History of the College of Visual and Performing Arts

The performing arts gained a new level of prominence at UNCG with the establishment of the College of Visual and Performing Arts July, 1, 2010. The merger between the previous School of Music, School of Theatre, School of Dance, and School of Art gives the university a centerpiece unit for the arts and raises the profile of the university's artistic offerings on campus, in the community and in the region. Plans for the merger were set in motion years ago, as the university worked to expand its research footprint. The administration "didn't want the arts to be ignored because the arts have been traditionally strong on this campus, along with education and nursing," stated Dr. John Deal, the first Dean of the School. Dr. Sue Stinson became Interim Dean of the School 2012-13 and a search for a new permanent Dean was initiated.

The School has five departments: Music Performance, Music Education, Music Studies (ethnomusicology, musicology and theory), Theatre, and Dance. The merger also moved the University Concert/Lecture Series (now the Performing Arts Series) and UNCG Auditorium under the umbrella of the School.

Before the creation of the School, some collaborations between the performing arts disciplines occurred, including the annual opera and musical, a couple of team-taught courses, and occasional other creative activities between students and/or faculty in the different departments. Although the School is still in its infancy, faculty, staff, and students are getting to know each other and starting to discuss possibilities for additional, even more ambitious projects for the future.

The units that came together to create the School each brought their own long and rich histories, as documented in the other sections of this page. Click on a tab above to read more about an individual unit.

UNCG has had many names over its 120 year history. The school opened in October 1892, as the State Normal and Industrial School. A living musician timeline for this beginning date would include Claude Debussy, age 30, Edward MacDowell, age 32, John Philip Sousa, age 38, Johannes Brahms, age 59 and Giuseppe Verdi, age 79. The original, charter faculty at the School included Clarence R. Brown, teacher of vocal culture. The teaching of vocal music aimed at training future teachers to teach group singing. Initially, piano instruction was given off campus and without academic credit. In 1900 Charles J. Brockmann and his sister Laura joined the faculty. He organized a small orchestra and she taught piano. The Brockmanns were forced to earn their keep through separate student music fees.

The music program was divided into two separate departments, vocal and instrumental. They were united in 1910. The music program gained unity and coherence with the employment of Wade R. Brown as music head in 1912. He would remain for twenty-five years. Soon he had organized a 125-voice chorus. An organist, Brown soon began giving recitals. The College acquired a pipe organ in 1913. Brown and his wife began taking the senior music majors to New York each year to visit the city's cultural attractions. Alleine Minor joined the faculty in piano. She remained for 43 years.

North Carolina College for Women: 1919 - 1932

Music education became a major field in 1919. The music program remained largely a piano, voice, and organ conservatory. In 1922 a major College reorganization created the School of Music as an academic unit. A new music building was constructed in 1925 and later named in honor of Wade R. Brown. The building now houses part of the Theatre department, but retains the names of several important composers chiseled in stone on the exterior. The UNCG Auditorium was opened in 1927, offering an important new performance venue with a seating capacity of more than 1500.

Woman's College of the University of North Carolina: 1932 - 1963

In 1936, H. Hugh Altvater became dean of the School of Music. New faculty in wind and string were added in the late '30s and '40s. Herbert Hazelman organized a college band in 1936. During WW II Hazelman created an all-female marching band at WC, which went to the Chapel Hill campus and performed at Kenan Stadium for one of their home football games during a time when UNC-Chapel Hill had no marching band because of WW II. The School of Music received national accreditation in 1938. In this same year George Dickieson was hired to organize a string orchestra. In 1939, the Greensboro orchestra, forerunner of the Greensboro Symphony, was formed. Most graduates were in Music Education. In 1949 a small master's program in composition was created. 1949 was also the year that Women's College was listed as the largest All-Female Institution in the United States. Master's degrees in music education, theory, and most instrumental and vocal areas were added to the curriculum by the early 1960s.

