Dean's Newsletter

Vol. 5, Issue 3

December 2010: Vol. 5, Issue 3

I have a small painting of the sun hanging in my office.  I bought it in Santa Barbara several years ago.  It’s a painting that was made to look like a primitive copper metal relief, and I’ve always liked it.  My wife, however, never appreciated it, and that’s why it’s hanging in my office rather than at home.  She finds the expression on the face of the sun to be disturbing because she believes that the sun should always be smiling.  How could you not be happy on a bright, sunny day, right?  In my painting, however, the sun has a perplexing look.  Buddha-like, his eyes are closed and his mouth turns slightly up on one side and slightly down on the other.  On one hand, he could be meditating—at peace or even somewhat amused by the day’s events.  On the other, he might be wearing the pained expression of a god profoundly unsettled by what he’s seen in his diurnal journey across the heavens. Or perhaps it’s both.  The artist does not allow us a final decision in the matter.

If I could paint the face of the college, it would look like my sun.  As I review the college’s accomplishments of the past year, I find much to be happy about.  We have enrolled record numbers of students, and we are teaching on a campus that just seems to get more attractive each year.  We have made impressive progress with our college curriculum, adding, for example, a new B.A. in Black Studies and two new accelerated M.A. programs.  We have honored a new CLASS Valedictorian, and we have given new awards to outstanding members of our faculty and staff for excellence in teaching and service.  In fact, we had many more strong candidates for these awards than we could honor.  Indeed, our faculty continue to receive honors, produce cutting-edge research, and create moving works of art.  Moreover, the President has decided to move ahead with the creation of a new CSU fine arts campus, and our Art and Theatre and Dance departments may be moving into a refurbished Middough Building as early as next summer. Film and Digital Media will be moving into the Idea Center.  Finally, we have vigorously extended our college partnerships, both internationally and locally.  The winter holidays in CLASS, therefore, should be a time of unmixed celebration and high spirits.

Alas, it’s not so. Anyone who has read President Berkman’s open letter of December 2nd knows that CSU faces significant looming budget challenges in the new year.  Ohio’s economy has still not fully recovered from the great recession of 2008, and Ohio’s budget faces a potential shortfall of $8 billion in the next biennium. Of course, a shortfall of such magnitude cannot help but bring serious consequences to state-assisted institutions like CSU. (The state has already signaled that it will withhold 6% of this year’s subsidies.)  We learned that the university is anticipating a cut of $15 million to our state subsidy in the next biennium.  If that is the final figure, the challenge, in the President’s words, will be to make those cuts in ways that keep the university both fully vibrant and financially viable.  He has pledged to do just that, and we will all need to work with him to help him reach his goal. But it will not be a painless cut, and we have already experienced some effects in the form of canceled faculty searches. I urge you all to attend the President’s upcoming open meeting on the budget and, as we move forward, keep yourselves fully informed in these matters.

We can take some small comfort in the fact that Ohio is not alone in this predicament.  States all across this country, with few exceptions, are facing similar budget challenges.

To return to the positive: Last year I highlighted the outstanding research accomplishments of our faculty in the humanities and the social sciences.  This year, I would like to highlight some of the creative accomplishments of our faculty in the fine arts, and I will begin with the Department of Music.  The timing is good because the Music Department was featured in a long, upbeat column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sunday, December 5th.  The column noted that the Music Department at CSU is experiencing a renaissance, and that it is competing successfully with some of the more established schools and conservatories in the region, drawing both local and international students who wish to study with the department’s distinguished faculty.  What the column does not highlight, however, is the extraordinary creative productivity of our faculty.  That’s my job.

Our composition faculty had a busy year.  Eric Ziolek, for example, composed a piece called “Cosmo” for vibraphone, clarinet, and bass guitar.  This composition was commissioned by Verb Ballets and performed both at CSU and at Cleveland Public Theatre during 2010.  Dr. Ziolek also gave several recent piano recitals, and he will soon be going to Korea to make a presentation to the International College Music Society.  Greg D’Alessio’s “Middle Pillar,” a multi-media stage work, was premiered by the Why Collective in Drinko Hall.  Dr. D’Alessio also received an Individual Artist Award from the Ohio Arts Council in 2009.  In 2010, Andrew Rindfleisch completed three new works, “In the Zone,” “Salmo de Alabanza,” and “Kaddish Prayer.”  These three works were premiered by distinguished performance groups in Sacramento, San Antonio, and Boston respectively.  In addition, the newest CD of Dr. Rindfleisch’s compositions, Night Voices, has recently been released and has already garnered rave reviews.

