7 SUU Alumni to Add to Your Playlist

Posted: July 28, 2023 | Author: Abbie Cochrane | Read Time: 6 minutes

Since its founding, Southern Utah University has sent many skilled alumni into the world. From politicians, athletes and businesspeople, to musicians and performers, every SUU alumni soars in their respective fields. 

Many SUU alumni have been able to release their music to a well-receiving audience, some of which resulting in nominations or awards. Others have gone on to careers on Broadway or on national tours. Regardless of where their paths have taken them, their musical talent is undeniable. 

Here are seven musical SUU alumni you should add to your playlist. 

Chris Petersen: Class of 2009

Hailing from Cedar City, Utah, Chris Petersen graduated with a degree in Management and is now a country musician known for his unique and heartfelt authenticity both in his music and his love of the country lifestyle. He started a company Diehard Cowboy, which allowed him to share his love of country life and music. 

Backed by a loyal fan base and a strong work ethic, Petersen was featured on Season 15 of "America's Got Talent" with his dog Syd, and was praised by Simon Cowell as "brilliant." Since his time on America's Got Talent, Petersen has continued to make music loved by thousands, with his album Cowboy Coming Home reaching the top ten of all genres on the Billboard Mountain Region Heatseekers Chart. He also won Country Battle USA, a national competition that earned him a $15,000 prize. 

A clip of his latest song, "Horse People," amassed two million views in a week on social media. Although he has played all across the country, Petersen calls Kanarraville, Utah home (as of 2022) and considers himself a family man and enjoys spending time with his wife, together bringing country music to loyal fans and communities. 

Keala Settle: Class of 2016

Tony-nominated Broadway actor and singer Keala Settle is most familiar with audiences as bearded lady Lettie Lutz in P.T. Barnum's musical biography, The Greatest Showman, which premiered in 2017. 

Born in Laie, Oahu, Hawaii, Settle received her education in Hawaii until she came to SUU and got a degree in Theater Arts. Following graduation, her career took off with a chance to be a backup singer for R&B/ Soul legend, Gladys Knight. Between her roles in the touring companies of Hairspray and South Pacific, Settle worked behind the scenes in the theater world during the 2000s. In 2011, Settle would make her Broadway debut as Shirley in the musical adaptation of the 1994 movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, of which her powerhouse voice is on the original Broadway cast recording. She later originated the role of Norma Valverde in the musical Hands on a Hardbody, which earned her nominations for a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle award, and the Tony for "Best Featured Actress in a Musical." A year later, she joined the revival cast of longtime Broadway favorite, Les Misérables as Madame Thenadier. 

During The Greatest Showman fever of 2017, the song "This Is Me" (in which Settle sings the lead) was nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Original Song," was included in the Billboard 200's top soundtrack, and was used as an anthem for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Settle went on to release her first extended play, "Chapter One", which landed promptly on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart, with the following installment, "Chapter Two," being released a few months later. 

Marie A. Douglas: Class of 2018

Marie A. Douglas' music centers around vocal arrangement, interesting rhythms and textures inspired by modern African American and minority composers. In addition to arranging preexisting works, Douglas is also known for her original compositions. She recently received a GRAMMY nomination for her arrangement on musician Sean Ardoin's album Full Circle, which features the Louisiana State Marching Band. 

As a composer and arranger, Douglas received her undergraduate degree from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in music with a French horn emphasis. She later earned a graduate degree in music technology and performance from SUU. She is currently a student at the University of Memphis pursuing a doctorate degree. 

Alongside her performance history, Douglas serves as chief arranger for high school band programs across the southeastern United States, and as of 2022, she was the director of bands and music technology at Tucker High School in Georgia, where she is originally from. 

Ted Kocher: Class of 2018

Along with being a two-time GRAMMY nominee for his work in music composition and audio production for video games–most recently for his work on Call of Duty: Vanguard. Kocher is now an adjunct faculty member in the music technology program. 

Following earning his Master's in Music Technology, Kocher worked with Sony Interactive Entertainment, the parent of Playstation, for the last 14 years. He has helped produce music for Call of Duty: Vanguard, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, "Ghost of Tsushima, Journey, and Uncharted 4. He also composed the music for Playstation original games such as Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Uncharted 4

Kocher's first GRAMMY nomination was for Journey in 2012, which was the first nomination for the video game world. Kocher has also received several Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel awards, BAFTA nominations, and multiple TEC and GANG awards. He earned his bachelor's degree in music performance from Duquesne University and his master's from SUU in music technology. 

Antwan Marshal: Class of 2016 

Class of 2016 alumnus Antwan Marshal currently works as a rap artist and has toured with names such as Audio Push, Jay Breezy, Crooked I, and many more. His favorite part of the job is interacting with the crowds and seeing how music can bring people from all sorts of backgrounds together.  

Marshal originally attended SUU for the many academic opportunities, as well as the chance to play Thunderbird football. His motto is "football doesn't last forever, but a degree does." 

Janese Pentico: Class of 2015

Before she attended SUU, Pentico wanted to be a music teacher, but through her studies and encouragement from professors, she began to lean more heavily towards a career in vocal performance–specifically opera. 

Following her graduation with a degree in Music Education, she accepted a job as a music teacher at Milford High School, yet she missed having opportunities to perform and share her natural talents with an audience. After putting herself back into the performing arts world, she was quickly selected to sing with Franco American Vocal Academy in Périgueux, France. Since then, she has continued her education by pursuing a master's degree at North Park University in Chicago focusing on vocal performance. Several of her performances are available online.

Chris Vrenna: Class of 2020

In 1995, Chris Vrenna won the GRAMMY for "Best Metal Performance" as a member of Nine Inch Nails. He was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Nine Inch Nails in 2020. Vrenna was a drummer for Gnarls Barkley and went on to be the drummer/ keyboardist/ producer for Marilyn Manson, and worked with U2, Rob Zombie, Green Day, Slipknot, David Bowie, Metallica, and many other artists in the rock community. Additionally, he released several solo albums under the stage name Tweaker. 

His music experience led him to working on the soundtracks for several video games, including American McGee's Alice, Doom 3, Quake 4, Call of Duty: ExoZombies, and Quake Champions. He also worked on several films and a television series, and is now the head of the Music Technology program at Calhoun Community College in Alabama. 

Having earned his bachelor's degree from Kent State University in Ohio, Vrenna attended SUU to earn his Master's in Music Technology with an emphasis in music production. 

These are only some of the many success stories that SUU has to tell of astonishing alumni out in the world making a difference and leaving their mark on the world. Learn more about SUU Alumni and see where graduated T-Birds are soaring!

Tags: Music Education CurStu Music Technology FacStaff

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