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About The School

A Performing Arts School

Founded in 1880, the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance is one of the finest performing arts schools in the United States. Encompassing programs in dance, music, musical theatre, and theatre, we are consistently ranked among the top performing arts schools in the country when compared with performance-oriented conservatories or with prestigious academic departments of music.

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Bartered Bride pairOur faculty have national and international reputations, but are in every sense a resident faculty. We offer a wide variety of programs, from traditional to cutting-edge, from primarily performance-based to those that are more academic, giving students huge resources to draw from in completing their education. Michigan students are exceptionally talented, and are consistently competitive at the highest levels of their chosen fields. In addition, they have access to the vast resources of a major research institution allowing them to greatly enhance their performing arts training.

The student body is relatively small in number (approximately 1090 students), while the faculty totals approximately 150, allowing for a high-level of personal interaction. Our faculty strive to create a nurturing atmosphere while challenging students to develop their talents to the fullest. Michigan students are surrounded by both peers and teachers who are consistently performing at the highest possible level of excellence. Our graduates rise to this challenge and become leaders in their fields.

What makes the School unique is our comprehensiveness: we strive to maintain a balanced emphasis on both performance and scholarship while presenting students with the training necessary to excel within their chosen field.


A Classic College Town

A city of about 100,000, Ann Arbor offers exceptional resources to the performing artist-in-training. The School's performance calendar features over 450 performances a year, while the University Musical Society offers world-class artists who represent the diverse spectrum of live performing arts. Downtown Ann Arbor offers a vibrant cultural community with small jazz clubs, small concert halls such as the Ark, art movie houses, bookstores, and, of course, numerous coffee shops.

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The campus itself features architecture that ranges from the medieval grandeur of the Law School's reading room to the state-of-the-art beauty of the Walgreen Drama Center and the Duderstadt Center. With nearly 27 square miles, Ann Arbor has almost 150 city parks, which very much defines its character. Recreational and cultural opportunities abound. Students enjoy canoeing down the Huron River, running in the Nichols Arboretum, or just "hanging out" downtown. Very much a classic college town, the University and the Ann Arbor community co-exist and enhance one another beautifully.


A Unique Relationship

The School's unique relationship as a part of the U-M (ranked as one the top universities in the U.S.) provides students with a vast array of options and opportunities. All of our degrees require some academic coursework, most of which can be selected from any area of the University. For students who desire a larger academic experience, there are both interdisciplinary degrees as well as a full range of dual-degree and academic minor options. The combinations are practically limitless.

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U-M consists of 19 individual schools and colleges, almost all of which are ranked among the best in their field. Our students have access to the finest resources available to college students today: over 226 undergraduate degree programs and more than 120 departments and programs that offer graduate degrees, approximately 41,000 courses ranging from small discussions to large lectures, 24 libraries, and state of the art technological resources.


Michigan Graduates - Shaping the Future

The pattern of excellence that our students begin to establish while enrolled at the U-M continues on into their subsequent careers. Recent graduates have pursued additional studies at the American Repertory Theatre, The Juilliard School, Harvard University, Columbia University, Manhattan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, New York University, the University of Southern California and the University of London, among others. Many are under management and some have recording contracts with major labels.  An undergraduate who received her B.M. in April 2006 won the tuba position in the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Other graduates are faculty members of prestigious schools of music and universities around the country including the Eastman School of Music, Oberlin College Conservatory, the Hartt School, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Texas Tech University, Hofstra University, Bowdoin College, the University of California Santa Cruz, Ohio State University, Ohio University, and Penn State University.

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Arrington & Kendall


SMTD female graduate students at commencement.Voice graduates are performers with the Metropolitan Opera, Berlin Staatsoper, Central City Opera, Chanticleer, Chautauqua Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, English National Opera, Deutsche Opera Berlin, Florentine Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Leipzig Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Minnesota Opera, Opera Company of North Carolina, Paris Opera, San Francisco Opera, Sante Fe Opera, Sarasota Opera, Saratoga Opera, Seattle Opera, Tanglewood, Teatro San Carlo, Toledo Opera, Tulsa Opera, Utah Opera, Vienna State Opera, and Virginia Opera; instrumental graduates have won positions in the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, National Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, the Corigliano Quartet, and the Cavani Quartet.

