ITHACA N.Y.—Two of the most well-known programs at Ithaca College will be merging into a new entity named the School of Music, Theatre and Dance in July 2022.

Currently two separate programs, the School of Music and the Department of Theatre Arts, which is currently located in the School of Humanities and Sciences, will join together within the new school to form a Division of Music and a Division of Theatre and Dance.

First founded as the Ithaca Conservatory of music in 1892, the last new school to be formed at Ithaca College was the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance in 1988 formed from the School of Allied Health Professionals and the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, according to a press release from the college sent out Jan. 24, 2022.

Citing the Ithaca Forever strategic plan, the college’s interim president La Jerne Terry Cornish said that this new school supports a structural collaboration, interdisciplinary, curricular flexibility and shared governance.

“I am incredibly appreciative of the conversations and collaborations that transpired among music and theatre faculty to create something new that honors our roots in theory, practice, and performance in service to our students,” Cornish said in the press release.

A School of Music/Department of Theatre Arts Transition Committee comprised of faculty and staff from both departments met weekly during Fall 2021 to determine the best course of action for the merge. The committee was co-chaired by interim School of Music Dean Ivy Walz and Department of Theatre Arts Chair Steven TenEyck.

TenEyck said, “It was clear to the committee that uniting under a single school would best position both disciplines for deeper future collaboration and possible synergies as we look to better equip graduates to flourish.”

The goal of the new school is to “amplify and advocate for the importance of arts” to expand collaboration and increase versatility across the disciplines within the program.

Gavin Trembley, a current junior music education major, is excited about the changes. “I think it’s a necessary change in both the culture and the curriculum of the music and theater schools. That said, nothing is really changing in terms of curriculum. The programing structure of each individual school, i.e. how they decide tenure and promotions and curriculum, all of that for now is completely untouched. The worry is that they’re going to try and force feed theater students into music programs or choir, versus the reality, the intention behind this step is a move in the direction of interdisciplinary music that involves more than just, say, standing on a state and singing without any movement, thinking of music as a more holistic concept. As someone who is in Whalen a lot, I know it’s something that the Whalen culture really needs.”

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...