Our Scholars

J. Sanford Miller Family Arts Scholars, Class of 2027

Samman Akbarzada, Creative Writing

Samman Akbarzada is an Afghan refugee and the author of two books "Life is a Movie," her debut novel, and "A Glimmer in the Dark," a collection of poetry. Her words capture the suffering, heartbreak, gratitude, and redemption that mark a life lived on the blade of conflict with love and empathy as her constant guiding light, aspiring to foster empathy and understanding among readers.

She plans to major in psychology and serve as a trauma-focused therapist for refugee women, while pursuing her love for creative writing as well. Driven by a profound desire to bring hearts closer through her art, Samman seeks to amplify the voices of under-served communities. She serves as an interpreter for the International Rescue Committee and is actively engaged with C'ville Tulips, a program dedicated to empowering refugee women through literacy. Additionally, she tutors girls in Afghanistan online through a non-profit organization. 

She believes fervently in the transformative power of art and poetry to dissolve barriers, dismantle walls, and unite humanity. Samman aspires her work to serves as a testament to the beauty of shared experiences and the profound connections forged through storytelling. Through poetry, she invites us to transcend differences, embrace vulnerability, and celebrate the inherent beauty of our shared humanity.

Will Conrad, Drama

Will Conrad is a first-year student from Amesbury, Massachusetts pursuing Computer Science and Drama, finding the intersection of both to be deeply fascinating and full of potential. Outside of the classroom, Will has spent the past 7 years finding his home in the theatre working in lighting design, having been recognized for his designs at the competitive state level. Since coming to UVA, Will has found his family in student theatre groups like First Year Players and Virginia Players. Will hopes to pursue higher education in theatre production and is eager to work in professional theatre and explore the bleeding edge of theatre technology, with a dream to design a Broadway or off Broadway production. He is beyond honored to have been chosen to be a part of the Miller Arts Scholars community and is eager to learn from his peers and professors and grow as a theatrical artist.

Sophia Go, Music

Sophia Go is a pianist and violinist from Vienna, VA with plans to study neuroscience, music, and Spanish. She has embraced the full musical experience of playing two instruments. She was a violinist in the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras for seven years, serving as Co-Concertmaster. Sophia has been a member of multiple chamber groups, both as a violinist in the AYPO Chamber Ensemble program and as a pianist in the National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute and the NSO Youth Fellowship Chamber Program, with performances at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the National Gallery of Art. Sophia started accompanying her younger sister at the age of nine and is active as a collaborative pianist at studio and Tea Time recitals. Along with private lessons with Professor Mayhood and Professor Sender, she loves the community she has found as a violinist in the Charlottesville Symphony. Sophia hopes to combine her two main interests by studying the relationship between music and the brain, specifically in those with neurodegenerative diseases. She looks forward to growing in her understanding of the healing properties of music and the arts through the interdisciplinary approach of the Miller Arts Scholars program.

Carson Harter, Drama

Carson Harter is from Oakton, Virginia. Carson is currently an undergraduate student in the College of Arts & Science, hoping to double major in Drama and Commerce. All his life, Carson has had a deep passion for theatre, and everything that it encompasses. Having spent time in every niche of theatre, from producer to actor to designer, he has yet to find a part of theatre that he does not love.

At UVA, Carson has become a member of many theatre communities around Grounds, including acting in the Drama Department and First Year Player shows, assistant stage managing for First Year Players, and being a costume tech with Spectrum Theatre. At heart, Carson is a lover of all things arts. He is honored to be a Miller Arts Scholar, and is excited to explore all things art here at UVA!

Kate Hovey, Drama

Kate Hovey is from Woodbridge, Virginia, and is hoping to double major in Drama and Computer Science. She has been acting since elementary school, and decided very early on that it was something she wanted to pursue in college. She is a graduate of the Prince William County Center for the Fine and Performing Arts specialty program, and the Virginia Summer Residential Governor’s School, both in theatre concentrations. Besides acting, Kate is interested in directing and artistic design for the world of theatre. At UVA, she is involved with Shakespeare on the Lawn and has performed in the New Works Festival. Kate is incredibly excited to work with artists from all disciplines and share her passion for the arts through the Miller Arts Scholars Program.

Marlena James, Dance

Marlena James is from Dunwoody Georgia and has been involved in the arts for majority of her life. She began dancing at the age of two training in all styles including jazz, tap, lyrical, ballet, and modern. Further in her life, she joined the company of the Atlanta Jazz Theatre. There, she was involved in competitive dance for many years, where she placed in the top ten overalls several times. So far, she has been very involved in dance at the University of Virginia, taking part in the Virginia Dance Company and Virginia Dance Committee. She is looking into being a dance minor and is excited to be a Miller Arts Scholar.

Sarah Jun, Studio Art

Sarah Jun is from Gainesville, Virginia, and plans to double major in nursing and studio art. She has always loved to draw since she was very young. Her interest in art grew when her older brother gave her a Zentangle drawing kit in elementary school. From there on, she has grown in her interest in pen and ink drawing. She currently draws funny doodles, drawing inspiration from the things around her. Sarah hopes to explore more about this idea of humor within art and how it affects the audience, especially in illustrations and cartoons.

Alicia Kesting-Kim, Dance

Alicia Kesting-Kim is from Biarritz, France and she is planning on majoring in politics with a focus on foreign affairs and minoring in dance. Alicia has been a dancer her entire life and she explored different styles like ballet, hip-hop, modern jazz before finding her place through contemporary dance. In 2020 she auditioned and was selected by the French National Conservatory, a highly regarded art institute in France. After three years of training with amazing choreographers and professors she received a dance diploma. Since being at the University of Virginia, Alicia has been played an active role in the dance community. She is a choreographer and dancer for the University Dance Club and is a member of the Virginia Dance Committee. Alicia is honored to be a part of the Miller Arts Scholars and is excited to work with other artists.

