A prolific musician and songwriter with the band Semi Precious Weapons, Justin Tranter now has seen great success writing hits for some of the music industry’s most notable pop stars. Tranter most recently penned Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” Gwen Stefani’s “Used to Love You,” and Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries.” Around The Academy, Justin is revered for founding our Annual AIDS Benefit, a student-run variety show with proceeds donated to supporting AIDS research and families affected by the disease.
In 2012, Cecily Strong was added to the all-star cast at Saturday Night Live and began hosting the segment Weekend Update. Her success on the show landed her a gig hosting the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2015. The breakout star can be seen in the films The Bronze, Staten Island Summer, and the recent remake of Ghostbusters.
MUSICAL THEATRE, 2011
Jose Ramos graduated from the Musical Theatre department of The Academy in 2011. He recently landed a dual role as John Laurens and Phillip Hamilton in the upcoming Chicago production of Hamilton. Check it out in the Chicago Tribune!
Chris Westfall embodies the comprehensive and diverse value of the Academy experience. Author of The NEW Elevator Pitch and a US National Elevator Pitch Champion, Chris has coached clients on Shark Tank, helped entrepreneurs raise millions from investors, and successfully rebranded companies, products, and services around the world. He lives in Houston, Texas with his wife and two children and has used his influence to be an avid supporter of the visual and performing arts.
Craig Hall joined the New York City Ballet in 2000 and since has had featured dance roles in Apollo, Episodes, The Four Temperaments, and The Nutcracker. In addition, he has been featured in the films Center Stage and NY Export: Opus Jazz. Craig had his final performance with City Ballet at Lincoln Center in May and is now returning to the company as ballet master! See him in the New York Times here!
Photo by Henry Leutwyler
Luke Sangerman became the Blue Man Group's youngest national performer at age 16, and is now playing drums for the group on a world tour. When he's home, he plays in the Chicago band Woo Park. Read more about Luke here!
MEDIA ARTS, 2011
Jack Dunphy is a filmmaker and animator based in Brooklyn. His work blends documentary with fiction, animation with live action and comedy with dark stuff that bums his mom out. He has been to Sundance 2 and a half times, once for his short film SERENITY (2015) once for his short film CHEKHOV (2016) and once for Caveh Zahedi's short film BOB DYLAN HATES ME (2016) which he animated, but did not direct.. He stared in the feature film ASSHOLES (Dir. Peter Vack) and co-directed the feature film, THE PERVERT with Nathan Silver, who he co-wrote the feature film STINKING HEAVEN with.
VISUAL ARTS, 1997
A figurative painter focusing on women’s issues, Forest Solis has had works exhibited nationally at venues such as Sylvia White Gallery, The ARC Gallery, The Torpedo Factory, and The Hive Gallery. Furthermore, her work has been published in American Art Collector, Arts+Culture Magazine, and Direct Art. Forrest holds a position as Tenured Associate Professor in the School of Art at Arizona State University.
Nathan Laube is an accomplished organist and Assistant Professor of Organ at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Most recently, Nathan performed on the 2016 Grammy Award Winner for Best Classical Compendium Grand Concerto, composed by Stephen Paulus. Nathan has also been featured on American Public Media’s weekly program “Pipedreams” and regularly performs around the world.
Rena Butler has been a featured dancer in Dance Magazine, The Dance Enthusiast, FORMA Magazine, and Refinery 29. She currently dances for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and has had her choreographic work featured in the Joffrey Ballet School. Previously, she danced with Abraham. In.Motion, David Dofrman Dance, Mettin Movement, and the Luna Negra Dance Theatre.
VISUAL ARTS, 1997
Kate Perryman’s work is lead by observations of the built environment and the internal emotional landscape through two and three dimensional approaches. Perryman has exhibited her works in Seattle, St. Louis, New York, and Chicago since earning her BFA at the Kansas City Art Institute and MFA at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. Perryman’s recent exhibition record includes the Telephonebooth Gallery in Kansas City, Fort Gondo Compound of the Arts in St. Louis, Zhou B Art Center and Hoof Print Studio in Chicago.
VISUAL ARTS, 2002
Larry Peifer left The Academy on a full scholarship to the San Francisco Art Institute and has gone on to positions at architecture and design firms like Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, Gensler, EDG, and Rockwell Group. Most recently he has accepted a position as Design Adviser at the real estate firm Hines and has been named an Accredited Professional for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design by the US Green Building Council.
VISUAL ARTS, 1987
Michael Ferris has made a career in sculpture working with reclaimed wood and a self-invented wood overlay technique. Following The Academy he received his BFA from Kansas City Art Institute and MFA from Indiana University. His work has been featured in the Elmhurst Art Museum, The Bronx Museum, and the Queens Museum of Art, as well as reviewed by The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune. Michael teaches ceramics at the Arturo A. Schomburg Satellite Academy in the Bronx.
Nicky attended The Academy on a scholarship and studied ballet, modern, and jazz dance. His first national tour came with the musical Swing! From there Nicky went on to land dream roles in A Chorus Line and Contact. Recently, his time has been spent with the Broadway hit Wicked where he served as dance captain for two years. In addition, he has provided choreography for the Off Broadway musical Trip of Love.
Akenya Seymour's music places a strong emphasis on jazz and the culmination of hip-hop, funk, pop, classical, world music, and other loves of hers. In the jazz world she has worked with and performed for the likes of Esperanza Spalding, Fred Hersch, Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, Luciana Souza, and Dave Holland to name just a few. She is also well known in the Chicago hip-hop and soul scenes and has collaborated with some of the city’s leading artists including Chance the Rapper, Noname, Smino, Saba, Eryn Allen Kane, Donnie Trumpet, and Jean Deaux. Akenya is currently working on a full LP, Moon in the 4th, as a follow up to her debut EP, Overcome, which was released in 2010. This new album will feature all originals, including her latest single “Disappear,” which premiered this November and can be streamed via Soundcloud as well as purchased via Bandcamp.
Lalah Hathaway is a three-time Grammy Award winner for "Best R&B Performance." She won in 2014, 2015, and 2016 for "Something" with Snarky Puppy, "Jesus Children" with Robert Glasper Experiment & Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and "Little Ghetto Boy."
Shannon Greene Robb
Shannon Greene Robb runs the arts education nonprofit organization ArranmoreArts, produces events at Arranmore Farm & Polo Club, and has since started another company, Arranmore Events. She was recently appointed by The City of Naperville as a Commissioner for Special Events & Cultural Amenities (SECA) and serves on the board of ARTSpeaks.