University of North Carolina at Greensboro: 1963 - 2012

The transition from a Women's College to co-education, with the addition of male students, enhanced the instrumental areas, as well as choral groups and Opera Performances. Under the leadership of Professor Richard Cox, the university chorale garnered a great deal of national and international renown. By 1963 the school was sponsoring a chorale, a choir, a glee club, a band, a chamber orchestra and an opera theater. Most of these accomplishments were attributable to the leadership of Dean Lee Rigsby, who arrived in 1959. A significant faculty addition in 1962 was internationally known French Pianist Daniel Ericourt. The Greensboro orchestra continued to grow under the leadership of George Dickieson and became administratively and financially independent of UNCG in 1967.

Performance degrees and graduate degrees grew under the leadership of Dean Lawrence Hart, who became dean in 1966. Hart recruited nationally known Bach Aria vocal performing artist Norman Farrow. The Ed. D. in music education was approved in 1968. A Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Music Performance was approved in 1984. The Ed. D. and D. M. A. doctorate degrees were the only ones in the state. Growth continually outstripped the facilities. Many music faculty were scattered around campus in a variety of makeshift quarters. The class piano laboratory resided in four different buildings between 1969 and 1999. Lawrence Hart retired in 1981, after fifteen years as dean of the School of Music. His successor at UNCG, Robert Blocker, remained only two years and, after a year's hiatus, Arthur Tollefson was named the new dean in 1984. Tollefson was the recipient of the first Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano awarded by Stanford University. He remained at UNCG for seventeen years. In the 1980's the music school was ranked as one of the top twenty music programs in the country.

An undergraduate concentration in jazz studies, named after Miles Davis, was introduced in 1983. During this period, various UNCG instrumental and vocal groups performed in the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie hall. In 1983, UNCG band director John Locke founded a new UNCG music camp for pre-college students. It eventually became the largest in the nation.

The opera program in the School of Music has a long distinguished history. Early Opera Directors included European Rolf Sander. Productions have won numerous first and second prize awards in the National Opera Association Opera Production Competitions starting in 1988. David Holley was appointed Opera Director in 1992. Prize winning productions have included Faust, Gianni Schicchi, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Don Giovanni, Dialogues of the Carmelites, The Consul, Orpheus in the Underworld, Little Women, Susanna, Albert Herring, La Vida Breve, and L'Enfant et les Sortileges. In 2004, the School of Music commissioned noted composer Libby Larsen to write the score for Picnic, libretto by David Holley. The opera Picnic was premiered in 2009 at UNCG.

Faculty pianist John Salmon created the very successful annual "Focus on Piano Literature" seminar in 1990. The offering attracts national and international attendees and continues biennially under the leadership of keyboard professor Andrew Willis.

The members of the School's Faculty have a distinguished record in Professional Music Associations. The School has hosted many state, national and international music conferences. Since 2006, theory professor David Nelson has guided well over one hundred and fifty students and adults on an annual Spring Break trip to visit the musical sites of Europe, with special emphasis on Vienna, Austria.

In 1999 the School of Music moved into a new twenty-three million dollar music building and established its own unified music library. The music library was named the Harold Schiffman Music Library in 2012. Dean John Deal, who guided the school into the 21st century, followed Dean Arthur Tollefson.

In 2010, the school was combined administratively with the departments of Theatre and Dance to become the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Music Degree Programs currently offered include:

Bachelor of Music in Composition, Jazz Studies, Music Education, Vocal or Instrumental Performance, Bachelor of Arts in Music, Master of Music in Music Theory, Composition, Music Education, Vocal or Instrumental Performance with specialties in Accompanying, Conducting, Early Keyboard Instruments, Piano Pedagogy, or Vocal Pedagogy, Doctor of Musical Arts in Accompanying, Conducting, Vocal or Instrumental Performance, Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education. The School offers the only comprehensive music program from undergraduate through doctoral study in performance and music education in North Carolina. Fall 2012 enrollments in Music degree programs were approximately 365 undergraduates and 172 graduates, with 60 full time music faculty.

Selected information from:

Trelease, Allen W. Making North Carolina Literate, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, from Normal School to Metropolitan University. Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press., 2004.
Fall, 2012

The Department of Theatre officially came into being July 1, 2000. The new Department was the result of the reorganization of the old Broadcasting/Cinema and Theatre Department, which had been in operation since 1995. The Theatre Department is only the latest organizational configuration of programs, courses, and degrees that have had a very important place in the history and development of the University for many years.

