Success in the spotlight and off the grid

A look at where fine arts students are now

William Kan ’17

The innovative, entrepreneurial Wright brothers —those bike shop owners from Dayton—became the fathers of modern aviation through an incredible amount of hard work and dedication. They traveled the United States to ensure the safety of the aviation breakthroughs they pioneered.

Wright State alumni walk in the footsteps of Wilbur and Orville, together the university’s namesake. Many travel the country, or even the world, during their time at the university and after their graduation. Raiders from every college have continued to explore new horizons.

Many of Wright State’s creative arts graduates have gone on to achieve multiple awards and commendations. Alumni have worked on television shows like Only Murders in the Building, movies like Wakanda Forever, and musicals like Hadestown. Some work in their field; others branch out to new horizons.

Wright State dance graduates are performing in companies and venues locally and around the world, including the Luna Negra Dance Theatre, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, Battleworks, Forces of Nature, Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company, BalletMet, Ballet Noir, Hirabayashi Dance Theatre, and Disney World, as well as on cruise ships, national tours, and Broadway.

Music performance and music education majors often go on to teach music to others at schools or serve as worship leaders in religious settings or as private music instructors. Graduates have also gone on to become college professors in several states.

One of these accomplished alumni is William Kan. Kan graduated from Wright State in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in music performance with a focus in percussion. His achievements began before he graduated. He received multiple scholarships and the Robert Stofer Award, the most prestigious award offered by the former School of Music. The award, voted on by faculty, is given to a junior or senior student displaying excellence in performance abilities, service to the department and the university, and excellence in studies.

Since graduating, Kan has performed with several orchestras around the country, including the Buffalo Philharmonic, Erie Philharmonic, Lansing Symphony, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Terre Haute Symphony, Caramel Symphony, Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory Musicals, Canton Symphony, Cleveland Philharmonic, and Springfield Summer Musicals.

While Kan was a student at Wright State, he performed over 80 times for the Wright State Concerto, Wright State Foundation, school deans, and the university president. Kan also met his wife, Elizabeth, while he was a student.

After graduation, Kan received a graduate teaching assistantship position with the University of Georgia. Midway through his master’s degree program, a friend of Kan’s encouraged him to audition for the Army band.

Fran Kick ’87

After auditioning, Kan was accepted into the Army band and quickly won a position with Pershing’s Own, considered the Army’s premier musical organization.

Kan is now considered a special band musician. These musicians are stationed in Washington, D.C., or West Point and often support high-profile events such as presidential inaugurations, burials at Arlington Cemetery, and arrivals of foreign and domestic dignitaries.

Kan is not the only Wright State fine arts alumnus to travel the country. Fran Kick graduated from Wright State in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts in music education. Kick taught band at Centerville High School before taking a leave of absence to develop a speaking career.

Since 1998, Kick has served as the leadership coordinator for the Music for All Summer Symposium. He also serves as a strategic educational advisor for Music for All throughout the year.

Today, Kick speaks at conventions, colleges, nonprofit organizations, and other groups. He has worked with over 1,000 domestic and international organizations, schools, summer camps, and companies—including Procter & Gamble, the U.S. Army, and the Ohio Department of Education.

Many Wright State alumni have gone on to Broadway—some as dancers, others as directors. Dionysia Williams has run in multiple Broadway circles. She is a director, choreographer, actor, and dance instructor.

After graduating from Wright State in 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre, Williams traveled across the United States and internationally in Broadway musicals like Grease, Fame, Cats, West Side Story, Anything Goes, and The Pajama Game. She also has performed regionally in Saturday Night Fever, Pippin, The Performers, Spamalot, A Chorus Line, Fugitive Songs, Marvelous Wonderettes, and Forbidden Broadway, Vol. 1.

Dionysia Williams ’06 (Photo Credit: Jennifer Zmuda)

Williams, like many of her compatriots in the fine arts, strives to teach others her craft. She teaches jazz, tap, and musical theater styles of dancing. Currently, she teaches at the BalletMet Dance Academy in Columbus, Ohio. She has also served as a director and choreographer at Wright State, the Human Race Theater Company, the Short North Stage, the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre, the Contemporary Theatre of Ohio, and the Columbus Children’s Theatre.

Tilly Evans-Kruger, originally from Wisconsin, graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance in 2014. After her graduation, Evans-Kruger went on to continue her dance education at the Neighborhood Playhouse in Manhattan, a highly respected acting school. The school was described as the most respected acting school in the country by the Cambridge University Press. Evans-Kruger has been trained for performance on camera at the Kimball studio, also in Manhattan.

Throughout her career, Evans-Kruger has performed with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, the Spectrum Dance Theater in Seattle, and BODYTRAFFIC Contemporary Dance Company in Los Angeles. She has worked with Texas-based choreographer, director, and educator Peter Chu, New York City-based Tony Award-winning choreographer and director Sonya Tayeh, and Camille A. Brown, a choreographer and dancer who encourages her company to focus on an introspective approach to cultural themes of race.

Tilly Evans-Kruger (Photo Credit: Ab Sesay)

While many alumni thrive in the spotlight, at least one other avoids it and shows others how to do the same. Ian Macaulay, a 2006 Wright State fine arts graduate, and his wife, Ana Gaspar, teach people to live off the grid from their home in Costa Rica.

Featured in publications like the New York Times, Vice, Whetstone, and Heraldo De Aragon, Macaulay and his wife teach others to live sustainably. They educate the public on how to begin growing their own food in a sustainable, eco-friendly fashion.

Two years after he graduated, Macaulay and Gaspar bought an abandoned cattle farm. They began their work to rejuvenate the area for growing food and living sustainably.

Macaulay and Gaspar have been teaching courses from their home for over 10 years. These courses encourage participants from around the world to homestead. Mornings are dedicated to how-to lessons like preparing vegetable beds and compost, managing soil pH and fertility, and planting sustainable staple crops. They also educate their students on waste management, home design, and maintaining their growing crops in a cost-efficient, off-grid lifestyle.

In the afternoons, Macaulay and Gaspar offer lectures on a variety of topics, such as applying permanent changes to culture on a world scale, how to make a profit on living off the land, and comparing and contrasting the best practices for living off the land in various climates. Living off the grid in Costa Rica and living off the land in Dayton are very different.

Ian Macaulay ’06

Wright State graduates have gone on to thrive and create a better world in so many ways. Fine and performing arts graduates have taken to the stage, gone behind the scenes, and gone to new horizons to create incredible art on the stage, on our walls, and in our ears.

Every one of the university’s colleges has its success stories, but Wright State’s fine and performing arts students bring success to the spotlight—or off the grid.

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This article was originally published in the fall 2023 issue of the Wright State Magazine. Read more stories at

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