Professor Receives Lifetime Achievement Award, Alum Named Director of Woodland Opera House

Faculty and Alum in the Arts

A man and a woman sitting in rows of folding seats
Tom Burmester (left) is the new director of Woodland Opera House, replacing Angela Baltezore (right).

Jessie Ann Owens Honored as Lifetime Achiever in Renaissance Studies

The Renaissance Society of America, devoted to the critical study of the world from 1300 to 1700 and its importance today, has named UC Davis’ Jessie Ann Owens, distinguished professor emerita of music, the recipient of its lifetime achievement award for 2022-23.

Headshot of a woman smiling at the camera
Jessie Ann Owens.

The award, named after Paul Oskar Kristeller (1905-99), a leading authority on Renaissance philosophy, and a founding member and former president of the society, honors “a lifetime of uncompromising devotion to the highest standard of scholarship accompanied by exceptional achievement in Renaissance studies.”

Owens, as part of her studies of compositional process in Renaissance music, authored the award-winning Composers at Work: The Craft of Musical Composition 1450-1600 (Oxford University Press, 1997), the first systematic investigation of autograph composing manuscripts from before 1600. 

She joined UC Davis as dean of the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies in the College of Letters and Science in 2006 and served in that position until stepping down in 2014. During her time as dean, the division secured major funding from the Mellon Foundation and built the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art and the Ann E. Pitzer Center for Music. 

Owens is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an honorary member of the American Musicological Society, as well as a former president of both the American Musicological Society and the Renaissance Society of America.

Read more about Owens’ career and scholarship in this article by Phil Daley on the Department of Music website.

UC Davis Alum named new executive director at The Woodland Opera House

After an extensive nationwide search process, The Woodland Opera House Board of Trustees is pleased to announce Tom Burmester as the new executive director. Burmester replaces current Executive DirectorAngela Baltezore who plans to retire at the end of June. 

Woodland Opera House Board of Trustees President, Lou Anderson said, “We are very excited to have Tom join our WOH family. Filling the many roles and responsibilities, as Angela has done so well for the past nine years, will not be easy. But we know Tom is well experienced and up to the challenge of continuing the WOH legacy of presenting excellent theatre productions and outstanding education programs, especially for youth, to our community.” 

Tom Burmester’s background as a producer, theatre-maker, and educator, in both northern and southern California, will help to further the mission of the organization that is an historical landmark in Yolo County, and home to an active theatre, and theatre education program. 

Burmester will begin work at the WOH in May and assume the executive director role in July, managing all day-to-day operations for the nonprofit. 

His substantial experience in working with a variety of theatrical venues and programs has well prepared him to take on the Executive Director position. In Los Angeles, as Audience Experience Designer for Center Theatre Group, he created engaging participatory experiences for audiences at the Ahmanson, Mark Taper Forum, and Kirk Douglas Theatre. He was the founding Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble (LATE), where he produced and directed over 30 new plays and developed "one of the finest and most committed ensembles performing on any Los Angeles stage," according to Backstage. During LATE's residency, he served as Managing Director of the historic Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica. His work as playwright, director, and producer of The War Cycle earned awards and recognition, including three Ovation Award nominations and a Special Citation from LA Weekly for "Excellence and Breadth of Vision."

Most recently, in collaboration with UC Davis, he was a founding co-director and producer of the Ground and Field Theatre Festival. This three-year sandbox project invited international playwrights to create new plays and musicals that centered on narratives of environmental, economic, and social sustainability. Burmester is an Adjunct Professor of Performing Arts at St. Mary's College, where he teaches Science Fiction Theatre and Season Planning. He has also taught acting, directing, design, and theatre studies at UCLA and UC Davis. He earned his Ph.D. in Performance Studies at UC Davis, an MA  in directing from UCLA, and a BA in Theatre and Dance from UC Davis. 

Burmester is looking forward to this new venture with the Opera House stating, “The Woodland Opera House has survived two fires, the advent of motion pictures, a global pandemic... and come out swinging. The strength with which Woodland Opera House has persevered is a testament to the resilient power of theatre and a demonstration that the arts remain vital to a thriving community. I am deeply honored by the opportunity to contribute to the history and legacy of Woodland Opera House by continuing to provide a welcoming home for artists and community members looking for a place to connect and create in a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive hub of artistic expression.”

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