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2021 Commencement Information
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Alumni Highlights

John Lincourt '13 lincourt.jpg
Music Major (Performance); Attending graduate school at Mercer University

John graduated in 2013 and is currently attending graduate school at Mercer University in Macon, GA, where he is an Instrumental Conducting and Choral Conducting double-major. John also plans to earn his Teacher's Certification while at Mercer.

While at Catawba, John served as undergraduate instructor in trombone, baritone, and tuba through the Catawba Community Music Program. He regularly helped prepare and serve breakfast at Rowan Helping Ministries, was active in the building of Habitat for Humanity homes with Volunteer Catawba, served as a leader for campus worship services, and served as a counselor and a member of the praise band at the college's Church Youth Empowerment Weekend for two years. In 2013, John received the Paul Fisher Service Award at the annual Church/College dinner. This award is presented annually to a deserving student who embodies the meaning of the word "service," as displayed on the college seal.

chafee.jpgMichelle Chaffee '13
Music Major (Performance) and English Major (Writing)

"I originally came to Catawba as a science major, but changed my major to Music (Performance concentration) because of my experiences in the Music Department. I was a member of the Catawba Singers and Chamber ensembles. Being a part of these groups helped me improve immensely as a musician and exposed me to many different types of music, from Bach to Eric Whitacre. The Catawba Singers took annual choir tours, which was one of my favorite experiences. After going on the tour my freshman year, I knew my passions lay in music. The tour experience was one of my favorite parts of being in these ensembles. Catawba's music program is very diverse and offers many different options for students with different interests and goals, and the faculty are personally attentive to their students. I also majored in English (Writing concentration), which would not be possible at many other colleges. Because of the personal attention I received at Catawba, I was able to pursue both of my passions fully."

bleonard.jpgBlakley Leonard '11
Music Business Graduate

"It was interesting how I decided to come to Catawba. The Music Business program hosted a National Online Battle of the Bands Contest called "Young Guns 2008." The winner was based on votes and music executives who met to discuss the participants. I ended up placing 2nd in the nation. I really wanted to do something that I enjoyed for my major and between the automotive and music industries, I chose music. After graduation, I would like to find a job in or around the Charlotte area producing or working with bands and managers. In addition, I will continue to perform and write my own music."

icon_hear.gifLISTEN to Blakley's Music

fb-th.pngLIKE Blakley's Music on Facebook

dusti2.jpgDusti Kempf '11
Music Graduate; Transfer Student

"I came to Catawba for the Music Business program. I loved that I had the opportunity to do a more contemporary style of music while furthering my education. I also liked the historic architecture that Catawba's campus offers. While at Catawba, I was part of the Vernaculars. I loved working with other talented artists at Catawba. I liked the fact that the groups are small and more tightknit. It gives you a chance to understand the qualities that each person contributes to the group which allows more chemistry and creativity to be formed."

icon_hear.gif"On My Own" by Dusti Kempf

Daisey2.jpgDerek Daisey '10
Nicholas O'Kelley '10
Music Business Graduates

Derek Daisey (Delaware) and Nick O'Kelley (North Carolina) exemplify what has become a phenomenon at Catawba — music- and business-oriented majors in the Music Business degree concentration teaming up to lay the foundation for their careers even before graduation.

Roommates Derek and Nick spent long hours each week building Derek's career as a performing songwriter one step at a time, with Nick serving as artist manager. It was remarkable how successful they were at applying what they learned in the classroom about the music industry to the real world.

It helps that Nick had such a talented musician to promote. Derek placed second out of nearly 1300 entries in the 2007 BMI John Lennon Songwriting Scholarship contest, and his self-released debut CD of original songs has met with a great deal of enthusiasm in the industry.

By the same token, Derek was fortunate to have in Nick a person who seems so ideally suited as an artist manager. As Dr. David Lee Fish, Director of the Popular Music and Music Business Concentrations, puts it, "I called it Nick's knack. He is able to get to anybody, from high-powered entertainment lawyers to record label presidents, and then charms the heck out of them when he does."

icon_hear.gif"Josie" by Derek Daisey

To learn more about Derek and his music, visit

April Hafner '08

Music Business

When it came to her major in Music Business, April Hafner was definitely all business. A native of Wisconsin, April spent her time at Catawba developing her knowledge of the music industry and her skills working with musicians. She began her training in the fine art of working effectively with others by serving as the student manager for the Vernaculars, Catawba's popular music ensemble. This experience combined with her study of music business landed her a coveted position as a counselor at the Muzak Heart & Soul Foundation's Noise camp in Los Angeles during the summer of 2007. As part of Noise, she visited recording studios and record labels and had a chance to meet with entertainment lawyers and other industry representatives. April plans to have a future in the music industry.

Michelle McCaffrey '07
Music Education Graduate

"I am from New Windsor, NY and graduated in May of 2007 with a degree in Music Education. I am currently the Choral Director at Salisbury High School. I have 3 incredible ensembles whom work hard everyday! I am also the Varsity Cheerleading Coach, which helps get me out and about throughout the school, as well as being involved with other activities within the school. I worked for a year previously in Iredell County at an Elementary School but love being back in Rowan County at a school full of supportive administrators and staff. I can be reached at Without the help and extra care every professor in the music department gave me I would not be as successful as I am today. It is always nice to run into a professor at a football game or elsewhere and see the look on their face and know they are proud of you. The Catawba Community made me realize the difference I could make in a students life, with that I live by this quote:

"Teaching music in not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline, and endurance. They get a beautiful heart." - Shinichi Suzuki

I thank Catawba for helping create my beautiful heart!"