Lauren Kim, Music

Lauren Kim is from Leesburg, VA, and she is planning on double majoring in Music with a performance concentration and Psychology. Lauren has been playing the piano since she was 6 years old, and she has been involved in choir since fifth grade. Some of her most notable piano achievements include her first-place wins in three international competitions which allowed her to perform at Carnegie Hall on three occasions, her first-place win in the Maryland State Gertrude Brown Concerto Competition, subsequently allowing her to play with the Washington Conservatory Orchestra, and her performance at the Newseum for the Human Rights First event awarding the Beacon Prize. Additionally, Lauren attended the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Summer Piano Academy, an unforgettable experience that sparked her love and passion for music. In choir, Lauren was selected to be in All-County Chorus, All-District Chorus, and VMEA Senior Honors Choir and is currently in UVA’s choirs, U-Singers and Chamber Singers. Lauren is thrilled to be a Miller Arts Scholar, and she is looking forward to connecting with other artists to fuel her passion for music.

Riley LeBlanc, Creative Writing

Born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA, Riley LeBlanc plans to double major in English and Studio Art with a concentration in cinematography. She hopes to pursue screenwriting after college and has plans to explore filmmaking while at UVA. Having been a dancer her whole life, she's always had a love for the arts and the arts community, but her true passion is writing, which she explores through writing short stories and reading extensively. At Virginia, she continues to perfect her craft with creative/fiction writing classes and contributes to the arts community as a dancer in Rhapsody Ballet Ensemble. She's honored to be a part of the Miller Arts Scholars Program and is looking forward to learning from her fellow classmates.

Taylor Ledbetter, Music

Taylor Ledbetter grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, and began playing flute at 11 years old. Through high school, she participated as the first chair flute in her school’s wind ensemble and symphony orchestra, and was involved in pit orchestra, women’s jazz band on alto saxophone, and marching band. Taylor competed in the UIL Solo and Ensemble and the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) all-state competitions, resulting in her being the principal flute in the district band and receiving superior rankings at the state solo competition in her junior and senior years. She also was in the Fort Worth Youth Orchestra and performed alongside the Fort Worth Symphony in Bass Hall during her senior year. Taylor is continuing her studies at UVA under Dr. Kelly Sulick and is in the Charlottesville Symphony and Cavalier Symphony Orchestra on flute/piccolo. As of now, she plans on studying Music, English, and Law. Taylor is thrilled to be a part of the Miller Arts Scholars program and is excited to continue exploring music opportunities at UVA and have a community that shares her passion.

Xingchen Liu, Studio Art

Xingchen is an astrophotographer and cinematographer pursuing an Echols interdisciplinary major and a minor in Film. Having spent his childhood between San Marino, California, and Beijing, China, Xingchen has long held an interest in cultural diaspora, globalism, and the notion of nostalgia. This interest guides his gaze upward to what transcends all humanity — the stars, nebulae, and galaxies. Nostalgia has also endowed him with the ability to perceive the intricacies of the world, which he hopes to use to break down cultural barriers and foster mutual understanding. He believes that beyond nostalgia and the barriers of time and space, it is art that connects us all. He is immensely honored and grateful to be a member of the Miller Arts program, and is eager to collaborate with his fellow distinguished artists.

Cai Luzak, Creative Writing

Cai Luzak is a current undergraduate from Virginia Beach, VA who plans to major in English with a concentration in literary prose. Before college, he was heavily involved in the local theatre scene in his hometown, performing in several professional, community, and school-sponsored productions. His love for writing started in high school through a shared interest in reading classic literature, plays, and screenplays. At UVA, Cai is an active member of several theatre and performance CIOs as well as the UVA Drama Department. Cai mostly works in the short story format; his writings often dealing with archetypal characters in familiar situations undergoing changes through a subversion of common tropes. His personal view is that art is where we turn to when wondering if anyone else has felt what we're feeling. Through the Miller Arts Scholars Program, Cai hopes to connect with other like-minded individuals who share his passion for the arts. He is infinitely grateful for everyone who has helped him to where he is today.

Elizabeth Mayhood, Music

Elizabeth Mayhood is from Charlottesville, Virginia, where she began playing flute at 11 years old. In high school, she participated in the wind ensemble and pit orchestra on flute and piccolo. In her marching band, she was the piccolo section leader and woodwind hornline captain during her senior year. She participated in All-Districts and All-State bands, and she won the Charlottesville Band James W. Simmons Solo Competition in 2023. At UVA, she is continuing her studies under Dr. Kelly Sulick and plays in the Charlottesville Symphony, Cavalier Marching Band, UVA Flute Ensemble, and Basketball Band. Elizabeth is thrilled to be an Arts Scholar, and she is hoping to increase her experience in music and the arts in general.

Jaclyn Wang, Studio Art

I am an international student from Auckland, New Zealand, intending to major in Studio Art and Art History. I am interested in working in painting, sculpture and installation; mainly how these three can potentially intersect in my practice. I took IB Higher Level Visual Art, scoring a 7, which inspired me to pursue art academically at a tertiary institute. I was also awarded a large grant from my high school’s Trust Board Art Award, the recognition of which further convinced me that I could find my place in the art world. I strive to be constantly learning, admiring, and changing as an artist— I am honoured to have a place in the Miller Arts Scholars that will allow me to better my practice and self amongst these distinguished artists.

Jack Wolff, Drama

Jack Wolff is an actor from Fairfax, Virginia. During his time in theatre, he has performed in over 20 shows ranging from both large-scale musicals to shorter one-acts. He has always loved theatre as a form of expression and a place to feel safe in this hectic world. Favorite credits include: Christopher (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime), Jack (Into the Woods), and Doug (Gutenberg The Musical). Jack has received previous accreditations in high school such as winning the award for Lead Male Actor in a Play (Cappies NCA) and 2nd place medal in humorous duo (State VHSL). At UVA Jack plans to continue his love of drama through a major in the program, and has already participated in multiple theatre groups including: The Whethermen improv, First Year Players, and UVA’s mainstage show. Jack is thrilled to be a part of the Miller Arts community and looks forward to working with his peers to grow and learn.

