HAIL to the Class of 2022!

Watch the SMTD Commencement Livestream
Friday, April 29, 2022 | 4:00PM EST


Guest Speaker


Laura Karpman sits on a bench holding a dog in front of a tall wall of bookshelves.

A bold, incandescent talent, composer Laura Karpman (BM ’80, composition and voice) creates powerful, imaginative scores that push the boundaries of storytelling. Her award-winning music, spanning film, television, theater, interactive media, and live performance, reflects an audaciously creative, prodigious, fresh spirit. Karpman collaborates with the most creative filmmakers of our time, including Misha Green, Steven Spielberg, Alex Gibney, Kasi Lemmons, Rory Kennedy, Sam Pollard, Laura Nix, and Eleanor, Sophia, and Francis Ford Coppola.

The five-time Emmy winner’s scores span the Marvel Studios’ series What If?, the HBO hit series Lovecraft Country, 2020 Oscar-nominated Walk Run Cha-Cha, and the Discovery Channel docuseries Why We Hate, for which she recently won an Emmy Award. Others include Miss Virginia, starring Uzo Aduba, the Netflix romantic comedy Set It Up, Sony’s Paris Can Wait, Lionsgate’s The Cotton Club Encore, Fox Searchlight’s Step and Black Nativity, starring Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, and Jennifer Hudson, the drama series Underground, Sony’s L.A.’s Finest, Peabody award-winning series Craft in America, and Showtime’s Sid and Judy.

Karpman received a Critic’s Choice award for her song “Jump,” co-written with frequent collaborators Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson, sung by Cynthia Erivo. Her animated work includes Sitara, directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, executive-produced by Darla Anderson and Gloria Steinem, released by Netflix. Her celebrated scores for interactive media include Guardians of Middle Earth, Everquest 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Project Spark, Kinect Disneyland Adventures, and Untold Legends Dark Kingdom.

Across concert halls, Karpman is well known for her Grammy award-winning album, ASK YOUR MAMA, a multimedia opera based on the iconic cycle of poems by Langston Hughes. For this Carnegie Hall commission, Karpman collaborated with The Roots, soprano Jessye Norman, performer De’Adre Aziza, and jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon. The album’s Grammy-winning recording would use vocalist Janai Brugger (MM ’09, voice), who would later perform a new original piece by Karpman called “Tulsa 1921: Catch a Fire” from Lovecraft Country.

Other notable works include All American, commissioned and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl; Brass Ceiling, commissioned and recorded by the U.S. Army Band; And Still We Dream, commissioned by Lyric Opera of Kansas City honoring 100 years of suffrage; Wilde Tales, commissioned by Glimmerglass Festival; Balls, an opera chronicling Billie Jean King’s 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, with words by New York Times writer Gail Collins; and a pandemic opera for Opera Theatre of St. Louis with words by Taura Stinson.

A fierce champion for inclusion in Hollywood, after founding the Alliance for Women Film Composers, Karpman became the first American woman composer inducted into the music branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, and she was subsequently elected to be the first female governor of the music branch. During her short time as governor, Karpman has made indelible strides, advocating for Academy membership for dozens of underrepresented composers and songwriters, as well as spearheading the Academy Women’s Initiative. Her leadership in creating opportunity and standing up for inclusion is unparalleled.

Karpman is an advisor for the Sundance Film Institute and on the faculty of the USC Film Scoring Program and the San Francisco Conservatory. She received a doctorate from the Juilliard School, where she studied with 20th-century icon Milton Babbitt. Karpman’s upcoming projects include The Marvels, a Marvel Studios feature film directed by Nia DaCosta.

She lives and works in her beachfront home in Los Angeles with her wife, composer Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum, their son, and two dogs.

Student Speaker


Kristin Hanson (she/her) is an arts administrator and dance artist hailing from Croswell, Michigan. She is graduating with a BFA in Dance, a minor in History of Art, and a minor in Performing Arts Management and Entrepreneurship from SMTD. In working as an Education and Community Engagement student staff member with University Musical Society, Kristin found her passion of connecting people with the performing arts in meaningful ways. She has performed in dance works by Shannon Gillen, Kelly Hirina, Robin Wilson, and many more. Kristin hopes to continue creating and supporting art that changes the world.