Founded in 1891 as the State Normal and Industrial School, and dedicated to the education of young women, the institution admitted it first class of students October 5, 1892. That year, Edwin A. Alderman, Chair of English Literature and History, offered a course which included the study of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar. Courses in vocal music, elocution, and physical culture were also offered. Performances of plays, tableaus, skits, and dramatic recitations soon became part of the campus' private and public social life under the sponsorship of the newly established Cornelian and Adelphian Literary Societies. This early combination of classes and performance experiences is where Theatre at UNCG begins.

The record of theatre activity during the institution's first thirty years is surprisingly rich and varied. Over 150 different dramatic presentations were given. In accordance with College regulation only one production was given for the general public each year. This did not inhibit students and faculty from presenting plays for their own edification and entertainment. Not only were the Literary Societies producing plays, the senior, junior, sophomore, and freshmen classes also presented plays and, occasionally, sponsored productions by professional actors and theatre companies on campus, or organized chaperoned excursions to downtown Greensboro to see performances at the local opera house. Early, notable productions include: State Country Fair (1894), a patriotic pageant and civic lesson depicting North Carolina's chief resources and industries; The Dress Rehearsal (1897), a comic operetta; Jove's Blessing (1897) a classically inspired, allegorical drama by a prominent Greensboro attorney that was presented as part of commencement exercises; Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer (1900); A Midsummer Night's Dream (1908), the first fully mounted production of one of Shakespeare's plays; The Egyptian Princess (1910), a romantic operetta with a cast of fifty; and two, massive, May Day celebrations that were staged in 1912 and 1916. With rare exception, all of the roles in the productions were played by women who were forbidden - within the strict moral climate of a girl's school - to wear trousers when playing men's roles. Students instead wore long black skirts or athletic bloomers, a practice which persisted until 1911. Women continued to play men's roles in campus productions until 1924.

Faculty advised, coached, and directed students in performances, and even, on occasion, acted in productions. Edward J. Forney, a charter member of the faculty, has the distinction of being the first man to act in a College production when he appeared as Uncle Sam in a patriotic pageant in 1899. Clarence R. Brown, a music teacher, introduced musical theatre to the College with his production of an operetta in 1897. But most important was Mary Settle Sharpe (1863-1944), a teacher of elocution and expression. From 1896 until her retirement in 1920, Sharpe provided advice and encouragement to students interested in drama and staged some of the College's most ambitious productions including the 1912 and 1916 May Day Fetes which included six Elizabethan inspired dramatic presentations that were performed at different, outdoor locations before an audience estimated in the thousands.

Theatre at the North Carolina College for Women took a giant step forward in 1921 when William Raymond Taylor (1895-1976) was hired to develop a drama program. Opinion had been growing for sometime that the College needed a drama program. Taylor, who had an undergraduate degree from Chapel Hill and an M.A. from Harvard (where he had been a classmate of Eugene O'Neill), was specifically hired to provide consistent, qualified, leadership and instruction in drama in the English Department. His objectives were to improve the quality of student performances and establish a theatre program based on the best professional practices of the day. Within a year, Taylor introduced new classes in play writing and theatre production and consolidated the different student production efforts into a single program entitled "The Dramatic Association of the North Carolina College for Women." In 1924 this organization was rechristened The Play-Likers. A second, somewhat older, student theatre club was renamed The Masqueraders, and became the "honorary" extension of The Play-Likers. One of The Play-Likers earliest triumphs occurred in 1924 when they won second place in the National College Theatre Tournament at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, with their production of student Doris Halman's original one-act play The Will-o'-the-Wisp.

Taylor's many accomplishments include producing a varied repertory of classic, contemporary, and original student dramas; increasing the number of performances and productions that were open to the general public; using men from the faculty and community to play male roles in campus productions; touring plays off-campus; taking students on field trips to New York City to see professional productions; helping to design UNCG Auditorium which became The Play-Likers home in 1927; and founding the Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville, North Carolina in 1946. Taylor also founded the Stage Equipment Company of America (SECOA) which remains in business today. "Teach" Taylor, as he was respectfully called, directed campus theatre activities until 1953, and continued to teach at the University in the English Department until 1960. His pioneering efforts were recognized by the University in 1967 when the new theatre building was named in his honor.

Taylor was assisted, over the years, by talented and dedicated colleagues who, in their own, special ways, contributed to the growth and development of the program. Most significant was Kathryn England (1911-1977) who taught oral interpretation, voice and diction, and directed over 40 plays between 1942-1975. Also important is Wayne Bowman who, in addition to assisting Taylor, added the first electronic media courses to the drama curriculum in the late 1940's, these included Speech for Drama and Radio, Radio Production, and Writing for Radio.

In 1953 Taylor's direction of the Play-Likers came to an abrupt end during the highly controversial administration of Chancellor Edward Kidder Graham. For one year, Giles Playfair, a distinguished author and visiting professor from England, directed the theatre program. Playfair had extensive experience in British theatre, radio, and film. In 1954 Chancellor Graham, through administrative fiat, established a Drama Department at the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A bachelor's degree in Drama was initiated with course work in theatre and broadcasting. The venerable Play-Likers was renamed "The Theatre of the Woman's College." The Masqueraders continued as a student theatre club. The new Department Head was Michael Casey who had a B.A. from Williams College, a M.A. from Chapel Hill, and a professional certificate from the Old Vic Theatre School in London. Casey had worked with Taylor at the Parkway Playhouse. One of Casey's achievements was initiating "The Hour of Thespis" a TV series on the arts produced at the campus PBS station. This was among the first such university-produced series in the nation. Casey was Department Head for just two years, resigning when Chancellor Graham left in 1956.

In 1956, Herman Middleton, who was educated at Rollins College, Columbia University, and earned a PhD from the University of Florida in 1964, became Department Head and inaugurated a new era of growth and development. Middleton expanded the curriculum, hired new faculty, instituted innovative programs, and built a Department with a strong regional reputation. Changes and developments in the department mirrored changes in the institution and society. African-American students were admitted to the University for the first time, and the University became co-educational and changed its name to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1963. In 1960-61 the Department was retitled Drama and Speech when four courses in speech were added to the curriculum. Formal studies in speech communication and communication disorders were initiated and quickly grew. BFA degrees in Acting, and Design and Technical Theatre; and MFA degrees in Acting/Directing and Design were added in 1970. In 1967 David Batcheller joined the faculty as Director of Theatre, in 1968 Tom Behm was hired to develop a children's theatre program (transforming the "Pixie Playhouse" into the North Carolina Theatre for Young People in 1972), and in 1971 internationally renowned designer Andreas Nomikos (1917-1999) became Director of Design.

Middleton's artistic achievements include directing the first Broadway-style musical, Oklahoma! (1957), and the first children's theatre production at the University; leading three tours of productions abroad under the auspices of the American Educational Theatre Association, the United Services Organization, the U.S. Department of Defense in 1959, 1962, and 1966; and having his production of The Oresteia produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C., as part of the 1974 American College Theatre Festival. From 1963-1967, the department hosted Eva Le Galliene's National Repertory Theatre in extended residencies on campus. Middleton was also instrumental in the founding of the North Carolina Theatre Conference and the Southeastern Theatre Conference. Although he retired in 1990, Professor Emeritus Middleton remains active in state and regional professional organizations, the community, and the Department.

In 1974 John Lee Jellicorse became Department Head. Educated at the University of Tennessee and Northwestern University where he earned his Ph.D. in 1967, Jellicorse led the department during a period of tremendous growth. Enrollments grew and new degree programs were put in place. In 1975-76 the Broadcasting/Cinema division was established. An MFA concentration in Child Drama was added in 1976, and an MEd in Drama in 1977. The MFA concentration in Film and Video Production was instituted in 1984. In 1977 the Drama and Speech Department was renamed the Department of Communication and Theatre in recognition of its size and diversity. The faculty more than doubled in size and the number of majors quadrupled. Theatre continued to thrive and transform itself with changes in faculty and students. Jellicorse promoted and supported the development of strong, autonomous divisions within the department. Plans were developed (but ultimately rejected) for the establishment of a School of Communication and Theatre. In 1988, when Jellicorse stepped down as Head, the Communication and Theatre Department with 35 faculty and over 800 majors and was one of the largest academic units in the University.

