History of the School of Music
Founded in 1884, the DePauw University School of Music is one of the first Schools of Music in the United States. With a history spanning well over a century, the School of Music has established itself as a leader among undergraduate music institutions with its reputation for producing excellent music educators, performers, scholars, and administrators.
With an innovative, adaptive curriculum and a brimming performance calendar, the vibrant School of Music of today is strengthened by its rich history of exemplary faculty and legendary visiting artists.
The School of Music was founded in conjunction with the renaming of DePauw University, formerly known as Asbury College. Washington C. DePauw, a great benefactor of the University, was particularly interested in forming a school of music on campus. This vision came to fruition in 1884 when James Hamilton Howe was appointed as the first dean of the DePauw School of Music. The original School of Music was housed on campus in Music Hall where it remained until 1976.
A decade later, Belle Mansfield succeeded Howe as the first female dean of the School of Music. Mansfield is remembered for her extraordinary business and executive skills and it was through these talents that she was able to lead the School of Music to operate at its peak efficiency and double the school’s enrollment.
The next thirty years of the school’s history involved further revisions to the curriculum as well as extensive investment in bringing world famous performers to DePauw. Notable artists such as pianists Leopold Godowsky and Arthur Rubenstein and cellist Pablo Casals performed concerts at DePauw during this time.
In 1937 Van Denman Thompson was appointed dean after serving as university organist and a teacher of organ, piano, and composition for the previous thirty-six years. Thompson Recital Hall, located in the Judson and Joyce Green Center for the Performing Arts, is named in remembrance of Thompson’s remarkable contributions to the School of Music and the town of Greencastle. The hall was recently renovated in 2012 through a generous donation from DePauw alumnus Vera May Farber ’36.
In the years following Thompson’s retirement, newly instated dean Donald White (1974-1977) and future dean Cassel Grubb (1977-1987) created what was to become one of the School of Music’s most defining initiatives: The Contemporary Music Festival. The festival began in 1962 and was reinitiated in 2002, now titled Music of the 21st Century.
2007 brought a major change to the DePauw School of Music when the Judson and Joyce Green Center for the Performing Arts took the place of the preexisting Performing Arts Center (1976-2007). DePauw alumni Judson C. Green ’74 and Joyce Taglauer Green’s ’75 remarkable contribution for expanding and renovating the School of Music was able to provide 80,000 square feet of new space including a 20,000 sq. ft. addition.
In 2011, D. Mark McCoy joined DePauw as the twelfth dean of the School of Music. Since 2011, the School of Music faculty members have implemented major changes to the school – most notably the 21st-Century Musician Initiative (21CM). The initiative aims to create flexible, entrepreneurial musicians that find diverse musical venues and outlets in addition to traditional performance spaces, develop new audiences and utilize their music innovatively to impact and strengthen communities. 21CM includes a revised curriculum, expanded opportunities, and increased exposure to and interactions with leading 21st-century musicians.