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University to introduce Institute for Performing Arts

May 7, 2015
young man playing guitar on stage with woman in white behind

Dean of Arts & Sciences Gloria Culver has announced that a new Institute for Performing Arts will be created, bringing together the disciplines of music, theater and dance into a collaborative venture. The institute will serve as a center for performance programs on the River Campus, aiming to further inspire students with or without prior training or experience to explore a variety of aesthetic art forms and opportunities.

“The performing arts, what the Greeks in the classical period called The Muses, are a vital part of a whole rounded life. Whether students perform or attend the arts, this strengthens their experience here,” said President Joel Seligman. “The goal of the Institute for Performing Arts will be to increase opportunities for interaction, collaboration, and creativity across the arts for students regardless of what careers they may pursue.”

“A majority of students participating in performing arts on the River Campus are non-majors,” said Culver. “We hope the institute will make the entry into performance, collaboration and the creation of new work even easier for a greater number of students, as well as provide new resources and space for students and faculty to develop their artistic interests.”

The institute will strengthen the relationships among the College, the Eastman School of Music, and the Memorial Art Gallery, nurturing an environment that celebrates collaboration.

A first step toward establishing the institute involves bringing together the leaders of music, theater and dance—John Covach, Nigel Maister, and Missy Pfohl Smith. Discussions with these and other stakeholders have begun and will continue through the fall semester as the programmatic and operational aspects of the Institute for Performing Arts are defined and implemented. “The institute should be a vehicle for increased collaboration between these disciplines and increase the opportunities for faculty and students, alike,” said Culver.

Covach, the Mercer Brugler Distinguished Teaching Professor in the School of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Music, a professor of music theory at the Eastman School of Music, and founding director of the University’s Institute for Popular Music, says that performing arts at the University are a century-old tradition and that many talented performing groups have emerged through the coming together of students from various academic backgrounds. “Participation in the performing arts enriches every major on campus, and our students focusing on music, theater, and dance are especially able to act as great peer models for non-majors,” said Covach. “The institute will provide new opportunities and encouragement for much more of this fruitful interaction—something uniquely possible at the University of Rochester.”

“The performing arts instill valuable discipline and skills central to the development of all students, irrespective of primary academic focus,” said Maister, the Russell and Ruth Peck Artistic Director of the International Theatre Program.  “Creativity, empathy, the ability to understand text and action, and the confidence to present oneself in a public forum are core attributes that theater fosters and that serve all students. The institute will bring a heightened awareness of what music, theater and dance offer our community, while allowing the disciplines themselves and the students who are part of them to interact collaboratively—one of the central elements of all artistic expression.”

Pfohl Smith, director of the Program of Dance and Movement, adds, “The institute will allow each of the arts programs and departments at the University the potential for shared resources and a more unified visibility in the community for the creative work we are doing on campus and in collaboration with professional guest artists. In the Program of Dance and Movement, where we have a strong focus on interdisciplinary exploration, it will help open doors to collaboration not only within the arts, but across all disciplines.”

Culver said that she anticipates announcing the formal creation of the institute and the appointment of an interim director by the end of the calendar year. “We’ll be working hard on this throughout the fall semester,” she said.

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