Message from the Dean
It is an honor to connect with you as the new dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. My tenure officially began on Homecoming weekend, and returning to Michigan, from where I launched my professional career as a musician, truly felt like coming home.
As I have immersed myself in SMTD in my first two months, the breadth of activity—across the 17 departments, curricular and co-curricular, planned and spontaneous—has amazed me. Every day, I discover something new and exciting, and I am inspired by the passion, creativity, and commitment of our faculty, staff, and students.
And, of course, I have been reflecting on my own experiences as a Michigan student: how they prepared and propelled me, and how the School is both much the same as it was 35 years ago, and yet so different.
As it was when I was an undergraduate, SMTD is animated by world-class artists and scholars who are dedicated to their students, while the unsurpassed intellectual resources of the larger university continue to enliven the School. SMTD also continues to be a critical part of a vibrant campus-wide arts scene that includes UMS, ArtsEngine, and the many exciting organizations that engage non-majors, including the Michigan Marching Band, the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs, MUSKET, and Basement Arts.
Also still vital is the deep connection to the larger professional world, achieved through our guest artists, the connections of our faculty, and a remarkable alumni network. The School remains devoted to sustaining and passing on artistic and scholarly tradition, while simultaneously fostering experimentation and creation. It is, in fact, a place full of restless possibility and ambition, as evidenced by the more than 900 events that take place annually.
SMTD has also changed with the times. I marvel at how it has responded to a constantly changing cultural climate and the new necessity of preparing our students to thrive in a technologically infused, diverse, globally-connected world. We now support and empower students to advance their careers through innovative programs such as EXCEL, our comprehensive entrepreneurship and career-planning center, along with a spectrum of programs being coordinated by the newly formed Office of Outreach & Engagement.
We are also attending to the holistic development of our students in a variety of ways. Our Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion offers workshops, trainings, performances, grants, and other programs that help ensure that each member of our community has an opportunity to thrive, and our Wellness Initiative is offering unprecedented physical and mental health services that are attuned to the unique challenges faced by performing artists.
At a time when the powerful capacity of the arts to bring us together is increasingly important, I am proud that our collaborative community is looking increasingly outward. We are driven to create work that that reaches diverse audiences, grapples with the ambiguity and tension of our lives today, explores the shared human experience, and creates positive change in communities. Our students are enthusiastically absorbing all we can offer to help them become creative, engaged, and empowered artists and scholars whose work will positively impact their communities and the wider world.
All of this assures me that our future at SMTD is bright. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming months and years to build upon the great legacy of our School as we continue to evolve as the leader and best in performing arts education. Go Blue!
Dave Gier, Dean
Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music
School of Music, Theatre & Dance
In this issue
Back to the Future: Dave Gier returns to lead his alma mater
Just four days before the University of Michigan’s Homecoming in October, David A. Gier (BM ’83, trombone performance) began his tenure as the eighth dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Needless to say, this put “homecoming” in a whole new light.
Learning how to EXCEL in NYC
“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York.” Kander & Ebb made a good point. New York City is a vast, competitive, dazzling, daunting labyrinth where the best of the best go to make their mark―especially among performing artists.
Embracing Flint: a new play by Prof. José Casas explores the embattled city and its people
A father missing his grown son. Two activists facing exhaustion and struggling to find hope. A demolition man from Los Angeles summoned to tear down abandoned houses. A young suburban musician who finds inspiration downtown. And an old-school barber concerned with the influx of hipsters looking for cheap rent.
Going Hollywood: Musical Theatre alums on screen
Broadway may be the primary destination for graduates of SMTD’s Department of Musical Theatre, but success is also regularly found Off Broadway, on national and regional tours, and on screen as well.
The Dance Legacy Project: staging historic modern dance works
Built for music, with its world-famous acoustics, Hill Auditorium rarely has its stage graced by dancers. Large-scale dance performances are generally reserved for the Power Center for the Performing Arts, with its versatile stage and technical sophistication. But that changed in October when the Dance Legacy Project (DLP) had its premiere performance in Hill
Strike Up the Band: U-M alumni teachers dominate in music classrooms across Michigan
Chances are good that if you or someone you know has taken a music class in Michigan in the last 70 years, it was taught by a University of Michigan graduate. More than 400 U-M alumni are now at the helm of hundreds of elementary, middle and high school music classrooms across the state