Arts & Events

Panel Discussion with Blair School faculty exemplifies the School of Music’s year of transition

Interim Director Dr. Gerard Morris outside the University’s Music Building — Photo credit to Katherine Kessler

The School of Music, led by Interim Director Dr. Gerard Morris, has used the past year as an opportunity to reach out beyond their building, hosting events that speak to more than just music majors. On March 6, the School of Music hosted such an event — a trio of distinguished artists from the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Heather Conner, Dr. Caleb Harris and Dr. Christina McGann served as panelists, discussing their experiences as music educators and professionals with a group of a dozen current University of Puget Sound undergraduate and graduate students.

The opening half of the panel, while interesting, was certainly more directed towards music education students. However, the talk broadened in scope as Conner, Harris and McGann spoke about their experiences navigating the world as professional musicians and educators.

The trio offered, through their specific lens of professional music, a conversation about strategies to help further oneself in the modern professional landscape, and how to best set yourself up to achieve your goals.

“Try to find a position where you can learn something about yourself,” Dr. Conner said. Along with a focus on learning and finding opportunities that help achieve personal goals, she ended her remarks for the evening by advising the audience to remember to say thank you to those who lend a helping hand.

Dr. Harris spoke about subtle persistence in networking and how you should make sure to consistently contact people in your network and not to reach out to them only when you have a favor to ask.

“Whatever you do, put your whole self into it,” Dr. McGann said. She focused her advice on self-reflection and being sure to always make decisions with yourself, your happiness and your goals in mind.

The panel showcased Dr. Morris’ philosophy during his tenure as Interim Director — Dr. Conner, Harris and McGann’s comments highlighted both the specific and broad applications of the events and academic opportunities sponsored and offered by Puget Sound’s School of Music.

“Whenever we’ve written grants, part of the grant proposal is that the person you’re bringing to campus also has to do something that’s cross-curricular,” Dr. Morris said. Emphasizing music’s ability to transcend different fields of academia is a core part of making events that feel accessible to a wide audience; however, this year, being able to maintain and evolve the School of Music’s ability to engage with the broader community has not been without its obstacles.

At the beginning of the year, the School of Music opened with a new front office staff, an interim director and two open faculty positions in Music Education and Ethnomusicology. With this challenge ahead, Dr. Morris and the rest of the School of Music focused their initial energy on keeping the metaphorical ship steady. Through events like the March 6 panel, impromptu performances by the faculty group Puget Sound Piano Trio in the S.U.B., and other programs like the Community Music Department, which reaches out to all-aged members of the surrounding Puget Sound region, they have marked their course for community inclusion.

“We’re going to traverse this landscape together and come out the other side,” Dr. Morris said about the assurances he has to make as Interim Director and the necessity of togetherness during periods of transition. He has been very grateful for the cohesion and help of the entire faculty and staff in the School of Music, thinking of them as a family as they move through change and towards opportunity.

The School of Music and its faculty and staff, in this period of change, has set a course to help students within the School of Music attain their goals and get as many other people in the Puget Sound and the Tacoma community involved as is possible.

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