Published: Oct. 26, 2023 By

Dean's Downbeat

Dean John DavisIn light of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas—in addition to the myriad of other wars and challenging circumstances around the globe—I can’t help but reflect on how music can transcend hardship and hopelessness by reinforcing collaboration and commonality among all peoples.

Music brings us together and connects us; music lifts our spirits and soothes our souls; and, perhaps most importantly, music allows us to yield to frustrated feelings or difficult emotions when we need to, providing a sense of refuge, renewal and hope.

Unlike other fields and disciplines—even within the arts—I believe it’s music that people most often turn to in times of sorrow or despair; it’s music that’s most immediately and intensely accessible; and—the way I see it—it’s music that offers something inherently internal and palpably personal, yet ubiquitous. As an art form, I would argue that music alone maintains its essence and timelessness on-demand, across distances and mediums.  

At the same time—in a world where artificial intelligence is the zeitgeist—I believe nothing prevails over the power of live, human-created musical performance. Most of us are drawn to direct exposure to other human beings producing something uplifting, thought-provoking or otherwise emotionally resonant. Beyond experiencing music as a commodity, witnessing the unique talents and vulnerabilities of individuals creating music both deepens and amplifies our encounters with music—sometimes taking us back to special places stored deep in our memories, sometimes propelling us forward in our most closely-hold aspirations.

If there’s a reason to have hope in a world of upheaval and unrest, it’s experiencing a young person openly and courageously sharing their musical gift, including their angst or protest against injustices of all kinds. Beauty lies in their inimitable expression of their truth through music in a range of settings not limited to the concert hall. Beauty underpins our universal musician mission, for music majors and non-majors alike. Beauty is why we do what we do.  

In my role as dean, my true purpose is to facilitate and empower our students and faculty to achieve their highest, noblest aspirations of beauty—from ensuring our faculty have what they need to best advise, mentor and inspire our students; to eliminating what might stand in the way of our students’ success and experiencing music in whatever form they seek; to supporting our staff who work so diligently in carrying out our mission on behalf of our entire College of Music community.

In that spirit—among other efforts underway to more effectively advance students pursuing music as a vocation as well as students interested in music as an active avocation—I’m excited about mission-driven revisions to our Bachelor of Arts in Music degree, including a proposed emphasis in music production. Paving the way for more potential degree emphases—from music and the entertainment industry to music and business, music and law, music and media, music and health, critical music studies, sound engineering and endless other options—this non-traditional, retooled degree will be one way to better ensure our students’ agency and preparedness for as yet unknown futures.

Expanding our reach, more inclusive and accessible degree offerings like these will not require an audition or applied study; that said, students enrolled in our BA in Music degree may still opt for emphases in, say, composition, piano or percussion. Such flexibility affords near-limitless opportunities for a broader student demographic to tailor their education to their specific goals, complementing our expanding suite of “stackable” micro credentials, certificate programs and badges in such areas as arts administration, music entrepreneurship, music technology, music theory and singing health.

In sum, new mindsets are inspiring new and necessary innovations to our college curriculum and programs which, I believe, will ignite more broadly-based student engagement in creating beauty in our world.

Dean John Davis's signature

John S. Davis
Dean, College of Music