Letter from the Chair

The State of Music at the University

Chair letter

Katharine Maus
Photo by Sophie Maus

Dear Friends,

As I survey the McIntire Department of Music from the perspective of the chair’s office, I see a vital, ambitious, and multifaceted program that is distinguishing itself on many fronts simultaneously. This fall, the academic side of the department (comprising musicologists, theorists, and composers) was ranked in the top ten in the nation for research productivity over the past several years. Increasingly our performance faculty are highly visible outside Charlottesville as well. Faculty members have recently performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.

Our expanded performance program has enlarged options for students: private lessons available in more instruments, an increased wealth of ensembles large and small, and more numerous masterclasses with visiting artists. In 2008-2009 the Department is putting a special emphasis on jazz, with performances and masterclasses by Terence Blanchard, Richie Cole, and Royce Campbell, as well as frequent performances by the faculty Free Bridge Ensemble and the student Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Chamber Ensemble.

We currently have 31 students enrolled in our young Ph.D. program. Our first student received the degree in 2007 and three others received PhDs in 2008. The four completed Ph.D.s have accepted faculty positions or postdoctoral fellowships at Yale, Oberlin, UCLA, and Colgate.

There are currently around 70 undergraduate Music majors; quite a few of those are double majors, and in addition we have many students completing a music minor. The Department serves many hundreds more undergraduates every semester in its ensembles and courses for nonmajors. Intriguing courses for undergraduates this semester include a large class in syncopated drumming, “Learn to Groove;”  “Music in Everyday Life,” which examines how music functions not in heightened “performance” contexts, but as the background to our everyday experience; “Korean Music;” “Jewish Popular Music;” and a survey of large-scale musical works from Handel to Philip Glass.

The Music Library, already the largest in the Commonwealth of Virginia, has been dramatically enhanced by the possibilities afforded by new technology. Erin Mayhood, Music Librarian, describes some of these innovations in her essay in this issue.

We have spent a good deal of the autumn coping with the implications of the recently announced budget cuts at the University, a consequence of the global financial crisis. Music education is an unavoidably expensive endeavor, involving high program and equipment expenses as well as a great deal of one-on-one teaching. It will be a challenge to maintain our quality and momentum in a time of retrenchment. We are working together to minimize the impact of budget cuts on our students and programs.

Yours sincerely,

Katharine Maus
Chair, McIntire Department of Music
James Branch Cabell Professor of English