Message from the Dean

Christopher Kendall

 

“In the far-reaching and urgent national conversation about what the future of higher education will look like, I suggest that it might well look a lot like our students.”

 

We are more than a little biased, but there is just no doubt that School of Music, Theatre & Dance students are incredibly hard working, brimming with talent and always aspiring to excellence. There are inspiring demonstrations of this fact every single day, but two recent and remarkable events serve as examples:

 

In the more recent example, the SMTD was asked to provide the centerpiece of this year’s Presidential Societies Weekend on September 16. With only days to rehearse, our orchestral, vocal, musical theatre, and jazz students, along with historians and performers from our faculty, all aided and abetted by our dedicated staff, lectured and performed brilliantly on the stage of Hill Auditorium. This scintillating presentation of the music and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin dazzled President Mary Sue Coleman and top supporters of the University of Michigan. The appearance on stage of one of the opera world’s most celebrated artists, the wonderful soprano and U-M alumna Jessye Norman, did not diminish the event’s impact! The concert not only started the year off with spectacular fanfare, it also demonstrated that the arts are very much at the heart of this great research university.

 

The other example actually took place over a number of days last May—twenty-four to be exact, involving eleven performances and one hundred individuals. Those were just some of the numbers relating to the China Tour by the University Symphony Band. Inspired by the legendary fifteen-week tour of Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East by the 1961 Symphony Band, the 2011 China Tour exceeded every expectation. The performances were consistently outstanding, living up to the observation, made by many, that this ensemble represents the top of the form. Just as impressive was the consistent level of responsibility and collegiality exemplified by our students. There was an abiding, collective care among the ensemble members, and a clear respect for high artistic standards, for our institution and for the warm and enthusiastic audiences across China. I know that the band members returned from the trip more deeply engaged with the world and prepared to be the next generation’s cultural emissaries.

 

These two illustrations speak to a central mission of the School: preparing our students to be “citizen artists” – dedicated artists, scholars and educators deeply responsible to their communities, local and global. In the far-reaching and urgent national conversation about what the future of higher education will look like, I suggest that it might well look a lot like our students: fully engaged in developing their skills to the highest level while exploring the synergies among disciplines, and the creative capacity to think and act beyond borders.

 

 

Christopher Kendall, Dean

Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music

School of Musice, Theatre & Dance