New music dean highlights college’s facets

Since coming to BGSU last July as dean of the College of Musical Arts, Dr. Jeffrey Showell has focused on raising the visibility of the college, which he describes as”pretty much a jewel.”

“It has rather amazing qualities. I know of no other music college in academia that has such a strong undergraduate music education program along with such high performance standards and a doctoral program in contemporary music. The challenge is representing all those and establishing
an identity.”

Already he has achieved a major objective of that goal — arranging with National Public Radio to produce a series of 13 hour-long, nationally syndicated programs highlighting aspects of the college’s inner workings, from the music education program to interviews with faculty to performances. Hosting will be alumna Jennifer Higdon, a Grammy- and Pulitzer-winning composer.

Funding for the series comes from Dorothy and DuWayne Hansen, longtime benefactors of the college. Dorothy is an alumna and DuWayne the former chair of the Department of Music Education.

“The stars were aligned to make this happen,” Showell said. “We couldn’t have done it without WGTE-FM’s Brad Creswell, who is producing the series, and the Wolfe Center for the Arts; before that, there wasn’t a place suitable for recording.”

The recent opera gala demonstrated how good the acoustics in the Donnell Theatre are—something that can’t be predicted until a performing space is complete, he said. And not only the Donnell but the Conrad Choral Rehearsal Room, which expands programming possibilities. “That’s been an unexpected side benefit,” Showell noted.

Showell has experience with opening new performing arts centers. At James Madison University, where he was director of the School of Music, he was deeply involved with all aspects of creating the university’s new center.

BGSU’s reputation for excellence in contemporary music allows the doctoral program to be highly selective, he said. “We get many applications but choose only four each year, so we have 20-25 students in the program at a time. We can be very picky.”

He is looking forward to the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music’s next New Music Festival in October, which, under the direction of oboist Jackie Leclair (who is “something of a creative organizing genius,” he said) will incorporate art along with an ecological theme, thus “broadening the festival’s appeal.”

“All these things happen because of someone’s hard work,” Showell says. “My job is to help find the resources to support them all.”