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Arts & Culture

Midwestern Voice in the Capital

Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

During her six years at Butler—four as an undergraduate Arts Administration major and two earning her Master of Music Education— Ursula Kuhar ’05 MM ’07 often thought about moving to Washington, DC. 

In July, Kuhar took over as Executive Director of Washington Concert Opera, which specializes in performing seldom-heard operas. Kuhar calls it “one of the most revered companies in the country.” 

Getting to this point was a journey that began in Powell, Ohio, outside Columbus, where Kuhar had volunteered for her hometown symphony orchestra while in high school. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in music. After meeting with then-Associate Dean of the Jordan College of Fine Arts Steve Roberson, she discovered the idea of Arts Administration as a major. 

Butler’s undergraduate program allowed Kuhar to explore all avenues of music, from business to teaching to performance. She was so taken with what she learned from Professor Michael Sells (“He’s still a huge mentor and guiding force in my life, and a great friend.”) that she wanted to keep studying with him. So she stayed for a master’s degree, taking voice lessons and performance-based classes from Sells, as well as music education classes with another favorite professor of hers, Penny Dimmick. 

Butler led to Indiana University, where Kuhar earned her Doctor of Music in Voice. Three days after graduation in 2011, she was hired by Sweet Briar College as Director and Assistant Professor of Arts Management. She spent four years there—and would have happily stayed longer—but on March 3, 2015, the faculty was assembled and told that the school would be closing on June 30. (That decision was rescinded in mid-June, but not until after Kuhar had accepted her position with Washington Concert Opera.) 

At Sweet Briar, Kuhar had quadrupled enrollment in the arts-management program, helped secure foundation and individual gifts, and “had a wonderful time” there. Now, she enjoys presenting “exquisite music” like Rossini’s Semiramide “to a group of devoted patrons.” 

“It’s a niche that people love,” Kuhar said. 

Plus, there’s the benefit of being in the nation’s capital. The location is head-turning, she said, “but I’m still a salt-of-the-earth, Midwest girl at the end of the day.”


Seeing the Music

Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

Nathan Blume ’03 came to Butler from Fort Wayne, Indiana, with a plan to double-major in Chemistry (on a pre-med track) and Trumpet Performance. A year later, thanks to the guidance of Professor of Music Michael Schelle, he went “all in” on music. 

“Once I did it,” Blume said, “even the act of changing my major, I felt like that was exactly what I wanted to do. It took Schelle to get me to do that. Throughout my time there, he really became a mentor and instilled in me—not just through personal advice but in his teaching—a confidence about myself and my abilities. I always knew that I wanted to come out to L.A. and try film music. I don’t think I’d be out here without Dr. Schelle’s advice and help.” 

Schelle’s confidence proved spot-on—Blume’s resume now includes composing music for The CW Network’s Arrow and The Flash, CNN’s The Seventies, NBC’s Blindspot, and the popular web series Vixen

But before Blume got to Hollywood, there were detours—a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University to build up his composition chops, followed by a couple of years with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra while he and his future wife, Megan McGarry ’05, figured out their next steps. They married in 2006 and moved to California in 2007 so he could attend the University of Southern California’s (USC) Thornton Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program. That one-year intensive curriculum, taught by working professionals, is “the front door into the film music industry,” Blume said. “That’s where you meet a lot of people and you start networking.” (In the meantime, McGarry founded and now serves as principal of a charter middle school in San Fernando.) 

After USC, Blume found work consistently, first on short films, then on the TV series Eastwick, where he began collaborating with well-established composer Blake Neely. Blume credits his education for teaching him not only how to compose music but how to work fast (composers typically only get a week to write 35 minutes of music for a 42-minute show) and appreciate the way his work fits with everyone else’s. 

“You want something that sets the tone for the piece,” he said. “You’re working as a collaborator. It’s not about you and your musical abilities. It’s about your ability to work with the project and accomplish the end goal that everyone’s trying to accomplish.” 

Arts & Culture

Seeing the Music

by Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

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From Bulldog to Ogre

Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

Where in the world is John Thyen?

Depending on when you’re reading this, the 2010 graduate could be in Egypt dressed as a green ogre. Or in Asia, disguised as one of the three little pigs. Or in Australia singing in a chorus. Throughout 2016, Thyen is on a world tour with Shrek: The Musical, understudying the title role while also appearing nightly as a featured ensemble player. 

“I’ve never left the country before,” he said prior to the tour, which began in January 2016 in Istanbul. “So I think it’s going to be life-changing to see so many different cultures and bring an art form that is awesome to so many different places.” 

Thyen grew up in Valparaiso, Indiana, and chose Butler because the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA) offered an all-encompassing degree rather than a specialized one. Versatility, he realized, would be important for someone hoping to break into theatre. In fact, after sophomore year, Thyen changed his major to Arts Administration so he’d have a fully rounded view of the business. That, he said, “has been a huge benefit for me as a professional.” 

After graduation, Thyen worked in Butler’s Office of Annual Giving for seven months, then took a job at a nonprofit for about a year. In his off hours, he performed in the Indianapolis Civic Theatre’s production of Rent and with Indianapolis Opera. But at work, he found himself thinking, “I’d rather be in rehearsal right now.” Thyen felt he owed it to himself to try to be a full-time actor. 

