Western Carolina University is in the middle of a national search for its first distinguished professor of musical theatre. This position has been made possible by a $233,000 gift from the estate of the late Carolyne P. Phillips of Waynesville, $100,000 matching funds from the C.D. Spangler Foundation, and $167,000 from state funds provided through a program that was established by the General Assembly, which encourages private support of public institutions of higher education.
The professor search has been launched under a ‘help wanted’ ad listed in such publications as Variety and Back Stage, as well as the standard academic journals, including The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Some of the recommended qualifications for the new professor are “A dynamic individual needed to develop new undergraduate program in musical theatre performance. Extensive professional, Broadway-level experience a must. Ability in areas of dance, music, and theatre required. Contacts in the national arts/entertainment industry necessary.”
While this may seem to be a daunting and extensive task to fulfill, it is very important to the future of the proposed program. One goal of this program, according to university officials, is to help elevate Western as a nationally known place for the education of undergraduate students looking for professional/career preparation in musical theatre performance.
“We are looking for a talented, connected, and charismatic person,” said Robert Vartabedian, dean of WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences, “Someone who can help us develop and provide continuing leadership for one of the best undergraduate musical theatre programs in the country. Applications have been arriving from some very impressive prospects with outstanding credentials.”
This will be the sixth endowed professorship to be established at Western since 1996. The Carolyn Plemmons and Ben R. Phillips Distinguished Professorship in Musical Theatre will be an interdisciplinary area of study placed in the Department of Communication and Theatre Arts as well as the Department of Music.
Chancellor John W. Bardo announced the professorship as the first such commitment to musical theatre studies in the University of North Carolina system.
The search committee, chaired by C. Don Livingston, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, hopes to find a qualified individual in time to join Western’s faculty for the 2001 fall semester. The new professor will join another distinguished professor, currently employed at WCU, who also specializes in the area of the musical arts. Bruce Frazier, a two-time Emmy award-winning composer and music engineer, joined WCU in 1998 as the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Commercial and Electronic Music.
As coincidence would have it and if all the plans go well, the new professor will arrive on campus as work begins on WCU’s new $30 million fine and performing arts center, which is one of the projects to be funded through the higher education bond package. The new facility will include classrooms, studios, galleries, and support space for students majoring in the arts and humanities. Also to be included is the much-anticipated 1,000-seat hall for music and theatrical performances.