On December 7, the University of Michigan Board of Regents approved a new name for SMTD’s Department of Voice: as of January 2024, the department will officially be renamed the Department of Voice & Opera.
“Our commitment to excellence in education and the pursuit of artistic endeavors has always been at the forefront of our department’s mission,” said Scott Piper, department chair, associate professor of music, and Norma L. Heyde Faculty Development Professor. “This change not only speaks to the spirit and essence of our department but also reflects the success of our alumni, who have thrived in their careers due to the holistic education they received here.”
Opera has long been a significant component of the department’s activities and curriculum, and in recent years the faculty began discussing the importance of having the department name more accurately reflect its full scope. In describing the purpose of the name change, the department stated, “We believe it better aligns with the department’s identity and our strategic vision for a vibrant future.”
A curtain call for one of the casts of Orpheus in the Underworld, an opera performed at U-M in fall 2023
In addition to more accurately describing the work already taking place, the department agreed that the addition of the word “opera” in its name would be more inclusive and would acknowledge the broad skills and diverse expertise of the faculty, including stage directors, coaches, and conductors.
The name change will also be significant for current and prospective students, indicating the importance of opera as a field of study and an avenue for performance alongside other aspects of the vocal arts. The department stated that “a significant majority of prospective students routinely inquire about opera opportunities at SMTD, suggesting that opera is a strong driver of recruitment and an important component of the career aspirations for many young singers.”
Allison Lange (BM ’26, voice) and Abelardo Muñoz (BM ’27, voice) perform at a student recital.
As part of considering the name change, the department assessed the naming conventions of departments at 36 peer institutions. Of those, the opera-producing institutions either include the word “opera” in the name of the vocal department, or manage their opera activities under a separate department. Changing the department name will offer, the faculty stated, “organizational visibility for opera within SMTD, something that is inherently important for fostering and facilitating the necessary partnerships with other departments and disciplines.”
Piper stated, “With the support of Dean David Gier, Provost Laurie McCauley, President Santa Ono, and the University of Michigan Board of Regents, our department now starts an exciting new chapter that will celebrate the vibrancy and diversity that define our history of achievement. We are confident that this change will pave the way for a future filled with innovation, collaboration, and continued success.”