Big changes are happening at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts.
Sam Holland, director of the division of music at Meadows, will take over as interim dean July 1. The current dean, José Antonio Bowen, will leave to be president Goucher College.
Holland has been at SMU since 1991, and has shaped the music department through the programs he’s directed. The school originally hired him to teach and lead the program in piano pedagogy.
“Piano pedagogy is a field where we educate future piano teachers,” he said. “SMU has the leading master’s degree in the country in that discipline.”
But, Holland’s original career interest did not start in the instruction of music.
“If the phone had rung and it was Bruce Springsteen on the other end, I would’ve been there without looking back,” he said.
Despite not getting that call, Holland stuck with SMU until 2010 when he was promoted to dean of the division of music, the largest program in Meadows. Many factors may have led to why the Provost’s office recently chose him to be interim dean, but Holland believes that the music division’s size could have played a factor.
“Maybe by virtue of having led the largest part of the Meadows School, it seemed like a logical choice to make me the interim dean,” he said.
Dean Bowen, who will officially step down June 30, believes Holland has the qualities necessary to take over the position.
“He is trusted by everyone and is the perfect person for the job,” he said.
Bowen did warn “it’s always a balancing act as interim.”
Still, Kristen Landrum, one of Holland’s piano students, said that his fairness will be great asset as he takes over the position.
“I think he’s one of the most fair people I know, which will be a great benefit to Meadows as he handles the different departments,” she said.
Holland looks forward to being able to serve the students and faculty in a larger capacity than he already does, but sees challenges along the road. He wants to make sure he “does no harm” to the improvements that Bowen has made to the school during his tenure as dean. Additionally, Holland thinks that some of the problems currently facing higher education could affect the school significantly.
“There are going to be fewer college age students, which creates a smaller pool of talent, and every other school wants them,” he said. “The challenge is differentiating ourselves in a very crowded and noisy marketplace.”
SMU will soon launch a national search to find a permanent dean for Meadows. The committee to head the search hasn’t been announced, but Holland thinks that the search will gain significant attention in the arts community.
“The reputation of SMU and Meadows have reached a point where the pool of candidates is going to be stunning,” Holland said.