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EXCEL Leadership

Mark Clague, Director

Mark Clague serves as Director of Entrepreneurship and Career Services and Associate Professor of Musicology in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance at the University of Michigan, where he also holds appointments in American Culture, AfroAmerican and African Studies, Non-Profit Management, and Entrepreneurship. He serves as Co-Director of the University’s American Music Institute and Director of the Gershwin Initiative as well as Editor-in-Chief of the George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and a certificate in MBA Essentials and Entrepreneurship from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Mark is an active faculty entrepreneur who helped spark a nationwide celebration of the bicentennial of the U.S. national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," in Fall 2014. He used crowd funding to release a 2-disc commemorative recording featured in The New York Times. He founded and serves as board president of the 501(c)(3) non-profit Star Spangled Music Foundation and has partnered with institutions including the Library of Congress, the Maryland Historical Society, the Los Angeles Grammy Museum, and the New York Philharmonic.

Mark is also founding faculty advisor to the student organization Arts Enterprise @ UMichigan and a board member of Arts Enterprise National. Mark is similarly on the board of the University Musical Society, where he also serves as committee chair of Education and Community Engagement. He is past-president of Great Lakes Performing Artists Associates, a non-profit arts management agency.

Jonathan Kuuskoski, Assistant Director

Jonathan Kuuskoski joined the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance in Fall 2015 as Assistant Director of Entrepreneurship and Career Services, where he is responsible for co-developing and implementing the new EXCEL Program. From 2012-15 he served as Director of Entrepreneurship and Community Programs at the University of Missouri School of Music. While there he designed and implemented all aspects of their new Music Entrepreneurship program, including Undergraduate and Graduate Music Entrepreneurship Certificates. He also re-designed and directed Community Music @ Mizzou, an umbrella initiative overseeing multiple educational and performance programs that employ 60 students while reaching 2,500 community members. A frequent presenter of entrepreneurship workshops at national conferences and other universities, he also serves on the faculty for the UMass-Amherst Arts Extension Service, where he designed and teaches their online arts entrepreneurship course for theatre, dance, music, and visual artists.

A passionate supporter of new music, he is currently a member of the New Muse Piano Duo (with pianist Paola Savvidou), an ensemble dedicated to commissioning and performing works by living composers for piano four-hands and two pianos. Kuuskoski holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (MM Piano Performance and Pedagogy) and UNC-Greensboro (MBA and BA Music with Honors).


Caitlin Taylor, Career Services Coordinator

Caitlin Taylor is proud to join the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Taylor previously worked for ArtOps, a shared-service non-profit specializing in arts and culture. Taylor’s role focused on operations, marketing and education outreach. She was able to work with many of the leading arts organizations in metro Detroit, including Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings and Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival. She supervised over 100 concerts and coordinated several educational programs. Taylor also served as co-director of ArtOps Intern Program, managing multiple interns and organizing the annual Intern Summit. She attended the University of Michigan and holds a Bachelor of Musical Arts in Viola Performance.

Melissa Coppola, Program Assistant

Melissa Coppola is a founding member and executive director of Girls Rock Detroit, a nonprofit organization that provides programming for girls to empower them through music performance and creative expression. Melissa's work with GRD has been featured in Michigan Muse, Made at Michigan as well as Stateside on Michigan Radio and Detroit local television. In addition to her work in arts leadership, Melissa is a teacher and versatile musician; she enjoys a varied career in multiple genres, fufilling many different roles as a performing and recording artist. For the past three years, she has been performing as a collaborative pianist at SMTD and Eastern Michigan University, playing over 50 public performances with students and professors. In the local rock sphere, she plays drums and sings lead in the rock duo JUNGLFOWL, being featured in music festivals such as Dally in the Alley, Fuzz Fest, Mittenfest and Metro Times Blowout.

Melissa is currently a DMA pre-candidate in Piano Pedagogy and Performance at SMTD. Melissa holds a Bachelor's degree from Mahattan School of Music and a Master's degree in Piano Performance from the University of Michigan.


EXCEL Ambassadors

New for 2016-17, EXCEL Ambassadors connect their peers to the EXCEL Program, bringing new students to events and workshops in an effort to expand the reach of the program. They are champions of the EXCEL Program within SMTD, and promote EXCEL within their peer groups throughout the school.

Ambassadors engage in grassroots marketing efforts on behalf of EXCEL and work in-depth with EXCEL staff at bi-weekly meetings. Student Ambassadors attend at least 10 EXCEL events in 2016-17 and bring at least 10 new students to EXCEL events. Ambassadors also work to collect feedback about EXCEL, speaking to all members of the SMTD community about the impact of the EXCEL Program. Finally, Ambassadors help with the event planning and logistics of the annual EXCEL Expo on Saturday, February 18, 2017.

Students selected as Ambassadors receive a number of VIP benefits, including:

  • Special meet-and-greets with EXCEL guests and behind-the-scenes access to EXCEL talks.
  • Awards of up to $1,000 in project funding for the 2016-17 school year. (additional funding available.)
  • Promotion assistance for EXCEL-funded projects, in addition to marketing coaching.
  • Individualized mentorship from the EXCEL staff.

We're announcing the 2017-18 cohort of Ambassadors in the coming weeks - stay tuned!

For more information about the Ambassadors program, contact


Dean's Liaisons

The Dean's Liaison program is a highly selective mentoring experience for undergraduate and graduate students. Nominated by SMTD faculty each winter, selected students work with the Dean or a senior administrative officer within the School of Music, Theatre & Dance on special projects and programs. These may include community engagement, research, inclusion, career services, general administrative functions, or other areas. Liaisons receive paid work experience and access to the Dean for a one-on-one mentoring session.

Congratulations, 2017-18 Dean's Liaisons:

  • Elyakeem Avraham
  • David Belkovski
  • Nathan Bieber
  • Annie Jeng
  • Harrison Lourim
  • Zachary Siegel
  • Diane Yang

This program is supervised by senior administrative staff in coordination with EXCEL. For more information about the Dean's Liaisons Program, contact











Mark Clague






Jonathan Kuuskoski




Headshot of EXCEL staff member Caitlin Taylor




Melissa Coppola on the cover of Made at Michigan, holding a keytar




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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower