University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance

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School of Music, Theatre & Dance
University of Michigan August 2013 056 (Earl V. Moore Building).jpg
University of Michigan (Earl V. Moore Building)
Type Public
Established 1880
Parent institution
University of Michigan
Dean Aaron Dworkin
Academic staff
Students 1,115
Location Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
Campus Urban

The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) is an undergraduate and graduate institution for the performing arts in the United States. It is part of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. The school was founded in 1880 as the Ann Arbor School of Music, and it was later incorporated into the University of Michigan.

With the exception of the Department of Dance, the School is located on the University of Michigan's North Campus, which is also home to the College of Engineering, the School of Information, and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.[1]


The school was founded in 1880. Previous administrators include Charles Sink, Earl V. Moore, James B. Wallace, Allen Britton, Paul Boylan, Karen Wolff (2000–05), Christopher Kendall (2005–15), and Aaron Dworkin (since 2015). The school was originally independent of the university.[citation needed]

Notable Alumni[edit]

Well known alumni include playwright Arthur Miller, actors James Earl Jones, Gavin Creel, Darren Criss, David Alan Grier and Lucy Liu, musicians Jessye Norman, Alexander Frey, David Daniels, Chip Davis, Colin Stetson, and Michael Fabiano, as well as the pop star Madonna.

See also the list of list of University of Michigan arts alumni.

Performance Training Areas[edit]

The University puts on more than a dozen main stage productions and concerts every year. Besides its main stage productions, the school also offers performance opportunities through studio productions and student-run groups.

Main Stage and Studio Productions[edit]

Main stage and studio productions staged by the university every year include:

  • Three main stage musicals and a musical theatre studio show (often a play)[2]
  • Two main stage operas as well as opera scenes, and two studio productions[3]
  • Four or five main stage plays[4]
  • Multiple dance productions


Musicians have the opportunity to perform in many ensembles in connection with the university. These include choral ensembles, orchestras, wind bands, historical music ensembles, jazz ensembles, electronic and new music ensembles, chamber music groups, and world music ensembles.[5]


Students receive orchestral training and experience in various large ensembles.[6] The University Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Kenneth Kiesler and presents eight concerts during the academic year.[7] The University Philharmonia, another orchestra, is conducted by Dr. Oriol Sans and also performs eight concerts per year.[citation needed]

Student Organizations[edit]

Student organizations through the university include:

  • Arts Enterprise which invites students to create projects and make connections to the local, national, and international cultural spheres.[8]
  • Basement Arts which allows students the opportunity to direct, produce and star in studio productions. This student group is well known for performing student written works such as A Very Potter Musical.[9]
  • MUSKET, founded in 1908, puts on two large scale productions of musicals every year run entirely by students. Recent Productions have included: Rent, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Into the Woods.[10]
  • The University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society, which produces main stage productions of operettas every year. Most of these are works by Gilbert and Sullivan, however they have also ventured into other works.[11]


The school's facilities are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. On the University of Michigan north campus, these include the Earl V. Moore Building, the Stearns Building, the Walgreen Drama Center, and the Lurie Carillon. Specific north campus facilities include studios in the James and Anne Duderstadt Center, as well as the Arthur Miller Theater and the Stamps Auditorium (both in the Walgreen Drama Center). The Miller Theater is the only theater given permission by the estate of Arthur Miller to bear the playwright's name.[12] On central campus, the school's facilities include Hill Auditorium, the Power Center, the Dance Building, and Burton Memorial Tower, which houses the Charles Baird Carillon. The university's south campus is home to William D. Revelli Hall, which houses offices and rehearsal space for the University of Michigan Marching Band.

