State of the School of Music: New dean


During her visit to DePauw, candidate for the dean of school of music Andrea Kalyn asked a roomful of music students if they had a relationship with their administration that encouraged communication — and the resounding answer in the room was "no."

Many School of Music students have become frustrated with an unsympathetic administration, compounding the issue of a rigid schedule and few options. Because many of the programs in the school are pre-professional degrees taught in four years instead of five, there is little room for customizing one's own schedule or failing to get into a required class — even if it's only offered once every three semesters and is consistently over capacity.

Students who want a schedule with more liberal arts classes or are unable to fulfill a credit when they need it, have felt out of luck and abandoned.

Sophomore Leah Somerville is one of those frustrated students. As a double major, pursuing both a bachelor of music arts in the School of Music and a psychology major in the College of Liberal Arts, she has run into walls when trying to find help from administration to make her packed schedule work.

"I feel like they weren't willing to make time, make scheduling placement or to make exceptions," Somerville said. "Everything was very rigid. This is what you can do, and this is what you can't do, go with the program."

This poor relationship is only part of the frustrations students in the 127-year-old School of Music has faced in the last decade. Recently, there have been budget cuts, especially in funding to send students off campus. Leadership has been changing frequently, too, leaving little time for strategic planning; the current dean has served for three years, and her predecessor served for five before resigning. There was also an interim dean that served in-between the two.

However, the university hopes to change this soon. Starting in the summer of 2010, a search committee set out to find a new dean for the School of Music with the intention of dramatically improving the administration's relationship with its students as well as integrating with the College of Liberal Arts.

The final three candidates visited the university over the past two weeks, and although there is no timeline for the announcement, the decision for the next School of Music dean will likely be made soon.

In the past, only School of Music faculty have conducted dean searches, but President Brian Casey has taken a special interest in the search. Along with a set of high expectations, the new dean will now sit on Casey's cabinet, which is composed of campus' big decision makers, such as Vice President for Finance and Administration Brad Kelsheimer and Director of Human Resources Pat Bacon, who work closely with Casey.

"President Casey is envisioning a new role for the dean of the School of Music," said Scott Spiegelberg, associate professor of music and one of the committee members. "This is really a change in scope for the position."

The committee, headed by Casey, also includes four music professors, two College of Liberal Arts professors, two School of Music students and a 1991 alumnus. Executive search firm Isaacson Miller aids the team and helped locate nearly 50 potential candidates.

Spiegelberg said the committee is looking for a dean with a lot of experience creating and nurturing a successful music program and is also expected to be a strong fundraiser. The committee also wants the new dean to be a more visible figure on campus and within the School of Music.

"We're also looking for somebody who is good at bringing the faculty together into a cohesive vision of what we want to be as a school of music within a liberal arts setting," Spiegelberg said.

As the new face of the School of Music, Spiegelberg said the dean should consider what kind of students the school should attract and what strengths the school should highlight in order to recruit these students.

The new dean will also work much closer with school administration than in the past to improve the relationship and closeness to the College of Liberal Arts.

"The dean will be responsible directly to [Casey] as far as finance, admission, curricular goals," said Craig Paré, a music professor and another committee member. "And, they'll be responsible to develop all these things as well."

Students are ready for the change, too, and want more integration between the two schools.

‘Were anxious," Somerville said. "It's perceived in the School of Music to be a big change, and if it isn't, we will all be stunned."