Defining Performing Arts
Hiram College’s new performing arts program is building a foundation for a collaborative community of current and future artists. Through rigorous study and performance-based endeavors, the program cultivates future artists and art leaders by deeply engaging current students in the expressive fields of the dramatic arts, music, performance management, design, tech, and dance.
The major challenges students to think creatively and collaboratively, while individualizing study to fit specific interests that closely align with career goals. To hone in on a particular skillset, three distinct pathways are available: performance; design and technical production; and arts management and entrepreneurship. Because all three areas focus on the mechanisms that make a performance function, students graduate from Hiram with the 21st-century skill set and mindset that help them adapt to the many situation they will encounter as the art field continues to evolve during the span of their careers.
Because the program acts as a firm stepping stone to life beyond college, students will graduate from Hiram with the ability to demonstrate an appreciation for both the ancient (yet immediate) conventions of the performing arts; have an understanding of how the performing arts illuminates historical, social, political, and cultural contexts; serve communities as knowledgeable and reflective artists, and establish a commitment to lifelong learning in an everchanging arts field.
Building a community for like-minded individuals across disciplines
Performing arts not only opens pathways for those students with a major or minor in the arts, but also for non-majors and community members. From the costume shop to the practice room to the stage, students have the opportunity to join one (or many) clubs, participate in performances, and learn how to successfully manage the many responsibilities of performance.
Judy Muyskens, Ph.D., vice president of academic affairs and dean of the College, sees the many opportunities as a way for students to connect with those of like minds, even if they are majoring in different disciplines. “Students who are passionate about the arts, but do not want to major in music or theatre still have the opportunity to take private lessons or participate in one of the many clubs and organizations available on campus,” she said.
For Muyskens, creating opportunities for students across disciples allows the vibrant interdisciplinary culture of the College to shine, adding that “our campus community would not be complete without the arts playing a central role in the experiences and instruction for all students.”
A new face brings new ideas
For a new face in the department, Michael Waddell, visiting instructor of music, the welcoming environment across campus is key in creating new opportunities for both current students and future students at the College.
Originally from Gaithersburg, Maryland, Waddell comes to the College with an extensive background in music education. He received a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, followed by a master’s degree in music performance from Georgia State University. Previously, he held faculty appointments at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, The Columbus Brass Academy, and several K-12 schools.
Now holding a full time appointment at the College, Waddell has the time to devote himself to growing the department and creating more experiences for students across campus and beyond. During his first semester on campus, Waddell brought to life a pep band, which nearly doubled in size within the first six months of existence. The group regularly performs at a variety of athletic events. After many years of not being available, Waddell brought back a jazz combo, giving a small group of students the opportunity to learn and perform jazz music.
“The key to our future is to not only to grow the interest of our current students, but also our prospective students—those that will study performing arts and those that wish to be involved from other disciplines,” said Waddell. “It is not often that you find a campus that is so open to welcoming students of all majors to be part of the arts, allowing them to pursue both their career goals and passions.”
In addition to his leadership with hands-on experiences, Waddell can also be found in the classroom teaching courses in musicianship, music entrepreneurship, and music technology—all of which are open to students from any major. In fall 2019, he added a guest lecture series, bringing five artists to campus during the academic year to not only perform, but also spend time in the classroom with students. This experience is something Waddell hopes to make happen every year.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the opportunity to devote my time and energy to such a fine institution of higher learning,” said Waddell.