Published: Sept. 5, 2019 By

Robert Shay“Our College of Music, now nearly 100 years old, just keeps getting stronger and stronger.”

Five years ago, when Robert Shay first came to CU Boulder to be its new music dean, the buzz and promise of a new administration and the momentum of previous dean Daniel Sher’s work were just beginning to converge. A strategic plan, a monumental fundraising campaign and new facilities were ideas then, backed by lots of hope but in need of a push to get them off the ground.

Now, as Shay begins his sixth academic year as dean, they’re off the ground—literally and figuratively.

“The College of Music I encountered five years ago was in great shape by many measures, so the challenge I faced was how to get people thinking about a new agenda. Over my first two years on the job, a series of conversations led to a dynamic strategic plan, 'The College of Music Advantage,' which at its core is about preparing students for professional success.

“Facilities were the exception here. Everyone I heard from, going back to my interviews, agreed that the college could not fulfill its tremendous potential without expanded and improved facilties. I was therefore so pleased to be able to forge an agreement with our campus leadership that has led to the $52 million addition now well under construction.”

This summer, in light of shifting personal priorities and a desire to return to teaching and research, Shay announced that he will be stepping down as dean of the College of Music next fall.

“The progress we’ve made over the past five years is such a credit to our entire community, because the events of my personal life, some extremely challenging, required me focus elsewhere for periods of time. Facing health issues myself now, I’ve had to think a lot about how I’d like the rest of my career to unfold. This will be my 20th year of full-time administration, a field I got into after only nine years as a faculty member. I had always planned to get back to teaching and research eventually, and this seems like the moment to make this transition happen.”

Shay will stay on as dean until Oct. 1, 2020, meaning he will see the college through to the dedication of its brand new expanded facilities, planned for September 2020. In the more immediate future, he is currently on a medical leave of absence for the first several weeks of the Fall 2019 semester. Senior Associate Dean John Davis is serving as acting dean in his stead.

“One of the college’s many strategic assets is the strength of its leadership team. I am so grateful to John and the other members of the dean’s cabinet—and truly to all those in administrative roles—for their hard work and dedication. I know the college will continue to thrive while I’m away.”

Shay will remain at CU Boulder after October 2020, finishing out the 2020-21 academic year in a different role and helping wrap up the $50 million music+ campaign, which comes to a close in June 2021. After that, he will return to teaching and research.

CU Boulder Provost Russell Moore is launching a national search for a new dean of the College of Music this fall.