Undergraduate Music Majors Receive 2024 Thesis Awards



Every year, the Music Department graduates a number of promising and accomplished music majors from the College. We are very excited to celebrate the achievements of Aaron Huang, who received the Leonard B. Meyer Prize for Musical Excellence, as well as Althea Li and Adrian Lo, who received the Olga and Paul Menn Prize for Composition. We are also pleased to celebrate the achievements of two of this year's graduates who graduated with Special Honors in Music: Michael McClure and Cory Turnbaugh.

Aaron Huang, Leonard B. Meyer Prize for Musical Excellence

Aaron Huang headshot


My thesis project involves translating the Preface, Introduction, and selected excerpts from the Editorial Guides to Wang Zhengxiang’s Newly Collated Formulary of Kunqu Style Arias Arranged in Twelve Tones 新定十二律昆腔譜 (1685). This work includes a critical introduction, annotations, and an addendum. The primary goal is to introduce anglophone music theorists to both classical and vernacular music theory from late imperial China. Wang Zhengxiang's elaborate and theoretically-minded paratexts for the aria template manual serve as an ideal subject for this purpose, as his work aimed to radically subsume operatic singing—a vernacular musical practice—into the Chinese classical music theory traditionally used in rituals and sacrifices for the first time in late imperial China.  

Aria template manual is a genre of reference book for playwrights of Chinese Opera. These books classify qupai (tune titles) into their proper modes and dictate their proper prosodic forms (i.e. templates) using exemplar arias. The addendum and annotations offer foundational theoretical tools that enable readers to understand not only this text but also other theoretical writings on music from late imperial China.  

The critical introduction sketches out the life and work of the mysterious opera aficionado Wang Zhengxiang via a review of existing scholarship and situates the text at hand in its historical moment by identifying its theoretical interlocutors and legacy. It outlines the major trends in the creation of these manuals, tracing their evolution from the concise tune title lists of the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) to the elaborate manuals endorsed by the Qing court (1644–1911), while highlighting the tension between the literary tradition of poets writing songs and the oral tradition of performers vocalizing them. 

About Aaron Huang:

Aaron Huang recently earned his Bachelor of Arts honors degree in both Music and East Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago, graduating summa cum laude. His Music BA thesis, “The Preface, Introduction, and Excerpts of the Editorial Guides to Wang Zhengxiang’s Newly Collated Formulary of Kunqu Style Arias Arranged in Twelve Tones: A Translation with Critical Introduction, Annotations, and Addendum,” received the Leonard B. Meyer Prize for best undergraduate thesis in the music department this year. His EALC BA thesis, “The Making of Courtly Opera: Vernacular Music Reforms in the Qianlong Court, 1736-1746,” was awarded the 2024 Asada Eiji B.A. Thesis Prize sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago. After graduation, Aaron will be attending the University of Hamburg to study for a Master of Arts degree in Indology and Tibetology. He plans to pursue a PhD in music after completing this two-year program. Additionally, he is one of the founders of the University of Chicago Chinese Opera Society. 

Althea Li and Adrian Lo, Olga and Paul Menn Prize for Composition

Althea Li headshot


Strings Attached, an original musical with book and lyrics by Jefferson Lind and music by Althea Li and Adrian Lo, is an exploration of dramatic spectacle through comedy and music. Consisting of 18 musical numbers, the production follows the life of a puppet and his search for identity amidst the craziness of 2012. Li and Lo collaborated to write and orchestrate music for the show, aiming to explore character themes and scene building through song. Composed in its entirety from the winter of 2023 to the spring of 2024, the project culminated in a weekend of successful performances at the Logan Center in spring. Click here for a video of the performance, courtesy of Andrei Thüler.

About Althea Li:

Althea Li (she/her) is a composer, director, performer, and recent graduate of The College (B.A. Music with Honors, B.A. Statistics). With a background in classical instrumental studies and a passion for musical theatre, she co-composed an original musical titled Strings Attached, which she submitted as her B.A. Thesis under the guidance of David Bird. In the Fall, Althea will attend the Chicago Booth School of Business to pursue a Masters in Management, as she intends to work in Music Business and Administration.  

Adrian Lo headshot

About Adrian Lo:

Adrian Lo (he/him) is a recent graduate of The College (B.A. Music with Honors, B.A. Computer Science). With a background in playing piano and transcribing music as a hobby, he co-composed the score to Strings Attached and submitted his work as his B.A. Thesis with the help of Professor Sean Shepherd. He is immensely grateful to have been able to work on Strings Attached this past year.