Message from the Dean
“…Coupled with the many opportunities that the University of Michigan offers in academics, collaborations, resources, and experiences, and the disciplinary excellence that is at the heart of our efforts, SMTD is uniquely poised to move into Michigan’s third century as a leader in graduating the most influential and innovative leaders in the performing arts.”
It is with great pleasure that I write to you as interim dean, a role I stepped into in August in the midst of the University of Michigan’s bicentennial. It is an honor to serve my beloved alma mater during this exciting time, when the School of Music, Theatre & Dance has shown itself, through brilliant performances and engaging presentations and collaborations, to be such an integral part of our university’s ethos and tradition.
Now, as the bicentennial draws to a close with the calendar year’s end, SMTD looks ahead with great excitement and renewed energy, at a time when our exceptional faculty and staff are asking what it means to be a 21st century performing artist or scholar. We have actively been exploring this question and determining how a performing arts school must evolve to meet the needs of today’s students, while honoring the traditions and standards that are the foundation of excellence.
Thanks to the visionary work of my predecessors, working in collaboration with my colleagues, we have already made tremendous progress in making SMTD a leader in preparing students for successful careers in their fields, despite the great changes that have manifested in the marketplace in recent years. We have founded important programs in entrepreneurship and community engagement that offer students abundant tools and opportunities for building self-directed and vibrant careers in music, theatre, and dance, with an emphasis on impacting the communities in which they live. These programs were immediately embraced by students and are now on their way to becoming national models.
We’ve also added a critically important component to future success by instituting an expansive wellness program tailored to the unique needs of performing artists. In this way, we are helping students to address issues, both physical and emotional, at their earliest stages, before they become obstacles to success.
At the same time, SMTD and the University have just unveiled Year One progress reports for our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategic plans. DEI is vital to maintaining SMTD’s status as a leading performing arts institution and is key not only to our future success, but to the success of our field. A cultural landscape that fully reflects our country’s rich diversity is essential to exploring and celebrating our differences, engendering respect and understanding, and, ultimately, uniting us as a nation. The power of the arts in achieving these goals cannot be underestimated.
Our DEI initiative joins our other forward-looking programs in creating our future. It provides a blueprint that will help us ensure that each and every member of our community has an equal opportunity to thrive and to take full advantage of the University’s expansive resources. SMTD is achieving this “belongingness” through study and engagement and by reflecting a vast spectrum of cultural pluralism in our performances.
We, as faculty, staff, and alumni, stand united in our commitment to this effort. Coupled with the many opportunities that the University of Michigan offers in academics, collaborations, resources, and experiences, and the disciplinary excellence that is at the heart of our efforts, SMTD is uniquely poised to move into Michigan’s third century as a leader in graduating the most influential and innovative leaders in the performing arts.
Melody L. Racine, Interim Dean
School of Music, Theatre & Dance
In this issue
Confronting Porgy and Bess
It has been called the first great American opera, made all the more significant by being set in a black American community and performed by black artists at a time when black culture was exoticized by the country’s white majority. Over the following 80 years, Porgy and Bess (1935) became one of the most celebrated…
Leveling the Conducting Field
Along with the United States presidency, one of the hardest glass ceilings for women to break is in the field of music conducting. So it’s especially noteworthy that SMTD employs seven female faculty conductors-fully 50 percent of the professors who conduct SMTD ensembles. They include Andrea Brown and Courtney Snyder (band); Julie Skadsem (choir); Kathleen…
Discovering Inspiration in Poland
In March 2017, Professor Vince Mountain (scenic design) and I were informed that our Department of Theatre & Drama studio production of War, by Swedish playwright Lars Norén, had been accepted into the juried competition in the biennial ITSelF (International Theatre Schools) Festival in Warsaw, Poland. Ours would be the only American school represented at…
A New Musical with a Michigan Pedigree
The last time Jeffrey Seller (BA ’86) worked with his lifelong best friend Andrew Lippa (BM ’87) was in 1989, when the recent graduates collaborated on a musical called A Pound of Feathers. Lippa wrote the music, Seller directed, and it was staged at a temple on the Upper West Side of Manhattan; tickets were…
Taking a Bite of the Big Apple
New York City has always been a dance mecca-home to some of the most important names in contemporary dance, including Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, and so many more. The city is also alive with other opportunities for dancers and choreographers-in theatre, opera, film, television, and concerts-and connections to a burgeoning creative…
A Voice for Change
Carla Dirlikov Canales (BA ’02) has many questions. An internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano, she is on a quest to connect the dots between performing artists and service: Who do we serve? Are we getting into communities at large? How can we reach underserved communities? How can we use culture to create social impact and social change?…