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Michigan Muse Magazine

Winter 2014

Message from the Dean

“It has been and continues to be an honor to work among such an incredibly talented and dedicated group, aided and abetted by an incomparable staff”

It’s hard to believe that this is my penultimate Muse letter before reaching U-M’s dean limit of 10 years this June. Change is, of course, one of the existential inevitables, and it is at the heart of a life in the performing arts. In this field, we are simultaneously engaging the future, with the creation of new work, and also the past, with the curation, and the renewal through interpretation, of past work.

Change is complicated, with delight and trepidation among its conspicuous companions. For instance, we experienced a twinge of regret last summer when the trees south of the Moore Building were sacrificed for the emerging addition and renovation and the new Brehm Pavilion, which, however, is exhilarating to behold taking shape.

I am enjoying my last year as dean with a similar twinge, since in the future I will watch the never-ending succession of remarkable goings-on at SMTD from a new vantage point. So, as I anticipate renewed time for my own making music, I am also taking stock of the School’s continuing challenges and opportunities.

There is a considerable list of things I’m happy to take some credit for our having collectively accomplished during the past decade. These include stabilizing the School’s finances, significant fund-raising success, the resumption of international touring, establishing the U-M Gershwin Initiative, physical plant progress, and the founding of U-M’s ArtsEngine and the Alliance for the Arts at Research Universities. While I’ve honed my personal qualifications as a functional technological illiterate (not to say virtual Luddite), I have, curiously, advanced opportunities at the School to explore new media frontiers, as in the Moore Building’s new Technology Innovation Suite (see story p. 54).

Unquestionably, there have been moments of identification with the guy pushing a mammoth, cube-shaped boulder up a mountainside in the New Yorker cartoon captioned “Extreme Sisyphus.” But on the whole, the core enterprise of the School—providing an outstanding education for our extraordinary students—has continued apace no matter what mischief the dean has made.

This owes largely to SMTD’s incredible faculty. I am amazed to note that I’ve appointed nearly half of the current faculty. We welcomed another spectacular cohort this fall (see story pp. 31–32), who join an unsurpassed community of colleagues to create one of the finest performing arts faculties in the world. It has been and continues to be an honor to work among such an incredibly talented and dedicated group, aided and abetted by an incomparable staff.

Change is in the nature of these institutions, where people come and go (students at a rapid rate, faculty sometimes on a much longer time scale, deans somewhere in between). Sometimes the change in the institution itself can seem excruciatingly slow. In a discipline that exquisitely balances the creation of new work with the care for great artistic heritages, change deserves to be a matter both for urgent consideration and caution. These parallels of discontinuity and possibility will continue inevitably into the future of this wonderful School.

Christopher Kendall, Dean
Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music
School of Music, Theatre & Dance


In this issue

  1. The Kendall Decade

    Dean Kendall reflects on 10 years of successes, challenges, and growth as he concludes his final year as SMTD dean. In May, at the conclusion of the 2014-15 academic year, Dean Christopher Kendall will step down after serving two consecutive five-year terms as dean, the current U-M limit. Under Kendall’s leadership, SMTD has experienced marked progress,…

  2. Performing Arts in the Digital Age

    Through dynamic multidisciplinary courses, SMTD is helping prepare students for 21st century careers For hundreds of years, music, theatre, and dance was experienced only by attending a live performance. But the 20th and 21st centuries permanently changed that paradigm, beginning with audio recordings and soon followed by film, television, and the Internet. Today, digital media…

  3. A Delicate Balance

    Conductor and actor Damon Gupton thrives on a unique dual career. In the pantheon of performing artist hyphenates, “actor-conductor” is undoubtedly a club with few members. But that hasn’t stopped Damon Gupton from making it work. Gupton (BM ’94, trombone and music education) has been a guest conductor with the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, the Cleveland…

  4. Changing the Culture Through Theatre

    Students harness the power of a play to flip the script of “rape culture” to “respect culture.” Last spring, students in the Department of Theatre & Drama learned that their 2014-15 performance season would open with a brand-new play titled Good Kids. Written by acclaimed playwright Naomi Iizuka, it would be the first commissioned work…

  5. Transatlantic Connections

    It’s not every day that a superstar in the international world of contemporary dance visits a college campus to help rehearse students in one of his own choreographies. So forgive Department of Dance students if they are a little starstruck in January, when Richard Alston, founder and artistic director of the Richard Alston Dance Company…

  6. A Steady Rise to the Top

    After 11 years of hard work and a stream of roles, Brynn O’Malley is Broadway’s brightest new star. Brynn O’Malley is about to embark on an extended honeymoon…on Broadway. The 2003 musical theatre graduate is starring in Honeymoon in Vegas, a new musical based on the 1992 film, now in previews, which opens January 15….

  7. From the Shelf to St. Petersburg

    Arthur Gottschalk’s unexpected journey to becoming an award-winning composer has now brought him to Russia for a major recording project. Arthur Gottschalk’s latest composition, Requiem: For the Living, written for orchestra, choir, and vocal soloists, almost never saw the light of day. Written in 2001, after the events of September 11, Requiem was crafted from…