The College of Music and Fine Arts is pleased to announce several new degree programs this year. This fall, the college’s Department of Art and Design launched its Bachelor of Design degree. You may be familiar with traditional studio art – the goal of which is to invoke feelings or emotions, make you look, make you think and ask the meaning. Design is different in that it is meant to inform, to communicate, or solve a problem. Some of the simple design symbols that we are familiar with are right-turn only, no left turn, the big H for hospital. These are simple design symbols that we have become used to. But, design is even more than that. Sometimes it might inform the viewer in a very sophisticated and even erotic fashion. Also unlike studio art, designers have varied backgrounds. Some may be English majors or history or science majors. The point being that unlike the studio artist, designers may not necessarily have discovered their talent in art. We often think of design as a computer based profession, but that is not necessarily the whole story. Many designers work with a straightedge, compass and a pencil.; they are visual thinkers. So, I challenge you to explore the Bachelor of  Design degree offered by Loyola’s Department of Art and Design.

Also this fall, the college’s Music Industry Department announced two new degrees in Popular and Commercial Music, and Digital Filmmaking. With Popular and Commercial music, we hope to bridge Loyola’s strong programs in both classical and jazz studies. For years, students have asked about popular music training, now we have it. Digital filmmaking is a natural fit for New Orleans with the growth in the local film industry. Digital Filmmaking is an extension of what is happening in our city. Also, rolling up to the launching pad is a degree in theatre and music theatre. It’s in the final stages of approval and we are very, very confident that the Bachelor of Theatre and Musical Theatre will take off in the fall of 2015. Stay tuned!

This summer, the college is offering many new and exciting courses both online and on campus. Some of the titles include: The Art of Storytelling, Writing about Radiohead, Women in Music, the History of American Popular Music, Toys: Wood in Playful Form, Lovers and Clowns in Early Modern Italy, The 70’s: As Seen on TV, The History of New Orleans Music, and Jazz in American Culture. These are but a few of the exciting courses offered in the summer of 2015. See Loyola’s website for more exciting titles.

These are but a few of the exciting new degree programs and summer courses offered by Loyola’s College of Music and Fine Arts. Of course, we are still excited about the many traditional programs that the college is been known for such as theater, studio arts, music education, music therapy, jazz studies, performance and music industry. I invite you to come and explore your creative self in Loyola’s College of Music and Fine Arts.

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A characteristic of Jesuit leadership and training that Chris Lowney focuses on as one of the primary pillars of leadership is ingenuity – the ability to adapt and to face the changes around us with confidence.  Throughout their history, the Jesuits have successfully modified and changed their teaching approaches, for example, to fit the different needs and requirements of each age.

At Loyola’s College of Music and Fine Arts, we are very aware of the significant changes going on in the world around us.  Technology moves so quickly that it is difficult to remain current in the latest advances. More and more, the arts are at the cutting edge of this technology. Motion graphics, digital recording techniques, and micro-technologies all have been pioneered by technician-artists who are seeking to go beyond the boundaries of the status quo. At Loyola, for example, we have recently hired a faculty member in ‘New Media,’ which might best be described as the application of modern technologies to artistic installations and animated sculpture. Our Graphic Design program is similarly advanced, and our faculty and students are renowned for their works and exhibits throughout the city.

This is a side of the arts of which few outside our field are immediately aware – yet their enjoyment of the latest animated film from Pixar or the latest downloadable creations of Lady Gaga is directly related to the technology required, indeed, created to meet the need of the artist’s vision.  It is the artist who has driven these technologies and, in the case of Graphic Design and New Media, the artists are often more sophisticated and knowledgeable about the application of technology than the computer scientists that designed the equipment. In fact, the equipment has often been designed first to meet the needs of the artists, and only then finds its way into more commercial applications.

The ability to make something of nothing – to take an idea and create from that an entire universe – is a part of what it means to be an artist. Our students study and take their inspiration from the great artists of the past who did the same: Beethoven, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, and many others. Through their rigorous study of the past, our students build a future. From their dedication to the present, they see beyond the everyday and into the essence of what is to come.

The adaptive genius of our students and faculty will soon be on full display. We are beginning a new year, a year which will see a tremendous outpouring of performances, exhibitions, and presentations which, I believe, will mark a new high for the College of Fine Arts and for Loyola University of New Orleans. In the coming weeks I will detail the year’s events more fully. For now I can only ask you to keep your eyes and ears open! What is to come will be astonishing and beautiful, uplifting and transformative.

That is what ingenuity means to us, as artists, and as citizens of Loyola.

