The College of Arts and Architecture

Strategic Plan, 2014-15 to 2018-19


The mission of the School of Music is to inspire and educate performers, composers, scholars, and teachers in an atmosphere that fosters excellence and serves the global and regional community through performance, research, and creative work of the highest standards.


Music is an intrinsic and organic part of all cultures, and has been so since the beginning of time. It is vital to our greatest societal triumphs and tragedies, as well as to our most personal expressions of feeling. Music’s ability to objectify the subjectivity of existence is an essential component of our humanity. Experiencing music -- as performers, scholars, teachers, creators, and active listeners -- provides us with a vitality that is heightened, deepened, and broadened by our involvement with it.

Core Values and Strengths

The School of Music subscribes to the core values as outlined in the College of Arts and Architecture strategic plan (community, respect, responsibility, integrity, discovery, and excellence). In addition, our strategic plan is built upon the following beliefs and strengths:

•     We embrace an environment that supports excellent teaching and effective learning. The School of Music offers a breadth of opportunities for students in a nurturing environment. Students appreciate the healthy competition that is a hallmark of our program. We believe that offering a wide range of curricular programs is a significant strength, including integrative degree programs as well as more traditional undergraduate and graduate programs in performance, composition, conducting, musicology, music theory, and music education. There are ample opportunities for concurrent majors and minors, and we offer outstanding online general education courses as well. Our programs are large enough to support a vibrant community of scholars and artists, but small enough that each student has opportunities for leadership.

•     We believe in providing a rich array of performance opportunities. We offer a strong and vibrant ensemble program that performs excellent repertoire, conducted by outstanding directors. Exciting performance opportunities are offered to our students throughout the United States and overseas. The President’s Concert series and touring opportunities support the development of excellence in performance. We encourage students to have a variety of musical experiences, which makes for better musicians.

•     We support and promote the work of our excellent faculty. We have an outstanding full-time resident faculty of nationally recognized scholars and artists, as well as excellent part-time faculty, who are devoted teachers and who support students in and out of the classroom, studio, and rehearsal hall. Among the faculty are national and international leaders in their disciplines, and they are outstanding University citizens.

•     We promote a spirit of collaboration, and value campus and community outreach. We value and promote partnerships across the School, College and University. We believe in a spirit of collaboration that brings our students and faculty into the local and global community – in schools, private studios, community music programs, childcare centers, and with professional organizations.

Trends and Forces

Several overarching trends and forces, initially identified in the 2008 strategic plan, continue to shape our environment and influence our planning.

  Technology is providing new ways for communication as well as new ways for consumption and distribution of music.

•  Students are savvy consumers and, given the increasing cost of a Penn State education, students are not just looking for an outstanding program with excellent facilities, but they are weighing educational costs against their future earning potential.

•  The changing demographics and greater diversity of school populations will provide special challenges for our music education graduates.

•  As early childhood and life-long learning are becoming more important in our nation’s communities, we must look beyond K-12 education in the preparation of future teachers.

•  Our world includes diverse music, with a blurring of lines among types of music and a general movement toward more vernacular music. This calls for well-rounded musicians who are steeped in classical traditions, but also conversant with the music of our time.

•  Interdisciplinary majors, concurrent majors, and other kinds of supporting programs are critically important for musicians today. More than simply a “back-up plan” to satisfy anxious parents, these programs are an essential ingredient for success in a complex world.

School of Music Strategic Plan

Goal #1: Build upon the strengths of the school’s academic programs through a variety of initiatives that support and enhance excellence, and that create transformative experiences for students.

a. Review the undergraduate curricula, with the goals of strengthening the curricula and simplifying student schedules. The review should include, but not be limited to, the following:

  1. Revise the freshman experience to build excitement for music study and to expose students to a broader range of music repertory, while also developing community across the school, i.e., using Common Hour differently.
  2. Review (and rename) the use of Common Hour for all students to foster collaboration and communication throughout the school and to build on the experiences begun in the revised freshman experience.
  3. Review the inclusion of diverse musics (world music and vernacular music) in undergraduate curricula to ensure that students experience a wide range of musical traditions and cultures, and continue our commitment to create, perform, and study music by living composers.
  4. Solicit input from current students, faculty, employers, cooperating teachers, etc. to inform this review, and become more systematic about seeking feedback from graduates through various means, including a survey of graduates one year following graduation.
  5. Expand enrollments in the school to take advantage of the strengths, size, and specialty areas of the faculty.

b. Establish enrollment goals among the school’s degree and non-degree programs and develop a school-wide recruitment plan to achieve those goals.

  1. Increase scholarship funds to be competitive in recruitment. Replace the current reliance on annual earnings of $125,000 per year with a reliable ongoing scholarship budget.
  2. Promote concurrent majors and minors, and work to remove obstacles to student choice as part of our efforts to attract outstanding music students with multiple interests. Promote the newly approved Bachelor of Arts – Music Technology option as part of our efforts to recruit students with multiple interests.
  3. Develop a template that outlines the process to satisfy the degree requirements of the B.M.E. and the B.M. in five years, and explore other options for teacher certification.
  4. Improve recruitment materials, including frequent updates to school/area/ faculty webpages, increased use of social media, and development of marketing plans to promote the school’s strengths.
  5. Monitor the impact of the Honors Music Institute (HMI) on the recruitment of music majors and involve full-time music faculty in HMI whenever possible.
  6. Evaluate the impact of concert livestreaming on recruitment and develop a livestreaming plan in consultation with faculty that showcases the school to prospective students.
  7. Monitor general education enrollments to ensure that the rich variety of general education classes and performance opportunities currently available continue to meet demand. Expand and enhance such offerings as resources allow.

c. Enhance programs and resources in support of graduate students.