So he packed up a car and drove to New York. He lined up a place to live and a temporary job and went to auditions. That led to some Off-Broadway and regional theatre work, then a national tour of Seussical the Musical. And now Shrek, where he will be dressed in 70-75 pounds of costume and prosthetics and, some nights, airbrushed in green paint. (Follow his trip on Instagram or his website, 

Thyen said that when he took off for New York, the initial reaction from family and friends was mixed. “Your family is always a little bit like, ‘Oh, you’re going to give up a salary and benefits to go be a waiter.’ But I think they saw that I really wanted to do it,” he said, “and I’ve been able to show that hard work pays off.” 

Arts & Culture

From Bulldog to Ogre

by Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

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Setting the Barre

Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

While most high-school juniors were getting their driver’s licenses, Karnjanakorn “Gift” Sapianchai was saying goodbye to everyone and everything she knew. 

She was moving 8,100 miles from home to dance ballet. 

“Home” is Bangkok, Thailand, on Southeast Asia’s Indochina peninsula. While younger Thai children can learn ballet at studios, dance offerings in general are severely limited in her country, Sapianchai said. 

“I think art hasn’t developed in the same way there that it has here or in Europe. Sports are more developed [in Thailand]. My sister is a swimmer for the national team, and she plans to try out for the Olympics in a few years. 

"Dancing allows me to express what's inside of me."

“I started ballet because my parents thought it would improve my posture,” she said. “I also did piano, art lessons, swimming, all the other sports. Eventually, they all went away except for ballet.” 

Sapianchai’s ballet instructors followed the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) syllabus, an internationally recognized portfolio of exams and assessments that outline a progressive structure for learning and achievement. But it goes only so far in a culture that doesn’t value ballet, she said. Bangkok City Ballet is the country’s only professional ballet company. 

Fortunately, a teacher in Sapianchai’s studio danced professionally and recognized her potential. He recommended that she audition for the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC. 

“I sent in a video, and they accepted me,” Sapianchai said. “We had academics in the morning, then four hours of ballet in the afternoon and sometimes rehearsals.” 

The experience strengthened her love of ballet. She chose to attend Butler because she knew it had one of the top dance programs in the country and offered a wide range of dance styles. 

“Even if you’re a dance major, you’re not restricted to just dancing. You can take Arts Administration, Arts Pedagogy, or the History of Dance. The Dance professors really know what they’re doing, and students are very connected to them. They offer you very personal advice,” she said. 

“And they encourage you to do a second major or a minor that’s completely separate from Dance, so that when you graduate, you don’t feel like your only option is to be a professional dancer. You will have other skills.” 

Sapianchai appreciates the “strong sense of community in Ballet, the College, the entire campus” she has found at Butler. She also is glad for the hard work. 

“In the RAD system, it is the same class every single day, just repeated. Here, at Butler and at Kirov, every class is different. They make your brain work in different ways because you have to apply different combinations to music you may never have heard before. 

“I grew up with a lot of classical ballet. I wasn’t aware of other types of ballet like modern or Balanchine. Now that I’m here, I’m doing a wide repertoire and learning there’s a lot more to ballet,” she said. 

Sapianchai plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in Dance Performance, then audition for a dance company here in Indianapolis. 

“Ballet allows me to express myself. I’m not a very vocal person, so dancing allows me to express what’s inside of me,” she said. 

Arts & Culture

Setting the Barre

by Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

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Art: The Secret Ingredient

Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

Common Core State Standards outline what to teach students so they can graduate. What the standards don’t address is how to do that.

In this void, College of Education (COE) Professor Arthur Hochman saw an opportunity for Butler to influence the way teachers teach and students learn for decades to come.

Art Meets Education

We know today that the arts improve educational performance. But it wasn’t until 2002 that a first-of-its-kind research study showed that students exposed to arts education scored higher on standardized tests, developed better social skills, and had more motivation than their counterparts.

Hundreds of studies since have reached the same conclusion: Integrating the arts with other subjects improves the performance of K-12 students. 

Why, then, haven’t schools changed? 

“In 2002, teachers weren’t being taught to teach this way,” Hochman said. “And they still aren’t, for the most part—frankly, because standardized tests don’t emphasize it.” 

Teachers who might want to add an arts component to lesson plans are on their own.

“They have only their own experience to draw from. And think about that: all of us—teachers—included, grew up doing sums on the board, not moving in front of the class,” Hochman said. “So how can we expect them to naturally integrate an art form into the way they teach?” 

Hochman’s solution began with his creation of the Arts Integration (AI) course.

Art for All

Hochman recruited Tim Hubbard, Arts Integration Specialist, to help teach the required course in 2004. AI ensures that future teachers get a base of knowledge about successfully marrying the arts with other subjects. 

It’s our responsibility as an educational institution, Hochman said. 

“We always hear that the arts are for everyone, but they’re not. When families cannot afford to take their children to a performance or exhibit, school is their only chance,” said Hochman. “We want to make sure teachers know how to give students what they need.”

The arts can be integrated into any subject—math, for example. Twenty students solving the same equation may come up with the same answer. But when they can use their bodies to express their thought processes, Hochman said, individuality, retention, and attitudes soar. 

