An era of vision and change

April 29, 2013

During the course of his two decades as dean of the College of Music, Daniel Sher has been instrumental in far-reaching accomplishments at the college. Now he is preparing for a new challenge.

Sher will step down as dean at the end of the 2013 spring semester but will continue as a member of the faculty. He is quick to give credit to others for the college’s stellar reputation.

“Everything that has occurred at the college of the last 20 years,” says Sher, has been the result of a great partnership with the faculty and staff, and at key moments, critically important partnerships with the administration, our alumni, friends, and the students.”

Sher says he has particularly enjoyed working with students and his weekly Doughnuts with the Dean, an informal gathering that he established to get to know students better.

“We cover all the essential food groups—doughnuts, coffee, and chocolate milk,” he says. “It’s quite popular and a great way for me to connect with our students in a casual setting. I can get a sense of how they’re getting along.”

Sher has been dean since 1993. Through his leadership, the music college has emerged as one of the most highly regarded in the nation. For three years in a row, it has been named one of the top 25 college music programs—out of some 1,200—by the “Fiske Guide to Colleges” and U.S. News & World Report has ranked it one of the top 20.

During Sher’s tenure as dean, the college established the Entrepreneurship Center for Music, the first program of its kind in the United States. It also established the jazz studies program and new graduate degree programs in music theory and collaborative piano, as well as graduate professional certification programs in opera and string quartet performance. During this time the college’s first two endowed faculty chairs were established.

Sher received a bachelor’s degree in music performance f rom Oberlin Conservatory, a master’s degree from The Juilliard School of Music and a doctorate in piano pedagogy f rom Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Before coming to CU-Boulder, he was on the piano faculty at the School of Music at Louisiana State University, where he served from 1969 to 1993, including nine years as dean.

He has been president of the national Association of Schools of Music, the accreditation association for music in higher education, and president of Pi Kappa Lambda, the National Honor Society for Music.

Judith Glyde, chair of the string department, credits him with enhancing the school’s global reputation.

“Dan came to the college one year after I arrived,” she says. “He has been an extraordinarily successful dean and a few times in our music relationship, a wonderful collaborator on piano. As a true artist, he often goes out on a limb with an idea—he may fall off, but he is willing to try.”

Looking back on his 12 years working with Sher, Jeremy Smith, association professor of musicology, says the college has greatly benefited from the dean’s support of major musical productions, festivals, master classes and faculty conferences.

“Dan was a vital force in bringing to fruition a rather complex and seemingly hare-brained, interdisciplinary conference I had envisioned,” Smith says. “Dan is a visionary; a great proponent of excellence in music making, scholarship, and especially, music education. At heart thought, he is a humanist with great stores of empathy.”

Sher says he has always viewed himself as a partner with faculty and staff as they work toward advancing music education for students.

“I’m stepping down at time when the college has reached a gratifying level of achievement and excellence,” he says. “I’ll miss the new projects, the challenges and opportunities as dean, but by teaching I can stay involved in ways that will be rewarding for me, and hopefully, helpful to the college.”

The College of Music’s Advisory Board is establishing a scholarship fund through the CU Foundation in honor of Sher and his wife Boyce. The endowment will be used to support talented undergraduate music students from the state of Colorado.

“I was deeply moved by the suggestion of such an endowment, and when consulted about how it should be titled, I asked that it include…Boyce, for her incredible partnership and support throughout all of my administrative career,” he says.

A performance in honor of Dean Daniel Sher will be held May 2 at Macky Auditorium. 

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