The University Record, June 19, 2000

Karen Wolff recommended as School of Music dean

By Jane R. Elgass

Music educator Karen Wolff will be recommended to the Regents as the next dean of the School of Music. The recommendation, announced by Provost Nancy Cantor and President Lee C. Bollinger on June 9, will be acted on by the Board at its July 13–14 meeting, with Wolff’s appointment effective Aug. 1. She also will be professor of music with tenure and the Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music.

“Dr. Wolff brings to the University of Michigan her national prominence and widely acknowledged success in leading major programs and schools of music,” Cantor noted in announcing the recommendation.

“We are very fortunate to have attracted Karen Wolff as our new dean of our distinguished School of Music,” Bollinger said. “She has both the artistic knowledge and administrative wisdom to lead us forward.”

Wolff was dean and professor of music at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in 1991–99. As dean, she added performance degree programs in classical guitar and saxophone, while also creating programs in development, public relations, career counseling and outreach. She completed a fundraising campaign, raising significant resources for merit scholarships, and created a plan for a new capital campaign. During her tenure, the Conservatory moved from 8th to 6th place in U.S. News and World Report rankings.

Prior to her deanship at Oberlin, Wolff was director of the University of Minnesota School of Music, where she developed and implemented a plan for a major revitalization of the School that resulted in a 24 percent increase in faculty and establishment of the first endowed chair for the School, as well as a fundraising campaign to help support construction of a 1,250-seat performance hall.

Wolff’s research has focused on the impact of music education on children’s intellectual and social development in areas outside of music.

Cantor also noted that Wolff’s “demonstrated national leadership uniquely positions her to guide the School of Music in the years to come. She has a full appreciation of the richness of our offerings in music, theater and dance, and is keenly aware of the synergy between performance, scholarship and education in a university setting. Dr. Wolff is well situated to build on the disciplinary depth and interdisciplinary breadth of our fine School of Music,” Cantor added.

Wolff, who holds a master’s in music and a Ph.D. from the U-M, was attracted to the post based on the time she spent here as a student and the “outstanding international reputation” of the School of Music and the University.

“The years in Ann Arbor while doing my graduate work were some of the happiest of my life,” she said. “My life was forever changed by the experience at the University and I am enormously grateful.”

The U-M’s focus on the arts also drew her to joining the University, she said, citing the “keen interest in fostering the arts on campus” that has been expressed by the president and provost. “This means a great deal to me. I know that we will be able to sustain the rigor and excellence of the School’s programs, but I also look forward to opportunities to foster collaborative activities among the arts programs, particularly within the School of Music, but also with the University’s other schools and colleges.”

One of Wolff’s interests is “helping artists and performers understand the public policy issues related to the arts. In addition to developing the skills needed for artistic, teaching and scholarly success in the arts, students must be able to contribute to the debate about the place of the arts in society. It is critical that graduates of the School of Music assume leadership positions in their communities to ensure the future of the performing arts.”

She also would like “to make arts experiences available to and sought after by all students on campus. The arts are a potent force for good, and people’s lives are greatly enriched when they have access to arts experiences of high quality,” she noted.

Wolff, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Morningside College, Iowa, has held administrative and teaching posts at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music when a theatre program was added to the existing music, dance, and broadcasting programs of the Conservatory. In addition to teaching assignments in K–12 schools, she taught private piano at Morningside College.

Her professional activities include 10 years of involvement with the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), for which she has served as an accreditation reviewer for the past eight years, most recently at Yale University. She served as a national officer of NASM committees and commissions, and was on the board of the Ohio Chamber Orchestra. She also has served on the boards of the Minnesota Orchestra, the Minnesota Opera, the Minnesota Composers Forum and the Greater Twin Cities Youth Orchestra.

Wolff has received numerous awards and grants, including an Academic Challenge Grant for the Opera/Music Theatre Program from the Ohio Board of Regents.