“The arts are inherently personal. They demand our own interpretation. So when I, as a student, connect math with the physical movement of my body, the math becomes a personal expression of me. After all, what am I more connected to than me?” he said.

Effective Arts Integration

The approach intrigued Superintendent of Kokomo-Center Consolidated School Corporation Jeff Hauswald. He asked Hochman and Hubbard for help in developing an arts-integrated elementary school. Thanks to exceptional community support, the Wallace School of Integrated Arts opened in 2012 with a waiting list. Eleven of its 14 teachers are Butler graduates. 

One of those is Veronica Orech ’14, who wrote in an email that Butler transformed her ideas on how to be a teacher. She also saw the approach at the Indianapolis Public Schools/Butler University Lab School 60, a COE partner. 

"The arts are inherently personal. They demand our own intepretation."

“No matter the subject, arts integration is my favorite way to teach. The overall experience is more rewarding for everyone involved because everyone is more motivated to take ownership of their learning experience—myself included,” she wrote. 

For more information, visit the Wallace School of Integrated Arts

The Art of Creating Butler Artsfest

Patricia Snyder Pickett ’82, APR

from Spring 2016


Those who perceive Butler ArtsFest as a showcase of the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA) are clearly not in tune with the vision of Ronald Caltabiano, JCA dean. 

Launched in 2013, ArtsFest has evolved into an annual event that presents renowned performing and visual artists from around the globe alongside students and faculty from JCA. 

It all began when Caltabiano, a New York native, landed on Butler’s campus in 2011 as its newly appointed Dean of JCA. Along with JCA faculty and staff, he quickly began to formulate plans for an event that would not only feature the many facets of the College, but one that would be rooted in collaboration and create a cross pollination of artistic talent spilling well beyond the Butler campus. 

That vision ultimately became the first Butler ArtsFest— themed “Revolution!”—that premiered in April 2013 with 40 performances and events over an 11-day period. That premiere provided a festive and impressive backdrop for the opening of the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts. 

“It was evident from that first year that there was much more to it than celebrating the launch of the new building,” said Caltabiano. “For our students, Butler ArtsFest is a way for them to progress. It enables them to collaborate across the arts. We know that—with the most rare of exceptions—that will serve them well in their careers after Butler.” That concept is well illustrated among the students of JCA. 

Caltabiano points to a piece of art on his office wall. “I asked the student who painted that piece what she was doing during the summer,” he recounted. “She said, ‘Well, my real major is theatre, but I’m going to spend the summer playing violin in a rock band.’ That’s really an example of what the future holds for these young artists— that sort of multifaceted work across many platforms.” 

It’s a stark contrast to the perceived classic tradition of arts education. From an academic standpoint, Professor of Music at Butler and Orchestral Conductor Richard Auldon Clark believes cross-disciplinary collaboration at the college level is imperative to both ArtsFest and the future of the arts. 

“It’s great to embrace our history and the past, but not at the expense of the future,” Clark said. “Providing this breadth of work through ArtsFest, and the relationship the experience creates for all those involved, translates into one of the most unique and valuable programs a liberal arts college can offer.” 

It’s also a valuable driver of support, both on and off the Butler campus, according to Caltabiano. 

“Initially, we had a few skeptics … but they gave me a ‘bye’ the first year. By the second year, they began to see how it helped our students, our reputation, and our bottom line. Now people at the University and in the arts community are embracing it year-after-year.” 

By embodying the essence of Butler’s arts program, ArtsFest provides an ideal opportunity for potential students and donors alike to engage with the University. Perhaps no one understands this better than Howard Schrott ’76, whose generous gift helped move Butler’s new, state-of-the-art performing and visual arts venue from the drawing board to fruition. 

“As we chatted with Butler, we landed on this idea that arts students truly needed a ‘lab space’—much like the business or science students—in which to practice their craft,” according to Schrott, who said he was initially drawn to the arts from his high school years spent playing the saxophone. “Butler ArtsFest is a wonderful way of bringing that ‘lab experience’ to the stage.” 

“We are right on track with my vision,” said Caltabiano, “It began with a 10-year plan to grow the festival from a budget of less than $100,000 to $1 million. While we initially hosted all performances on Butler’s campus, as we grow, we want to include off-campus performances as a means to further enhance our students’ experiences and position Butler as a leader in the Central Indiana arts scene.” 

Now in its fourth year, Butler ArtsFest 2016 will take place April 7–17 with more than 40 performances and events, including dance, music, theatre, visual arts, and family programs. From the measured beats of the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet to the ancient sounds of a chanting Buddhist nun, from newly commissioned dance and theatre productions to a work composed in a Nazi POW camp, this year’s theme “Time and Timeless”—drawn from Indiana’s bicentennial celebration—explores the many ways we think about, measure, and use time.

Arts & Culture

The Art of Creating Butler Artsfest

by Patricia Snyder Pickett ’82, APR

from Spring 2016

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The Arts at Butler

S. L. Berry

from Spring 2016

The arts are more than an essential part of Butler University's academic mission. They exemplify Butler’s emphasis on experiential education, show our commitment to diversity, and bring our entire community together. In fact, as a magnet for Indianapolis-area residents, they attract more people to the campus annually than any other activity. 

