Kansas University has selected Robert Walzel, of the University of Utah, as its first full-time dean of the new School of Music.
Walzel has been director of Utah’s School of Music since 2001. Previously, he had served in a similar position at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.
He was a faculty member for 11 years at Texas Tech University and the principal clarinetist of the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra.
In an interview Tuesday morning, he said he was excited about the new opportunity to “be on the ground floor” during the formative years of a new school. He said one of his first initiatives likely would be to create a strategic plan to determine where the faculty want to take the school.
“At the end of the day, I think music schools define themselves on the excellence of the music they create and their academic programs,” Walzel said.
He said he hoped to highlight the role the school could play in the community, potentially taking a pianist to a senior living community or taking a string quartet to other community functions.
Walzel said he recalled visiting KU while attending the Midwest Music and Art Camp in the early 1970s as both a junior high and high school student.
“I have a lot of great memories of KU,” he said.
“KU is honored to have an internationally known musician of Robert Walzel’s caliber,” Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a statement. “He is a talented leader for our school and its exceptional faculty.”
Walzel was chosen over two other finalists, Wade Weast, director of the School of Music at the University of South Florida, and Murry Sidlin, dean of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
He will begin in the new position on June 1, and will succeed Alicia Clair, who has served as interim dean since the school’s inception last July, after KU dissolved and reorganized its School of Fine Arts.
“I am thrilled,” Walzel said. “It really is a great opportunity.”