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What are some of the critical aspects of leadership which we try to instill in our students at Loyola?  How do these desired traits manifest themselves in our art?

Let me start with the first key ingredient to leadership and to artistic success: self awareness.

Self Awareness is critical to the artist, for many reasons: firstly, as a means of self improvement, and secondly, as a means to connect with others.  Self awareness, which might also be called the inner critical voice, is a key component to all successful artistic ventures – the sine qua non of greatness.

A great musician learns to listen to their work; a great visual artist, learns to sit for long periods of time simply observing the work and considering how it might be improved; an actor will, if possible, watch recordings of their work. Along with this, the artist will be willing to make changes, adjustments, transformations, in the art work to improve and refine it. The process can be brief, or extremely long, but it is never absent.

For the leader, self awareness is crucial. How we perceive ourselves, and others, is a critical part of success – the ability to be critical of their own ideas and proposals allows leaders to grow and develop, transcending the more narrow vision which they may have brought with them into a given situation. Listening to others, particularly others who have much experience, and formulating ideas based on observations and careful research – are all a part of self-awareness. The willingness to confront our flaws and failings as a person, and as an artist, is an important step toward excellence, and a requirement for further development.

The concept of self awareness and the inner voice can be, however, a danger — particularly to the young artist.  What if our inner voice is too critical? What if, instead of providing us with an honest assessment of our work, our inner critic begins to actually overwhelm us with uncertainty and feelings of unworthiness? This is always a delicate balance – healthy self criticism is one thing, but the incessant negative inner voice can destroy the artistic spirit.

Is there a solution to this dilemma?

Oddly enough, self awareness can also help us with this problem! Are we asking ourselves, for example, if we are being too critical of our work? Are we being honest about our successes and not simply focusing on our failures? How often have we spoken with a fellow musician, for example, after they have performed a concert, and heard “Oh, I really messed up that third movement!” or “I will never play THAT piece again!” — such comments reveal our human side, the fact that we are particularly vulnerable after a performance, but they should not be allowed to dominate our thoughts. The critical voice should not be allowed to wipe out the fact that a great deal of what was done on stage was very successful. In fact, many in the audience might have left the hall completely unaware that there were any issues at all!

The artist must always balance the critical voice with the voice of reason, and be able to move forward with a sense of accomplishment, even if a performance did not go perfectly. Self awareness helps us to deal with our emotions, and provides a sure refuge from the harsh and overly-judgmental inner voice which — if allowed to go unchecked — can end our artistic development.

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I am sometimes asked about success in the arts, not only by students, but also by their parents, or by interested outsiders. What does one have to do to become successful as an artist? Why are some artists successful while others remain unknown? Are there different rules for success for some artists, and different rules for others?  I would call these questions part of the general interest we all have in moving ahead, in taking our art to the next level. Are there secrets known only by the great? Today I am going to tell you a secret – a real secret, and I hope you find it as interesting as I did discovering it. In telling this, I am also going to introduce four important concepts on success which you may find surprising.

This story is true, but I cannot name the artist – let me merely say he is a famous pianist who played at Loyola some time ago, and leave it at that!

I knew this artist’s work very well through many recordings, watching him in concert while I worked in Vienna and Salzburg, and also from accounts from others who knew him well. However, I was not prepared for his humility, sweet disposition, and willingness to do whatever was necessary to further Loyola’s aims until I met him personally. That first meeting was at Louis Armstrong Airport, where I picked him up from his flight from New York. He was not flying in a corporate jet, although I am sure he could have easily afforded such a trip. He was flying on the most budget oriented airlines of budget airlines (I shall not be more specific!). I met him at the gate. He was wearing jeans, a suit jacket, and a polo shirt.  He was carrying a vinyl gym bag, and a novel, which I determined later to be a thriller by David Baldacci. When we arrived at the tollbooth to pay for the airport parking garage he asked if he shouldn’t pay the parking fee for Loyola, since he was playing for us as part of a fundraiser.

I tried very hard not to burst into laughter. In my years as a Dean I have known many visiting artists, and this was the first one that every asked to pay the airport parking fee for Loyola. Naturally, I refused! As I drove him to the hotel he began asking me questions about my work at Loyola, what I was playing, what my school was like, and then he began to ask questions about New Orleans, and, more specifically, how we were recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

The key word in this description of him is ‘ask’ — he was curious, kind, and interested in others. Instead of a great man with little time for ordinary things, one was confronted with a great man who was very interested in ordinary things, and in ordinary people.  He was, as I saw more and more during his visit, simply a wonderful person who just happened to be one of the greatest pianists in the world. But his approach to his concert was what fascinated me the most.

