New School of Music, Drama, Art

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This summer marks a period of great transition and anticipation for the arts community at The Catholic University of America in Washington, as the faculty, students and staff of the newly established Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art prepare for their inaugural year.

The new school, which was established in June after a vote by the university’s board of trustees, has united the drama and art departments with the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music in an effort to foster cross-disciplinary efforts and anchor the university’s commitment to the arts in a new way.

Music school alumna Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, dean of the school, said she believes the formation of the new school is “historic” for the university as a whole.

“When we combine these three areas, it gives us not only a rebirth, but also a re-energizing of what we can do,” she said. “It refocuses the arts in a new way here at the university, and it gives us the ability to collaborate in ways that we have never done before.”

In the coming years, Leary-Warsaw said she hopes that by joining creative forces, the three formerly separate communities will provide an enhanced public presence to expose more people to the arts and involve more people in the arts world. She also hopes to find more areas of student involvement — even for students who aren’t arts majors.

“I believe the arts are a way for all students to be able to come together and participate, whether it be through audience participation, creation or performing,” she said. “I hope and believe that all Catholic University students will benefit through this new school.”

Patrick Tuite, associate dean of graduate studies and head of productions, formerly served as chair of the drama department. He believes that closer collaboration between students and music, drama, and art faculty will result in higher quality musical and dramatic productions.

“We have a special relationship with the public in that we have a public face — we invite people from the Washington, D.C., area and beyond to see our work. We take that responsibility really seriously and we want our work to be very sharp,” Tuite said. “I can promise that the production level will reflect that we’re going to have more organization and we’re going to share resources that support every unit in the school. I think people are genuinely excited to be a part of that.”

Nora Heimann, acting chair of the art department, is excited about the opportunities the new school could provide for art students, including new bachelor of fine arts and master of fine arts programs. She is eager to find new synergies with music and drama.

"Music, art and drama are unified in our desire to build a more robust center of the arts,” she said. “We’re committed to working together to grow, refine and advance our program. Together, the faculty and students of the arts at Catholic U. are inspired by the words of Pope Francis, who in February 2018 called upon musicians, actors, painters, sculptors, and other artists to help 'discover the beauty of being loved by God and bear witness to it by creating 'an oasis of beauty.’ ”

The new school also will bring changes for current students of the arts, including senior Carson Collins, a musical theater major and performing arts management minor. Collins said he hopes the changes will raise and refresh the university’s profile in the D.C. arts community.
“Our school was integral in creating the thriving theatrical scene that exists (in D.C.) today,” Collins said.

“By bringing together all of the artistic voices on our campus, I firmly believe that we can create a unified presence and re-establish ourselves as the primary source of new theatrical innovators in this city.”
Junior Isabelle Gholl, who studies musical theater and performance arts management, said she is looking forward to the new levels of artistic diversity the school will provide.

“We all now have a potential for interdisciplinary art, and as artists it is so important to expand our knowledge of other forms and to use other forms of art to inspire us in our own discipline,” she said.
Gholl also said she is excited to be part of something brand new.

“Ultimately, we get to be the classes that create the stepping stones for students to come to this new school,” she said. Noting that current students will pave the way, she added, “We get to figure out what it’s like to be a student in this new school ... I think it is exciting.”

The school plans to hold soft opening performances Oct. 19 and 21 during Cardinal Weekend. Featured performances and displays will represent many areas of study in the school, including sacred music, choral performance, drama, musical theatre and visual arts.

“This presentation is to show that this school is happening, and we’re very excited about that,” Leary-Warsaw said. “We are a school that is going to put emphasis on both sacred and secular art because we want to show that we can do all of it, and that’s what makes us unique and special.”

Additional productions to be held this year will include musical theatre productions of “Legally Blonde” and “The Three Penny Opera,” operas “Suor Angelica” and “Giulio Cesare”; and drama productions “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “The Laramie Project” and “Antigone,” as well as the premieres of two student-written plays: “Ad Nauseumby Conor LaRocque” and “Tilting” by Rachel Rios.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018