Music Alumni

Our music alumni have gone on to many diverse careers: professional musicians, music teachers, television and radio announcers, piano tuners, attorneys, physicians, and administrators--just to name a few! Please read on for some of our success stories.

Melinda Cestaro (2012)

I could not be happier with the experience I had in the Music Department at UAlbany. I felt so at home right from the beginning. Because it was such a small department, I was afforded tons of opportunities, which helped me grow both as a musician and as a person. Everyone in the department knew one another, and it was obvious that each professor truly cared about the success of each student. I loved being a member of the Chamber Singers, and I learned a lot about teaching through my experience as a music theory tutor. As a pianist, I was able to accompany vocalists, participate in chamber ensembles, perform with the orchestra, and give multiple solo recitals. These opportunities not only helped me get accepted to graduate school in music, but also prepared me with solid experience for a career in music. The Music Department at UAlbany is a hidden gem which anyone interested in should surely take advantage of.

Alexa Derkasch (2012)

A graduate of the class of 2012, the memories I have as a student at SUNY Albany are far from turning stale, and I hope they will remain so for many years to come. Although my time on campus will forever feel short-lived, I thoroughly used that time to my advantage and explored a plethora of academic realms and student organizations; which gives me the confidence to say, “I have no regrets!” During the first two years, I geared my life in the direction of medicine with hope that I would one day achieve the title of “Dr.” to accompany my last name. However, what I didn’t realize was that I actually had a stronger interest in law and would experience the loudest epiphany during the course of my junior year. While working towards a B.S. in biology, I also studied a dual minor in both English and music, which in their own right prepared me for the excessive weight and importance of reading, writing, and analytical thinking that is now handed to me on a regular basis in law school. Furthermore, I became involved in a steady love triangle between science, song, and stories that inevitably built up an extreme passion to combine all of these features into a promising legal career in patent and intellectual property law. Of course, now that I am a first year law student at the University of New Hampshire, formerly Franklin Pierce, I’ve come to realize that I may have other legal fields in mind. I am definitely no stranger when it comes to change so I embrace the idea of choosing a path where you can leave a legacy of happy footprints. Aside from school, I am currently volunteering at the Merrimack County Juvenile Diversion office where I provide mentoring to adolescent offenders and help redirect them towards making good choices and becoming a contributing member of society.  Above all, the Music Department was my breath of fresh air, and sometimes my only sanity amongst the stress of college. I learned from invaluable professors, relived my high school years by playing my viola in the University Symphony Orchestra, and felt I could express more colors of myself than any other department combined. For that, I am so grateful. Thank you for the memories!

Melanie Shank (2012)

Having transferred to UAlbany after a semester at a premiere music conservatory, I can say that the UAlbany Music Department offered me more opportunities than I would have received in the conservatory setting. I was the featured soloist with a live orchestra and University Chorale several times, and I was involved in recitals with singers in the community as well as at UAlbany. The program is really student centered, and if there is something you want to explore, the faculty will make sure you have that chance; the Bach to Broadway concert for voice majors is a nice example of this because most programs don't allow classically-trained singers to perform musical theatre pieces. The electives offered were also impressive, and I was so excited to find courses in Arts Management, Film Sound and Music, Survey of Opera, and more. I graduated in four years with a double major in voice performance and psychology and a minor in business, and I know I could not have done that, and explored all my interests, without the support, flexibility, and quality of the UAlbany Music Department.

Rebecca Angel Maxwell (2007)

I graduated in 2007 with a B.A. in Music and English. I am currently a creative arts teacher with my own company. The Music Department at SUNY was just the place for me to explore my creativity and expand my knowledge. Although music theory was the bane of my existence during classes, it is now a language I use on a daily basis as a composer and teacher.  Conducting class gave me skills I use continually with my choirs today. Music history was the first time I understood the timeline of all history and inspired me to start successful camps for children that teach history through creative arts. Electronic music was an ear-opener to the world around me, and the lessons in that class I share with every student I meet. And the discussions from a history of songwriters class still spur me on my own journey as a composer and performer.

To check out my current world of music and teaching:

George Seror III (2007)

I graduated with honors from the University at Albany in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Psychology. I received a Master of Arts in Psychology in 2011. I am currently completing a Ph.D. in Cognitive Developmental Psychology. My research focuses on music cognition, memory, and attention. I work as an adjunct lecturer in the Psychology Department and artist-in-residence (classical guitar performance) in the Music Department at the University at Albany.     

