Music dean whistles a happy tune as building construction makes progress

Elizabeth Clements
October 26, 2017

When Ron Caltabiano first joined DePaul, he had a view of downtown Chicago from his office window. One year later, all the School of Music dean can see from his window is steady progress on a new building - and he couldn't be happier. Read on to learn about updates to the school's curriculum, community engagement and when faculty and staff expect to get the keys to their new digs.   

What are the first things you noticed about DePaul?

The first thing that strikes anybody when they get to know the School of Music is the incredible depth of our faculty. It is truly humbling to be with people of such extraordinary talent and who are so willing to give everything they have to our students and this institution. The school also has a remarkably well educated, dedicated and knowledgeable staff. Everyone who works here either has a degree in music or is advancing a career in a related field.

What are some key initiatives for the year ahead?

We're so excited to be preparing for our move into the new Holtschneider Performance Center. You wouldn't think that a new building could actually change a program, but this one will. We'll have four times the number of rehearsal spaces, three times the number of classrooms, four incredible performance halls and more than 80 practice rooms. And that means we'll be able to have the class and rehearsal schedules that we need. It also means that our faculty and students will be working in the professional environment they deserve.

One of the ways we're taking advantage of the new space is in curricular updates and the introduction of new tracks in some of our existing programs for non-performance majors. While we are forever a performance-first school, we have some terrific programs in sound recording technology and arts performance management that can now grow a bit.

We also are examining some of our performance programs and bringing in new faculty. After all, performance is our heart and soul. We have fabulous orchestras here in Chicago, and there are so many around the world. We need to populate them with great musicians.

Why do you think studying all of the arts is an important learning element?

Every art is related to another. One can learn an enormous amount about music from the other arts. That's why I insist our students see dance, theatre, poetry readings, and attend galleries and museums. The arts are very much trying to say similar things across the media, but we do it in different ways.

Basic elements exist across many arts forms: Time, for example, is at the heart of music, and is central to dance and drama. Rhythm is apparent in music, visual art and poetry. Specific elements like imitation can be studied in music composition, choreography, painting and architecture. Every artist in every discipline can learn an enormous amount about their own craft by studying the other disciplines.

Will community engagement continue to be a priority?

Yes, it is a priority for me personally as well. The Community Music Division is such an important part of the school. It is vital to what we do. When the new building is ready, we'll be able to do even more for the community because we will have the space to do it.

Speaking of the new building, I can see that construction is coming along.

Yes, it's thrilling. I lost my view of downtown, and I'm so glad.

How involved are you in the construction process?

Bob Janis and I talk frequently. Of course, the design and construction were underway before I joined DePaul, but we made a few modifications that were important - like adding a box office and providing the infrastructure to get a video signal out of our main hall so that we can live-stream some of our concerts.

I've been involved in two other large arts construction projects in my career, but I've never seen one done with such expertise. This is a credit to the deans and faculty members who worked on the project before I arrived, and to the dedication of the university leadership including its trustees. The university did this right - and efficiently, and it has every reason to be proud. It will be part of how we make the DePaul School of Music one of greatest schools in the country.

When do you get to move in?

President Esteban will get the keys sometime in May 2018, and we'll move in over the summer before classes start in the fall. I hope everyone will mark their calendars for a 10-day grand opening celebration at the start of November 2018!