J. Sanford Miller Family Arts Scholars, Class of 2026

Henry Boland, Music

Henry Boland is a singer-songwriter and producer, majoring in Psychology and Music. Throughout elementary and middle school he found himself singing in musicals and local coffee shops, but it wasn’t until moving to El Salvador during his junior year of high school that he began pursuing music more seriously. He set about recording pop songs in his bedroom while teaching himself music theory and guitar. Since arriving at UVA, he has taken advantage of as many opportunities as possible to develop as a musician and expand his influences. Currently, Henry produces songs, performs at local venues, takes guitar and vocal lessons, and is part of a chamber jazz ensemble. He is incredibly grateful to be a Miller Arts scholar and can’t wait to engage more with the community.

Tracy Echais, Studio Art

My name is Tracy Echais! I’m from Falls Church, Virginia, and am currently a second year in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Studio Art with a concentration in painting. My love for art has been with me ever since I was a child. From elementary to high school, I’ve always taken art classes, honing my skills and techniques. My main medium is acrylic paint, but I’ve explored many other mediums that it’s hard to choose a favorite. My passion for art began with my family who showed me what art can be and what it can express. With the support of my art teacher during my senior year of high school, I won my first-ever gold key in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. It made me realize that art meant much more to me than just a hobby. After much consideration, I decided to take art more seriously and applied to college with an interest in becoming an art major. Outside of my studies, I’m an active member of the UVA Wushu club where I have fun preparing for performances, including martial arts. Being an art student at UVA has been such a fun experience and a challenge, it has pushed me to become a better artist and thinker. I’m honored and excited to join the Miller Arts community with fellow students who share the same passion and goal as I do!

Clare Gibb, Studio Art

Clare is an artist in the College of Arts and Sciences from Little Silver, New Jersey. Since childhood, she has loved engaging with studio art and experimenting with a range of traditional media. Specializing in oil paint, Clare enjoys crafting detail-oriented landscapes, portraits, and still lifes. After coming to UVA, Clare began experimenting with digital media, exploring the fields of graphic design and animation. She is interested in examining the intersection between art and technology, bridging these fields through research and collaboration. She is also passionate about promoting creative engagement and advancing accessibility within the art world. Her involvement as an Early Visions student mentor through the Fralin Museum of Art has cultivated her passion for arts education and working with children. In her free time, Clare enjoys hiking, spending time with friends, designing layouts for V Mag, and playing volleyball.

Grace Heinzelman, Studio Art

Grace Heinzelmann is from Vienna, VA, and is a pre-med student majoring in psychology and minoring in studio art. She has been engaged in the arts since childhood and has a particular interest in sculpture and 3D media. She is interested in the intersection of psychology and art and thus makes pieces that seek to explore what reactions and behaviors her work can elicit, almost like social experiments. She has created a plethora of unusual pieces, such as dresses made from newspapers, an interactive room where participants could do whatever they wanted to the walls, and a confessional with the priest replaced by a serpent. Grace is the secretary of the UVA Ceramics Club and has also participated in performances by the UVA Salsa Club and the Organization of Young Filipino Americans. Grace is excited about the opportunities that the Miller Arts Scholars program will bring and is honored to be joining the community.

Autumn Hong, Music

Autumn Hong is an instrumentalist, composer, and conductor from Chicago. She is a double major in Music and History with a minor in Korean. She started her musical journey on clarinet, but quickly was interested in expanding skills to saxophone, bassoon, and flute. Autumn was a drum major in high school which led her to her passion for conducting. At UVA, she conducts the Cavalier Symphony Orchestra and continues her drum major career in the Cavalier Marching Band. Expanding in different types of music, she also conducted the opera All is Apathetic in Love and War with renowned composer, Nathan Felix. Autumn is interested in more than just music; her enthusiasm in different disciplines, such as history, philosophy, visual arts, psychology, and other social sciences, often bleed into her original compositions. With such a deep interest in learning from different spheres, Autumn is ecstatic to be a part of the Miller Arts Scholar community!

Jack Ireland, Music

Jack Ireland is a composer, arranger, producer, instrumentalist, and actor from Richmond, Virginia. He is majoring in Music and Drama with an intended minor in Leadership. Jack initially turned away from music when his parents got piano lessons for him and his brothers in 2014, but he eventually taught himself how to play in his own time. Growing up, Jack fell in love with video game music and started arranging, remixing, and producing songs from his favorite games in 2018 under the alias Snivys. Since then, Jack has composed, arranged, produced, recorded, and released over 150 songs on his YouTube channel, with a handful of them being distributed to streaming platforms in the form of five albums which have amassed over 3 million streams on Spotify. Beyond Snivys, Jack enjoys acting on stage and was fortunate enough to play Horace Vandergelder in Hello, Dolly! and Edward Bloom in Big Fish for First Year Players last academic year, where he currently serves as a Social Chair and a Vocal Director for Legally Blonde. Since coming to UVA, Jack has jumped into as many artistic side quests as he can, including composing music for short films, performing original music at acoustic shows, performing improv comedy in the Whethermen, and playing with the Christ Episcopal Church worship music team. Jack is more than honored to be a part of the Miller Arts Scholars community and is excited to collaborate with other passionate artists!

Riley MacKenzie, Creative Writing

Riley is from Briarcliff Manor, New York and is currently pursuing a degree in both English and Media Studies. She has always loved reading and began honing in on writing during her high school years. She fell in love with literary fiction by reading authors such as Sally Rooney, Jamaica Kincaid, and Carmen Maria Machado. In her undergraduate studies, she has become dedicated to writing short stories and one day hopes to publish a short story collection. Riley has also experimented with other forms of creative writing through UVA courses, including creative nonfiction and screenwriting. In addition to creative writing, Riley has been interested in drama for a very long time. Growing up right outside of and attending high school in New York City, she had a lot of exposure to live dramatic performances, often attending Broadway productions with her mother. At the University of Virginia, Riley has pursued this love of drama through stage managing and has stage managed multiple shows for various dramatic organizations on grounds. Riley is excited to continue her artistic pursuits in her remaining years at UVA and to be a part of the Miller Arts Scholar community.