I learned a tremendous amount about the role of music in culture during my time as an undergraduate. In addition, I was challenged to observe and appreciate the sounds of the natural and man-made environments from an artistic perspective, and to vividly describe sound. This gave me an appreciation for post-industrial revolution composers that were experimenting with sounds and technology that did not previously exist. Finally, I developed an appreciation for the language of music, from the sounds of nature to Western music theory. I feel that my experience in the Music Department at the University at Albany broadened my cultural and historical understanding of music as an art form.

Michael Vitalino (2006)

I received a B.A. (2006) in Psychology and Music with a concentration in Conducting from SUNY Albany. I studied under the guidance of David Janower and directed the SUNY Albany Concert Band and Chamber Choir. I also held a post as Orchestra Director for the Albany Academy in addition to numerous other engagements as a guest conductor. After graduating from SUNY Albany, I earned a M.M. (2008) in Music Theory from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Over the years, I have studied theory with several scholars including Gary Karpinski, Brent Auerbach, and Alexandra Vojcic. While working towards my degree at UMass-Amherst, I served as a TA for courses in counterpoint and undergraduate theory under the mentorship of Richard Randall.

Beginning my studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara in 2008, I am working towards a Ph.D. in Music Theory with an emphasis in Tonal Analysis. My research interests include Schenkerian analysis, music cognition, music-theory pedagogy, and the history of music theory. Recently, I completed a masters thesis “Franz Liszt’s Settings of ‘Was Liebe sei?:’ A Schenkerian Perspective” and look forward to continuing my research on Liszt’s music.

John Rice (2003)

I graduated in 2003 with a B.A. in Music Technology, with a concentration in Electronic Music. I enjoyed my learning experience at SUNY Albany—from theory, composition, and history courses, to participating in both the University Chorale and Symphony Orchestra. But it was while studying with Bob Gluck in the Electronic Music Studio, that my ears were opened to exciting and new sonic possibilities.

In 2004, on upright bass--and with thanks to musician/inventors Ben Vigoda and David Merrill--I took part in the first Experimental Musical Instrument Workshop at MIT (EMI@MIT), an improvisatory workshop guided by artist-in-residence, John Zorn. The group later performed in Boston at ART RAGES at Mobius Gallery (2005) and SIGGRAPH 2006. Also during that time, I performed with the gypsy-jazz jug band, The Mustn’t Grumble, and the alt-country band, Iowa 80 formed by former Ominous Seapods guitarist, Dana Monteith. 

More recently, I have been recording and performing with my own bands, The Red Haired Strangers (country-blues) and Lüt (alt-rock), and also with regional acts such as The Blackwell Sinners, King Vidor, and MR Poulopoulos.

I am currently employed as an AV Technician at a local college, but continue to engineer, mix, and master various musical projects.

Jonathan Hansen (2000)

I attended SUNY Albany from 1996-2000 and graduated with a B.A. in Music Theory. I loved my experience in the Music Department. I was a co-founder of the Earth Tones and was a recipient of the President's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research for several choral pieces I composed during my Junior and Senior years. 

I attended Albany Law School from 2004-2007 and am currently an Associate Attorney with the law firm of Carter, Conboy, Case, Blackmore, Maloney & Laird, P.C. in Albany, doing litigation.  The firm's web site is

Anne Shonbrun (1992)

I graduated from SUNY Albany in 1992. As a transfer student from Brooklyn College, I immediately felt at home and fell in love with the small and active Music Department. I sang with the Chamber Singers and traveled with them to the Former Soviet Union and the Czech Republic. That trip was one of the highlights of my experience at SUNY Albany.

I went on to complete a Master of Arts degree in Counselor Education at NYU and am currently the College Registrar at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

But to keep my vocal chops healthy, I perform the duties of a Cantor (song leader) for a secular Jewish congregation in New York City called The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism and recently produced my first CD of Jewish secular music.

Steve Schwartz (1987)

A lot of my musical development and interests were sparked by a few of my professors (Max Lifchitz, Findlay Cockrell, and Leonard Kastle) as well as several students/roommates/classmates/record store owners that I met during my four years at Albany. I took several music courses between my Junior and Senior years. But, not enough to qualify for a major or minor. However, my post-college life has been devoted to music. I started working in a music store in 1988. In 1996, I opened up my own shop. I'm a full-line music store, but I specialize in guitar related products like stomp boxes and pickups:

Most recently, the band I am in released a CD. It's all original jazz fusion, very reminiscent of the 1970s fusion like The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Billy Cobham's Spectrum album:

Martha Mooke (1985)
"I had a terrific college experience at SUNYA."

