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Muse Magazine

Spring 2017

Message from the Dean

“…I am so grateful to the entire SMTD community—our students, faculty, staff, and alumni—who have inspired and motivated me at a time when the role of the arts in our society is so critically important.”

As you may know, I will be stepping down from my position as dean, effective August 15, 2017. It was a very difficult decision, but it is necessary for me at this time to focus more on my family. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and support I’ve received from my colleagues across the University, which has reminded me, once again, what an extraordinary group of people comprise Michigan. They are not only talented, committed, and visionary, but also kind and caring.

I am thrilled that I will continue as faculty at SMTD, teaching Creative Entrepreneurship and Arts Leadership courses in the fall, and I look forward to helping the broader University community develop this field. I am so excited to remain thoroughly involved in the exciting trajectory of our School and University.

It has been an honor to have been a part of the tremendous evolution we’ve seen at SMTD over these past two years, involving so many successes on the part of our students, faculty, and staff. Together we have made fantastic progress in differentiating SMTD from so many of our peer institutions, and making ours the world’s most relevant school of performing arts.

This progress has taken many forms—too many to enumerate here—but includes the launch of EXCEL (Excellence in Entrepreneurship, Career Empowerment & Leadership), which has transformed arts entrepreneurship and leadership training at SMTD with coursework, workshops, and student grants, providing the most direct support for student entrepreneurial projects of all performing arts schools nationally. Many students are now launching their careers while still enrolled at U-M!

We also launched a new Department of Chamber Music, as well as M-Prize, the largest chamber arts competition in the world, with a $100,000 grand prize. We are fully committed to this genre, which offers vibrant entrepreneurial opportunities for performing artists. We are not only providing exceptional chamber arts training, but are also building audiences for it, which in turn will further help our students forge successful careers.

There are so many other areas where we’ve made great strides as well: doubling community engagement activities with our Michigan Artist Citizen program; evolving  diversity (the largest underrepresented student application and matriculation increase in our history); developing important intersections for social justice and the arts; adding Center Stage Strings to our MPulse Summer Performing Arts Institute; developing livestreaming and audio recording capacity at our venues; and raising the School’s media profile, with frequent coverage in many major media outlets.

And, thanks to the wonderful generosity and commitment of our alumni and other donors, we surpassed our $90 million Victors for Michigan campaign goal 21 months ahead of schedule!

I am so grateful to the entire SMTD community—our students, faculty, staff, and alumni—who have inspired and motivated me at a time when the role of the arts in our society is so critically important. As I’m sure you’ll all agree, Michigan is transformative. It has certainly transformed my life, both as a student and as dean. I look forward to contributing to the momentum we have built, and supporting the next dean as we continue in our mission of transforming the lives of our engaged students, who represent the future of our field.

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


In this issue

  1. Jazz faculty and students in Cuba 2017
    The Beating Heart of Cuba

    Music is everywhere in Cuba. You hear it emanating from the densely packed apartment buildings, from the open-air restaurants and bars, from the never-ending stream of candy-colored vintage American cars that zip through the broad cosmopolitan boulevards of Havana and snake through the narrow cobblestone lanes of Trinidad.

  2. SMTD’s Historic Pianos

    Pianos are the lifeblood of any performing arts school or conservatory. No other instrument has as many uses as a fine piano. Steinway has been the “official” piano of SMTD for more than a century. Many of our pianos are gifts from generous benefactors who have contributed to the history of the School. In honor…

  3. Addressing Civil Unrest Through Theatre

    Dominique Morisseau (BFA ’00) has never shied away from tackling hot-button issues. Her three-play cycle, The Detroit Projects, explores key moments in the history of the Motor City, including the 1967 riots (Detroit ’67); gentrification, circa 1949 (Paradise Blue); and the latest exodus of the automotive industry workforce in the late 2000s (Skeleton Crew). In…

  4. Elegant Harmony

    How do dancers efficiently use motion in modern dance to create elegant movement with their instruments? Professor Bill DeYoung is exploring that question. Advances in kinesiology and movement research during the last half-century have enabled DeYoung to develop the Aesthetics of Balance Project (ABP). The goal is to help dancers become more aware of how…

  5. Alex/Alexis

    Eight turned out to be the magic number for Alex Michaels. He had auditioned for Logo TV’s Emmy Award-winning reality competition series RuPaul’s Drag Race seven times before as his drag persona, Alexis Michelle. But he hit the jackpot on his eighth try. “I’ve been doing drag a long time [14 years], but only full-time…

  6. A Scholarly Celebration of The Beatles

    As a graduate student at SMTD, Walt Everett (professor of music theory) wanted to do his dissertation on The Beatles-but he couldn’t. That was in the early 1980s, and at the time, the Fab Four weren’t considered worthy subjects for scholarship. So Everett did a more traditional dissertation on Franz Schubert. Sticking to the academic…