Simone Marijic Buljubasic, Music

Simone Marijic Buljubasic is a musician from Los Angeles, California. Since starting choir and piano classes at age five, she has developed a passion for music and voice, specifically in the classical and musical theater genres. Through the National Children’s Chorus, Simone has had the incredible opportunity to work directly with prominent composers, conductors, and performers including Eric Whitacre, Caroline Polachek, Gustavo Dudamel, and Meredith Monk. She has sung in prominent concert halls including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. In 2019, she was part of a Walt Disney Concert Hall performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 that received two GRAMMY wins for Best Choral Performance and Best Classical Engineered Album. Simone has performed in over ten theater productions and served as President of her high school’s Conservatory Arts Program. Currently, she is an active member of the Virginia Belles a capella group and Usingers on grounds and continues to cultivate her interests in vocal performance and songwriting. Simone is beyond honored and excited to join the Miller Arts Scholar community.

Abby Milne, Drama

Abby Milne is a director, producer, and playwright from Palo Alto, California majoring in Drama and English. Abby’s early productions premiered in their neighbor's driveway when, at the ripe old age of eight, Abby recruited other kids on the cul-de-sac to act in original plays that earned rave audience reviews from Abby’s mom. They stuck with theatre for lack of a better idea, performing in straight plays and musicals throughout middle and high school. At the University of Virginia, Abby holds leadership roles in Spectrum Theatre, First Year Players, and Virginia Players, writes for the Arts and Entertainment desk of the Cavalier Daily, and is active in the UVA Drama Department. Abby directed Fun Home with Spectrum Theatre in 2023, an experience that reaffirmed their passion for engaging with intimate, thematically challenging dramatic material. Their writing credits include (Un)Deadline (Overcranked Film Festival), Karens (UVA Drama New Works Festival), Angel of the Waters (Woodside Priory School), and The Waiting Room (Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival). When they’re not making theatre, Abby enjoys creative hobbies like juggling, collaging, and graphic design. After graduation, Abby hopes to work in arts administration and eventually pursue graduate studies. They are honored to join the Miller Arts Scholars and look forward to learning from students in a variety of artistic disciplines.

Maxwell Mitchell, Music

Maxwell Mitchell is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer from Milton, Massachusetts. He is currently double majoring in Music and Economics with a minor in Entrepreneurship. Maxwell has written songs since he started playing guitar at age 8. He performed covers and originals with his hometown band, Victorian Breakfast, but when COVID happened, Maxwell turned to music production as a new creative outlet. He soon fell in love with the process, and since then, has produced and distributed over four albums’ worth of original music on all streaming platforms. Maxwell was ecstatic to meet many other students at UVA as passionate about music as himself, and currently sings and plays guitar for the band Krispies. Maxwell is honored to be part of the Miller Arts Scholars community and is excited to continue working collaboratively on future music projects

Elizabeth Moore, Dance

Elizabeth Moore is a biology major and a dance minor on the pre medical track in the class of 2026. She began dancing when she was three years old in her home town of Roanoke Virginia. As Elizabeth got older she started competing at regional and national competitions as well as performing at a variety of community events with Valley Dance Productions and then eventually with Divine Dance Center. Throughout her training Elizabeth has studied many styles of dance including; ballet, jazz, modern, tap and pointe. Since being at the University of Virginia, Elizabeth has been an active member of the dance community. She is on the executive board for Virginia Dance Committee, performs in the annual fall and spring dance concerts, and is a member and choreographer for The University Dance Club. Elizabeth is very excited to be apart of The Miller Arts Scholars and is excited for opportunities to work with other artists on grounds!

Kailash Patel, Music

Kailash Patel is an Electrical Engineering and Music double major from Reston, Virginia. He has explored various forms of music since childhood, including the violin, which he continues to pursue at UVA. Prior to UVA, he moved through the ranks of the Loudoun Symphony Youth Orchestra eventually becoming concertmaster. He also participated in his high school’s orchestra, achieving regional honors, becoming a leadership council member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, and conducting the orchestra in his final concert. At UVA, he studies violin with Prof. Daniel Sender and performs with the Charlottesville Symphony. Outside of violin, he is pursuing a music major with a concentration in composition and computer technology in the hopes of integrating his skills in electrical engineering, including signal processing and hardware/software design in the context of music. He is currently focused on composing and producing electronic music using digital audio workstations as well as working with acoustic recording equipment. He is also a student representative for the Charlottesville Symphony Player’s Committee and happily organizes events for Sender Studio. Outside of UVA, he thoroughly enjoys studying paleontology and a good soccer match. He is thrilled and honored to be a Miller Arts Scholar and is privileged to contribute to the arts community in turn.

Lucas Piette, Studio Art

From Virginia Beach, Lucas Piette discovered his passion for blending the worlds of art and technology. He went to two high schools: spending half his day at a Math and Science program and the rest at the Governor’s School for the Arts where he concentrated in visual arts. Pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Studio Art at UVA, he explores the intersection of analytical and creative thought through graphics, new media, and cinematography. His artistic journey has been marked by experimentation with diverse mediums, from fiber arts to animation, culminating in a focus on the expression of liminality and ambience in film and music. Outside of academics, Lucas is the social chair and a student DJ at WXTJ student radio and an active member of the Washington Society.