History of the Moore Building[edit]

The majority of the school's teaching spaces, faculty offices, and music library, are located in the Earl V. Moore Building. This building is named after a previous dean of the school, and was designed in a mid-century modern style by architect Eero Saarinen.[13] Saarinen was commissioned to design the master plan for the University of Michigan’s North Campus, he requested to design the music school building (now the Earl V. Moore Building).[14]

The original scheme called for an L-shaped building and a circular concert hall. Completed in 1964, the result was a five-level pavilion with flanking wings. Saarinen envisioned a building in harmony with nature, and so designed the building to be built into a hill overlooking a pond. The brick-clad concrete structure has narrow vertical windows that contrast with the horizontal brick patterns, thought to represent the alternating colors of piano keys. The brick color is known as “Cranbrook Buff” for its reference to the color of the buildings on the campus of the Cranbrook Education Community. The style of this building has influenced almost all of the later construction on North Campus.

The building contains 2 rehearsal/concert halls, 45 performance teaching studios, 18 classrooms, 40 offices, a large library, 120 practice rooms, including 12 organ practice rooms, and other special facilities for piano, harp, harpsichord and percussion practice. The construction of this building allowed for the first increase in enrollment since 1946.

During construction of the building, Saarinen was diagnosed with a brain tumor, but he was able to watch the progress of the building from his room at University Hospital.


On October 30, 2012, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman announced an $8-million gift from William K. Brehm and Delores S. Brehm, a major contribution toward the cost of renovating and expanding the Moore Building.[15] Of the total cost, another $14 million is allocated from the university, with the remaining balance to come from additional fundraising, including a gift from Glenn E. Watkins, emeritus professor of musicology. Construction for the project commenced in early 2014 and was finished in the fall of 2015.[16] The renovation, which cost 29.5 million and added 34,000 square feet,[17] includes a rehearsal with the footprint of Hill Auditorium, revamping of the McIntosh Theater, a lecture hall, an entrance and lobby, and new practice and teaching rooms.[18]

Departments and Degree Programs[edit]

The School of Music, Theatre & Dance offers degrees from the bachelors to the doctoral level. Fifteen departments make up the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, each offering several degree programs.[citation needed] They include:

  • Department of Chamber Music—MM in chamber music.
  • Department of Composition—BM, BMA, MM, MA, PhD and DMA in composition.
  • Department of Conducting—MM and DMA in Conducting (Band/Wind Ensemble, Orchestral and Choral programs).
  • Department of Dance—BFA and MFA in Dance.
  • Department of Jazz and Improvisation Studies—BFA in Jazz and Contemplative Studies, Jazz Studies and Jazz and Contemporary Improvation, BMA in Jazz Studies, MM in Improvisation.
  • Department of Music Education—BM in Choral or Instrumental Music Education, MM in Music Education.
  • Department of Music Theory—BM, BMA and PhD in Music Theory.
  • Department of Musical Theatre—BFA in Musical Theatre.
  • Department of Musicology—BM, BMA, Specialist and Certificate programs in Musicology, PhD in Historical Musicology, PhD in Ethnomusicology.
  • Department of Organ—BM and BMA in Organ Performance, MM in Church Music, MM Carillon Performance, MM in Early Keyboard Instruments, MM Harpsichord performance, MM Organ Performance, DMA Harpsichord Performance, DMA Organ Performance, and DMA Liturgical, Church, and Synagogue Music.
  • Department of Performing Arts Technology—BM in Music and Technology, BM in Performing Arts Technology, Music Concentration, BFA in Performing Arts Technology, Media Arts Concentration BS in Sound Engineering, and MA in Media Arts.
  • Department of Piano—BM in Piano Performance, BMA in Piano Performance, MM in Chamber Music (Piano), MM in Collaborative Piano, MM in Early Keyboard Instruments, MM in Performance: Fortepiano, MM in Performance: Piano, MM in Piano Pedagogy & Performance, Specialist in Collaborative Piano, DMA in Piano Performance, DMA in Collaborative Piano, DMA in Piano Pedagogy & Performance.
  • Department of Strings—Harp, Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass: BM or BMA in Performance, MM in Performance, MM in Chamber Music, Specialist in Performance, DMA in Performance.
  • Department of Theatre and Drama—BFA in Performance, Design and Production, and Interarts Performance, BTA.
  • Department of Voice—BM, BMA, MM, Specialist and DMA in Performance.
  • Department of Winds and Percussion—BM in Performance, BM in Wind Instruments, BMA in Performance, MM in Performance, MM in Chamber Music, MM in Wind Instruments, Special in Performance, DMA in Performance.