He asked that he might have the day to practice, and we set the artist up on the stage, and he proceeded to go over his program. I sat far in the back of the hall, curious to hear his approach to concert preparation. His scheduled program was massive, and the works to be performed were highly complex and of considerable difficulty.  He did not, however, play through any of the pieces he was scheduled to perform that evening, but instead worked on many others!  And, since he had brought no music with him at all, all of this was done purely by memory. The only time he stopped practicing was to check in on his wife and family in New York, or rest for a few moments to gather his strength. He also did not practice entire pieces, but merely short sections which obviously were especially difficult and which he wished to improve.

His performance that evening was impeccable, and he received multiple standing ovations – but few in the audience knew that the man before them was not only a great artist, but also a wonderful human being with seemingly superhuman abilities. In the end he left us with a remarkable memory, but also raised money through his appearance for Loyola’s scholarship funds, and also for local charities, taking absolutely nothing for himself.

So, as promised, I will provide to you the four virtues or four pillars of success, all of which this artist practiced, and all of which can be found in the work of the successful artists I have known. These are: self-awareness, ingenuity, courage, and love. My list of virtues is not random, but taken from the wonderful writings of Chris Lowney, whose book Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-year-old Company that Changed the World, contain the same four pillars of success.

But more in our next BLOG!

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I am often asked this question by those I meet who come from backgrounds in business or other fields. Often the question is really one of curiosity – people really DO want to know what we do, because often they are witnesses to the end-product: the performance of the symphony or chorus, the exhibition of our talented art students, or a performance of a play or ballet. In time I realized that their question is not so much about that end-product as about what we do as artists to get there.

Each artist will answer this question

differently — for some a description of their daily routine might be very simple, for others, much more varied and complex. A pianist or trumpet player might, for example, talk about the hours spent in the practice room, and away from the practice room studying his scores. An actor might talk about how, in working on each role, different aspects of her own personality and ability are stretched and challenged. Some of our student artists might talk about their struggle to find time for their art away from their heavy course loads; others might talk about how their courses have allowed them to become better artists.

What all artists, however, will eventually touch upon is the critical need for regular work and practice, and the importance of creating an artistic routine or regimen which works for them, and which they can employ throughout the year. If I answer the question ‘what do artists do’ honestly I have to say they work, and work very hard, toward very specific goals.  The culture of the artist revolves around constant self-improvement and development: when that activity ceases the artist’s progress slows, and can even stop.

So, the next time you visit the performance hall or the theatre, or view the works in our gallery, think of the work involved and the dedication to work which has produced it. Genius, talent, inspiration — these are all wonderful things, but in the end, it is work that gets the art completed, and work which is the life-blood of the artists craft.

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Sometimes to understand who we are as a College, we need to look carefully at our history, and our origins!

Dr. Ernest E. Schuyten, a violinist and former conductor of the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra, founded the New Orleans Conservatory of Music and Dramatic Art in 1919. Dr. Schuyten was a graduate of the Athénée Royal, in Antwerp, and the Conservatoire Royal in Brussels. The New Orleans Conservatory, whose faculty members came from the New Orleans Symphony and other artistic institutions in the city, eventually merged with Loyola University, and in September of 1932 became the College of Music of Loyola University. After Hurricane Katrina, two departments previously housed in Loyola’s College of Arts and Sciences, Theatre and Visual Arts, were added to the College of Music, creating the current College of Music and Fine Arts at Loyola University.

In an effort to better define the nature of the College in March of 2012 President Kevin Wildes approved the creation of a School of Music, a Department in Music Industry Studies, and re-named the Department of Visual Arts the Department of Art and Design. The College employs over 70 full-time faculty and a large number of part-time faculty (including a number of current or former members of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra), and includes more than 200 BM/BA music majors, nearly 300 BS in Music Industry majors,  and nearly 200 majors in visual arts and theatre.

The School of Music and Department of Music Industry Studies offer a wide range of programs, including baccalaureate and master’s programs in music performance (vocal, instrumental, and keyboard), programs in music education, and the third-oldest program in music therapy in the United States.  Loyola graduates work in the major orchestras, opera houses, ballet companies, recording and publishing companies, theatres and art galleries throughout the world and continue to make important contributions to the artistic life of the United States and beyond.

I mention all of these things in this, my first blog entry, to introduce our school and to highlight some of the exciting qualities of Loyola’s programs which many may not be aware of. In coming blogs I will talk more about who we are, but also about what we are and strive to be as a College, but also individually as artists!

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