lessons are available, and are free to all Macalester students. Directed by Mike Breidenbach. Pipe Band rehearses on Wednesdays 6 – 10pm in M116 (Crawford Hall).

Wind Ensemble
The Wind Ensemble provides an opportunity for Macalester students to rehearse and perform the concert literature for winds and percussion. Macalester has a long, rich history of performing music for concert band. The Wind Ensemble is open to all Macalester students at all levels of ability. No auditions are required; however, if players would like to play the “first part,” they can arrange to audition for director. Students who play the following instruments are welcome to join the band: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, horn, trumpet, trombone, baritone/euphonium, tuba, timpani and percussion. (Macalester College possesses a limited number of instruments that it can make available to interested students.) There will be one major performance per semester, with various smaller performances as the opportunities arise. Rehearsals are on Monday evenings from 7:15 – 8:45 in M116 (Crawford Hall).

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Theater and Dance

Welcome to the Theater and Dance Department!

Our department offers small academic and studio courses in which students are closely mentored by expert faculty. We encourage students without previous experience to try a beginning course in acting, dance, design, or playwriting. With the exception of dance technique courses, THDA classes count for your Fine Arts requirements.

The Theater and Dance Department prepares the next generation of performers, directors/choreographers, designers, researchers, technicians and playwrights. Macalester is in a privileged location for students interested in the arts, as the Twin Cities have the second highest number of theater companies per capita in the United States, after New York. Courses in Theater and Dance regularly bring students to on- and off-campus theater and dance productions. Here you will find nationally-recognized LORT theaters such as the Guthrie and exciting companies such as Penumbra Theatre, Mixed Blood, Jungle Theatre, and many more. You will learn the vocabularies of our disciplines, take master classes with guest artists, and become part of a vibrant arts community.

The following Fall 2019 courses are open to first-year students and excellent for exploring THDA. Read course descriptions and peruse the complete course list on the Fall Class Schedule

THDA 105 – Seeing Performance in the Twin Cities

THDA 120 – Acting I

THDA 232 – Crafting the Tangible

THDA 235 – Fundamentals of Scenography

THDA 250 – Experiential Anatomy 

THDA 21 – African-based Movement I

THDA 41 – Modern Dance I 

THDA 51 – Ballet I  

Contact Person: Professor Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento – Chair
Email Address:
For more information visit our website:

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Recent THDA Graduates

For decades, Macalester’s Theater and Dance Department has had an impact on performance culture, regionally, nationally and internationally, through our graduates’ work as company founders, performers, designers, playwrights, stage managers, educators and in other professions.  

Theater and Dance alumni have achieved successful careers in professional theatre and film, pursued graduate programs at prestigious universities worldwide—such as the Yale School of Drama, Brown University, London International School of Performing Arts, and Ecole Jacques Lecoq—and are present in the faculties of institutions such as Reed College, M.I.T., and San Francisco State University. Alumni have also had a significant impact on young people as teaching artists in public schools and through educational programs connected to professional theatres, and have pursued successful careers in fields outside of Theater and Dance such as politics, activism, photography, fiction writing, and social work.

Just a few examples of our alumni in professional theatre and film include Obie award-winning playwright and actor Danai Gurira; actor, dramaturg, director and Pillsbury House Theatre Co-Director Faye Price; Mixed Blood Theatre founder Jack Reuler; actor, director and TransAtlantic Love Affair co-founder Isabel Nelson; actor and Guerilla Shakespeare Project co-founder Jacques Roy; playwrights Kim Hines, Aditi Brennan Kapil and Rob Gelberg; award-winning scenic and lighting designer Paul Whitaker; lighting designer Janine Myers; and costume and makeup designer Christine Cover Ferro.

Theater and Dance Audition Information

Our Fall Dance Concert will feature choreography by professors Jill Lile (Ballet), Patricia Brown (African-based Movement), and guest artist Li Chiao-Ping (Modern & Contemporary Dance). The Theater production is the musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show, directed by Professor Harry Waters Jr.

Auditions for theater productions and dance concerts are open to all students. First-year students are regularly cast in shows and dance concert pieces.

Auditions for both the Fall Dance Concert and The Rocky Horror Picture Show will be held on September 6, 7, and 8! More information is available at

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