In words and music
Kathryn Stripling Byer '68 MFA
Kathryn Stripling Byer '68 MFA became North Carolina's first female poet laureate in 2005, following in the footsteps of her former professor, Fred Chappell. In the five years she served, she brought attention to poetry by featuring the work of a variety of poets on her blog My Laureate's Lasso. The author of five collections of poetry, Byer also wrote poems to commemorate conferences, events or anything else that came up. She worked through questions such as: How to reach out to the state's large community of writers, stretching from the mountains to the Atlantic Ocean? How to reach my state's public school teachers, so burdened by now with test preparations and other mandates? How to convince their students that poetry could enrich their lives? That it was not something to be paraphrased, it was something to be lived and enjoyed? She is continuing to write and share her thoughts on her blog Here, Where I Am. In her blog profile she states, I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.
Claudia Emerson '91 MFA won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2006 for her book Late Wife. In 1997, her book Pharoh, Pharoh was also nominated for the prize. Reporters ask me Is this a dream come true? she said shortly after she got the Pulitzer. And I say, no, because I didn't have that dream. I didn't think about it. She also served as poet laureate of Virginia from 2008 to 2010 and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011.
Winner of the 2010 North Carolina Award for Literature, Carole Boston Weatherford '92 MFA has written 40 books, ranging from children's picture books about John Coltrane and Michelle Obama to nonfiction works on the Negro League and African-American lifesavers of the Outer Banks. Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom was a New York Times bestseller and won a Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award for illustration as well as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Award. She writes the types of books that weren't available to her as a child. When I was growing up, there was no multicultural literature. There probably wasn't even the term multicultural. I was an avid reader but I probably only read maybe two books that included girls who looked like me, she says.
It's not every day that you get nominated for a Tony. Beth Leavel '80 MFA not only received a nomination, she won. In 2006, she went home with a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of the title character in the musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone. Since then, she has been Donna in Mama Mia and Florence Greenberg in Baby, it's You!, for which she also received another Tony nomination.
Laurelyn Dossett '99 MS
Laurelyn Dossett '99 MS is a folk song singer-songwriter, a 2012 Betty Cone Medal of Arts recipient whose most recent project, The Gathering, was a wintertime song-cycle praised by USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. But now she's trying something new. She was contacted by an eclectic, talented musician who mixes hip-hop with classical, proposing a collaboration. Daniel Bernard Roumain (aka, DBR) and Laurelyn traveled the state, drawing inspiration. They have composed songs sometimes with the help of Skype throughout the summer. They are recording this month. And the resulting CD and series of concerts, called Carolina Connections," will be unveiled in early fall.
When there's an opera production at UNCG, you know David Holley is involved. He's been the director of opera at UNCG since 1992, and many of the productions he's worked with have gone on to win awards in the National Opera Association's Opera Production Competition. But probably the biggest reason he's been tapped as a dsba example is his work on Picnic. In the spring of 2009, he produced and directed the world premiere of the opera composed by Libby Larsen. In addition to his work with the stage, he spent hours writing the libretto, something he had never done before.
Carla Ulbrich '90 has battled lupus, an autoimmune disease, in the way she knows best with laughter. As part of her recovery, she wrote humorous medical songs like On The Commode Again (to the tune of Willie Nelson's On The Road Again) and I Got Tremors (to the tune of Louis Armstrong's I Got Rhythm). More recently, she wrote a book of humorous essays called, How can you NOT laugh at a time like this?
Laughter is vital. It's life affirming. Laughter lowers your blood pressure and improves both circulation and sleep, she says. Laughter and humor also help give perspective and emotional release, and when you are suffering, you need that badly.