Butler’s central role in the cultural vitality of Indianapolis is the basis of the Arts at Butler, a new strategy for positioning the University as the arts and culture hub of Central Indiana. Its foundation is the collective strength of Butler’s interdisciplinary academics, performing arts events and venues, and community-centered programs. 

“The Arts at Butler is what we are,” said Ron Caltabiano, Dean of the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA). “We teach each art form in the context of other art forms.” Pointing to the University’s nationally acclaimed dance program as an example, he said its students explore music, theatre, and visual arts, as well as arts administration. It’s an approach designed to deepen their understanding of—and appreciation for—creative and practical concerns outside of their discipline. 

To that end, the Arts at Butler offers a unified approach to promoting the array of art experiences available on campus. “We do more and more collaborative work,” said Susan Zurbuchen, Chair of JCA’s Arts Administration program. “But audiences still tend to identify as those who love dance, those who love theatre, those who love music, and so forth. We’re trying to help people understand they can experiment a little bit with what they attend.” 

Such campus events as the annual Butler ArtsFest provide an opportunity to do precisely that. Every April, ArtsFest brings renowned performing and visual artists from throughout the world to campus to take part in a diverse range of events alongside students and faculty members. It’s a chance for artists and audiences alike to expand their horizons. 

Building relationships with government agencies and corporations enables Butler to bring international artists to Central Indiana. The Arts at Butler will help focus attention on the diversity of those artists, with the goal of attracting equally diverse audiences. 

“There’s a great energy on and off campus about what the arts at Butler can mean for our students and for Indianapolis.”-Ron Caltabiano

Diversity is also the basis of the University’s community outreach programs, which have long been an important part of its relationship with its neighbors as an anchor institution in Midtown and Greater Indianapolis. The Arts at Butler enables the University to highlight such success stories as the Butler Community Arts School (BCAS), which provides instruction to 2,000 students ages 5 to adult throughout the academic year. Summer camps give another 10,000 underprivileged children the chance to explore the arts. 

In addition to community outreach through the BCAS program, Clowes Memorial Hall marks its 25th season of arts education programming for students, teachers, and parents statewide through their “Experience Learning Through the Arts” energizing, educational, and inspirational offerings. Throughout the program’s history, Butler’s campus and Clowes have welcomed and hosted over 1,000,000 patrons— many experiencing their first live theatre performance in support of educational curriculum and academic standards. A life-changing event for many cultivating informed and educated arts consumers of the future. 

“We want the Central Indiana community to see Butler not just as a place for a great education and the home of a great basketball team,” said Zurbuchen, “but as a place that positively impacts quality of life in the neighborhood, city, and region.” 

Contributing to that vision is the variety of professional venues on campus. From the 110-seat Black Box theatre and 140-seat Eidson-Duckwell Recital Hall to the 450-seat Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts and 2,200-seat Clowes Memorial Hall, the venues comprising the newly created Butler Arts Center offer settings ranging from intimate to grand. They also offer opportunities to experience everything from student recitals to Broadway tours. 

Additional opportunities stem from the collaborative relationships the University enjoys with professional arts organizations, including the American Pianists Association, Dance Kaleidoscope, Indianapolis Children’s Choir, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, and Indianapolis Opera—all of which perform at Butler’s venues, with most maintaining administrative offices on campus. 

“I don’t think there’s another university that has as many professional arts organizations on its campus,” said Caltabiano. Such proximity provides students with opportunities to learn from arts professionals, as well as to attend performances and events held by these organizations on and off campus. 

Overall, the Arts at Butler strategy is based on the synergy between students, venues, performers, and the community. Its vision has Butler as the fulcrum—the supportive and sustaining center of arts and culture in Central Indiana. 

“There’s a great energy on and off campus about what the Arts at Butler can mean for our students and for Indianapolis,” said Caltabiano. “By bringing together all of our considerable assets, we have the opportunity to create a world-class center for arts and culture thought, programming, and innovation right here at Butler University.” 

Arts & Culture

The Arts at Butler

by S. L. Berry

from Spring 2016

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AcademicsArts & CulturePeople

Playing the Long Game


PUBLISHED ON Jun 05 2018

Annie Sullivan MFA '12 finds herself wearing a lot of gold-beaded jewelry these days. What better way to call attention to the release of her first young-adult novel, A Touch of Gold?

On this particular day, she's wearing a gold/orange beaded necklace that a friend gave her. Her bracelet is made up of strands of overlaid beads of gold, a gift from the Chicago Pearl Company to accent her outfits as she promotes the book.

A Touch of Gold, which comes out August 14, tells the story of King Midas' daughter, Princess Kora, 10 years after she'd been turned to gold by her father. She's now back to life, but with some lasting side effects—one of which is that she can sense other objects her father turned to gold. When those objects get stolen, she goes on a quest to find them.

Along the way, Kora faces off with pirates and thieves and discovers not only who to trust but who she is. Ultimately, A Touch of Gold is about a girl finding herself and becoming comfortable in skin that makes her unlike everyone else.

