Published: April 27, 2023 By

James Austin, Paul Erhard, William Stanley and Daniel Sher
Photo (left to right): James Austin, Paul Erhard, William Stanley and Daniel Sher

For most of us, retirement is a major milestone. And for these esteemed faculty members—Professor of Music Education and CMEA Hall of Fame inductee James Austin, Professor of Double Bass Paul Erhard, Associate Professor of Trombone William Stanley, and Professor of Piano and former Dean Daniel Sher—their retirements this spring represent a tireless commitment and dedication to inspiring up-and-coming musicians and educators. 

Austin, Erhard, Sher and Stanley have deeply influenced and helped shape the futures of countless students’ lives through their unique teaching methods and shared expertise. As we bid them farewell and look back on their contributions, achievements and legacy at the College of Music, we’re pleased to pass along some of their reflections:

What experience are you most proud of, during your career at CU Boulder?
SHER: My relationships with people come first. I was gratified by the number of faculty I became privileged to appoint and to come to know, the many students whose acquaintances I made, and the wonderful staff upon whom I relied every day for their work and support of our programs and people. It has been an added bonus that my wife Boyce and I now enjoy so many enriching and rewarding friendships to this day among Music Advisory Board members and former members, and the many patrons who chose to invest in our college. 

Most of all, I am proud of the collaborative spirit that grew during my tenure. It has been a joy to see faculty leadership and a robust participation in shared governance—and to observe, since I stepped away from the Dean position, that this trajectory continues its upward path.

STANLEY: Hosting the 1998 International Trombone Festival with 750 participants and 60-plus artists and teachers from all over the globe was big. As was the graduate brass quintet winning a bronze medal at the 2009 Fischoff Competition. 

But the experience of working with the wide array of students who have come through the studio is what I’m most proud of. Many of them went on to outstanding graduate programs, to teaching and performing positions, and to other successful careers that include music in their lives. Seeing each student grow and learn about themselves as musicians, trombonists and humans is what kept me going.

AUSTIN: I’m most proud of my over two decades’ leadership provided to the College of Music as Music Education Chair and then as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies. As chair, I advocated for the music education faculty to make their own admissions decisions and scholarship recommendations through a formal interview and evaluation process; instituted sophomore interviews as a gateway to upper-division licensure coursework; increased enrollment in both the undergraduate and graduate programs; and improved the placement record of program graduates into K-12 and higher education positions. 

As associate dean, I established an early alert system to provide at-risk students with timely academic counseling and other forms of support; established a system for tracking budgetary implications of merit scholarship awards; expanded the student recognition program to include outstanding freshman and sophomore awards; and oversaw a major revision of the undergraduate curriculum. 

What trends or culture shifts did you observe over the course of your career? What’s your career advice to students today?
STANLEY: It would probably be easier to list what hasn’t changed. Technological advances have had a huge impact on how students learn and how teachers teach. In 1985, when I started at CU, personal computers were pretty new, compact discs were new, the library had a card catalog, there was no internet, no email—even the copy machine was terrible. The enormity and speed of technological change over that period of time has been amazing to watch. 

As well, an emphasis on offering a diverse cultural experience at CU has been under discussion for many years—it’s wonderful that these efforts are becoming actualized with increased diversity in repertoire selections, guest artists and speakers … and a genuine level of awareness throughout the college and across campus. Moving forward, I hope there can be continued efforts supporting the recruitment of diverse faculty and students.

Finally, my career advice is to go all in. A half-hearted effort during the college experience rarely leads to success. Students who can enjoy the process of preparation and improvement, and who are persistent and who have patience, will be better positioned for a life in music. But no one can say what that will look like. Given the rate of change in our society, flexibility and creativity will become not just catch phrases, but a way of life.

Oh, and go vote.

AUSTIN: One of the biggest cultural shifts I’ve observed is a broadening and rethinking of career paths open to music majors and, in a related sense, a steady increase in the number of undergraduate students pursuing dual degrees within music—or double majors in music and a second field outside of music. At the same time, unfortunately, it has been more difficult to attract students to a career in music education, largely because of the misperception of music teaching being a high-demand, low-status occupation. 

SHER: The trends that I’ve watched and tried to nurture include the establishment of our Entrepreneurship Center for Music, the first of its kind when it was established back in the mid-90s; as well as the establishment of our collaborative piano program and jazz studies program; the growth of our scholarly/research programs which now boast a blossoming ethnomusicology division; and a music theory master’s degree. Also of note are our Soundworks series, and I’ve been especially pleased to observe the chamber music program which is thriving and has grown to new heights.

As I look back on my 20-year tenure as dean, I think of it as a dream position during which time I tried my best “to do no harm” (borrowing from the physicians’ oath) and to enable a gifted, talented and perceptive faculty to work together—which has, in turn, enabled their students to be the best that they can be.

Join us on May 5 from 3-5 p.m. (E160) in honor of our retiring faculty members and in celebration of their many years’ dedicated service to the college and the university. They will be greatly missed by their colleagues and students. RSVP to Lauren Petersen by May 1.