Robert C. Hansen became Department Head in 1988 after having served two years as Director of the Theatre Division and Director of Design. Hansen, with degrees from the University of Minnesota (Morris), Florida State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, joined the UNCG faculty in 1986 after having served as chair of the Theatre Department at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Under Hansen's leadership the Theatre curriculum was significantly redesigned to bring it into conformity with National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST) standards. In 1989 the Theatre program was accredited by NAST and reaccredited in 1994 and 1999. Accreditation resulted in the addition of new faculty positions, facility renovations, and increased graduate assistantships. The Department ended its affiliation with the Parkway Playhouse and suspended its MA program. In doing so, the Department committed itself to making the MFA program one of the best in the country. The addition of new faculty afforded the opportunity to give greater emphasis to professional training in all aspects of the curriculum and led to the development of new programs and initiatives, including the expansion of student scholarships.

In 1995, after over two years of study and discussion, the Communication and Theatre Department was divided into two units: A Department of Communication and a Department of Broadcasting/Cinema and Theatre. For four years, the faculty in the Broadcasting/Cinema and Theatre Department made sporadic efforts to function together as a consolidated unit. A jointly produced, student-directed film project was created and plans were developed for an MA program in dramatic writing. During Fall Semester 1997, the Department celebrated the 75th Anniversary of UNCG Theatre with a series of special productions and events including a Homecoming Banquet attended by 250 alumni, students, faculty and community supporters. At the banquet, the UNCG Theatre Hall of Fame was inaugurated. Ten individuals who had made important contributions to the development of Theatre at UNCG were inducted into the Hall of Fame and plaques honoring them were hung in the Taylor Theatre lobby.

During Spring Semester 1999, it was decided that the Broadcasting/Cinema and Theatre units would separate and become two independent departments effective August 1, 2000. Bob Hansen stepped down as Department Head after 12 years of service and Tom Behm became Interim Head of the newly minted Theatre Department, while a national search was conducted for new leadership. During Behm's tenure as Head, the Theatre Department took possession of portions of the Brown Building and instituted productions in the Brown Recital Hall, which became the department's new Studio Theatre. Tom Behm retired from the faculty in June 2002 after 34 years of outstanding leadership and service on the faculty.

The search for a new Department Head was successful. It resulted in the hire of Tom Humphrey, who joined the faculty in January 2002, after completing his final season as Producing Artistic Director of The Western Stage in Salinas, California. Tom Humphrey, with degrees from Denison University in Ohio, and an M.F.A. in Directing from the University of California, San Diego, brought extensive experience in both professional and educational theatre to UNCG. One of Humphrey's first administrative accomplishments was to hire Rachel Briley, from Western Michigan University, to take on the leadership of the North Carolina Theatre for Young People program, following the long tenure of Behm as NCTYP coordinator. Humphrey served as Department Head for six years, stepping down in 2007 to return to the faculty to teach and serve as co-coordinator of the MFA in Directing program.

A 2007 search for a Department Head led to the hiring of James Fisher, who had previously served as Department Chair and Professor of Theatre at Wabash College in Indiana. Fisher, an alumnus of the Department of Theatre at UNCG (MFA in Acting/Directing, 1976), also brought to the Department a background in theatre history. The author of several books and essays on American and European theatre and drama, Fisher is also a director with considerable experience. UNCG Theatre's production of The Revenger's Tragedy, adapted by Department of Theatre faculty member Jim Wren and Joe Sturgeon from Thomas Middleton's play, was selected by the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival for presentation at the Kennedy Center for the ACTF Festival - one of four productions selected from schools across the United States. During Fisher's tenure as Department Head, the Department of Theatre merged with the School of Music and the Department of Dance to become the College of Visual and Performing Arts on July 1, 2010, but also faced unprecedented budgetary challenges resulting from the economic setbacks of 2008-2011. A faculty position in playwriting was added to the department and Janet Allard was hired to fill the position. Enrollments for the Department of Theatre neared 300 majors in the second decade of the 21st century.

