This fall has been an eventful one at our University. We were thrilled to welcome all of our students back to campus. Last year many of our students were unable to join us in Rochester because of travel bans and visa issues. This fall many of those who were unable to join us in person last year joined us on campus along with a large first-year class. It’s great to have the campus bustling, to have our sports teams competing nationally again, and to once again have live performances at the Eastman School of Music.
In October we invited the Class of 2020 back for a Meliora celebration that featured their much-belated commencement. The ceremony was held at beautiful Kodak Hall with award-winning actor Geena Davis as our speaker. The hall was filled to capacity with family and friends. That afternoon we all enjoyed time on Wilson Quad at Meliora village on an absolutely spectacular fall day.
We are very pleased this academic year also marks a true milestone in the history of the University of Rochester—100 years of the Eastman School of Music.
During our Meliora celebration, the recognition of Eastman’s centennial coincided with a performance to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Garth Fagan Dance, the internationally recognized company located right here in Rochester. One of the weekend’s highlights was a fabulous collaboration featuring Fagan dancers and Eastman ensembles.
Such thrilling performances remind us just how powerful music and the performing arts can be and how important they are for our sense of ourselves as human beings. As Jamal Rossi, the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean of the Eastman School of Music, noted when we kicked off Eastman’s Centennial Celebration, if there was ever a time when we needed music in our lives, it is now, during the challenging period we find ourselves in.
Bringing that soul-stirring spirit to all Rochesterians was a driving impetus for the school’s benefactor George Eastman. Conceived as a great project to share the power of art with the community, the Eastman School has grown to become an internationally acclaimed center for performance excellence, academic achievement, musical entrepreneurship, and community engagement.
Among the Eastman School’s earliest acts of community outreach was the Eastman Community Music School. Also founded in 1921, the school still offers music lessons, ensembles, classes, and workshops to community members of all ages and backgrounds. In recent years, more contemporary programs have continued to enrich the community by sending student ensembles to perform in nursing homes and other nontraditional locations.
Ever the innovator, Eastman partnered with the Medical Center in 2019 to establish an outreach effort called Eastman Performing Arts Medicine. Through its four pillars of healing, caring, learning, and inspiration, the program offers medical care to performing artists and provides arts enrichment and music therapy to patients through pioneering research.
Similarly, the Beal Institute for Film Music and Contemporary Media, named in recognition of the leadership support of the husband-wife team of Emmy-winning composer Jeff ’85E and noted vocalist and University Trustee Joan Beal ’84E, offers instruction and experiences in writing, producing, performing music for films, television, video games, and other new mediums.
These are wonderful examples of how members of our University community are always creating ways to be “ever better.”
George Eastman wanted his music school to be deeply connected to the University, working closely with then President Rush Rhees to bring the school under the umbrella of the larger University. The inclusion of Eastman made Rochester a university in the true sense of an institution that’s home to multiple schools and many perspectives and modes of inquiry. In each of our schools, people from all walks of life work together across the University to engage in the great questions and the pressing challenges of the era.
As our campus returns to in-person life, we’re looking forward to sharing the history and the spirit of the Eastman School of Music. The school’s story is an integral chapter in the larger story that defines Rochester as a University community, one in which faculty, students, staff, and friends sharpen their ideas, pursue their inventiveness, and engage with one another to make the world we live in better for all.
Contact President Mangelsdorf at sarah (dot) mangelsdorf (at) rochester (dot) edu. Follow her on Instagram.