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creative:impact - “Unleashing Imagination And Creativity” Is The Goal Of Leaders At U-M

David Gier
University of Michigan

David Gier, Dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theater and Dance, is on the team selected by Mark Schlissel, U-M president, to lead his new arts initiative. The goal?  To make the university a leader in arts research, creation, education and presentation.  Dean Gier tells David Fair and Deb Polich about the vision on this week’s edition of "creative:impact."

Deb Polich
Deb Polich, President and CEO of The Arts Alliance

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

About David Gier

Dean David Gier is Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.  From 1995 to 2018, he taught at the University of Iowa, where he served as director of the School of Music beginning in 2010 and was appointed as the inaugural Erich Funke Professor in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in 2014.  Before moving to Iowa, Gier served for six years on the faculty of Baylor University.  He is an elected member of the National Association of Schools of Music Commission on Accreditation.
Dean Gier led the School of Music at Iowa during a particularly tumultuous period in the institution’s history, as it worked to recover from a devastating flood that destroyed much of the arts campus.  During his tenure, Gier initiated a number of innovative curricular and programmatic changes, expanded resources for scholarships and support for faculty scholarly and creative work, and was deeply involved in the planning, design, and construction of the new Voxman Music Building that opened in 2016.  He also served in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development as a Faculty Fellow, and in that role developed cross-campus initiatives that supported arts and humanities research and creative activity.

As a trombone soloist, and clinician, Gier has performed and presented at many colleges, universities, and professional conferences, including the International Trombone Festival, the Eastern Trombone Workshop, the Music Educators’ National Conference, and the New York Brass Symposium.  He served as principal trombonist of the of the Breckenridge (CO) Festival Orchestra under the direction of Gerhardt Zimmermann from 1990 until 2008, and the Quad City (Iowa/Illinois) Symphony Orchestra from 2001 until 2018.  He has concertized and recorded with a wide range of other ensembles, including the Iowa Brass Quintet, Orchestra New England, Keith Brion’s New Sousa Band, and the Center for New Music.  His recording of mixed chamber music featuring trombone, titled Toot tooT, was released on the Albany Records label in 2007.

Gier’s teaching expertise is nationally recognized.  His students have been prizewinners in the Eastern Trombone Workshop National Solo Competition and the St. Louis Symphony Young Artist Competition. Graduates have won performing positions with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, national Broadway touring companies, and the Air Force Band, and in prestigious summer programs such as National Orchestral Institute, the National Repertory Orchestra, and the Graz AIMS Opera Orchestra.  They also hold faculty posts at colleges and universities around the U.S., and in the public schools throughout the Midwest.  Gier has served as an adjudicator for International Trombone Association competitions held in Denmark, France, and Spain, and was co-host of the International Trombone Festival in 2018.

Gier is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Yale University, where he completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1992.


University of Michigan
Credit Roger Hard / Michigan Photography
Michigan Photography
U-M President Mark Schlissel announced a new arts initiative at the annual leadership breakfast on Oct. 3.

ANN ARBOR—A comprehensive presidential arts initiative designed to “unleash imagination and creativity” at the University of Michigan was announced today by President Mark Schlissel.

A working group of arts leaders on campus will collaborate with all parts of the university in creating the initiative. According to Schlissel, a two-year startup phase will produce a roadmap through creative and inclusive engagement with the community, especially with students. 

“Our strengths and opportunities are clear—U-M is a leader in arts research, creation, education and presentation,” Schlissel said. “But there is also a deep desire to help this component of our excellence permeate further across all of U-M.

“As this initiative matures in the years ahead, we will have the opportunity to create new dimensions of U-M’s excellence through the arts—ones that are perhaps unknown to us today.”

Underscoring the importance of the arts—including their power to foster creativity, create fuller and smarter humans, and advance humanity—Schlissel also emphasized the transdisciplinary collaborations and individuals who are creating valuable intersections between the arts and other parts of the university’s academic portfolio.

He cited work ranging from U-M Stamps School of Art & Design associate professor Anne Mondro’s creation of arts programs for community members living with dementia to several faculty collaborating to secure CDC and state support to present “Painless,” a musical addressing the opioid crisis, at schools around Michigan. 

First steps in shaping the initiative will include gathering ideas through broad community engagement and launching a series of pilot and demonstration projects.

“This will be a dynamic period of experimenting with new projects,” Schlissel said.  “How can we incorporate art and art making into the Michigan experiences of all our students?  How can we bring the world’s most compelling artists to campus for deep engagement and collaboration with us? 

“How can the arts help to open new ways of understanding and solving problems in different disciplines? And yes, how can the arts bring us together around profound questions like ‘what is love?'”

The working group for the new arts initiative includes leaders from across the university: 


U-M Arts & Culture

U-M School of Music, Theatre, & Dance

David Gier

"U-M President Launches New Arts Initiative" by Sydney Hawkins

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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