Sullivan—the first fiction writer from Butler's MFA in Creative Writing program to earn a book deal—said she and Kora have plenty in common, from their appearance (short in stature, with long, golden hair) to their adventurous spirit, toughness, and sticktoitiveness.

"I write strong female characters who can stand up for themselves," she said. "People who have a little Disney princess in them but also have that hardcore side where they say, 'I can handle this.'"

But while Kora battles in the fantasy world, Sullivan must deal with the real world: the often exasperating, slow-moving world of publishing.

"Writing," she said, "is not for the weak. You've got to have a strong constitution and be willing to never give up."

Sullivan, who grew up in Indianapolis and earned her undergraduate degree from Indiana University, began writing her book as an MFA student at Butler. She chose Butler's graduate program in creative writing because she found that it was open to many different styles of writing.

"People were writing ghost stories and middle-grade stories, and I'm over here writing fairy-tale retellings," she said. "And they were open to that. I know there are other programs where they really look down on genre fiction and anything that's not literary fiction."

Still, Sullivan started off unsure. The first assignment she turned in was a short story about an old man whose wife died in a car accident. She hated the story and so did everyone else in the class. "I'm sure I went back to my car and cried," she said.

Next came the breakthrough moment: She decided that next she submitted a story, "I'm going to turn in something that actually represents me."

That story turned out to be the first chapter of what became A Touch of Gold. Her classmates recognized her passion, she said, and they approved.

"Annie was obviously very talented," Associate Professor of English Mike Dahlie said. "But more important, she was wholly devoted to her writing. Her kind of unfettered and patient love of storytelling is always why people get book deals."

That was in 2010.

Over the next seven years, Sullivan continued writing. Finished the first draft of A Touch of Gold. Read about agents (she recommends for that) and sent query letters to more than 100 before she found one who appreciated her work. Wrote a second book. Then a third. Attended the Midwest Writers Workshop. Revised the first book based on feedback from the workshop. Received a rejection from one publisher saying the book was too dark. Received a rejection from another publisher the next day saying the book wasn't dark enough.

Finally, in August 2017, her agent called: She sold the book to Blink, a young-adult imprint of HarperCollins.

"You've got to be in this for the long game," Sullivan said. "And it is a long game. It's a game of timing and finding the right person who loves your work."

Now, while she continues in her day job working for Wiley Publishing as copy specialist on the content-marketing team, Sullivan is working on another book, writing articles for Young Adult websites to help publicize A Touch of Gold, planning to attend the American Library Association's midwinter conference to sign advance reader copies of her book, setting up school visits, and thinking about a book launch party in August.

She gives Butler's MFA program a great deal of credit for her success—from providing her time and motivation to write, to having professors and critique partners to guide her writing, to having the freedom to tell the kinds of stories she likes to tell.

"I can't describe how much they helped me," she said. "Everything fell into place through Butler to make my writing dreams come true."

Find Annie Sullivan on Twitter (@annsulliva), Facebook (Author Annie Sullivan) or on her blog (


Media contact:
Marc Allan MFA '18


AcademicsArts & CulturePeople

Playing the Long Game

Annie Sullivan MFA '12 spent eight years on her book "A Touch of Gold." That sticktoitiveness is about to pay off.

Jun 05 2018 Read more
Arts & CulturePeople

Lights! Camera! Action! Dance!


PUBLISHED ON Jun 01 2018

Stirling Matheson '09, who already has dancer and writer on his resume, is adding a new credit: film director.

Absolution, his short film of a dance Sarah Farnsley '10 choreographed, will premiere at the Dances With Films independent-film festival in Los Angeles on June 8 at the world-famous TCL Chinese Theatre.

"It's a very different kind of directing," said Matheson, who danced with Ballet Theatre of Maryland, founded Ballet Theatre of Indiana in 2014, and has written for Dance magazine, among other publications. "I'm used to directing my company, and that's about training it to be repeatable so that it goes right for the one shot you get on stage. But we had five hours to do this, which was a new experience, for sure."

The film, which runs almost seven minutes and features five Butler University graduates among the company, visits the House of the Rising Sun, which in folklore is an allegory for purgatory. There, in the pouring rain, all the dancers are grappling with their guilt and figuring out how to forgive themselves for whatever went wrong in their lives. As they come to terms with their issues, they can go off into the purple light and the rest of the afterlife. But for some people, that takes more time than others.

Absolution debuted as a dance piece about two years ago during a Ballet Theatre of Indiana performance at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. As he watched, Matheson was struck by the details and angles in the choreography. He began to envision it as a film.

""I had some ideas of exactly what I wanted in lighting, which was different from the stage version," he said. "The original version was stark white side light. I thought it would end up looking dead on film. There was a bit of symbolism in the colors that we used, that pale melancholy blue-gray on the right side of the frame and then as they traveled from right to left, they went into that more ethereal death and rebirth-looking purple.""

He describes his role in the production as "translator" between Director of Photography Bryan Boyd and Farnsley, who made sure the film was true to her choreography.

They shot the film from 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM on a night when "it was 60 degrees and I was literally spraying them with a sprinkler the whole time," Matheson said. "They're some pretty tough ladies."

