Transitions: Music Dean Art Ostrander Retires

The longtime School of Music leader leaves a vigorous program.  By Karin Fleming ’09

Years before the James J. Whalen Center for Music became a reality, music dean Arthur Ostrander was working to make it one. Facilities in Ford Hall had become cramped and inadequate.

“It was clear we were way, way overcrowded,” says Ostrander, who retired this spring after 23 years as dean. “[The expansion was] one thing I was eager to do when I first took this position.”

Today, looking back on his total of 37 years at the College, the former music theory professor considers the new facility his crowning achievement. “There isn’t one aspect of study here that has not been positively changed by the new building,” he says.

Bill Pelto, who joined the faculty in 1991 and has been associate dean since 2000, attributes the success of the building to the lengthy preparation. “Just about every space in the building was discussed by the people who would use it,” Pelto says. “Art recognized how vital that was.”

Mark Radice, professor of music theory at the College since 1987, points out that Ostrander built the music faculty — 80 percent of current faculty were hired during his tenure — and believes this is even more of a testament to his leadership than the building of the Whalen Center.

Ostrander also focused his attention on raising national and international recognition of the school. Concert series, increased touring of student and faculty ensembles to celebrated concert halls such as Lincoln Center, and an exchange program with the University of Limerick in Ireland all helped to further the school’s prominence.

Performance opportunities afield, says Ostrander, are integral to the educational experience of each student. “It’s one thing to prepare for an ensemble concert here,” he says. “It’s another to prepare for a concert at one of the leading concert venues in the world. That is a lifetime experience.”

Jamal Rossi ’80, who was associate dean from 1989 to 2000 and is now associate dean at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, says such professional experiences are among the best of a student’s career. “They transform your life forever,” Rossi says, “and Art has provided that for generations of students.”

Gregory Woodward succeeds Ostrander; he moved from dean of Division of Graduate and Professional Studies into the new role. Woodward has worked at the College nearly 30 years and was the director of music admission and a professor of music theory in the ’80s.

Ostrander is officially retiring in 2009 but is taking a sabbatical leave this year; he plans to do some traveling with his wife, Caroline. But he will remain close to the College and the school he has served for so long. “I’ll continue to attend concerts and recitals and to maintain my many friendships here,” Ostrander says. And if the College ever needs his help, he says, “all they have to do is ask.”

1 Comment

Congratulations, Art.