This semester, Dr. Kevin Sanders joined the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music as director. Sanders is a Professor of Music and former Director for Graduate Studies with the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, as well as the former Dean’s Fellow for Research Development with the College of Communication and Fine Arts. He has been with the University of Memphis since 2008.
Why did you want this position?
We are at a unique point in the journey of the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music where there is a palpable momentum of initiatives converging at once. We are growing and enhancing our unique partnership with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and other community partners, we are in the process of creating a five-year vision for the School to ensure our faculty and students thrive in this decade, and, of course, we are looking forward to the completion of the new Scheidt Family Music Center. In the 11 years I’ve worked at the University of Memphis, I’ve never seen our faculty and staff more eager to take advantage of these opportunities in order to make a monumental impact on our students, campus, and community. The Director of the School of Music is the position where all of these points intersect. That is a challenge that I find exciting and humbling. I’m looking forward to working with everyone to continue to move the School forward.
What have you done in past that has prepared you for this position?
My previous roles were serving as the School of Music’s Associate Director of Graduate Studies and the Dean’s Fellow for Research Development in the College of Communication and Fine Arts. I’ve worked closely with previous Directors of the School of Music and helped administrate the relationships with several of our community partners. I’ve also had an international career as a performer and teacher. All of these roles put me in a unique position to best help our faculty and work with them to grow the School in a multitude of ways.
What have you learned in your first few days on the job?
The Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music is truly an institution in the city of Memphis. Our mission touches so many different aspects of city lift and there is no shortage of friends of the School. Since taking over this position, I have been inundated with requests to meet with organizations in the community and it is a testament to the strong ties we have built over the years and will continue to grow.
What are some of the challenges facing the School of Music?
A challenge that is facing every music school is how to best prepare students to go out into a world with less defined positions in professional ensembles and more opportunities in self-generated, entrepreneurial-type activities. We want to ensure that students can still attend the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music and hone their craft at the highest levels, however we want to open the door to more opportunities for community engagement and arts advocacy.
What are some upcoming opportunities for the School of Music?
The School of Music has a long tradition of excellence, however as we look to the future the sky is the limit! Our close relationships with the city’s top performing and teaching organizations allows us to provide unprecedented opportunities for our students. The new Scheidt Family Music Center will bring many of these partnered organizations to our campus to hold their concerts and conferences. This showcases the School’s role as the central hub for the multitude of diverse performances that happen in Memphis. Bringing these activities to campus for everyone’s benefit is a rare feat for any School of Music. Memphis is also home to a world-class medical community and we have been receptive to the multitude of requests we’ve received to offer a music therapy program. This would be a natural pairing of music and medicine – two traits the city is best known for! Music therapy would expand our community partnerships, open the School of Music up to a new population of students, and increase the the School’s research outputs. As we complete our five-year strategic vision over the next few months, these opportunities will become better defined as we put a plan in place to move forward.
What are some key objectives for the School of Music?
First and foremost, we want to make sure that we provide an incredible experience for our students. One that is unique to our School and ensures we are providing a world-class curriculum deeply instilled in performance, teaching, research, arts advocacy, entrepreneurship, and community engagement. Our students should be prepared to make an impact in a global community of artists. Secondly, that we continue to grow and evolve as a School of Music by introducing new academic programs that attract new students, build our relationships with partners in the community, and increase our visibility nationally and internationally.
Carol Morse, Marketing and Communications Manager with the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, contributed this Q&A feature, which will also appear in the most recent Bluenote Newsletter.