Sunday, April 20th, 2008
I’ve always considered the School of Music to be Indiana University’s flagship program. It is a truly world class institution, spoken of in the same breath as Julliard and other top training programs for the world’s musical elite.
So in that sense, the trouble in the music school was something I saw as particularly emblematic of the challenges facing IU. It wasn’t that the program per se was in trouble, but it had basically been coasting academically and there had been notable financial struggles.
A major article in the Indianapolis Star today shows how the music school as been making major strides [dead link]. This includes over $100 million in new money flowing in the door, and the signing of key young faculty members such as alumnus Joshua Bell. This article appears to be part of a PR campaign by the music school as the Bloomington Herald-Times carried an article on the economic impact of the music school.
It is certainly welcome to see good news out of this critical institution. I’ve always had a soft spot for the music school since my student days working at WFIU. I wasn’t a music person, but worked with many of them, who exhibited an astonishing range of talents and interests ranging from vocal performance to jazz to early music to ultra modern music. This is truly an amazing program. Securing the future of the music school is critical to securing the reputation and success of IU as a whole – which is to say it is important to the entire state. I consider this a very positive sign. Clearly the financial and artistic competition is more fierce than ever – I believe Yale picked up $100 million in one gift alone, for example – but it looks like IU is headed in the right direction.
As I’ve written before, I think improving the linkages between Bloomington and Indianapolis, and the rest of the greater Central Indiana area, is critical to the economic future of the state. Traditionally Indianapolis ignored Bloomington apart from IU basketball, and Bloomington viewed the capital with hostility. Those barriers need to be broken down.
I think the music school can serve as a bridge. Again, my example is opera. I love opera, but Indy has only a small regional company that produces only three operas per year. IU has a first class student opera that puts on five productions a year. This is a great reason for Indy opera lovers to make the trip south. Indeed, the astonishing range of high quality music on offer in Bloomington is incredible. Any night of the week you can see the stars of tomorrow – for free – at Recital Hall. So there are lots of reasons Indy residents might want to take advantage of what IU has to offer. In the other direction, why can’t more IU students be given opportunities to perform with say the ISO? I’m sure there are already a lot of linkages, but figuring out how to really combine the cultural forces of Indy and Bloomington is something where the code hasn’t yet been cracked. I think both places have a lot to benefit from it.