Moving to performance faculty, I note that John Perrine composed “Rorschach” for string quartet and saxophone, and he also gave multiple saxophone performances in both Cleveland and Nacogdoches, Texas (Stephen F. Austin University). Victor Liva served as the Music Director for both the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra and the Northeast Ohio Regional Orchestra.  In addition, he served as Festival Conductor for the Music in May Festival in Portland, Oregon.  Howard Meeker conducted six performances of the CSU Wind Ensemble and was the Guest Clinician at a conducting class at Case Western Reserve University.  Elizabeth Unis Chesko was the soprano soloist for the performance of “The Seven Last Words of Christ” in Rocky River, Ohio.  Finally, Angelin Chang gave multiple regional piano performances in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Livonia, Columbus, and Muncie.  Dr. Chang also represented CSU and performed frequently in national and international concerts in Denton, Texas; Zhejiang and Hangzhou, China; and Santiago, Chile.

As to the music education and music history faculty, I can report that Birch Browning published an article entitled “The Pedagogical Efficacy of Targeted Self-Observation and Deliberate Reflection during Preservice Field Experience” in the Missouri Journal of Research in Music Education.  He also founded and conducted the Cleveland Winds, a professional-caliber wind ensemble, based at CSU.  Finally, Dr. Browning conducted various musical groups in Saratov, Russia; Samara, Russia; and Moscow.  Routledge published Rita Klinger’s new book, Field Guide to Student Teaching in Music, which she co-authored with Ann C. Clements.  Finally, Lily Hirsch published two refereed articles as well as her book A Jewish Orchestra in Nazi Germany: Musical Politics and the Berlin Jewish Culture League.  The book was published by the University of Michigan Press.

It is, thus, plain to see that the pattern of copious and distinguished research production that we saw last year in the humanities and social sciences is repeated in the creative output of the Music Department.  It is also worth considering that this list includes only the accomplishments of our full-time tenure-track faculty.  CSU also employs many distinguished part-time music instructors.  A truly comprehensive listing of Music Department creative activity would list, for example, Robert Cassidy’s numerous piano concerts both in New York City and Cleveland, two of which were recently broadcast over WCLV.  It would also include the accomplishments of such faculty as Peter Otto and Joanna Patterson, both members of the Cleveland Orchestra, who recently performed Mozart’s “Duo Concertante” with our students at CSU.  The Plain Dealer is right: we are truly rich in musical talent.

Here are a few other news items that came across my desk:  Alan Rosenbaum was invited to give a presentation last August at the Yale Conference entitled, “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity.” His paper was then selected to be published in the Proceedings. Steve Taysom’s new book, Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds: Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries, just appeared.  It was published by Indiana University Press. Mary Ellen Waithe received an invitation to give a presentation on women’s under-representation in philosophy at a UNESCO conference in Paris recently.  Finally, the students from Michael Mauldin’s Summer Stages internship program were invited by the President to present their poster at the November meeting of the CSU Board of Trustees. Only two such poster presentations were invited, and I’m told that the students made a significant impression on the Trustees!  Congratulations to all these faculty and students on their achievements.

And one final story for the holidays:  It’s the story of André and Jasmine Anderson and their family. André is a graduate student in our School of Social Work.  Both André and his wife are legally blind, and they run “This Ability Awareness Center” for people with disabilities.  The faculty in the School see André and Jasmine as models of courage and integrity.  In September, ABC notified the couple that they had been chosen as recipients of a new house, courtesy of the television program “Extreme Makeover.” They were chosen because their work heightens community awareness of the challenges faced by disabled people.

In addition, at the November 5th Phi Alpha Induction Ceremony, André received a Volunteer Service Award from President Obama.  Finally, President Berkman not only offered him a scholarship to cover the rest of his MSW program, but he also offered the couple’s two children four-year academic scholarships to CSU.  This was truly a remarkable ending to a story that truly captures the holiday spirit.  On behalf of the college, I would like to add my own congratulations to Jasmine and André, and wish them many, many years of happiness in their new house.  This story reminds us that we don’t have to look far to find quiet heroes for our role models.

As we approach the winter solstice in grey and cloudy Cleveland, I can draw some comfort from looking at my painting of the sun even though I don’t often see the real one.  And while I don’t know what my sun is thinking, he’s still shining brightly, as is the college.  We can also draw comfort from the cheer of the winter holiday season, with its lights, music, and festive gatherings.  I close by wishing you and yours a brilliant and safe holiday season, and I hope it’s a time of both celebration and sparkle.

Best wishes,