The dancers include Michelle Quenon '15, Anne Mushrush '15, Lauren Nasci '14, Audrey Robson '14, Christina (Presti) Voreis '14, and Catherine Jue '15. They're all part of the Ballet Theatre of Indiana company, which concluded its fourth season this spring.

Matheson said the Indianapolis debut of the film version of Absolution will likely take place during Ballet Theatre of Indiana's fifth season, which will be announced this summer. He suggested that people who want to see the film check out Ballet Theatre of Indiana's website.

"I'm never mad when people go to and sign up for the newsletter if they want to see us flail our limbs in person, rather than on the screen," he said, laughing. "I mean, that's what dancing is—it's limb-flailing. But good limb-flailing."


Media contact:
Marc Allan MFA '18


Arts & CulturePeople

Lights! Camera! Action! Dance!

Stirling Matheson '09, Sarah Farnsley '10 combine to turn a dance into a film.

Jun 01 2018 Read more
Arts & CultureStudent Life

Booting Up A New Club

BY Jackson Borman '20

PUBLISHED ON May 16 2018

For John George ’18, video games were always a casual interest. When he first came to Butler University, he loved playing games like Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart with friends.

“It wasn’t until sophomore year when I really got into watching esports and watching competitive video gaming,” George said. “That’s when I really wanted to see what the feeling for it was on campus.”

In his junior year, George started thinking about starting a club, but he struggled to find other students who were interested in competitive gaming. He also wanted to find a professor to be a club advisor who was as passionate about esports as he is.

“I didn’t know anyone who watched competitive video gaming like I did,” George said.

Over the summer leading into his senior year, George met the founder of the esports club at Clemson University, who gave him tips and advice about how to get a similar club started at Butler.

At the start of the 2017–2018 academic year, George met College of Communication Professor Ryan Rogers, who was new to Butler but had previously done research about video games and was planning to create a class on esports.

That class eventually would turn into a team.

“Esports has always been interesting to me and something that I could really see taking off [on a college campus],” Rogers said.

George and Rogers got started planning early in the year and decided that they wanted individual teams in different games. George went to the Facebook pages of each Butler graduating class and posted information about the new club, looking to find students who might be interested in competing.

The first callout meeting was in the fall.

“It was a really fun meeting just introducing each other and it seemed like there was a ton of interest because most of the people there said that they had three or four friends that just couldn’t make it,” George said. “Actually finding a group of people that was into esports and the gaming culture like I am was awesome.”


After that first meeting, the group got together for a second time in November, where they decided which games they wanted to play, split into teams for each game, and selected team captains who were responsible for finding tournaments for the teams to play in, and scheduling practices.

The club started out playing League of Legends, Overwatch, Call of Duty, and Hearthstone. Eventually, after holding tryouts, it added Rocket League and FIFA.

The esports group also merged with a more casual group, the Butler Gaming Club.

“It can be kind of intimidating to jump right in to competitive video gaming,” George said. “I thought the casual side was a good way to attract people who love playing fun games and then once they find out about [the esports club] they can get into that.”

In the fall, the Big East reached out to the Athletic Department and Mike Freeman, Butler’s Senior Associate Athletic Director External Operations, about esports on Butler’s campus. That was the same week that George and Rogers met to discuss forming a team.

Freeman said the Big East approached each school to try to find out what was going on regarding esports. The conference found that some schools were active, while others had done little.

Freeman knew Rogers had a background in esports, so he reached out about getting involved with the Big East. The conference had partnered with ESL, an esports company that organized tournaments around the world, in hopes of starting competition between Big East schools.

Rogers helped to organize the group with the Big East while George held tryouts and streamed the club’s game play.


On May 7 and 8, Butler Rocket League and Butler League of Legends competed in Big East play for the first time. Three members of the Butler team competed in Rocket League and five competed in League of Legends.

The League of Legends team was swept in Big East play, but the Rocket League team placed fourth.

“We went 2-4 [in Rocket League] but we were a lot closer with a lot of the teams and were very close to winning more games,” George said.

For the team, the Big East Invitational was a great experience, and in George’s eyes, a great stage for the world of esports.

“I would love if the Big East keeps doing competition because I think that is very established and attracts casual viewers more because they know those teams,” George said. “We play those teams in basketball and other sports. For example, I was really hyped to see us play Xavier in Rocket League because that is a really classic rivalry.”

Since the Big East Invitational, Freeman and Rogers have been trying to get the word out about esports on Butler’s campus.

“There are huge benefits if we grow that club the right way,” Freeman said. “In the next few years, there could be people that come to Butler because they want to be a part of the esports club. It is a similar structure to people who are deciding if they want to be on a sports team.”

Freeman compares the esports club to the way the Butler Athletic Department was when it first started out.

“One hundred and twenty-five years ago, Butler kind of had an athletic department with a football team," Freeman said. "And then we formed a basketball team. But now we have 20 athletic teams and dance team and cheerleading and we compete in all these different leagues. Within the esports club, you have all these different teams because there are all different games that people could play.”

As a graduating senior and the founder of the group, George’s time with the club has been short, but he said it's been a fantastic experience. In addition to being fun and an opportunity to meet new people, it allowed him to gain valuable leadership experience.

