Hixson-Lied College Alumni Winners on campus

Left to right: Karen Blessen (photo by Danny Fulgencio), A. Kevin Kaisershot, Matthew Miller and Liana K. Sandin.
Left to right: Karen Blessen (photo by Danny Fulgencio), A. Kevin Kaisershot, Matthew Miller and Liana K. Sandin.

Hixson-Lied College Alumni Winners on campus

calendar icon17 Apr 2018    

Lincoln, Neb.--The Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts Alumni Achievement Award recipients will be in classes this week, prior to the Honors Day Awards Dinner on Sunday, April 22. The dinner is by invitation only.

The Alumni Achievement Awards honor alumni from each academic area of the college who have demonstrated outstanding achievement and overall professional excellence.

The Alumni Achievement Award in Art, Art History & Design will be presented to Karen Blessen (B.F.A.  1973). Blessen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and artist. In 1989 she was the first graphic artist to be named as a Pulitzer winner. She is from Columbus, Nebraska, and graduated from UNL in 1973 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

She will participate in a workshop on Friday, April 20 with students in the School of Art, Art History & Design.

In the first chapter of her career, Blessen worked as a free-lance artist and writer. Her work appeared in the Dallas Morning News, Times Square, books for GP Putnam & Sons, Simon and Schuster, and many other places.

In August of 2000, her life was disrupted and the second chapter of her career was ignited. The organization 29 Pieces was born. The seeds of 29 Pieces were planted with a bullet, the bullet that murdered a man in front of Blessen’s house.

Blessen reacted to the tragedy using the tools of her profession. The result was “One Bullet,” a piece that she wrote and illustrated for the Dallas Morning News, exploring the act of violence and tracing the path of its impact on the victim's family, the killer's family, the law enforcement community and the community at large.

She turned to a tool she knew—art—with hopes of using its power as a catalyst for peace and kindness. Engaging, involving and inspiring our community's youth to learn, share and live the lessons of peace became the unifying goal of the organization known as 29 Pieces.

Since its inception in 2005, 29 Pieces has grown in number and impact. 29 Pieces: Artists Making a Kinder World workshops and classroom curricula have helped more than 50,000 students develop their creativity and their love of peace. More than 400 teachers have been trained in 29 Pieces: Artists Making a Kinder World Lessons.

The Alumni Achievement Award in Music will be presented to A. Kevin Kaisershot (B.M.E. 1980). After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Nebraska, Kaisershot received his Masters degree in trumpet performance from Illinois State University. After more than 35 years of teaching, Kaisershot retired in 2015, most recently teaching at East Aurora (Illinois) School District #131, where he served as Music Director 5-12 from 1984-2015.

Kaisershot will meet with students in composition, conducting and music education in the Glenn Korff School of Music on Friday, April 20.

As a conductor and clinician, Kaisershot has become well-traveled throughout the Midwest. Internationally recognized as a composer/arranger, especially of music for trumpet and brass, his music has achieved critical acclaim. His music has been performed not only in the United States, but also in several other countries including Japan, Korea, Canada, Mexico, Denmark, Switzerland, England, Norway and Germany.

He has won several awards for his band compositions, including the distinction that his march, titled “Spectre of Fortune,” was adopted by the State of Massachusetts Lions Club Organizations as their "official" march. In 2009 he won the ASCAP/MENC (now NAfME) composition competition wherein his march entry was selected as "The Music Teachers March." Since 1994 he has been almost a yearly recipient of the annual ASCAP standard awards for his contributions to the advancement of American/educational music.

The Alumni Achievement Award in Theatre and Film will be presented to Matthew Miller (B.A./B.F.A. 2008). Currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Miller brings more than a decade of experience to the industry, lighting for dance, theatre, live events, galas, symphonies, festivals and much more.

Miller will be meeting with students in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film on both Thursday and Friday, April 19-20.

He has worked for such companies as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Yeager Design, arc3design, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Microsoft, Github, Atlanta Ballet, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Jessica Lang Dance, Gallim Dance, HMS Media, Lines Ballet, The Chicago Dancing Festival, Dance for Life, Music Theatre of Wichita, Danceworks Chicago, The New Victory Theatre, The Plagiarists Theatre Company, Madison Square Garden, Spotify, New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts, Step Up Productions and The Chicago Children's Choir.  

Miller has toured extensively—domestically and internationally—with a number of world-renowned dance companies.  During his time with Hubbard Street, he designed more than 30 new works and helped facilitate the work of numerous world-renowned choreographers and their artistic teams.  He has also acted as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department during Hubbard Street’s participation in Dancemotion USA. Miller is a member of United Scenic Artists 829.

Other awards to be presented at Honors Day include the Award of Merit, which honors those who have made contributions to the College, but who are not necessarily alumni of the college, and who have demonstrated continued interest in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.

This year’s Award of Merit will be presented to Liana K. Sandin, president of The Pearle Francis Finigan Foundation. Sandin received her Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from Nebraska Wesleyan and pursued graduate work in the same field at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

As president of The Pearle Francis Finigan Foundation, she selects and manages grants for music and to the arts to local educational, humanitarian and religious institutions.

The Student Leadership Award will be presented to Candace Nelson, a senior performance and film and new media major in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.

Additional faculty, staff and student achievement will be celebrated at the Honors Day celebration. For a full listing of award winners, click HERE.