Theatre graduates are working as performers or behind the scenes with companies such as the Old Globe Theatre, National Shakespeare Company, Theatre by the Sea, Arena Stage, and many others.  Personnel of major dance companies like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane, Paul Taylor, Bella Lewizky, and Mark Morris are former Michigan dance department students.

As you can see, Michigan graduates continue to play a large role in shaping the direction the performing arts are taking, both now and in the future.


Your Future Classmates

Michigan students continue to excel on national and international levels in all areas of the performing arts. In 2014, SMTD's Evita String Quartet won the Bronze Medal at the Fischoff Competition; the Sinta Saxophone Quatet won the Grand Prize at the Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition and first place in the North American Saxophone Alliance Quartet Competition; post-graduate student Jeanette Fang won the gold medal in the professional division as well as the President’s Medal, at the Seattle International Piano Competiion; Robert Ariza (musical theatre) received the Lys Symonette Award for Outstanding Performance in 2014 Lotte Lenya Competition; and musicology graduate student Elizabeth McLain was awarded a prestigious Lucy Fellowship for research in France during the 2014-2015 academic year. In 2013, Evan Zegie, was the First Place winner in the Tuba Student division of the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium & Tuba Festival; Alekos Syropoulos, jazz saxophonist, was named a winner in the Yamaha Young Performing Artists (YYPA);and Glen Thomas Rideout, a DMA student in choral conducting, took first place at the National Student Conducting Awards Competition.

Our instrumentalists perform throughout the year with the symphony orchestras of Ann Arbor, Lansing, Toledo, Flint, Adrian, Plymouth, and the Michigan Opera Theatre orchestra. Theatre students routinely win awards at the American College Theatre Festival and Musical Theatre students are in prominent positions in many of the best summer musical theatre venues.

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Michigan students place as national winners or finalists in the Sphinx Competition, Maazel/Vilar Conducting Competition, North American Saxophone Alliance Competition, International Tuba and Euphonium Competition, ASTA String Competitions (Best Improvisation Award), Leonard Falcone International Tuba and Euphonium Festival, Young Artists Competition for Strings, BMI Composers Awards, Nielsen International Clarinet Competition (Odense, Denmark), American Choral Directors Association National Conducting Awards, International Trumpet Guilds Orchestral Excerpt Competition, and the Great Lakes Regional NATS Competition.

During the summer, our students participate in the most prestigious summer arts programs including the Aspen Music Festival, Brevard Music Center, Tanglewood Music Center, Meadowmount School of Music, Theatre & Dance, ENCORE School for Strings, Music Theatre of Wichita, Mozarteum Summer Academy (Salzburg, Austria), the Music Academy of the West, the Spoleto Festival, and Central City Opera. Others have undertaken internships at the Kennedy Center or with companies such as MTV, Microsoft, CBS Sports, Blue Note Records, and Coda Music Software.

These are your future classmates at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance!


Performance Opportunities at Michigan

The University of Michigan offers extraordinary performance opportunities. Each year, students and faculty of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance present more than 450 concerts, recitals, and staged performances in Ann Arbor. The schedule of concerts held by the School orchestras, bands, and choirs is augmented by numerous solo and small ensemble performances. Various ensembles specialize in early music, electronic music, contemporary classical music, jazz and improvisation, and many eclectic styles of music including Klezmer, mariachi, Japanese music, and Javanese gamelan.

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Michigan at Carnegie Hall signThe Department of Dance has its own company, which performs annually in the Power Center for the Performing Arts and sponsors numerous smaller concerts choreographed by faculty and students. The Department of Theatre and Drama mounts five mainstage productions featuring students in performance directed by faculty or guests in a variety of theatre spaces. Students in design and stage management work on these productions.  Numerous shows written, acted, and directed by students are presented through the Basement Arts series.