“The club is awesome, not only for people who want to compete but for people who are interested in business or communications,” George said. “I was able to run the stream and be a commentator and analyze what was going on and work on the media side of it.”

The club also has a treasurer and a social media chair, which George said are great opportunities for students to hold leadership positions in a group they are passionate about.

Freeman thinks that the club can have huge benefits to students after graduation as well.

“The end goal [of a Butler education] is to get you ready to go out into the world and do great things,” he said. “The people that are on these teams have some really high-level majors, and if [cities like] Indy are growing as a tech community, then we have that subgroup of people who are in the tech world and are also doing great things with their majors. It’s an area where there are businesses that are very interested in what’s going on.”

To stay up to date with Butler’s esports club, check out their Twitter account and Facebook page. The club hold tryouts for all games each semester. Current and incoming Butler students are invited to reach out to be invited to its Discord channel.


Arts & CultureStudent Life

Booting Up A New Club

Students take the controls on Butler esports team.

May 16 2018 Read more
Grand Adventure

A Grand Adventure

Camryn Walton ’14

from Spring 2018

It Happened in a Weekend

Over the course of 48 hours, we decided to quit our jobs, leave Indianapolis, road trip across the United States, and buy a one-way ticket to India. 

Why? We felt that restless feeling to be somewhat careless and do something crazy. We wanted to experience newness. To break out of our routine. We had a desire to change our surroundings and rid ourselves of the strains of everyday life. 

And so we went. In fall 2016, we spent two months camping and hiking the western United States, two months navigating the chaos of India, and three months exploring Southeast Asia. It’s hard for me to put into words how grateful I feel for being able to go on this grand adventure. 

In reality, long-term travel is overwhelming and exhausting. You are constantly pushed outside of your comfort zone. Your relationship with yourself and your partner is challenged daily. Here are just a couple of excerpts from my blog sharing our unique and transformational travel experiences: 

Grand Tetons, Wyoming 

Camryn Walton ’14 and husband at the Grand Tetons“What’s been your favorite place so far?” We get asked this question quite a bit on the road, and so far we have the same answer: The Grand Tetons. While leaving beautiful Oregon was bittersweet, we were eager to get to Jackson, Wyoming. We bypassed our planned one-night stay in Boise (We’ll be back for you Idaho!) and drove the 12+ hours from Portland, Oregon, to Jackson, Wyoming, in one day. We made it in one piece and found a free campsite as the sun was setting just outside of the Tetons. 

The next morning, we arrived at the Grand Tetons Visitor Center an hour before it opened to get a backcountry permit. Needless to say, John (JJ) was excited to be the first one in line. Before getting our permit, we had to watch a short video about backcountry camping safety… and this is where my irrational fear of bears began. By the end of the video, I was convinced we were going to be stalked and killed by a bear. Wyoming isn’t too bad of a place to die, right? 

Bear spray in hand, we set off on a 22-mile loop hike up Paintbrush Canyon and down Cascade Canyon. The first day consisted of 7.5 miles and 3,500 feet up. It was tough hiking, but the blossoming colors of fall made us forget about the level of difficulty. There are two weeks out of the year when leaves are at their brightest in the Tetons, and we had unknowingly chosen one of these sacred weeks. The Aspens were changing to a shade of yellow I’ve never seen before—hard to describe, and even harder to photograph. 

We were up early the next morning to tackle our one mile, 1,500-foot ascent of Paintbrush Divide to the Saddle Between Two Peaks. JJ kept me going by reminding me that, “every step you take is the highest elevation you’ve ever been.” At 10,700 ft., the 360-degree views were breathtaking. The pass opened up a new world of mountain ranges, peaks, and canyons; it is safe to say that I’m addicted. Addicted to the feeling of wanting to see what’s over the next pass, to the exhilaration of the wind blowing in your face, to feeling entirely humbled, small, and insignificant compared to the mountains that surround you. 


On December 17, 2016—my 25th birthday—we arrived in Rishikesh, India. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas on the banks of the Ganges River, Rishikesh is a charming town that attracts yogis and adventurers from around the world. It is free of meat, dairy, and alcohol—making it the ideal location for people to focus on their spiritual and physical wellness. 

Camryn Walton ’14 and husband in IndiaHowever, two days into our blissful retreat, JJ and I were taking turns emptying our stomachs over a dirty toilet in a freezing cold yurt. The physical pain was compounded by the homesickness I felt being away from my loved ones so close to the holidays. I was tired of being cold and dirty and living out of a backpack. I couldn’t help but think of all of the places I’d rather be. 

Slowly, we started to regain physical strength and with it came mental clarity. We spent the next two weeks practicing yoga, getting lost in the foothills, reading by the river, and expanding our minds with new forms of spiritual guidance. And then I’m crying at the airport because I’m not ready to leave this powerful place that had become “home.” 

Despite the immense discomfort, we quickly discovered the real reason why we travel: It reminds us to be present, to be kind, to practice empathy—and to never take ourselves too seriously. Most importantly, it’s a reminder to be grateful for exactly where you are and who you are with in life. 


Camryn Walton '14 (Strategic Communication) and John Joseph '11 (International Studies and Marketing) moved to Denver in July 2017. They spend their time exploring the mountains, chasing music festivals, and working at a small marketing agency and large software company respectively. To read more on their grand adventure, check out or follow them on Instagram @camryn_walton and @plaidjj1.

