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Muse Magazine

Spring 2016

Message from the Dean

“…We have also been steadily developing the foundation that will support my vision for making SMTD the most relevant school of the performing arts in the world..”

It is impossible to describe how proud I was, on April 29, as I sat on the stage of the Power Center to preside over commencement ceremonies for the first time in my role as dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. I may be a bit biased (I am both dean and an SMTD alumnus, after all), but I believe our ceremony is unrivaled. Who else can boast dazzling performances (by our commencement award-winners) in music, theatre, dance, and musical theatre? And, to top it off, we enjoyed three fantastic speakers: Regent Andrea Fischer Newman, a great advocate for the arts at U-M; Meredith Starkman, a theatre major and 2016 winner of U-M’s prestigious Wallenberg Fellowship; and Jane Chu, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

It was a brilliant culmination to an extraordinary year. A seemingly endless chain of momentous events and developments took place throughout both semesters, beginning in September with the grand reopening of the Earl V. Moore Building and its spectacular new William K. and Delores S. Brehm Pavilion.

The triumphs continued with Emeritus Professor George Shirley receiving the National Medal of Arts; the Department of Theatre & Drama’s fantastic centennial celebration; the launch of a five-year residency by the New York Philharmonic; an important educational symposium on popular music; and the addition of Center Stage Strings to our MPulse Summer Performing Arts Institutes for high school students. And of course there was the stream of incredible performances and accomplishments by our students, master classes and lectures by renowned guest artists and scholars, and remarkable achievements by our faculty—much of which is reported on in this issue of Michigan Muse.

With all this ongoing activity, we have also been steadily developing the foundation that will support my vision for making SMTD the most relevant school of the performing arts in the world. A major part of that foundation is our EXCEL program, the subject of our cover story. In its first year, the program has succeeded beyond our expectations, clearly proving that students are hungry for support and guidance in entrepreneurial and career training.

I was thrilled to see this program—and others, such as our El Sistema-inspired Michigan Artist Citizen program and the new Department of Chamber Music—launch so successfully this year. And, as this magazine goes to press, we end the year with the inaugural M-Prize, the largest chamber music competition in the world. It shines a spotlight on SMTD and adds great momentum for building awareness, appreciation, and audiences for the chamber arts, a field that has the potential to provide so many of our future graduates with tremendous opportunities for creative and professional fulfillment. We look forward to telling you all about M-Prize in the fall issue of Michigan Muse.

It has truly been a year to remember. I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

Aaron Dworkin, Dean
Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music
School of Music, Theatre & Dance


In this issue

  1. The New Entrepreneurs

    When graduate student Ashley Stanley (flute and chamber arts) arrived at Michigan in the fall of 2014, she recognized immediately that she was receiving a world-class education. “My playing ability was improving exponentially and I was getting the chance to work with serious colleagues with unbelievable talent,” she recalled recently. But Stanley also felt that…

  2. A Tale of Two Operas

    As a composer, there are few achievements more prestigious than having a grand opera commissioned and performed by a celebrated company. Yet in the short span of four weeks this spring, two School of Music, Theatre & Dance alums-who earned degrees the same year-have seen this dream realized. JFK, composed by David T. Little (MM’…

  3. Social Justice + Music: Men’s Glee Club Premieres “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed”

    You’ve heard their names in the news. Michael Brown. Trayvon Martin. Oscar Grant. Eric Garner. Kenneth Chamberlain. Amadou Diallo. John Crawford. These men are the subjects of a powerful multi-movement work by up-and-coming Atlanta-based composer Joel Thompson titled Seven Last Words of the Unarmed. The work was recently premiered by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee…

  4. Sexism and the City

    If you’ve seen The Devil Wears Prada, starring Meryl Streep as magazine editor Miranda Priestly, you’ll almost certainly be reminded of that character when first encountering Diana Trout, played by Miriam Shor (BFA ’93, theatre) on TV Land’s hit series Younger. Both women are imperious, glamorous, ambitious, accomplished, and profoundly dismissive and demanding of their…

  5. It’s All About the Song

    Every spring, graduating seniors in the Department of Musical Theatre travel to New York City and sing their hearts out for agents and casting directors at what is basically one grand audition: the annual Senior Showcase. This is their big chance to make an impression on those who have the potential to jumpstart their Broadway…

  6. Taking Dance Outside the Studio

    The Department of Dance’s Freshman Touring Company (FTC) plays a critical role in the development of young dancers who are beginning their journey toward a career in dance.  It takes them outside the studio to engage the community and gives them the real-life experience of being a member of a small dance company. Launched as…

  7. Capturing the Spirit of Music in Michigan

    Since the 1600s, people from around the world have settled in and around the Great Lakes. Joining an existing diverse population of indigenous Algonquian people, immigrants created cultural enclaves and transplanted many aspects of their parent culture in Michigan, creating an expansive musical mosaic. Spearheaded by Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Music Lester Monts (ethnomusicology),…