Danielle Petrin '07
Music Education Graduate

petrin.jpgCatawba College Alumna Danielle Petrin '07 of Reston, Va., recently accepted a position as special projects manager for MENC, the National Association for Music Education. This national organization ( provides advocacy and education in public school music and Danielle's responsibilities include coordination of the U.S. Army All-American Band and the development of adjudication clinics.

Recently, Danielle shared her thoughts on landing her job and the role she believes her alma mater played in the process.

“I am extremely excited about this job. I am very thankful towards my professors [you] and Catawba for this opportunity. If it weren't for Catawba I would not be where I am today. Most people go to college with the intention of leaving with a specific job, but by the time they get out they went in a completely different direction. I am no different.

When I came to Catawba, I had every intention of becoming a teacher, but all of the extra-curriculars, SGA, and the Catawba community in general helped me become more well-rounded. I received my responsibilities [jobs] with the U.S. Army All-American Band and with the MENC because of the background that Catawba gave me to help me stand out from the other applicants. While my music education background was vital to these positions, every other applicant held that same background. It was actually the other opportunities that Catawba presented me with (CMENC, SGA, Alphas, other campus committees, etc...), that made me stand out from them. [And] For this, I am eternally grateful.”

reed.jpgDennis Reed '06
Music Business/Popular Music Graduate

"I was introduced to Catawba and liked what I saw. I was used to personal attention in high school and was concerned about going to a big public institution. I didn't want to be a number."

Dennis Reed's star is rising quickly in the music industry. The ascent of the 2006 graduate and now Catawba College Young Artist in Residence began while Dennis was still a music major in our business/popular music concentration, when he beat out over 1200 other student songwriters to win the 9th Annual BMI John Lennon Songwriting scholarship with his song "Out of Control."

icon_hear.gif"Awesome God" by Dennis Reed '08

Building on this success, Dennis then placed three songs in the finals of the International Songwriting Competition (out of 15,000 entries from around the world!) — an unheard of feat according to ISC officials.denniscover.jpg

Other gospel artists have started to recognize Dennis' songwriting talents too, as evidenced by the inclusion of three of his songs on the latest EMI release by gospel legend Ricky Dillard, 7th Episode.

Dennis' Charlotte-based gospel ensemble, GAP, has also come to enjoy remarkable success in just a short period of time. In recent months they have recorded tracks with both Queen Latifa and soul legend Mavis Staples for an upcoming EMI all-star release and taped a session with the Latin band Son de Cuba for an episode of the forthcoming PBS series Meet Me at the Crossroads. They are also slated to appear with the Charlotte Symphony for that orchestra's 9th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Concert in January 2008.

In 2012, Reed and his troupe, Inspire The Fire (ITF), appeared on America's Got Talent. ITF, founded by Reed, is a non-profit organization that is committed to inspiring positive change in adolescents through faith, fun, and the arts.

DennisReed-TopBillboard.jpgIn 2015, Dennis was awarded the Community Leader of the Year award by the City of Charlotte. The award celebrates the achievements of local artist and business owners in Charlotte, N.C. In addition, Reed was awarded the Rodney Jerkins Community Service Award by BMI's Hope for Harvest Foundation. Reed was also nominated for the NAACP Hometown Hero Award.   

In 2016, Dennis' song "Necessary" from his 2006 album Water Walker from was recorded on Facebook Live by multi-platinum, Grammy-winning, American Idol winner, Fantasia Barrino. As a direct result of the moving rendition by Fantasia and her backup singers, the song from Dennis' album rose to the top of the Gospel Billboard charts and has helped many people triumph over suicide.

Deloris2.jpgLabeling Deloris
Music Business/Popular Music Graduates

The members of the alternative rock band Labeling Deloris have been building a successful career for themselves one important step at a time since Jennifer Reiff and Jason Rigney graduated from Catawba in 2005, taking with them sophomore drummer Andrew Boudouris. The three music business/popular music majors, along with bassist Brad Rigney, spent a year long stint in the Music City (Nashville, TN) before relocating to Wilmington, NC armed with "For the Sake of Deloris," their first release. It was a crucial step. In a few short months, they found themselves in newspapers and magazines as well as on television and winning the top spot for online sales for Aware Records, best known as John Mayer's label.

As a NextMedia favorite, Labeling Deloris has enjoyed Wilmington radio domination on SURF 98.3 as well as Rock 104.5 and Z 107.5. They have found additional radio success in Charlotte, Nashville, New Haven, New York, and Chicago, along with other cities and countless web and satellite stations. Along with the airplay, Labeling Deloris has been named one of the Myspace Top 10 Artists in North Carolina and asked to perform at some of the state's biggest events including Wilmington's Wing Fling, Azalea Festival, and SURF 98.3 Birthday Blowout, among many others.

We'll be sure to keep you updated as Labeling Deloris continues to rise in the music industry.