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April 05, 2016

Commencement speakers announced

Two alumni—an award-winning theater and festival producer and the “voice” of the Metropolitan Opera—will address the Class of 2016 at commencement ceremonies in May.

Erica Fee
Erica Fee

Erica Fee ’99, founding producer and board president of the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival, will deliver the 166th Arts, Sciences & Engineering commencement address on Sunday, May 15. Mary Jo Heath ’88E (PhD), Metropolitan Opera radio host, will present the commencement address to Eastman School of Music students on May 15.

Under Fee’s stewardship since 2009, the Fringe Festival has blossomed into one of the most attended Fringe festivals in the United States.

In 2015, the festival drew more than 63,000 visitors, included more than 500 performances by local and world-renowned performing arts groups, and took place in more than 25 Rochester venues, including Kilbourn Hall and Sproull Atrium at Eastman.

Before the Fringe, Fee—who is a Rochester native and a classically trained actress—lived in the United Kingdom for a decade and ran her own London-based theatrical production and general management company, which focused on new work and major revivals.

At Rochester, Fee was a Xerox Scholar, was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated magna cum laude with a BA in political science and American history and a minor in theater. She was a Take Five Scholar, with her Take Five year centered on film, theater, and anthropology. Following graduation, Fee received classical acting training from the Arts Educational Schools London, from which she holds a master’s degree.

Mary Jo Heath
Mary Jo Heath

Heath, a Met senior producer for nine seasons, was named Metropolitan Opera radio host last September. She started at the Met just as it was launching Metropolitan Opera Radio on Sirius XM satellite radio. As senior producer, she put together the expanded coverage, including backstage interviews and commentary.

Heath’s first experience in radio was at WXXI, the public radio station in Rochester. Responding to a call for Eastman students to become classical music announcers, she passed her audition and took the Saturday afternoon shift.

After graduating from Eastman, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a part-time announcer at radio station WQXR and edited classical recordings for a freelance producer.

In 1989, she joined the Philips Classics record label as their product/marketing manager for the American Market. Two years later she took a job at the label’s headquarters in Holland. She was product manager for all new releases—managing the entire process from the recording sessions to getting a CD ready for distribution in stores—before moving into marketing and new-business development.

After that, Heath pursued freelance work as music critic for a local paper, did music research for sopranos Renée Fleming ’83E (MM) and Barbara Bonney, and returned to WQXR and did radio work at WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

More information about commencement ceremonies and activities is available at Rochester.edu/commencement.

The Arts, Sciences & Engineering ceremony will be streamed live.

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