The work of the first year with any new group, for me, is always “who are these folks, what would we like to try to accomplish together, what do we value, and how do we want to be with each other?” One of the first pieces of work we did together was to craft our current Mission, Vision and Values statement. A lot of that statement is about you: that is to say, faculty, reflecting back on their best experiences with students across decades, reflecting on your successes, where you have gone, what you have done, who and how you are, these things heavily informed our sense of what we want to do.
Coming out of that work, it was clear that faculty felt very strongly that we needed to solve one burning issue. In 2013, we were a school with a national reputation for turning out superb music education majors who were not treated as second-class citizens, not segregated in ensembles according to major, education majors who performed, musically, at the same high level as our very best students. The good question that folks presented me on my way in the door was, “why on earth do we give music education majors only half of the private lesson time that performance majors get? Don’t we expect them to perform at the same high level?”
That question was easy to understand and easy to answer. With the support of then-Provost Marisa Kelly, despite a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a slightly smaller school as a result (when you double the amount of lesson time, you halve the number of students that can fit in a studio!) we proceeded to roll in, over four years, hour-long lessons for every BM student in the School of Music, including and especially education majors. Your strong ongoing financial support helped us make this change, and we are a better school because of it.
We developed a strategic plan for the School of Music (in three words: national, diverse, accessible.) Alumni played a leading role in national expansion through the Councils of Advocates, also helping us diversify our applicant pool and provide scholarship assistance for underrepresented groups. In 2016 we presented a webinar, “The 21st Century Music School” to help alumni from decades ago understand the demographic changes that would impact the school, changes that are here now.
Coming out of the campus protests of 2016-17, students in the SOM played a leading role, meeting regularly with me to discuss issues of race on campus. We formed the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group, and faculty engaged the first genuinely comprehensive review of curriculum and programming since the Internet, with a view toward moving beyond white Western European music. That review should reach completion next year.
With your help we raised millions of dollars in funding, funding that provided numerous named scholarships, established an ensemble touring fund for students, inaugurated, with Stephanie Blythe, a new Thaler Vocal Arts series endowed concert series, sent ensembles to Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and other prestigious venues, and celebrated the 50th anniversary of Husa’s Music for Prague 1968 with a commission of a new work, Labyrinth by Carter Pann.
We developed our relationship with hundreds of you across the nation through the expansion of alumni receptions. In addition to historic receptions such as NYSSMA and the Midwest Clinic, receptions dating back decades, we established new gatherings at TMEA, CMEA, FMEA, Tanglewood, NAFME, and ACDA, and in Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Denver.
We continued to have strong demand for enrollment by highly talented students, despite the pressures brought to bear on higher education during this time. Even in the COVID-19 environment, despite dire forecasts for all programs, we achieved a stunning ninety percent of last season’s incoming class. The ten-year reaccreditation of the school by NASM last year was glowing (read more about what they found.)
We established the “Music as Medicine” initiative, a non-music-therapy alternative to exploring therapeutic music with performers of a wide range of abilities and interests. We provide musicians to numerous local agencies, organizations and residences for a variety of forms of “musical companionship.” These partnerships Kendal at Ithaca, Longview, Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, Opera Ithaca, Community Arts Partnership, Dorothy Cotton Singers, and broadcasts on public radio station WSKG in Binghamton.
These achievements represent the efforts and work of many hands across our campus and country, and almost all of them have relied on our alumni, in one way or another, to succeed. I am enormously grateful for your partnership in these past seven years, and I know the deans who come after me will be equally reliant on, and appreciative, of the many ways you help us.