Dance first was taught at UNCG as part of the women's physical education program, even before the school became the Women's College in 1932. This was typical of how modern dance found its way into higher education in many schools across the United States, though no one could have predicted how vigorously it would grow. After its emergence in this country in the early part of the 20th century, dance quickly established itself as an area of study with a voice of its own, and has grown from there.

In 1963, a number of related areas were reorganized administratively into a combined department comprising four divisions: health education, physical education, dance, and recreation. Meanwhile, a precursor to the interdisciplinary programs we know today, the Arts Forum, had been created in 1943, bringing together student and faculty artists in painting, music composition, choreography and writing, giving campus recognition to dance as an art. Virginia Moomaw was hired in 1945 and quickly became a voice for dance at the Women's College. Working in conjunction with the Arts Forum, she helped engineer a giant step forward when, in 1949, Dr. Frank Porter Graham, then president of the University of North Carolina, approved the Graduate Creative Arts Program, which established MFA degree programs in painting, music, writing, and, for the first-time ever, in dance. This was before the major in dance was introduced in 1957.

Administratively, change for dance has been slow coming. In 1970-71, the School of Heath, Physical Education, and Recreation was formed - known as HPER, and by 1980, dance had been added to the already long name, making it HPERD. By 1984, the instructional divisions were changed into departments. We moved into our current facilities in 1989 and in 1991, became the School of Health and Human Performance. Although across the country, dance was increasingly allied with other arts administratively, on this campus, the configuration remained the same for nearly 20 years, until 2010, when dance and theatre were merged with music to create the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Throughout our evolution - and no doubt, because of our history - we have sought to encourage our students in a broad experience of dance studies as an artistic physical practice that also encompasses dance history, pedagogy, integration of somatic practices, the creative and critical aspects of performance and choreography, and the development of the individual in relationship to community. Our curriculum has developed to point students toward the imaginative, critical, educational, and technical skills necessary to creative work, scholarly inquiry, and professional engagement in the field of dance, combining a liberal arts course of study with professional preparation for the pursuit of a variety of dance careers.

The School of Art at Woman’s College came into being in 1935 under the visionary leadership of Gregory Ivy (who also founded the Weatherspoon Gallery--now the Weatherspoon Art Museum-- in 1941). Art and art education had, however, had a prominent role in the curriculum at UNCG since it’s founding as a State Normal and Industrial School in 1891. Ivy was hired by Chancellor Jackson to build “a first-rate art department,” and he did just that, pulling together faculty who taught visual and applied arts in various units into the new department. More than this, Ivy also designed a comprehensive curriculum for art majors, bringing the most current art pedagogies to Greensboro. The new department head was also very closely tied to New York and the art scene there; in 1936, for example, he brought the exhibition, A Brief Survey of Modern Painting, to the Student’s Building at Woman’s College. This show had been organized by Alfred Barr, legendary director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and its presence on campus here was emblematic of Ivy’s determination that his students work in the context of contemporary art in the largest sense possible. In addition to his commitment to undergraduate education,Ivy founded the department’s vibrant MFA program which is now the oldest of its kind in the UNC system. His vision for comprehensive art education also resulted in a summer art colony for students in Beaufort, NC, very closely tied and nearby Josef Alber’s influential Black Mountain College.

Ivy’s vision provided the foundation for UNCG’s School of Art. Dedicated to education students in the global context of visual arts, the department’s programs now include a BA and BFA in studio art, a BFA in art education, a BA in art history, as well as the MFA. As the department becomes the new School of Art, it remains committed to offering its students the broadest possible education in the visual arts, art education, and art history. The world today is not Gregory Ivy’s, but his profound belief that students must be given rigorous training in technical skills but in dialog with contemporary art and in conversation with practicing artists remains the guiding philosophy of UNCG’s new School of Art.