  1. Review all graduate programs on a regular basis in a systematic manner, heeding the concerns of the Core Council relative to anecdotal evidence. Use HEADS and SNAPP data for national benchmarking.
  2. Continue the growth of our graduate programs, based on an analysis of resources needed, demand, potential employment opportunities for graduates, and strengths of current programs.
  3. Offer additional opportunities for graduate students to become more comprehensive musicians and scholars (i.e., performers with expertise in theory instruction, conductors with music education experience, musicologists with performance skills, etc.) as resources allow. Offer more career development opportunities.
  4. Secure additional resources for graduate support, including assistantships, scholarships, travel grants, and other support for research and creative activities.

d. Support arts leadership opportunities for students and strengthen academic and career advising.

  1. Take advantage of University and college resources to expand offerings (curricular or extra-curricular) in career development, arts leadership, entrepreneurship,    networking, and arts advocacy. Involve alumni in this effort.
  2. Ensure that all students receive information about hearing health and injury prevention as these relate to their major instrument or voice.
  3. Carry out annual advising surveys of advisees and advisers.

Goal #2: Enhance performance opportunities and support collaborations.

a. Continue to work for the expansion and renovation of our facilities to ensure that they support (rather than hinder) excellence, and that health and safety issues are addressed (also see #5 below).

b. Establish a task force to study the history of ensemble participation among music majors and to review expectations for studio classes, like-instrument ensembles, etc., in order to make recommendations to the Graduate and/or Undergraduate Committees for possible new policies.

c. Explore opportunities and costs for developing and staffing standing ensemble(s) to expand opportunities for the study and performance of diverse musics for majors and non-majors. Plan a rotation of topics to be studied in Music 312 (Performance of Diverse Musical Styles).

d. Support and encourage college-wide collaborations that offer unique and exciting opportunities for students, building on the success of the Bernstein Mass (a highlight of the college 50th anniversary celebrations). Recognizing the need for long-term planning and communication, work within the school as well as with our college partners to plan any large-scale collaborations at least two years in advance.

e. Develop a School of Music faculty collaborative recital series and promote it as a vehicle for recruitment and fundraising activities.

Goal #3: Build greater support for research and creative activities.

a. Review the support of faculty research and creative activities, including internal and external grant opportunities, to expand resources available for high-visibility faculty work.

b. Work closely with the college Office of Research to explore interdisciplinary opportunities and to seek external support for faculty research and creative work.

c. Position the school to be an active participant in emerging college and University initiatives, including student career success initiatives.

d. Expand opportunities for study abroad, and investigate ways to integrate the faculty’s international activities more fully into our programs.

Goal #4: Expand outreach initiatives and partnerships, with a special focus on campus outreach opportunities.

a. Develop a structure (i.e., guest composer series, annual concert/event theme, etc.) to support the goals of enhanced visibility, communication, and collaboration within the school. Involve students in this planning.

b. Work collaboratively with colleagues in the college on season planning, marketing, audience engagement etc. to ensure that we tell our stories better and to develop a stronger campus presence.

c. Offer selected concerts in non-conventional venues on campus, and create musical encounters for Penn State students that extend beyond the traditional concert hall. Involve students in these decisions.

d. Enhance the visibility of School of Music through activities such as: livestreaming concerts, lectures, and other events to reach additional audiences; creating podcasts that can be rebroadcasted as livestream intermission features; posting outstanding concerts, masterclasses, and lectures on YouTube; and supporting the “In Performance at Penn State” radio series on WPSU.

e. Secure resources to expand ensemble touring to support performances at professional conferences and to recruit prospective music majors in targeted areas. Explore interest and funding for collaborations at key Penn State campuses. Use connections in Penn State offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, as well as the Penn State Alumni Association, to support these initiatives.

f. Explore opportunities to offer professional development seminars and workshops for teachers and other music professionals, modeling on successful programs such as Bel Canto Can Belto. Determine the feasibility of additional online workshops, courses, and certificate programs.

Goal #5: Recognizing that there are gaps in the School’s infrastructure, maximize and enhance resources to strengthen programs and support students.

a. Improve music facilities to make existing spaces function more effectively (practice rooms, heating and cooling in Music II) and to realize the potential of the master plan.

b. Work closely with development staff to enhance development efforts and to tell our story more effectively. Maintain a list of “big ideas” to present to potential donors and administrative leaders. Find additional opportunities to involve faculty in development activities.

c. Discuss whether additional funds can be identified and/or existing resources can be redirected (i.e., positions, earnings) to support: (1) accompanist and collaborative pianist; (2) vocal coach; (3) recital hall manager/sound specialist; (4) recording engineer; and (5) other priorities listed above.

d. Identify funding opportunities to support areas of strength within the school. As an example of this, seek grant money to support the development of a voice research pedagogy laboratory, building on our growing national reputation in music theatre voice pedagogy.

e. Continue to develop partnerships and community business support for special initiatives such as Music at Penn’s Woods.

Approved October 8, 2015