Dear School of Music Alumni,
In my inaugural year as director, I articulated a focus on three core pillars that I believe are crucial to the success of graduates in music and to the long-term health and viability of the school. Engagement reflects an outward focus aimed at enhancing the visibility and impact of the School of Music on campus, in the community, and on the national arts stage; entrepreneurship suggests the wide array of skills required of today’s successful musicians, including business, technology, and the ability to innovate; and inclusive excellence signals an unyielding pursuit of the highest levels of achievement alongside a fierce commitment to increasing access to the arts among all walks of life. In what follows, I highlight just a handful of the many ways in which the School of Music has launched initiatives toward the fulfillment of these goals during the past year.
In the area of community engagement, the School of Music is partnering with several schools in Prince George’s County and beyond to provide musical instruction to students of all backgrounds. At Paint Branch Elementary School in College Park, our students created a “Bucket Band” that borrows principles of African drumming to teach rhythm and musicianship using little more than buckets and sticks purchased from a local hardware store. We also have students leading in-school and afterschool musical programs for middle and high school students at College Park Academy, and through a partnership with Talbot County Public Schools we have sent chamber ensembles to perform repertoire that connects in some meaningful way to the academic curriculum. Such programs offer enriching, potentially life-changing experiences for the students who participate in them while providing important professional training opportunities for our own students.
In a somewhat different vein, we are very excited about a new live-in residency program for graduate students at a senior retirement facility. Each year, two graduate students from the School of Music—currently master’s student Samantha Flores (cello) and doctoral student Matt Rynes (clarinet)—will receive free room and board at Collington Continuing Care Retirement Community in Mitchellville, MD in exchange for organizing and performing concerts as well as teaching music appreciation courses to residents. This program is one of only a small handful in the entire country, and it offers untold opportunities for student professional development as well as tapping into scientific research on music, aging, and wellness.
Where this last point is concerned, students and faculty at the School of Music are making important inroads into exploring the intersection between music and science, and I am committed to facilitating such research through collaborations with other units on campus. Already we have seen multiple research projects that involve faculty from the School of Public Health, and the director of the Maryland Opera Studio, Prof. Craig Kier, has partnered with a professor from the university’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies to explore the area of Virtual Reality as it relates to the operatic experience.
In addition to these cutting-edge pursuits, students and faculty continue to strive for the highest levels of scholarship and performance across all areas of the School of Music. Whether the university-wide Communication Award won by assistant professor of musicology Will Robin for a thought-provoking essay in The New Yorker or the school’s fellowship string quartet, The Omer Quartet, winning second prize in the Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition, these achievements attest to the tremendous talent and creativity within our midst—and to the wealth of opportunities afforded our aspiring students. During just the month of December alone, the Concert Choir will perform Mozart’s Requiem with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Marin Alsop and will join with the National Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Kennedy Center. The School of Music is also playing host to a year-long residency by renowned soprano Tamara Wilson, who will perform a recital, teach voice and opera students, give several master classes, and guest lecture in courses throughout the school.
We have also sought novel ways to equip students with the professional skills they need to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace. This past spring we awarded the first round of M-Cubator Grants, which provide seed grant funding for students to pursue entrepreneurial and community-oriented projects. We also introduced a new music and entrepreneurship course taught by percussion faculty member Lee Hinkle and launched the Renegade Series, which features entrepreneurially-minded performers, scholars, composers, and arts administrators who share insights into their unique career paths and in so doing spark the imagination of our students.
Again, what I’ve outlined above are just some of the many exciting things happening at the University of Maryland School of Music. I hope that you’ll take the time to learn more about what’s going on in this, the first of many future editions of our new alumni newsletter. My hope is that it, too, will grow in size, scope, and reach, and one of the ways in which you can help make that happen is by letting us know what you’ve been up to, if you haven’t already. I would also ask that, as the year draws to a close, you consider making a gift to the School of Music to help us continue the important work that we do in educating future musicians, teachers, community leaders, and supporters of the arts. Thank you and Go Terps!
Director, School of Music