Reese Robers, Studio Art

Reese Robers is from Roanoke, Virginia and plans to double-major in Media Studies and Studio Art with a concentration in Cinematography and Filmmaking. She has been making art for as long as she can remember but has recently taken a particular interest in the art of filmmaking, where she has worked on over ten short films in the past few years. Her short films have screened in film festivals such as LA Shorts International Film Festival, Tallgrass Film Festival, and STUFFit International Film Festival. Reese finds the inherently collaborative and multidisciplinary nature of film to be fascinating, and she values the role of community throughout all stages of a film’s production. In addition, she loves to explore unconventional and experimental media and artwork across all disciplines. Reese is honored to be a part of the Miller Arts Scholars Program and is very much looking forward to building a community of artists across many different backgrounds and disciplines!

Helen Sparling, Studio Art

Helen is a Studio Art and Psychology major in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia. Helen has loved the arts since childhood. She finds great joy in teaching herself new creative skills such as piano, guitar, knitting, crochet, sewing, drawing, painting, and more. During high school, Helen’s love for art gradually shifted from a personal hobby to something she wanted to pursue in college and beyond. If she had to choose, her medium of choice would be oil painting, but she loves to experiment with other media. In her free time, Helen loves to go on sunrise hikes, drink black tea while reading a good book, upcycle clothes, and spend time with her friends and family.

Xander Tilock, Drama

Xander Tilock is an actor, director, and writer from Falls Church, Virginia. He has participated in 36 full-length productions since 2015 with multiple groups including the Guthrie Theater, Harvard University, Northwestern University, and others. Xander has loved theatre his entire life --- he is a Drama and Media Studies major at UVA. Some of his favorite productions include Frozen Jr. (Hans), Robin Hood (Robin Hood), and A Winter Star (Director and Playwright). In high school, Xander won six gold medals in the categories of serious duo and humorous duo in VHSL Forensics competitions. He is currently the Community Chair of the Virginia Players Executive Team as well as the PR Director for Miller Arts Scholars. Xander is honored to be a part of the Miller Arts Scholars community and is looking forward to continuing to share his passion for the arts with the UVA community.

Lilla Woodard, Drama

Lilla Woodard is a Hungarian-American actor and playwright currently living in Arlington, Virginia. She grew up overseas in Bahrain, Lithuania, India, Switzerland, Germany, and Brunei, performing in theater productions across four different continents. In Arlington, she had the honor of working with Signature Theater on their flagship high school education program Signature in the Schools, and she received the Andrew A. Isen Young Artist Gift for her dedication and contribution to the program. Since coming to UVA, Lilla has performed in a range of productions across grounds, including the 2023 UVA Drama mainstage show, Everybody. She has a passion for experimental film and theater, and her dream is to use theater to bring people closer together across borders, facilitating cultural exchanges and highlighting marginalized groups.

Larina Yu, Studio Art

Larina is an intended Computer Science and Studio Art double major from Ashburn, Virginia. Her love for art started at 4 years old, when she lived in Pasadena, California, through attending a family friend’s art studio. She began to submit her artwork to local art competitions, and found she really enjoyed it! She mostly enjoyed the process of watching her art form – but also found she liked feeding her competitive side. She worked with mainly dry materials, like pencils, markers, and oil pastels, until she moved to Virginia, where she began to work mainly with acrylic paint. Despite her love for paint, she also enjoyed experimenting with different materials like clay sculpting, yarnwork, and wire wrapping. As Larina continued to compete in art competitions, they grew larger in scale – her favorite competition to date is the National Junior Duck Stamp competition, which she competed in six times over seven years. Entering high school, Larina thought that she wouldn’t be able to keep making art as her schedule became busier. Despite taking a break from competitions, she found that she continued to make art just for her own fulfillment. At UVA, Larina was thrilled to find a bustling artistic community. She is so honored to join the Miller Arts scholars, and she cannot wait for the fun that lies ahead.

J. Sanford Miller Family Arts Scholars, Class of 2025

Carly Ault, Studio Art

Carly Ault is an artist and College of Arts and Sciences student from Ashland, VA. Always drawn to artistic practice, she has been involved in art both personally and academically since kindergarten. In her sophomore year of high school, she was first introduced to film photography and darkroom processing and immediately fell in love with the technical system combined with her own creativity. She also held a free six week long art course for underprivileged students in her community as a part of her Girl Scout Gold Award, where she taught artistic technique and emphasized the importance of having a creative outlet. Carly continues to practice photography in college through the University’s Art Department, as well as other 2D mediums such as drawing. Her work focuses mainly on the manipulation of light and shadow in transforming subjects, but she is always experimenting and adapting to new styles. In addition to her art, Carly enjoys reading, spending time with her friends, family, and dogs, as well as being outdoors. She is thrilled to be a part of the Miller Arts Scholar community and looks forward to expanding her artistic horizons. 

John Barnes, Drama

John Barnes is a filmmaker, songwriter, and actor from Arlington, VA. He has been interested in filmmaking ever since he could edit videos using the iMovie trailer templates on his family's desktop computer.  As a sixth-grader, he presented a presentation and petition at a school board meeting to support funding for a middle school film class, which he was able to take the following year. In recent years, John has completed two fellowships with PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL). He wrote, produced, shot, and edited the explainer video "How Students Are Fighting Zoom Fatigue", which aired live on PBS NewsHour and was published on its digital platforms.  He also co-edited and starred in the piece “Alone Together,” a piece for SRL about teens during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, John is working on a web series pilot for PBS NewsHour on teen mental health issues, with the first episode focusing on music and mood. For his work at PBS, John was named a 20-under-20 storyteller and received the Best Health Video Award from SRL. John has also written and directed films across many genres, including the dramedy COME TO THE BEACH, the documentary A Passover Story, and the comedy The Case of the Unacademic Integrity. His films have also won many awards, including a Merit Award from the National YoungArts Foundation, a Silver Medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and a Best Documentary Nomination at the All American High School Film Festival. 

