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Kate Sheeran named Eastman School of Music Dean

Sheeran will be the school’s eighth dean beginning July 15.

Headshot of Karen Sheeran.
Kate Sheeran ’02E begins her leadership role as the dean of the Eastman School of Music on July 15. (Provided photo)

Alumnus Kate Sheeran ’02E, an accomplished educator and academic administrator, professional musician, and executive director of Kaufman Music Center in New York City, has been named the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean of the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. Provost David Figlio announced Sheeran’s appointment, which is effective July 15.

“Kate Sheeran brings to Eastman extensive and impressive leadership experience in music education, including uniquely in both higher education and in community music education,” says University President Sarah Mangelsdorf. “At Kaufman Music Center, she has established and grown a wide range of initiatives to nurture the talents of the next generation of musicians, providing access, encouragement, and programming to aspiring young performers, while also presenting some of today’s most notable artists on stage. As an Eastman alumna and very gifted musician, I know she will immediately embrace the school’s world-class intellectual and creative environment and contribute in extraordinary ways to its place in the community and in the world.”

In Eastman’s 100-year history, Sheeran is only the eighth dean, and the first woman to hold the position. She succeeds Jamal Rossi, who has served as the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean since 2014. In May 2023, Rossi announced that he will depart the deanship after 10 years in the role and at the conclusion of the 2023–24 academic year.

“Kate is an exceptional leader who brings an exciting vision for music education to this role, as well as a keen sense of how Eastman can be most consequential in the world of music,” says Figlio. “She also understands the important role the Eastman School of Music plays in our community and the extraordinary influence Eastman has around the world. I couldn’t think of a better person to collaborate with our remarkable faculty and staff colleagues to build upon the many successes the school has enjoyed under Jamal Rossi and ensure that Eastman’s second century is even brighter than its first.”

As executive director of Kaufman Music Center, Sheeran has launched several center-wide initiatives, including artists-in-residence, robust community programming, and increased collaborations between the center’s two schools and concert presentations in their renowned Merkin Hall. Under her leadership, the organization nearly doubled its endowment, strengthening its financial future. Established with the mission of providing access without barriers, Kaufman Music Center provides innovative programs and music education to 3,000 students and 50,000 audience members of all ages and backgrounds each year. During the COVID pandemic, Sheeran organized Musical Storefronts, presenting more than 130 safe concerts produced for the community and employing professional artists when concert halls were closed. The pop-up concert series delivered needed joy and a sense of connection through live music, as well as garnered worldwide media attention.

Previously, Sheeran served as provost and dean of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In that capacity, she was the chief academic officer of the institution, oversaw all curricular and programmatic areas, led the faculty, and launched a professional development curriculum for all students. Earlier in her career, Sheeran was a member of the leadership team at Mannes School of Music in New York City, where she was an assistant dean and directed all pre-college and continuing education. She has been a faculty member at Dickinson College, Susquehanna University, Bucknell University, and Mannes Prep, part of Mannes School of Music.

As a professional horn player, Sheeran has performed with a wide range of ensembles, including Ensemble Signal, The Wordless Music Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound (an ensemble founded at Eastman), Ensemble LPR, and the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. She has recorded for the Nonesuch, Cantaloupe, Western Vinyl, New Amsterdam, XL, Tzadik, and Warp labels, and for commercial television and film.

She received an undergraduate degree, certificate in arts leadership, and performer’s certificate from Eastman, and a master’s in music degree from the Yale School of Music. She has served on the boards of Kinhaven Music School and Alarm Will Sound, and is currently on the board of JACK Quartet, another Eastman alumni-founded ensemble.

“I am deeply honored to take on the role of dean of the Eastman School of Music,” says Sheeran. “It is a place I truly love, and that has helped to shape me as a musician, leader, and person. I look forward to working with the Eastman and University communities and with the city of Rochester to lead Eastman into the future. We are going to do great things together!”

An appointment approved by the University’s Board of Trustees, the Eastman dean reports to the University provost and serves as a member of the president’s cabinet. Sheeran will play a leadership role in ensuring that the Eastman School continues to be influential as a top music school. As one of the most esteemed schools of music in the world with a globally renowned faculty, dedicated staff, highly engaged alumni, and gifted students, Eastman’s 900 current undergraduate and graduate students have access to both an elite comprehensive professional music school education and a world-class faculty, courses, and all the resources of a private research university. The school’s 110 full-time and 56 part-time faculty work across 13 academic departments providing the highest caliber of education and academic research. Each year, Eastman’s students, faculty members, and guest artists present more than 900 concerts to the Rochester community. In addition, more than 1,700 members of the Rochester community, from young children through senior citizens, are enrolled in the Eastman Community Music School.

The committee partnered with external search firm Isaacson Miller to recruit and recommend candidates for this leadership role. Chaired by Mark Taubman, former dean of School of Medicine and Dentistry and CEO of University of Rochester Medical Center, the committee comprised:

  • Christopher Azzara, Professor of Music Teaching and Learning, Eastman
  • Joan Beal, Member, University of Rochester Board of Trustees
  • Michael Burritt, Paul J. Burgett Distinguished Professor of Percussion, Eastman
  • Nicole Cabell, Assistant Professor of Voice, Eastman
  • Jeff Campbell, Professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media, Eastman
  • John Hain, Senior Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs, Eastman
  • Renée Jolles, Wegman Family Professor of Violin, Eastman
  • Lee Koonce, President and Artistic Director, Gateways Music Festival
  • Marina Lomazov, Professor of Piano, Eastman
  • Tim Long, Associate Professor of Opera, Eastman; Music Director of Eastman Opera Theatre
  • Julia Ng, Assistant Director of Concert Operations, Eastman
  • Masumi Per Rostad, Associate Professor of Viola, Eastman; cochair of Faculty Senate
  • Kayla Sconiers, Vice President, Eastman Students’ Association
  • Crystal Sellers Battle, Associate Dean of Equity and Inclusion, Eastman
  • Amanda Sharpe, Associate Director of Academic Affairs, Eastman; cochair of the Genesee Staff Council
  • Mark Volpe, Managing Director Emeritus, Boston Symphony Orchestra
  • Holly Watkins, Professor of Musicology, Eastman
  • Mark Watters, Associate Professor of Contemporary Media and Film Composition, Eastman
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