Notable Projects[edit]

Michigan Performance Outreach Workshop

  • In 2011, musical theatre students Ashley Park and Laura Reed founded the Michigan Performance Outreach Workshop, or MPOW. The group coordinates a one-day event every semester which brings in students from Detroit Public Schools for a day of arts performances and lessons. All of the activities and performances are given and led by U of M students from a variety of disciplines, including singers, dancers, musicians and actors. The event is provided free of charge and includes lunch for DPS students, and is dedicated to providing youth who have limited creative outlets with exposure to as many aspects of the performing arts as possible.[19]

The Gershwin Initiative

  • In 2013, the School entered into a partnership with the Gershwin family to undertake a two-part initiative that will bring the music of George and Ira Gershwin to students, scholars, performers and audiences across campus and worldwide through new critical editions of all the Gershwin brothers' works.[20] An American in Paris (edited by Mark Clague) and Rhapsody in Blue (jazz band version) will be the first editions prublished.

University of Michigan Javanese Gamelan

  • Since the 1960s, the school has been home to one of the longest-established Javanese gamelan ensembles in the United States. This group of instruments, known formally as Kyai Telaga Madu (Venerable Lake of Honey), has been at the university since 1966, when its purchase was negotiated and organized by Bill Malm.[21] From 1968 until 2002, the ensemble was under the direction of faculty ethnomusicologist Judith Becker. The ensemble has actively given performances in Ann Arbor since 1967,[22] and has benefitted from many guest artist instructors from Java who have been in residence at the university to teach Indonesian performance styles such as wayang.[23][24] The gamelan is housed in a special room built at the school with support from a bequest from Rosannah Steinhoff, who with her husband Bill, was a loyal member of the gamelan in the 1980s, and it is supported with a special endowment fund at the university.[23] The gamelan instruments are part of the Stearns Collection of Music Instruments.[25]

EXCEL Program

  • Founded in 2015, SMTD's career program, EXCEL (Excellence in Entrepreneurship, Career Empowerment, and Leadership), provides individual career coaching, workshops, and more than $100,000 in annual funding for student projects, including new venture incubation (the EXCELerator) and an annual $10,000 EXCELprize.[26]



  1. ^ About North Campus, Go North. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
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  5. ^ "Performance Opportunities". University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance. University of Michigan. Retrieved 3 December 2016. 
  6. ^ "Orchestras". University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance. University of Michigan. Retrieved 3 December 2016. 
  7. ^ "Kenneth Kiesler". University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance. University of Michigan. Retrieved 3 December 2016. 
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  13. ^ Carlin, Marilou (2013). "Moore Power". University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, & Dance. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
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  16. ^ "Brehm gift launches building expansion at U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance". Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
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  18. ^ Carlin, Marilou (Spring 2013). "Moore Power: SMTD Announces a Major Renovation and Expansion of the Earl V. Moore Building". University of Michigan School of Music. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
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  20. ^ Clague, Mark (2013). "About the Gershwin Initiative". The Gershwin Initiative. University of Michigan, School of Music, Theater & Dance. Retrieved 3 December 2016. 
  21. ^ "Javanese Gamelan at the University of Michigan, University of Michigan Gamelan Education Project". Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan. 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  22. ^ Flaig, Vera. "University of Michigan Gamelan Ensemble Concert Performances, 1967-2005". Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  23. ^ a b "Gamelan". University of Michigan, Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  24. ^ "Ensembles". University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  25. ^ "Gamelan". University of Michigan, Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  26. ^ "UM School of Music, Theatre & Dance - Michigan Muse - Alumni Magazine". Retrieved 2017-01-20.