Music | Theatre and Dance


The Macalester Music Department offers courses and performance opportunities in Western concert music, jazz, pop, African music, Chinese music, Scottish piping, 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.

Mission Statement

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)
on sabbatical Fall 2017

Cecilia Espinosa, Visiting Assistant Professor and Interim Director of the Orchestra and Coordinator of Chamber Ensembles

Gabriel Lubell, Visiting Assistant Professor (theory)

Victoria Malawey, Associate Professor (theory)
on sabbatical Spring 2018

Mark Mandarano, Associate Professor and Director of Instrumental Activities
on sabbatical Fall 2017 and Spring 2018

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

Anna Buchholz, Concert Supervisor

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Macalester Music Ensembles

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. 

Audition Schedule Fall 2017

Auditions for most ensembles are held during Orientation Week. (More specific information will be available on the Music Department website as Orientation nears.) Audition sign-up sheets will be available in the Music Department office, M201, starting Monday, August 28.

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 
This ensemble performs traditional and modern music from East and Central Asia. Core instruments include a variety of plucked lutes and zithers, bowed fiddles, bamboo/reed flutes, hammered dulcimer, and percussion from Chinese music and traditions across the Silk Road. Directed by Chuen-Fung Wong. Asian Music Ensemble rehearses Fridays 4:45 - 6:15 in M116 (Crawford Hall).

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. In 2017–18, Chamber Music Ensembles will be directed by Cecilia Espinosa while Mark Mandarano is on leave.

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 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. Macalester owns a large collection of viols, recorders, crumhorns, kortholts, flutes, harpsichord, psaltry, rebec, cornetto, sacbut, and a variety of percussion instruments that are available to ensemble members. 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. The orchestra plays two to three 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 and Milwaukee. Student soloists are given the opportunity to play concerto movements in the annual Concerto Contest held in the spring. In 2017–18, the Orchestra will be directed by Cecilia Espinosa while Mark Mandarano is on leave. The Macalester Orchestra rehearses on Tuesday and 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. Directed by Shelley Hanson, a renowned wind ensemble conductor, composer and clinician as well as a sought-after clarinetist.

Private instruction on over 30 instruments and voice

Lessons are offered to musicians of all levels on over 30 instruments, including both western and non-western instruments.

For more information, visit our website or contact Music Department Coordinator, Rachel Hest at .

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Theatre and Dance

Welcome to Theatre & Dance (THDA) – the place to study, research, design and embody the histories and ambitions of live performance! Taking a THDA class counts for your Fine Arts requirements, and any course in the Department is guaranteed to be a discussion-based small class, where theory and praxis meet and enliven each other! Through most courses in THDA, you will see on- and off-campus theatre and dance productions.As part of our department desires, you will meet a range of local and national artists, learn vocabularies for talking about what you see, and deepen your commitments as aspiring performers, directors/choreographers, designers, researchers, technicians and playwrights. New to Theatre & Dance? You are most welcome here, in courses, onstage and backstage.

The following Fall 2017 courses are open to first-year students and excellent for exploring THDA:

THDA 110 - Introduction To Theatre Studies is an initiation for the drama student to learn about the worlds of theatre and performance: an initiation that focuses on the critical tools necessary to begin exploring and identifying practices of thinking, reading, and researching the theater, performance, and the worlds that the critical arts address.

THDA 194-01 Crafting the Tangible  As our society shifts away from a human connection to the tangible, this course seeks to reconnect the student to the tangible object. Our focus will be on the process of “thinking through making.” Through a series of project based learning opportunities, students will develop an understanding of themselves, the process of “critical making,” and current performance production technologies. This course will meet in a seminar format 2-3 times a week and a studio format once a week. This topics course fulfills the Technical Theater requirement of the Theater and Dance major.

THDA 220 - Voice And Speech is an introduction to the fundamentals of correct and successful playing of the vocal instrument of the individual human body.  Essential for all theatre and performing arts majors, including singers, and extremely useful for anyone choosing a career such as law, teaching, politics, leadership, etc., which demands speaking to groups and public presentations. 

THDA 255 –Lighting Design  This course is an introduction to basic lighting design and the history of lighting. While emphasis is on theater, it also teaches the lighting design of film, television, dance, opera, and environmental settings. This course is primarily an approach to lighting design, but the student will be expected to have a basic grasp of lighting hardware as well. The first aim of the course is to make the student more aware of color and light around him/her every day. Demonstrations are an integral part of the lectures.

If you are interested in any of the 200-level courses please email the THDA Chair, Claudia Nascimento at  with a brief statement of your interest in the courses.


The Theme for this season is "Site/Insight: Performing in Provisional Spaces" – this is in response to the college decision to build a new theatre and dance building which will be under construction for a portion of Fall 2017 through Fall of 2018.

As Theatre and Dance at Macalester takes leave of the Janet Wallace Theatre building, our home since 1964, laden with memories and meanings infused in our relationships and identities, our productions over the course of three semesters will be spread throughout the campus and community.  These provisional sites provide new compositions of meaning and invite all to “re-perceive” performance and our ways of knowing and belonging within familiar places.  To re-perceive the presence of performance in a lecture hall, a gym, a field; to re-perceive the power of performance in a library, a lobby, a garden.  As we await the performance spaces that will emerge in 2019, we invite you to witness our shared sense of  place—reconnecting  to who and what has come before while generating new relationships, new encounters, and new stories animated in live theatre and dance.


Student Staged Reading: VENUS IN FUR by David Ives
Performances: September 8 & 9, 2017  @ 7:30 PM  

Fall Family Fest Weekend:  NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND by Nilaja Sun
Directed by Faye Price.  Senior Acting Project of Niara Williams ‘18
Performances: October 13 & 14, 2017 @ 7:30  PM  

THE CHERRY ORCHARD by Anton Chekov directed by Beth Cleary
Campus auditions open to all: Sept 10
Performances: November 2-5, 2017

FALL DANCE CONCERT:  Faculty and Student works
Performances: November 17 & 18, 2017  

SLUT THE PLAY by Katie Cappiello  
Directed by Signe Harriday
Performances:  February  21-24, 2018

Directed by Harry Waters Jr.
Performances:  April 12 – 14, 2018

SPRING DANCE CONCERT: Student Produced and Choreographed
Performances:  April 27 & 28, 2018 


These are difficult times, and artists’ contributions are needed more than ever! Macalester and THDA prepare our students to get jobs in their chosen field, and to enter excellent graduate programs. Please go to the “After Macalester” tab on THDA’s website for more information on the range of work and research our grads are engaged in.


This annual event will be held in the Theatre & Dance Department on the mainstage at 4:30 pm on the first Friday afternoon of the first week of school. Meet faculty, returning students and guest artists, and get information on auditions, backstage work opportunities, the curriculum and courses, and special events.   For more information check out THDA's website.

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Theatre and Dance Audition Information

Auditions for theatre productions and dance concerts are open to all students. First-year students regularly are cast in shows and in dance concert pieces! Exact dates/times for Fall Auditions will be available in the Fall. Stay tuned!

Contact Person: Claudia Tatinge Nascimento - Chair
Phone Number: 651-696-6000
E-Mail Address : 

For more information visit our website:

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