Students to be featured in SUNY Fredonia’s annual commencement eve pops concert

The talented students of the Department of Theatre and Dance and the School of Music at SUNY Fredonia will be in the spotlight on Friday, May 17 when Rockefeller Arts Center presents “The Great American Songbook, Part One.”

The annual commencement eve pops concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. in King Concert Hall. It features some of the greatest songs from Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hammerstein. The student vocalists will be backed by the Western New York Chamber Orchestra conducted by Maestro Glen Cortese.

This year’s cast of singers was selected through auditions held in April. It includes students who have appeared in SUNY Fredonia productions of “Chicago,” “Stage Door,” “Stop the World – I Want to Get Off” and last season’s commencement eve production, “Guys and Dolls in Concert.” The cast members are:

u Nicholas Bernard, a senior BFA Dance major.

u Shannon Cunningham, a sophomore BFA Musical Theatre major. Some of her SUNY Fredonia credits include “Between Daylight and Boonville” and “Stop the World – I Want to Get Off.”

u Michael J. Hawk, a freshman Vocal Performance major from Fredonia. His credits include the Western New York Chamber Orchestra’s recent production of “The Consul.”

u Deanna Jelardi, a senior BFA Musical Theatre major and Dance minor. Her recent SUNY Fredonia credits include “Chicago,” “Guys and Dolls in Concert” and “Stage Door.”

u Rusty Ritzel, a Vocal Music Education major and Theater Arts minor, who has performed in the Student Opera Association’s Opera Scenes production of “Gallantry.”

u Steven Saelzler, a freshman BFA Musical Theatre major from Lancaster.

u Margaret VanNorden, a Music Performance major, who has performed in the Student Opera Association’s Opera Scenes productions of “Little Women” and “Vagabond Kings.”

u Lindsay Zimmerman, a junior BFA Musical Theatre major. Her previous SUNY Fredonia credits include “Chicago.”

This year’s commencement eve pops concert will feature the works of three composers who have contributed heavily to the Great American Songbook – Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers. The concert includes songs like “Blues Skies,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top,” “Some Enchanted Evening” and “The Lady is a Tramp.”

The Great American Songbook is a term used to describe a collection of influential pop songs written primarily between 1920 and 1960. The songs were often featured in Broadway musical theater and Hollywood musical films. In addition to memorable melodies combined with witty, suave lyrics, the songs often featured a 32-bar format.

Over the decades, singers from Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra to contemporary performers like Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson and Michael Buble have released recordings comprised of songs from the Great American Songbook.

“The Great American Songbook, Part One” is a DFT Communications Pops Series event sponsored by the Fredonia and Silver Creek Penny Savers as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season. Tickets are available through the SUNY Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center, by phone at 673-3501 or online at