Grand Adventure
Arts & CulturePeople

A Grand Adventure

Over the course of 48 hours, we decided to quit our jobs, leave Indianapolis, road trip across the United States, and buy a one-way ticket to India. 

by Camryn Walton ’14

from Spring 2018

Read more
AcademicsArts & CulturePeople

Going Out on A High Note


PUBLISHED ON Apr 16 2018

Associate Professor of Music Dan Bolin '70 MM '75 looks back on his career in education—23 years at Butler, 48 overall—and says, "I can't think of anything I could have done that would have been more satisfying. To get to work with the kids, to get to know the people I've gotten to know …"

He lets the thought hang in the air, but he might have finished with "to achieve all I've achieved."

Since joining the Music Department faculty, Bolin has made his mark, particularly with regard to equipment, the physical plant, and faculty.

Bolin arrived in 1995 as Department Chair to find that no one had been keeping track of the instruments the department owned. Forty were missing. He had a hand in finding almost all of them and creating a new inventory system.

When the Schrott Center for the Arts was being built, Bolin took a tour of the construction and noticed that the orchestra pit was so low that people on the stage wouldn't be able to see the conductor. His keen eye helped Butler avoid a potentially costly repair.

It's a point of pride for him that the University's music ensembles have improved over the years and that Butler has retained so many talented faculty members.

"Most of the faculty in the music school were people I was involved with hiring and setting up," he said.
"(Professor of Music and Director of Bands) Michael Colburn is the last person I hired, and he's a superstar. We're fortunate to have him."

The feeling is mutual, Colburn said.

"My wife and I fell in love with Butler as soon as we visited, but I must admit that a big part of the attraction was the knowledge that Dan was serving as the Chair of the School of Music at the time," he said. "I figured that any school of music that had Dan Bolin in a leadership position would be a great place to work, and my instincts were right on the mark! Although he is no longer Chair, Dan has continued to be a valued colleague and a tremendous friend, and he will be sorely missed when he retires at the end of this semester."


Bolin spent his entire career close to home. He grew up in Indianapolis, took up the tuba in junior high school, and was the tubist in the Indiana All-State Orchestra all four years at Harry E. Wood High School, five blocks south of Monument Circle. That distinction earned him "a healthy scholarship" to Butler.

As an undergraduate at Butler, he tutored at his old high school. After graduation, his first teaching job was replacing his high school band director, who retired.

Bolin earned his principal's license at Butler and his doctorate in school administration at Indiana University. (His minor there was in music education.) He was a high school band director for 13 years, including time at Manual, Lebanon, and Southport high schools, and in administration for 12 years.

At Southport, he rose through the ranks to become an assistant principal. He left Southport for Perry Township Schools, where he moved from Director of Secondary Education to Personnel Director, Assistant Superintendent, and, finally, Interim Superintendent.

When the job opened at Butler, then-Director of Bands Robert Grechesky asked him to apply. Over the years, Bolin said, he was contacted by other institutions about opening on their faculty, but "I was doing what I wanted to do here."


Bolin said the greatest joy of his career has been working with students.

Matt Harrod '83 MM '88 is one of those. Harrod, Band Director and teacher at Riverside Junior High and Intermediate School in the Hamilton-Southeastern school district outside Indianapolis, was a student of Bolin's at Lebanon High School from 1975–1977. Harrod said even after Bolin left Lebanon for Southport, he stayed in touch and interested in his progress.

Harrod remembers a time when he was a freshman at Butler and decided to skip a pep band practice. That earned him a reprimand not only from Butler Band Director Grechesky but from Bolin.

"He told Dan and Dan got all over me about that," Harrod said. "He kept me on the straight and narrow."

After Harrod graduated from Butler, Bolin helped him get his first teaching job, attended his concerts, and worked with his band. Eventually, Harrod taught Bolin's sons at Keystone Middle School.

"He's been a close friend my whole life," Harrod said. "He's been a mentor to me. We laugh together, we tease each other a lot. He has guest-directed my band several times. He's introduced me to important people in the field. He hasn't only done this for me; he's done this for a lot of people."

In addition, Harrod said, Bolin has been instrumental in bringing military bands such as the U.S. Army Field Band to Indianapolis to perform free concerts for the public.

In retirement, Bolin said he and his wife, Jane, will continue to have a home in Indianapolis, but they'll also be living in Melbourne, Florida, where they bought a house 10 years ago.

Bolin said what he'll miss most are the students.

"They keep me young," he said. "Watching them grow and graduate and seeing some of them become educators—I tended to teach music education classes—and become band and orchestra directors and do good work has been incredibly gratifying. That's essentially what we’re all about—trying to create the next generation of teachers who are going to do what we did and hopefully do it even better."

(After this story was written, Dan Bolin conducted his final concert as Music Director of the Indianapolis Municipal Band and was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash. The honor is given to those who have rendered a distinguished service to the state or to the governor.)


Media contact:
Marc Allan


AcademicsArts & CulturePeople

Going Out on A High Note

Dan Bolin retires after 48 years in education.

Apr 16 2018 Read more