Ben Berry, Music

Ben Berry is a jazz pianist and multi-instrumentalist from Boulder, Colorado. His passion for jazz was ignited after discovering the expressive and creative freedom of improvisational music. Inspired by the likes of J. Dilla, Ben has incorporated his jazz and gospel background into his own musical compositions and productions. During his high school years spent at the American School in London, he traveled Europe with his school’s jazz band and was selected to play in various jazz festivals. At UVA, he is a pianist of both the jazz ensemble and small group quintet. He continues to pursue both his jazz and musical production passions. He is thrilled to be part of the Miller Arts Scholar program and looks forward to working alongside other creatives while self-producing a full length project.

Jesper Braley, Studio Art

Jesper Braley is a character designer and animator who has loved art since his first introduction to a studio setting: during the fourth grade in his hometown of Vienna, Virginia. However, he only recently realized exactly how deep this passion runs. Jesper’s artistic practice began with a heavy focus on technique and still-lifes. As he gained confidence in the more technical aspects of drawing, he became more and more interested in using his skills to create stories and characters. In the future, Jesper hopes to work on an animated show like the ones that most inspire him, most notably among these The Owl House by Dana Terrace. The summer of 2022, Jesper spent a month immersing himself in the art world via the CalArts program called High-Touch Animation. There, he created comics, designed characters, and learned how to storyboard and pitch his own animated series. All throughout, students received feedback from professors who had worked on industry hits such as Toy Story, Bug’s Life, and Futurama. Only after experiencing such a rich creative environment did Jesper realize that art is something he wants to pursue a serious career in. As a result, he has been on the lookout for more opportunities to connect with other creatives, finally leading him here: to the Miller Arts Scholars community. Long story short, Jesper is beyond honored and excited to be here.

Alex Burijon, Music

Alex Burijon was introduced to music as a baby swaddled on his dad's keyboard, but as soon as he could walk, he began to dance to Fantasia and Star Wars. He took up piano and violin lessons early, pursuing violin until his senior year of high school, after which he began to study ukulele, electric bass, and acoustic guitar (along with a COVID-19 drum hobby). He began to sing in church and school choirs as soon as they would let him in, and since then he has been unable to stop singing. This led to becoming involved with vocal coaches and opportunities for many features in violin and voice, namely the soprano part of the "Benedictus" from Schubert's Mass No. 2 in G Major and the soprano solo "The Marvelous Work" from Haydn's The Creation. He briefly joined a District Choir of Richmond, his hometown, that extremely inspired him to pursue performance. Outside of school, Alex performed in musicals such as Newsies, Matilda, and Into the Woods, Jr., culminating in his performance as the "Learn Your Lessons Well" soloist of Godspell. Since coming to UVA, he joined the all-gender a cappella group Harmonious Hoos, first arranging for them and then serving as a Music Director. He also tap-danced his way into the theater scene as Oscar Shaprio in Curtains and Nostradamus in Something Rotten with First Year Players, later serving as a vocal director for Hello Dolly and as a Diversity and Inclusion Co-Chair for 2022-2023. Alex is honored and beyond excited at this opportunity to further grow his relationships within the UVA Arts community, and he cannot wait for what the future holds!

Hunter Colson, Music

Hunter Colson is a musician and composer from Washington, D.C. with plans to major in Music. Hunter’s love of artistic expression has been with him his whole life and started with drawing. Raised listening to primarily classical music, he began guitar lessons at age six and piano lessons at seven. In middle school Hunter played clarinet in the school band. After trying to express himself with these instruments, he felt that something was missing. It was the summer before starting at UVA that Hunter finally discovered his passion for composition when he took music theory and composed some of his first pieces. This proved to be a satisfying culmination of all his previous musical experience. Hunter has not stopped composing since. At UVA Hunter is a member of the Radio Music Society and enjoys being part of the UVA Catalyst Program. Hunter is honored to be a Miller Arts Scholar and is excited to continue growing as a musician and composer while taking advantage of the opportunities the Miller Arts Scholars will provide.

Zoe Edelman, Studio Art

Zoe Edelman is a computer science and studio art double major from Dover, Delaware.  As a child, she began her artistic endeavors drawing suns in the corner of her paper and weirdly proportioned people.  From there, Zoe took various classes in things like drawing, pottery making, and collaging while also participating in summer camps to fuel her artistic drive.  Now at UVA, Zoe aims to focus on new media as she has aspirations to become a user experience/user interface designer to bring more creativity to the way we view the internet.  Outside of studio art, Zoe is an active member of the Charlottesville Symphony Orchestra as a bassoonist and contrabassoonist, the WXTJ house show committee, the club swim team, and the club fencing team.  She is thrilled to be a part of the Miller Arts Scholars program and develop her artistic pursuits and mediums.

Ava Flory, Studio Art

Ava is a visual artist studying Commerce and Studio Art. She spent her childhood with a sketchbook in tow and paint on her clothes. Creating art has made her life vibrant and she enjoys sharing art’s benefits with others. As an assistant art teacher in high school and now as an Early Visions mentor at UVA, she loves watching smiles light up children’s faces when they discover the beauty they are capable of creating. She is also a weekly volunteer at Ix Art Park, a non-profit in downtown Charlottesville whose mission is to empower the community through creativity. Through experiences like these and her studies at UVA, she is exploring how to combine business and art to scale art’s positive impact and inspire people to create, collaborate, and flourish. As a Miller Arts Scholar, she is excited to engage with and learn alongside other students also pursuing their art with purpose and passion.

Rachel Guo, Creative Writing

Rachel Guo is an intended economics/creative writing double major with minors in drama and studio art. Prior to coming to UVA, her writing has earned two silver medals for Flash Fiction from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Outside of creative writing, she’s also involved in a number of other activities, with involvement in numerous student films, as well as First Year Players. She has also studied film acting at Stonestreet Studios. Rachel is also involved in music, having taken lessons in classical piano since the age of six, and continuing them at UVA. She hopes to combine her artistic interests with larger portfolio projects. Rachel is honored to be a part of the Miller Arts Program, and is excited to continue her creative endeavors in this community!

