11 Outstanding Eastman Women for 2021

March 8, 2021

International Women’s Day

Monday, March 8, is International Women’s Day. To observe the year 2021, we wanted to highlight 11 outstanding women among thousands of Eastman female alumni, students, faculty members, staff and friends. As you read, bear in mind that this alphabetical list represents only a tiny fraction of the outstanding Eastman women who have changed and are changing the world of music. (To see our 2020 list, click here)

Congratulations to all of them!


Celeste Pellegrino ‘16E and Larissa Bainton ‘16E photo

Celeste Pellegrino ‘16E and Larissa Bainton ‘16E

Celeste and Larissa met during their first year at Eastman, and are now the founders of “Due Donne Productions,” a Boston-based traveling and inline opera bringing opera directly to communities in the Greater Boston area. Their most recent project this summer was a 35-minute video of Hansel and Gretel recorded in Nintendo Switch’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons; you can enjoy the show on YouTube.


Dalanie Harris ‘20E and Katie Brown ‘19E (MM) photo

Dalanie Harris ‘20E and Katie Brown ‘19E (MM)

Dalanie Harris is a double bassist and Katie Brown a violist; these on the rise classical musicians are good friends and co-hosts of the popular podcast Classically Black.  Delanie and Katie describe their purpose: “At its core, Classically Black Podcast was created with the purpose of showing Black musicians that even in an industry that so clearly lacks diversity, they are visible and their voices matter.”


Mitzie Collins photo

Mitzie Collins ‘63E

Mitzie Collins has been described as “Rochester’s preeminent expert and educator on the hammered dulcimer” by City Newspaper. A graduate of Eastman and long-time ECMS professor (retired in 2020), she is a nationally famous folk musicians and the president of Sampler Records.


Mary Jo Heath ‘88E (PhD) photo

Mary Jo Heath ‘88E (PhD)

Announcer and host for weekly Metropolitan Opera broadcasts and fourth full-time radio host in the company’s history. In May 2016, Heath was awarded the Eastman’s Distinguished Alumni Award and spoke at the commencement ceremony. Read our past interview with her here.


Hannah Lash ‘04E photo

Hannah Lash ‘04E

Noted harpist and composer, commissioned by Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, JACK Quartet, and many others. Hannah Lash’s music has been performed at Carnegie Hall among many other notable venues and has been hailed by the New York Times as “striking and resourceful…handsomely brooding.”


Melissa Ngan ‘02E photo

Melissa Ngan ‘02E

Melissa Ngan, Flutist, is the founder and CEO of Fifth House Ensemble and was recently appointed president and CEO of the American Composers Orchestra. She has led long-term projects with universities and conservatories nationwide that redefine the training process for emerging artists, including those at DePauw University and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Melissa will be the Keynote Speaker at the 2021 Eastman Leadership Academy run by the Eastman Institute for Music Leadership.


Marie Rolf ‘77E (PhD) photo

Marie Rolf ‘77E (PhD)

Marie Rolf is Professor of Music Theory and Senior Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at Eastman. She is especially well known for her scholarship on the French composer Claude Debussy; her translation and revision of Francois Lesure’s biography of Debussy was published to great acclaim in 2019. Professor Rolf’s research interests range widely from Mozart to music theory, and you can see a complete list of her publications and achievements here.


Jazmine Saunders ‘22E photo

Jazmine Saunders ‘22E

Eastman junior Jazmine Saunders is a Rochester native with extensive experience in instrumental music, musical theater, opera, and as a worship leader. A student of Robert Swensen, she has sung at Eastman in Bach’s Cantata No, 114 and Salieri’s Prima la Musica, poi il Parole. In 2020 she performed in a tribute to renowned tenor George Shirley as part of Eastman’s William Warfield Scholarship Concert, and is the 2021 recipient of the Warfield Scholarship. From that concert, you can see and hear Jazmine sing Verdi’s Sei Romanze, with master’s student Ava Linvag, piano on YouTube.


Nelita True photo

Nelita True

This late Professor Emerita of Piano and Eastman professor from 1989 to 2018 was described by Clavier Companion magazine as “one of the world’s most sought-after and beloved pianist teachers.” Dr. True made her debut at age seventeen with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and her performing and teaching career took her across the world, including Russia and the People’s Republic of China, and her many professional honors include the Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Music Teacher’s National Association and the National Keyboard Pedagogy Conference.