A major opera is presented each term in fully staged performances with orchestra. The Musical Theatre Department mounts two mainstage and two workshop productions each year. The senior class presents a showcase of their work in May each year both in Ann Arbor and New York City.  In addition, several programs of opera and musical theatre scenes are given in workshop performances throughout the year.

A number of additional performance outlets are available to students in local and regional organizations. These include the symphony orchestras of Toledo, Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Adrian, and Saginaw; student-run performance organizations, such as MUSKET (musical theatre) and the Gilbert and Sullivan Society; and productions by the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit, and the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Michigan, founded by actor Jeff Daniels. Organists and singers hold posts in large churches and synagogues throughout southeastern Michigan. Other students find performance opportunities in jazz clubs, chamber music societies, and a variety of other venues in the region.


Master Classes and Other Educational Resources

A Michigan education means much more than having access to one of the finest faculty in the country and a wide choice of degree programs. It is also the opportunity to experience a wealth of cultural opportunities that is almost unparalleled in the United States. U-M students benefit from numerous masterclasses that are offered throughout the year. Recent visiting artists include:

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  • Chamber music ensembles Boston Brass, Chester String Quartet, eighth blackbird, Takacs Quartet, Time for Three, and the United States Marine Band Brass Quintet
  • Choreographers Emio Greco, Maureen Fleming, Carlos Orta, Meredith Monk, Bebe Miller, Trisha Brown, Liz Lerman, Bill Evans, and Donald McKayle
  • Cellists Janos Starker and Hans Jorgen Jensen, double bassist Edgar Meyer, and violinists Ida Kavafian and Pamela Frank
  • Pianists Robert McDonald and Andre Watts
  • Singer Audra McDonald, music director Paul Gemignani, playwright Leslie Lee (Colored People's Time)
  • Singers Martina Arroyo, Grace Bumbry, David Daniels, Jessye Norman, Florence Quivar, Samuel Ramey, Gianna Rolandi and vocal coaches Kamal Kahn and Howard Watkins
  • Saxophonist Jean Michel Goury, trumpeter Bud Herseth, flutist Vincens Prats-Paris, percussionist Anthony Orlando, and clarinetists Larry Combs and Karl Leister
  • Jazz artists Bobby Watson and Dave Brubeck
  • Casting agents Richard Fisher, Arnold Mungioli, and Donn Finn; Alan Eisenberg, former Executive Director of Actors Equity, and Mark Zimmerman, the current President of Actors Equity
  • Wig, Hair & Makeup Designer Dawn Rivard
  • Composers Louis Andriessen, John Corigliano, John Adams, John Zorn, Samuel Adler, and Michael Colgrass
  • Conductors Michael Tilson Thomas, Ricardo Abbado, and Leonard Slatkin; music director, harpsichordist & musicologist Alan Curtis
Time for Three

Time for Three coaching a U-M quartet

Our students have also worked with members of the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic. Dance companies such as Sankai Juko, Ballet d'Afrique Noire, Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, and Coreoarte Danze Contemporanea conducted residencies and workshops on campus. In 2001 and 2003, the Royal Shakespeare Company conducted a residency that allowed the University community and School of Music, Theatre & Dance students unique access to this world-renowned theatre company.

Michigan students also have access to one of the finest professional performing arts series in the country. The University Musical Society annually brings many of the world's top professional touring artists to Ann Arbor. Recent events have included the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, Phillip Glass and the Phillip Glass Ensemble, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Joshua Redman, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Guthrie Theatre Company, the Twyla Tharp Dance Studio, and the Emerson String Quartet. (For a current listing, visit their website at Michigan students interact with many of these artists through scheduled masterclasses and residencies, and can also purchase discounted tickets to the performances.


Directions, Travel, and Lodging information for the School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Maps and driving directions for the University of Michigan


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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower