Spotlight on Diversity and Inclusion

Summer 2021 Diversity and Inclusion Spotlight

Trio Leo, Chamber Ensemble-in-Residence at UNA

Dr. Whitney O’Neal, Assistant Professor, Music

Assistant Chair and Coordinator of Woodwind Studies, Department of Music

Ms. Karen Cantrell, Staff Collaborative Pianist, Music 

Dr. Meghan Merciers, Associate Professor, Music 

Associate Director of UNA School of the Arts and Department of Music Chair


Trio Leo Bio and Mission

UNA Department of Music Chamber Ensemble-in-Residence, Trio Leo (Whitney O’Neal - flute, Meghan Merciers - clarinet, and Karen Cantrell - piano), focuses on the research, presentation, and performance of the music of underrepresented composers and the music of diverse cultures/populations. Trio Leo began this endeavor in the 2016-17 academic year with their first performance of Valerie Coleman’s Portraits of Langston which was sponsored by the UNA Department of History and Walk with Me Foundation in honor of Black History Month. The performance reached over 500 primary school students which were transported from their home schools to UNA’s Norton Auditorium and it inspired the trio to continue deeper research into and the performance of music of African-American women composers. Their research gradually expanded to include other underrepresented composers.

Trio Leo frequently performs and lectures at UNA and has been selected by jury to present at state and regional conferences including the Music by Women Conference, Mid-South Flute Festival, Mid-Atlantic Flute Festival, Alabama Music Educators Association Conference, and the American Single Reed Summit.  Trio Leo also performs this repertoire at community events, such as Florence OneTable, a meal shared around one table that encourages community unity and engagement.  Featured composers in our concerts/presentations include Gwyneth Walker, Libby Larsen, Jennifer Higdon, Valerie Coleman, Undine Smith Moore, Dolores White, William Grant Still, and Sinae Kim. 

Trio Leo believes that diversity and inclusion means branching out from the historical traditions of Western art music and exploring the music and styles of underrepresented composers.  There is a wide variety of exciting, innovative, thought-provoking, and beautiful music being created by 21st century composers who identify in diverse racial, ethnic, gender, and cultural identities. There is a whole world of music by composers who struggle to be recognized, or who never received the recognition they deserved.

Individual Bios


Dr. Whitney O’Neal is from Jonesboro, Arkansas.  She is Assistant Professor of Flute, Assistant Department Chair, and Coordinator of Woodwind Studies at the University of North Alabama.  O’Neal is the principal flutist of the Shoals Symphony and has performed in the National Flute Association’s Professional Flute Choir at conventions in New York City, Charlotte, NC, and Las Vegas.  O’Neal was also selected as a winner in the Convention Performers Competition in 2012 and performed in recital at the NFA convention.  Dr. O’Neal made her international debut in 2015 with recitals in Toledo, Spain.  She frequently performs with her chamber ensembles: Trio Leo, Una Duo, Delta Duo, and Druid City Ensemble.  Dr. O'Neal holds a Bachelor of Music Education with University Honors from Arkansas State University and Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in flute performance with a secondary emphasis in musicology from the University of Alabama.


Dr. Meghan Merciers is from Chattanooga, Tennessee. She is Associate Director of the School of the Arts, Music Department Chair, and Associate Professor of Music (clarinet) at the University of North Alabama. Dr. Merciers is an active soloist and collaborative musician, and frequently performs recitals and lectures with her chamber ensembles, Una Duo, Trio Leo, and her clarinet ensemble, Devil Sticks. She has performed internationally with the French-American Chamber Orchestra in Lyon, France, for a multilingual adaptation of Bernstein’s West Side Story, and she has played in clarinet trio in Assisi, Italy, at the 2013 International Clarinet Association’s ClarinetFest. Dr. Merciers is a Silverstein Pro Team Artist and Yamaha Performing Artist. She earned her doctorate in clarinet performance from Michigan State University, and has degrees from the University of New Mexico, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Dr. Merciers studied with Dr. Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, Professor Keith Lemmons, Dr. Nikolasa Tejero, and Dr. Peter Temko.


Ms. Karen Whitehead Cantrell is a native of Anderson, Alabama. She has a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from University of North Alabama and a Master of Music Education from Florida State University. As the Staff Collaborative Pianist for the UNA Department of Music, she performs on student/faculty recitals and with Collegiate Singers and Opera/Musical Theatre. Ms. Cantrell is a founding member of Trio Leo, an ensemble that champions music of underrepresented composers. She is the pianist at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Rogersville, Alabama.  She is a board member of Walk With Me Foundation, serving as pianist for SOLAS, the Foundation’s performing ensemble. Ms. Cantrell has been pianist for numerous Alabama All-State Choral Festivals, Quad-City Choral Festivals, Alabama Honor Choir, University of North Alabama Honor Choir, Florence Honor Choir, Mississippi State University choral ensembles including performance with Tupelo Symphony, state, regional and national ACDA reading sessions.  She has collaborated with students for state, regional and national NATS.  She has served as choral adjudicator for district, regional and state assessments.


List of Trio Leo’s Accomplishments

Equality Now! By Gwyneth Walker (refereed selection), Virtual Lecture-Recital Presentation at 

Mid-Atlantic Flute Festival February 20-21, 2021

A Celebration of Diverse Composers, UNA Music Building Recital Hall, Florence, AL, March 2020

Full Circle by Gwyneth Walker (refereed selection), Higher Education Recital Presentation at Alabama 

Music Educators Association Conference, Montgomery, AL, January 2020

Dedicated to Diversity: Music for Flute, Clarinet, and Piano by Women Composers (refereed selection),

Performance at Mid-South Flute Festival, University of Memphis, TN, March 2019

A Celebration of Women Composers, UNA Music Building Recital Hall, Florence, AL, February 2019

Like the First Bird by Gwyneth Walker (invited), Montevallo, AL, February 2019

Dedication to Diversity: Music for Flute, Clarinet, and Piano by African-American Women Composers

(refereed selection), Lecture-Recital at American Single Reed Summit, Truman State University, Kirksville, MO, October 2018 (did not attend due to scheduling conflict)

Trio Leo Presents Works of Women Composers, UNA Music Building Recital Hall, Florence, AL, April 2018

Dedication to Diversity: Music for Flute, Clarinet, and Piano by African-American Women Composers 

(refereed selection), Lecture-Recital at Music by Women Festival, Mississippi University for Women, Columbus, MS, March 2018

Portraits of Langston: Words, Music, and Life of Langston Hughes (invited), Lecture-Recital at

Norton Auditorium, Florence, AL, February 2017


Spring 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Spotlight

Dr. Andrea Hunt, Associate Professor of Sociology & Founding Director of the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion


Meet Dr. Andrea Hunt, another example of the impressive and dedicated faculty at UNA.

Dr. Hunt serves as an Associate Professor of Sociology in the College of Arts & Sciences and the Founding Director of the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion. Dr. Hunt is originally from Coffeyville, KS and started her college career at Coffeyville Community College and later transferred to Rogers State University where she was the first person in her family to graduate with a four-year degree. Dr. Hunt later attended the University of South Alabama for her M.A. in Sociology and earned a Ph.D. in sociology from NC State University.

Dr. Hunt came to UNA in 2013 as a faculty member and eagerly focused on supporting her department and the University in its efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her teaching, research, and community work cover a range of interrelated topics including trauma, identity, inequality, the role of academic advising in student retention, mentoring, effective online pedagogy, and inclusive learning experiences. Dr. Hunt has facilitated numerous workshops on implicit biases, academic advising for diverse student populations, preparing high school students for college, best practices for online learning, and techniques for teaching about social inequality. Dr. Hunt is a public sociologist and court appointed special advocate. She works in the community with mental health professionals, social workers, youth in juvenile detention, and adults in recovery. She is currently pursuing a degree in counseling to better support her community. Dr. Hunt is the recipient of the College of Arts and Sciences Early Career Service Award, the College of Arts and Sciences Early Career Teaching Award, the UNA Academic Affairs Outstanding Service Award, the Housing and Residence Life award for Faculty Collaborator of the Year, and the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Faculty Award. She is currently the awards Chair for Sociologist for Women in Society-South, Chair of the Lyman Book Award Committee and Chair for the Committee on the Professions for the Mid-South Sociological Association, and Chair on Sociological Practice for the Southern Sociological Society. 

Dr. Hunt plans to continue supporting students, faculty, staff, and the newly created Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion through her work with the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion and further support small businesses and local non-profits in creating more inclusive practices. When asked what advice she would give others who are considering getting involved with efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion she suggested reaching out to your colleagues and finding ways to collaborate to bring about intentional change.

Her accomplishments are many, and she proudly brings her experience to UNA.

  • Awarded the George Merida Huckaba Endowed Professorship for 2020-2021 for research focusing on equity and inclusion
  • Recently published “The Framing of Race: Trayvon Martin and the Black Lives Matter Movement” in the Journal of Black Studies co-authored with Kimberly Lane, Dr. Yaschica Williams, and Dr. Amber Paulk
  • Recently published “Access to Mental Health Care during and after COVID-19” in Social Problems in the Age of COVID-19, Volume 1: US Perspectives.
  • Recently published “Title IX Programming for Online Learners” in Online and Engaged: Innovative Student Affairs Practices for Online Learner Success co-authored with Madeline Frankford
  • Accepted into the Diversity Scholars Network, National Center for Institutional Diversity, University of Michigan
  • Publication included in Harvard University’s Women and Public Policy Programs’ Gender Action Portal for “What’s in a Name: Exposing Gender Bias in Student Ratings of Teaching” co-authored with Lillian MacNell and Adam Driscoll