The Eastman School of Music officially welcomed a new Dean with the investiture ceremony of Dr. Jamal Rossi this past Sunday, Oct. 26.

Rossi, who served as Executive Associate Dean of Eastman and stepped in as interim Dean following the resignation and passing of Dean Douglas Lowry last fall, was named the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean of the Eastman School of Music in May following a national search.

“Jamal was selected because of an outstanding track record of accomplishment,” UR President Joel Seligman said, “including his leadership of the Eastman Theatre Renovation and Expansion Project, his indisputable ability to lead the School, and his determination to […] craft a new strategic plan that will take Eastman to a new level of […] accomplishment as the nation’s leading school of music.”

The Eastman community celebrated Dean Rossi’s appointment with a formal ceremony in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.  Guest speakers and faculty performances celebrated a new era for Eastman under Dean Rossi’s leadership.

The ceremony began with a traditional procession of faculty bedecked in academic regalia.  Accompanying the processional was a quintet of Eastman brass professors, trumpeters James Thompson and Douglas Prosser, hornist W. Peter Kurau, trombonist Larry Zalkind, and tubist Don Harry.

Speakers and performers paid tribute to Eastman’s illustrious past throughout the ceremony.  Vincent Lenti, Professor of Piano, described his experiences since he joined the Eastman faculty in 1963.

Lenti was present at the 1964 farewell ceremony for Howard Hanson, the very first Dean of Eastman, selected for the position in 1924 by George Eastman himself.  Though much has changed since Hanson’s tenure, the Eastman School has remained among the top musical institutions in America.

In his inaugural address, entitled “Shaping the Future of Music,” Rossi described the investiture ceremony as “our day to celebrate the future of our school.”

“I am convinced that the core values on which this school was built will remain the keys for educating future generations of musicians,” Rossi said, “musicians who can best meet the challenges of yet-unknown obstacles, and musicians who will take best advantage of unanticipated opportunities.”

Christiana Reader, a Doctor of Musical Arts student in viola performance and music education, also spoke at Sunday’s ceremony.  She explained that she had the opportunity to take a course taught by Dr. Rossi himself as part of Eastman’s Arts Leadership Curriculum. Dr. Rossi’s teaching, she said, changed the way she thought about music-making.

According to Reader, musicians are, first and foremost, storytellers: performers and music educators alike, said Reader, must strive to tell their stories and the stories of humanity through their art.

Professors of Voice Robert Swensen and Kathryn Cowdrick joined their son, vocal senior Matthew Swensen, and pianist Dr. Russell Miller in a heartfelt rendition of “The Promise of

rendition of “The Promise of Living” from American composer Aaron Copland’s 1954 opera “The Tender Land.”

Midway through the ceremony, Dr. Donna Brink Fox, Eastman’s Senior Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs, presented the Luminary Award to Martin Messinger, a UR Class of 1949 graduate and longtime supporter of the Eastman School.  In his remarks, Messinger humorously recounted the experiences that brought him to support the artistic endeavors at the Eastman School and throughout the community.

Following the presentation of the Luminary Award, Professor of Conducting Dr. Mark Scatterday led an ensemble of Eastman students and faculty in the finale from Czech composer Antonín Dvorák’s famous “Serenade for Winds.”

Celebratory and upbeat, the work featured Professor Kenneth Grant and senior Luke Eckhoff, clarinets; Professor Richard Killmer and doctoral student Hugo Souza, oboes; Professor John Hunt and master student Amanda Moreton, bassoons; senior Sam Fraser, contrabassoon; Professor W. Peter Kurau and sophomores Rebekah Lorenz and Caroline Baker, horns; Professor David Ying, cello; and Professor James VanDemark, bass.

Guest speaker Arthur Ostrander delivered introductory remarks preceding the official act of investiture.  From 1985-2008, Ostrander served as Dean of the Ithaca College School of Music, where Rossi completed his undergraduate studies and later served as Assistant and Associate Dean before joining Eastman’s ranks.

At the heart of the ceremonies, President Seligman and Provost Peter Lennie invested Rossi with the responsibilities of his role as Dean of the Eastman School of Music.

Rossi then delivered his inaugural address, speaking of Eastman’s history as well as its bright future, from legendary professors to YouTube-star alumni.

“In the years ahead,” he said, “we must constantly ask ourselves if we are doing everything we possibly can to best prepare our students to enter the highly competitive music field.  It is an ever-changing landscape, and we must be willing to make certain our students are as prepared as possible for meaningful lives in music.”

A faculty jazz quintet comprising bassist Jeff Campbell, pianist Harold Danko, trumpeter Clay Jenkins, and vibraphonist Howard Potter provided interlude during which Rossi headed backstage to prepare for his own performance.  A renowned saxophonist, Rossi returned to the stage with his instrument in hand.

“I went to school to do that,” he explained, gesturing at the jazz instruments still set up center-stage.

Accompanied by Professor of Piano Nelita True, Rossi performed the second movement of Creston’s Sonata, called “Tranquility.”

After the ceremony, attendees were invited to join in a reception held in Cominsky Promenade on the second floor of the Eastman School main building.  There, students, faculty, staff, and community members greeted the Eastman School of Music’s new Dean.

Gordon is a member of

the class of 2015.



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