Embracing Innovation and Honoring Tradition: the 2017 Eastman Music Leadership Conference

August 4, 2017

Music schools and conservatories face constant challenges, from attracting students across the world, to offering relevant curricula, to seeking out funding to support their endeavors. Participants from around the country gathered for the Eastman Leadership Conference on June 21 – 24, 2017. Outstanding presentations, interactive work sessions, conversations, and social events highlighted this conference dedicated to the professional development of music school leaders.

Leaders from three prominent music schools headlined the conference: Jamal J. Rossi, Eastman’s Joan and Martin Messinger Dean, and Jim Doser, Director of Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership; Toni-Marie Montgomery, Dean of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music; and Robert Cutietta, Dean of the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.

In the words of Dean Rossi, “Music leaders face a continually changing professional music world for which to prepare both their graduates and institutions, while simultaneously embracing innovation and honoring our traditions.” The topics under discussion at the conference ranged from understanding the elements of financial management in music schools, to effectively navigating the essential relationship between faculty and administration.

“We share the common goal of preparing students for a field that is shifting paradigms, business models, and essential skills,” says Jim Doser. We must understand the opportunities and challenges that these changes present and engage faculty, staff, students, boards, and donors in the visionary evolution of our institutions.”


Eastman Music Leadership Conference participants

A competitive Graduate Student Fellowship program – sponsored by a partnership of Eastman and the Yamaha Corporation of America Band & Orchestral Division — allowed five exceptional graduate students to participate in the conference and work alongside the participants and faculty. The five Yamaha Scholars included two Eastman alumni: Clarissa Prohaska ‘13E, who is the Admissions Counselor for Ithaca College; and Mary Russek ‘16E, who is the Administrative Manager of Rochester’s Pegasus Early Music and NYS Baroque.

The Leadership Conference highlighted Eastman’s role as a trailblazer in music leadership development. With session topics of “Vision and Strategic Planning,” “Best Practices of Effective Leadership,” and “The Administration/Faculty Relationship,” it provided current and future music school leaders the opportunity to discuss policies, programs, and strategies through interactive presentations, group discussions, and reflections.

For Clarissa and her fellow attendees at the conference, the collaborative and personal experience of the ELC will continue as part of an online learning cohort, providing resources, discussion, mentoring and networking over the course of the next year. Clarissa said, “The best part of the conference was being able to meet so many people from different colleges across the country and to find out what stands out for them in higher ed. It was an incredible opportunity and definitely one of the peak experiences of my career so far.”

“The greatest strength of the Eastman Leadership Conference was the interaction between all the participants – attendees and faculty,” summed up James Doser. “The richness and transparency of these conversations provided an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other’s experiences, knowledge, and creativity. I know that each of us left with new knowledge, ideas, and inspiration.”