By Linda Smith
A & E Editor
Kristin Van Cleve wakes up at 6 a.m. and does not finish her day until 10 p.m. She is not only the director of the University of Dallas music department, but also the principal second violinist at the Dallas Opera Orchestra and concertmaster, artist director and performer in several small ensembles. Time management and organization is a must, and while she admits that she is lacking in sleep, she says it is all worth it.
Van Cleve picked up the violin in the fourth grade as part of her arts requirement at her elementary school in Fairbanks, Alaska. She continued playing and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in violin performance with an emphasis on music history at the University of North Texas. During her time as a student, Van Cleve was able to play summer music festivals in Austria.
“Going there was a transformative experience,” Van Cleve said. “Going to the places where these composers, whose music I’ve been playing all my life, lived and worked was just so amazing. I just loved being steeped in that culture, and it solidified the fact that I love music.”
Van Cleve joined the Dallas Opera Orchestra a few years out of college, and taught as an adjunct professor at Austin College in Sherman, Texas while completing her master’s studies. She was brought on as director of chamber music ensembles at UD in 2007, and became the director of the music department in 2012.
“One of the main goals is to establish a major,” Van Cleve said. “I would love for that to happen and I know the administration wants that to happen, too. There are some things that need to occur before that can take place.”
Van Cleve has noticed a growth in the number of students participating in music classes and lessons, which has positively affected the department.
“I know that since I’ve been the director, I’ve made an effort to reach out to the whole university community that the music department is a part of,” Van Cleve said. “We want to share what we do with everybody and any students who are interested in participating are welcome to do so, while keeping our standards high and making it a compelling experience for students.”
With more students enrolling in courses, Van Cleve has also seen, and hopes to continue seeing, more people from the university coming to support student shows.
“I think that in a more abstract way as you get older in college and beyond, there’s such a beauty in music that I think we should experience,” Van Cleve said. “Whether it’s just listening to it or as we do here at UD, delving deeper into the history or the performance of music, I think it is something that our souls need.”
One of the more striking things about Van Cleve is that despite her years of experience, she says she will continue to learn, especially from her students.
“I’ll learn as long as I’m still an active musician,” Van Cleve said. “I always learn so much as a teacher, because a student will say ‘What about this?’ or will play something in a way I hadn’t thought of before.”
Playing music for others, and in turn watching students do the same, is one of Van Cleve’s favorite aspects of all she does, as she sees it as a way to share music’s inherent beauty and goodness.
“It’s an act of community that is like no other,” Van Cleve said. “When I am able to share a concert with people as a performer, I think that’s a huge privilege and that’s why I love my job here, because I’m sharing what I know with students and seeing students perform. It’s a wonderful thing, so that’s why I do it.”