Michigan Muse Magazine

Fall 2016

Message from the Dean

“…although the performing arts were not a formal part of U-M’s curriculum during its earliest years, they have been an intrinsic part of the University’s culture from the start.”

After many years of planning and anticipation, the University of Michigan is poised to celebrate its bicentennial, which begins in January and will be observed throughout 2017. It’s going to be an incredible year of festivals, colloquia, and more, and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance will play a major role, as it so often does at the University’s most important events.

Our Collage concert on January 14, with a bicentennial theme, will be one of the first celebrations on the bicentennial event calendar. Collage will also pay tribute to Emeritus Professor of Conducting Gustav Meier, who passed away earlier this year. In 1977, Professor Meier created Collage, which has since become a favorite annual tradition. We look forward to honoring this great artist and teacher, and kicking off the bicentennial with a classic Collage lineup of exceptional virtuosity.

SMTD will again be in the bicentennial spotlight on April 8 for one of the most high-profile events of the coming year: ”True Blue: A Tribute to Michigan,” at Hill Auditorium (see p. 19). Our students, faculty, and alumni—including Darth Vader himself, James Earl Jones—are the engine behind this special presentation, in which music, theatre, and dance will lead the telling of our beloved institution’s story. I am so proud of the important contribution that SMTD is making to this once-in-a-lifetime event, proving yet again how indispensable the performing arts are on our campus.

As you’ll learn from our cover story, although the performing arts were not a formal part of U-M’s curriculum during its earliest years, they have been an intrinsic part of the University’s culture from the start. And from the time performing arts courses were first offered—with music, 137 years ago—we have seen exponential growth, not only in the size of our student body and faculty, but in the breadth of degree programs, concentrations, research, ensembles, and opportunities of so many kinds. We have metamorphosed, too, from a relatively homogenous faculty and student body to being truly diverse and multicultural, representing the full breadth of our society, and we take great pride today in having one of the highest concentrations of underrepresented minorities amongst all U-M schools and colleges.

Embedding a performing arts school within a top research university, and allowing it to grow and flourish, was a brilliant experiment that has born rich rewards. It has proven how fruitful the synergies are between the arts, sciences, and other disciplines; it has provided SMTD students with unparalleled opportunities for academic, personal, and professional growth; and it has given the campus and community inspirational performances and an enviable creative culture that has contributed so powerfully to Michigan’s great legacy.

I hope you will be able to join us for all or some of the many festivities that will take place in the coming year, and I urge you to visit the beautiful bicentennial website (bicentennial/, which contains a wealth of information on Michigan’s history and heritage, and how it will be celebrated in the months ahead. Happy Birthday University of Michigan, and Go Blue!


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

In this issue

  1. Always Inspirational, Forever Valiant: A Bicentennial Appreciation for the Performing Arts at Michigan

    The University of Michigan Bicentennial marks 200 years of extraordinary research, education, and public service. According to U-M’s official history, the institution was founded as one “that stresses both the life of the mind and the life of practical achievement; that is both broadly accessible and devoted to educating the leaders of the future.” While…

  2. Oh, What A Night!

    It was a night like no other in the history of the University of Michigan. Last May, alumni and current students of the Department of Musical Theatre, along with current and past faculty, honored retiring department chair Brent Wagner with an extravaganza in New York City. Titled Maize & Blue on Broadway, the event honored Wagner’s…

  3. The Tricky Task of Adjudicating M-Prize

    Last May, the University of Michigan hosted the first M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition, the largest competition of its kind thanks to the number of applicants (172) and the unprecedented grand prize of $100,000. Supported by the U-M Office of the Provost and an anonymous donor, an additional $100,000 in prize money is divided amongst the…

  4. Senior Acting Showcase

    Last spring, for the first time in the history of the Department of Theatre & Drama, graduating seniors were able to showcase their craft in front of agents, producers, and casting directors in three of the country’s entertainment capitals-New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Introducing acting majors to industry professionals (several of them alumni),…

  5. Operation Joy and Hope

    You never know where you’ll find inspiration. For Christina Maxwell (BFA ’16, musical theatre), it happened during a jog through Nichols Arboretum. It was the end of summer, just before the start of her junior year, and Maxwell was ruminating over the sense of something missing in her life. Coming from a family that values…

  6. Glancing Back, Dancing Forward

    The University of Michigan Bicentennial celebration spans the full calendar year of 2017, and the Department of Dance will be one of the first on campus to usher in the festivities. The annual Power Center dance concerts, slated for February 2-5, will celebrate the long and distinguished presence of dance on campus and feature choreography…

  7. Making Music, Working on the Soul

    Whether in local schools, arts organizations, or abroad, young people around the world are being taught by dedicated and creative pedagogues who have studied music education at SMTD. Here, we highlight a small group of music educators who are making a difference in their field. Each received teaching certification when they obtained their undergraduate degrees….