"Martha Mooke is a pioneer in the field of the electric five string viola/violin. She has developed a unique musical voice by synthesizing her classical music training with extended techniques, digital effects processing and improvisation, while retaining the depth and soul of the instrument. A Yamaha Performing Artist, she is a leading clinician on electric strings and alternative approaches to playing including the use of electronics, extended techniques and improvisation.  

She has received awards from ASCAP, Meet the Composer and Arts International among others. Besides her catalog of works for solo and ensemble electric strings, she has composed music for theater and ballet and served as Music Director for national and international events. Ms. Mooke’s diverse schedule includes touring, clinics and lecture demonstrations. She has toured internationally as a member of Barbra Streisand's acclaimed orchestra during the North American 2006 and European 2007 tours, with Peter Gabriel on his 'New Blood Tour 2010' and traveled throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico with 'Star Wars In Concert'. Ms. Mooke's genre-defying recordings, Enharmonic Vision, her solo debut CD, and Cafe Mars with guitarist Randolph Hudson, III, as the duo 'Bowing', have attracted wide critical acclaim. 

Since 2001, Ms. Mooke and her avant-garde string quartet, the Scorchio Quartet have performed at the Tibet House Benefit Concerts at Carnegie Hall with David Bowie, Philip Glass, Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, David Byrne, Iggy Pop, Regina Spektor, Moby, Lou Reed, Trey Anastasio, Ziggy Marley, Rufus Wainwright, and the Kronos Quartet. Scorchio appears on David Bowie's 2002 release Heathen. Ms. Mooke played in the U.S. premiere of Paul McCartney's 'Standing Stone' at Carnegie Hall and on numerous film scores by Philip Glass. She has also performed with Bon Jovi on 'MTV Unplugged', played with Enya, Andrea Bocelli, Luciano Pavarotti, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Chocolate Genius, Al DiMeola, John Cale, Anthony Braxton, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, among others. She  has appeared on Regis Live!, the David Letterman, The View, Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Rosie O'Donnell shows.  

Ms. Mooke received an ASCAP 2001 Concert Music Award for creating and producing ASCAP's new music showcase THRU THE WALLS featuring composer/performers whose work defies categorization."  

Please visit for more information.

Robert Gluck (1977)

I am a pianist, composer, educator, and historical writer. I am currently Associate Professor and Director of the Electronic Music Studio at my alma mater, UAlbany, where I studied with Joel Chadabe and Philip Royster. My work spans jazz, electroacoustic music, and much in between ( Current projects include the Bob Gluck Trio with Michael Bisio (bass) and Dean Sharp (drums), a second trio with Joe Giardullo (soprano sax) and Christopher Dean Sullivan (bass), and solo performances for piano and electronics. My current writing projects are about Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi Band (early 1970s) and Mort Subotnick and the founding of the Electric Circus. The most recent of my four CDs is Bob Gluck Trio's premiere recording Sideways (FMR 2008), described by Cadence magazine as "a potent first document of this expansive trio,” will be followed in 2010 with the release of two additional trio recordings on FMR and a performance of Neil Rolnick's Faith for piano and computer (2009), on Innova.

Warren Burt (1971)

I graduated from UAlbany Music in 1971 and then did my Masters at the University of California, San Diego, graduating in 1975. After that I moved to Australia, where I've mostly lived ever since. In 1975, I was involved in setting up the Music Department at La Trobe University in Melbourne. In 1981, I went freelance and was a freelance composer of experimental music for most of the next two decades. I taught at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign in 2001 and 2002, and since 2004 have lived in Wollongong, NSW. I am currently an Australian Research Council PostDoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong. I have performed my music for instruments, electronics, video, words, etc. in the USA, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. I have built a number of acoustic and electronic musical instruments over the years and have also participated in the design of commercial music software. I have a number of recordings out on the XI, Pogus, Tall Poppies, New Albion, Sonic Gallery, and Move labels. I vividly remember my time at UAlbany, which gave me a solid foundation for the musical explorations I've been involved with ever since. More information about me and my work can be found at

Attention alumni: Please keep us updated on your career! To have your name added to this page, please e-mail us a brief paragraph about what you are doing now (even if it isn’t music-related), any comments about your memories as a student here, and your graduation year. Also, if you have a web site of your own that you would like featured, please provide us with the link. Thank you.