Katie Haines, Drama

Katherine (Katie) Haines is an Echols Scholar pursuing majors in Archaeology and Biology and a minor in Drama. Originally from Williamsburg, Virginia, Katie has long had the support of her family, especially her parents and her uncle, in her exploration of the performance arts. Katie started actively pursuing theatre at Walsingham Academy with the help of her teachers and directors.  Katie performed in ten mainstage productions there; favorite roles include Doris Walker in Miracle on 34th Street and choreographer Andi Lee in 42nd Street, in which she also served as dance captain.  Katie also competed on the Walsingham Academy Forensics Team and views her experiences and wins competing in the Peninsula Forensics League as critical to her continued successes at UVA. Although her primary area of study is acting, Katie views performance as an inherently interdisciplinary act, so she also has studied voice, violin, and dance. Katie has continued to focus on Shakespearean performance, through the American Shakespeare Center’s Youth Camp, Shakespeare on the Lawn, and UVA Drama productions. Since she arrived at UVA, she has found a home in the drama community. As a Miller Arts Scholar, Katie seeks to broaden her study of theatrical performance and bridge disciplines and mediums. She is beyond honored to be a member of this distinguished group of artists. 

Mary Hall, Drama

Mary Hall is a Ridley and Echols Scholar pursuing majors in African American and African Studies as well as Drama. Originally from Greensboro, NC before relocating to Richmond, VA, she has always had a passion for performing, due in large part to her family doing the same all of her life. She started performing in theatre productions in 2015 as a part of her middle school’s production of Beauty and the Beast, Jr. and has never looked back since. Her favorite credits since then are playing Humpty Dumpty in Shrek the Musical (2019) and Diana Morales in Spectrum Theatre’s production of A Chorus Line. Other UVA involvements include acting in UVA Drama’s Overcranked! short films, the Direct to You! Festival, WXTJ Student Radio, and most recently Flux Poetry and Spoken Word. She’s excited to delve deeper into her Drama major and combine it with her AAS major in order to research more of the Black theatre world, and is immensely grateful that she’s able to do so as a Miller Arts Scholar.

Deneishia Haralson, Dance

Deneishia Haralson is a kinesiology major and dance minor from Manassas, Virginia. Her dance career started at the age of four and she has danced at Dance Etc. School of the Arts in Virginia for the past 14 years where she studied ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, and contemporary. She has enjoyed performing in annual winter and spring concerts and being featured in many dances put on by her studio. She has also danced in performances throughout her community such as with the New Dominion Choraliers and more recently, she choreographed a solo for a Black History Month performance. She has danced in the Cherry Blossom Parade in Washington, D.C., with the Junior All-Stars Washington Red Skins Team, and at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Deneishia has also attended dance summer intensives across the country such as the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, in Los Angeles California, and the Alvin Ailey School summer intensive in the Professional Division, in New York. Deneishia is currently a member of the Virginia Dance Company (DCO) and the Outreach Chairperson for the UVA dance committee. She is elated and honored to be able to be a Miller Arts Scholar and she cannot wait to partner with other scholars across the arts to expand her dancing artistry and explore her untouched creative layers.

Arianna Jobst, Creative Writing

Arianna Jobst is from Wayne, New Jersey and is pursuing a double major in Media Studies and English, with an intended concentration of Literary Prose. She’s always loved writing– filling marble notebooks with novels since elementary school. She loves writing in all forms: prose, poetry, screenwriting, playwriting, etc and always has a notebook on her to write down any ideas she might get in the moment. Prior to coming to the University of Virginia, she received awards for her academic writing prior, had her pieces selected to be performed, and had pieces printed in school publications. Arianna has thrown herself into creative writing at UVA– taking workshop classes with the English department as well as being part of several literary clubs. Additionally, any pursuits outside of literary clubs ultimately just connect back to her writing: whether that be stand-up comedy, improv, filmmaking, film editing, hosting a radio show, or satire journalism, everything in her life comes back to influence her writing. Arianna is extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of an amazing community of Scholars, and is honored to be a Miller Arts Scholar.

Abby Kim, Music

Abby Kim grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia and has been playing the violin since she was 5. Before coming to UVA, she participated in many local ensembles such as the Evans Orchestra, Albemarle String Ensemble, and Youth Orchestra of Central Virginia. She is also a member of the Albemarle Chamber Players, a student-lead trio who has performed at numerous weddings and other events. In addition, she auditioned for and was accepted into Senior Regional Orchestra, Virginia All-State Orchestra, and also participated in GSIM (Global Summer Institute of Music) at VCU two summers in a row. She was also awarded the 1st place prize for the Wednesday Music Club Competition (Senior Category) in her senior year. At UVA, Abby is double majoring in Music (and prospectively CS) and is continuing to foster her love for the violin through participation in the Charlottesville Symphony, chamber ensembles, and privatelessons under Professor Daniel Sender. Abby is honored to be a Miller Arts Scholar and is excited to grow as a musician alongside other passionate artists. 

Meg Kosefeski, Studio Art

I’ve been drawn to the arts since before I can remember. Starting off creating jovial work for friends in elementary school, eventually I was making pieces for school offices, charity auctions, and community murals at a young age. I grew a small art business and began assistant teaching my school’s introduction classes all before graduating high school. Experiencing the joy of teaching and connecting through art is something that continues to impact me and my artistic goals to this day. I’m now studying environmental science and studio art with a concentration in new media. My hope is to find the intersection of both disciplines and forge a new realm of public education and engagement. I’m very passionate about combining science and art, ultimately viewing the pursuit of my degrees as the study of both humanity and the world around us. At the beginning of my second year, I began exploring the world of music and formed a local band called behindthesun. Becoming a singer/songwriter and performer unlocked a newfound confidence in my voice, both literally and figuratively. I’m excited to continue discovering new, creative experiences and community through the art of sound. In my visual work, I delve into a range of disciplines and techniques, usually with an experimental attitude. Film photography, print making, acrylic and oil painting, some sculpture, drawing, collaging, and digital art to name a few! I’m increasingly interested in the research process and the ethics of material use in my projects. The themes of my work often involve the questioning of reality, personal identity, memory, metaphysical investigation, social/political issues, and curiosity about the boundaries of comfort/acceptability. I’m ecstatic to be a Miller Arts Scholar and to have a role in shaping and growing this community of imaginative, critical thinkers and creators.

