Michigan Muse Magazine

Winter 2016

Message from the Dean

“…This is what led me to develop a new vision for our school: to become the most relevant school in the world for performing artists and scholars.”

It is an honor for me to be writing you—alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff, administration, donors, and friends—as dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance in this, my first letter for Michigan Muse. Returning to my alma mater in this position has been indescribably exciting, and I am so grateful for the warm reception I’ve received from everyone I’ve met.

My first months on the job have been nothing less than extraordinary. They began with an in-depth “listening tour” in which I enjoyed meeting with all of our department chairs, executive committee members, senior staff, student groups, other deans, central administration, key donors, and so many others. It was both enlightening and incredibly productive. With this critical input, I was able to gain a nuanced picture of the rich educational opportunities that are the foundation of our school, identify the challenges that must be addressed, and begin to envision our best possible future.

I am incredibly fortunate: I have joined an arts institution that is already one of the finest in the nation. This was made abundantly clear this fall when we reopened the beautifully renovated Earl V. Moore Building and its brand-new Brehm Pavilion; when I attended my first Scholarship Showcase as dean and witnessed the brilliant talent of our students, across all disciplines; and when I began working closely with an exemplary community of talented and committed artists, scholars, and staff.

With the strength of these attributes, we are in an excellent position not only to make improvements where necessary, but also to embrace innovation. All institutions that are educating the next generation of performing artists and scholars are looking for innovative ways of preparing their students for successful careers. It’s a necessity today, when so many of the traditional career paradigms in our field have changed. With change in the marketplace, there must also be change in education and training.

This is what led me to develop a new vision for our school: to become the most relevant school in the world for performing artists and scholars. Relevance—having a significant demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand—will ensure that our students will succeed. We must train them to be relevant to their field of study, and empower them to have their field of study be relevant to society.

This goal has motivated me to develop and launch a number of new programs and initiatives, and to create vital new staff positions. I’m delighted for the opportunity to share details about many of these changes in this issue’s cover story, and look forward to sharing more in the coming months.

I believe that we, in our roles as educators, have a duty to not only provide the highest level of excellence in academic and artistic training, but to also provide the tools that will enable our students to continue working at what they love for the rest of their lives. As a proud alum, I attribute so much of my success to my training and experiences at Michigan. It is my hope that all of our graduates, far into the future, will say the same.


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

In this issue

  1. A Lasting Connection

    There is something about the daily pursuit of artistic excellence that unifies those of us who have been lucky enough to attend the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. During my time at the institution (MM ’02, DMA ’07, bassoon), I solidified friendships and fostered artistic collaborations that have spanned well over…

  2. Centennial Splendor

    The weather was perfect, the leaves were turning, the Wolverines were victorious-a perfect Homecoming weekend to celebrate the Department of Theatre & Drama’s centennial and the centenary of Arthur Miller’s birth. Among the many festivities were a sold-out Power Center reunion concert by StarKid, the all-alumni theatre troupe whose videos-beginning with A Very Potter Musical-made…

  3. The International Language of Dance

    In June, Michael Parmelee (MFA ’16) and Maeve McEwen (BFA ’16) experienced arguably the most exciting moment of their young dance careers when they took the stage at The Place, London’s premier center for contemporary dance. The students performed a duet from Brisk Singing by renowned British choreographer Richard Alston, part of a celebratory 20th–anniversary…

  4. Quadruple Threat

    For as long as he can remember, Robert Hartwell has always needed more than one creative outlet. The SMTD alumnus said he gravitated toward musical theatre because it would allow him to hone several skills, rather than focusing solely on singing, dancing, or acting. After graduating with his musical theatre degree in 2009, Hartwell moved…

  5. Opera’s Next Superstar

    In December 2014, tenor Michael Fabiano appeared in his first starring role at New York’s Metropolitan Opera when he took the stage in La Bohème as Rodolfo, filling in on short notice for an ailing Ramón Vargas. According to The New York Times review the next day, “by the end of the second act, the…