By Linda Smith & Brendan Luke
A&C Editor, Contributing Writer
What is the state of the arts at the University of Dallas? This all-too-brief article series will seek to define how three departments — music, drama and art — strive to educate the students at UD who are pursuing the study of art. The movements and styles within the artistic culture at UD will also be explored, as well as how the dramatic, musical and mixed-media productions at UD influence the school’s culture. This week features UD’s department of music with a look behind the scenes of the Brown Bag recitals, Lyric Theater and “Candide.”
Music department director Kristin Van Cleve emphasized the effect that UD’s smaller size has on the music program.
“I really like the fact that it’s not a huge music school,” Van Cleve said. “There’s a chance to get to know the students as individuals more and get more of an idea of what their backgrounds are and what they’re interested in and help them to grow musically.”
A good foundation has been set for future growth. The program includes the Lyric Theater class, which has been taught by adjunct music professor Dee Donasco since 2013.
“The first semester I taught it, spring of 2013, it was sort of an experimental thing,” Donasco said. “But everybody did a really good job, so I thought about how our opera department ran at SMU [where Donasco received her Master’s degree], and I took that idea and made it my own, and just worked with students that we had. I had about 14 students the first semester I did Lyric Theater, and from that it started growing.”
Senior David Deaton expressed enthusiasm for the program’s chamber ensembles, noting that their smaller size allowed for a greater intimacy with fellow students and instructors.
“If you were in a bigger group, it would be harder for the instructor to work with you individually, which is a big thing definitely,” Deaton said. “I would say that even though it’s a small department, some of the staff are phenomenal. Dee Donasco is great.”
Classes in the musical curriculum include Music of the Western World I and II, Music Theory I and II, History of Opera and electives that change with every semester, like Shakespeare through Music and Wagner. Deaton expressed a desire for these classes to be expanded.
“I haven’t seen much growth in classes,” Deaton said. “Of course, I understand…everything is about the classics, but I think that by adding specific classes, like jazz or contemporary music, it could bring a lot of attention to the university, I think, in a positive way. It would garner a lot of interest in students.”
The performative aspects of the department include Brown Bag recitals and the faculty trio performances, as well as performances by visiting groups. These are widely advertised and are attended by many students wishing to take a break from a busy day.
Senior and voice student Mary Fougerousse, of recent “Candide” fame in her role as Cunegonde, said that she had considered going to music school but thought it might be best to attend a liberal arts university.
“Initially I really wanted to learn music history and music theory because I never received any of that in high school,” she said. “Also, Collegium [Cantorum] really drew me in because I have been in choirs and had been in competitive choirs in high school.”
She expressed gratification at seeing an increased amount of performing opportunities, like the Lyric Theater productions and Brown Bag recitals, since her arrival – and, of course, “Candide.”
“Now that we can put on that level of music, we can continue at that level,” she said.
When Van Cleve was asked what changes she would like to see in the future, she noted that establishing a major was one of the top priorities.
“I would like to see a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree here,” Van Cleve said. “I think if a degree is ever established, it would enhance what the university has to offer.”
In order for the department to truly expand, and for a B.A. program to be established, various criteria need to be met.
“One of the main things is just the space, having the infrastructure, having a recital hall,” Van Cleve said. “It could even be a multi-purpose facility that could be used for other things, but something that is acoustically adequate for music, and having true practice rooms that are sound-proofed.”
The National Association for Schools of Music, the accrediting body for degree programs, also enforces a set of criteria on schools developing musical degree programs. Of course, all these changes require financing, something that can be hard to come by.
“It takes money,” Van Cleve said. “Hopefully at some point, there will be the money, either from an individual or individuals that are interested in seeing more music here.”
Donasco also expressed a need for the program to expand.
“I wish we had a full-time program,” Donasco said. “If it was a major program, then we would be able to teach [the students] pedagogy and all the other things that are needed in musicians. What they do right now is pretty much [just the] basics as performers.”
Donasco elaborated on her current pedagogy, which requires much from students that elevates the quality of the program.
“The way I teach my students, I actually teach them as I
was taught when I was getting my Master’s,” Donasco said. “As a musician, you never stop learning. There’s always going to be a piece of music that needs to be learned, or different styles that you need to explore. It’s that whole idea that I want to encourage our students to keep doing.”
Fougerousse expressed similar sentiments, noting that several friends have wanted to major in music but have not had the opportunity.
“It always surprises me to know how many actually elite musicians we have, that are not just messing around, they are actually really talented musicians,” Fougerousse said. “I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have considered UD and then not considered it because it doesn’t have a music major and that is something they’re interested in. I know lots of people who almost didn’t come here for that.”
Donasco had the strongest words on the subject, saying that the quality musicians involved with the music department deserve more recognition and the chance to major in music.
“I just wish the administration would look at the music department and see the work that they’ve put in, and give us the support that we need,” Donasco said. “The students deserve it, you deserve so much better. Even though we’re not a conservatory, it doesn’t matter where you go to school, it’s what you make out of it and it’s what the professors have to offer, what they have to give.”