Jolinna Li, Studio Art

Jolinna is a Studio Art student at the University of Virginia concentrating in Cinematography. With experience in working with both traditional film and HD cameras, Jolinna likes exploring realism, cultural identity, relationship dynamics, and love in her work. Films she has worked on have been selected by the Virginia Film Festival and screened at the McGuffey Art center. She has also been involved in the Adrenaline project and works with Lighthouse Studios as a freelance editor. Other than video, Jolinna also enjoys creative writing and is also a prospective English Major.

Emily Liu, Studio Art

Emily is a Computer Science and Studio Art major. She has always loved creating and viewing art. As a child, she took drawing and painting classes. In her free time, she enjoys painting landscapes with acrylic paint. Emily has explored different art forms at the University of Virginia from New Media to Cinematography to Performance Art. She has a penchant for technology and wants to explore new and unconventional art forms. Her work tends to focus on race, identity, and time. Emily hopes to incorporate the different senses into her work, creating a 4-D experience for audience members. Outside of Studio Art, Emily is a member of alpha Kappa Delta Phi, enjoys playing the piano, and cooking. Emily is so excited and honored to be a Miller Arts Scholar. She is inspired by the talented individuals in the arts scholar community and hopes to learn from them.

Grace Sellers, Studio Art

Grace Sellers is a Studio Art major from Bluemont, VA. Grace discovered her passion for studio art after taking art classes at UVA. While she recently discovered her love for studio art, art has been a part of her life for a long time. She grew up dancing and attended a pre-professional ballet program at an arts high school where she was surrounded by a diverse group of artists. Now, she is exploring different methods of art making. In particular, she is interested in printmaking. Grace is looking forward to meeting other artists and can’t wait to immerse herself in all that the Miller Arts Scholars Program has to offer.

Holly Teti, Music

Helen (Holly) Teti is a singer and songwriter from Princeton, New Jersey. Her songwriting is heavily inspired by 70s folk and modern indie musicians such as Joni Mitchell and Phoebe Bridgers. Her debut EP “In A Hazy Green Light” was released to streaming on April 1, 2022. In addition to making her own music, she is a student of Art History and involved in student theater on grounds through Shakespeare on the Lawn. She is also an Alto in the University Singers and Chamber Singers. Outside of the arts, Holly is an Advisor on the UVA Honor committee and a volunteer ski instructor. 

Julia Totten, Music

Julia Totten is a Biochemistry and Music major on the pre-med track from Jamestown, Rhode Island. She started playing the flute at 10 years old and has been heavily involved in the arts throughout her entire life.  Before coming to UVA, Julia participated in numerous ensembles such as the Rhode Island All-State Band, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, the Southern New England Honors Band, and the John Philip Sousa National High School Honors Band. She participated in solo and ensemble festivals for 8 years and received numerous superior rankings. She was the first chair flutist of her high school band and was deeply involved in the music program at her school, playing in the pit orchestra for the school’s musical theater productions. Julia greatly appreciates the warm and fulfilling community that being a musician provides. In addition to playing, she loves spending her free time listening to all forms of music. At UVA, Julia studies flute under her private instructor Professor Kelly Sulick and is a member of the Charlottesville Symphony Orchestra. Julia is honored to be a Miller Arts Scholar and is excited to become an even more involved member of the larger arts community at UVA.

Amanda Yo, Music

Amanda Yo grew up in McLean, Virginia and began playing flute at the age of ten. Beginning with involvement in area band, she expanded to become actively involved in her high school band and orchestra, marching band, and flute choir. Outside of school she was involved in music in a variety of ways, including playing at her church, with the combined GMU flute choir, Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA), Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention, and attending PIMF. She has competed and placed at districts, senior regional orchestra, and VA-All State levels on flute and piccolo. At UVA, Amanda currently studies under Dr. Kelly Sulick and plays with the Charlottesville Symphony Orchestra. She continues to compete, and has done so at the 3rd Annual UVA Flute forum placing as one of three winners as well as placing as an alternate at the Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention Collegiate Competition. Music has grown to become an integral part of her life and expression. She hopes to expand her experience and knowledge, in the form of ensembles, genres and other instruments. Currently, she intends to pursue degrees in music and physics. Amanda is excited and honored to be a part of the Millers Arts Scholars program. She hopes to grow, be inspired further, and actively be involved in the community.

Xueer (Shirley) Zhang, Studio Art

Xueer Zhang is an Echols Scholar pursuing majors in Studio Art and Art History. Born and brought up in Beijing, China, she began to experiment with Chinese ink painting at age 4. Mostly self-taught at first, she realized that she wanted to explore more in art as she traveled around the world and appreciated artworks. She won the first prize in the Chinese youth painting competition and several gold keys in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards during high school. She is also attracted to East Asian arts through her internship at the Palace Museum in Beijing. After entering UVA, she explored theoretical and empirical visual studies with different media, which inspired her to believe that creative arts could be transdisciplinary. She wishes to combine her cultural background and artistic techniques to interact with the world through constant observation, perception, and interactive design that could possibly change it. As an international student, she also developed a strong interest in different cultures and languages. Besides Chinese and English, she also learned Spanish and Korean. She is honored to be a Miller Arts Scholar and looks forward to diversifying her repertoire of skills for a more eclectic approach to art as well as to become deeply engaged with the art community.