School of Music Dean Karl Paulnack to Depart at End of Academic Year

By IC News staff, September 13, 2019
A message from Provost La Jerne Terry Cornish.

It is with mixed emotions that I announce to the Ithaca College community that School of Music Dean Karl Paulnack will be departing the college at the end of the 2019–20 academic year. Karl has graciously given his notice now, so that we may begin considering the path forward for leadership of Ithaca College’s founding school.

Since arriving on campus as dean in 2013, Karl has proven to be a committed and dedicated leader. This actually marked his second time at IC, as he had been on the faculty from 1986 to 1998 as an associate professor of piano. During that time he created and directed the school’s Bachelor of Music in Performance–Collaborative Emphasis degree program.

Perhaps Karl’s signature achievement as dean was shepherding the successful reaccreditation of the School of Music by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), which will run through the 2027–28 academic year.

In its accreditation report, NASM highlighted a number of the school’s strengths, including a legacy of commitment to music, musicians, and the education of superb music educators; a clear commitment to inclusion, in all of its forms, as a cornerstone of academic and musical excellence; a robust range of partnerships in communities at the local, regional and national levels; and an institutional pride in the music faculty’s ability to help students learn.

Thanks largely to Karl’s efforts and the generosity of the Thaler family and Thaler/Howell Foundation, on Tuesday we will be welcoming to Ford Hall mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, the first performer in the new Manley and Doriseve Thaler Vocal Concert Series. In what Karl has coined the “third leg in the Thaler triad,” this series joins the Rachel S. Thaler Concert Pianist Series and Louis K. Thaler Concert Violinist Series in bringing world-class artists to campus for public performances as well as master classes for our students.

Karl played an integral role in the development and launch this fall of the innovative MBA in Entertainment and Media Management graduate degree. Based in the School of Business, the program leverages the strengths of the college’s business, music, and communications faculty to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to develop, manage and distribute creative content.

In addition to being an accomplished administrator, Karl has been an ambassador for the school nationally and internationally, earning recognition as a leader in the field of music education and as an active performer.

To cite just a few examples:

  • Last May, Karl was named to the Higher Education Advisory Group of the National Alliance for Audition Support, an initiative to increase diversity in American orchestras by offering Black and Latinx musicians a customized combination of mentoring, audition preparation, financial support and audition previews.
  • In 2018 he was elected to a six-year term on the National Executive Committee of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the largest and oldest national fraternity in music. He is a recipient of the Signature Sinfonian medal of honor.
  • In addition to serving as the keynote speaker at the 2018 Iowa Bandmasters’ Association Conference, he offered a series of workshops and performed the world premiere of “Swing Landscape: Rhapsody for Piano and Wind Orchestra,” a piece written for and dedicated to Karl by composer James M. David.
  • In 2016, he collaborated in the world premiere of Justin Merrit’s “Ithaka,” a piece set to the words of the poem by C.P. Cavafy and the first work commissioned through the Michael Steinberg and Jorja Fleezanis Fund.
  • Karl was selected to serve as an International Scholar in residence in 2015 at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, working with students and faculty at NTNU’s College of Music across several days of lessons, lectures and discussions.

We are so grateful for Karl’s dedicated service to the college over these past six years, and in this final year we look forward to both celebrating his many accomplishments and working with him to set a bright future for the School of Music.


La Jerne Terry Cornish
Senior Vice President and Provost for Academic Affairs