Julia Gaines, new MU Music School director: Facility is priority

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 | 9:32 p.m. CDT; updated 7:19 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 12, 2014

COLUMBIA — Julia Gaines, a percussion professor at the MU School of Music, usually spends her time teaching students how to hit things. But now, she will take on a more administrative role.

The School of Music announced May 30 that Gaines will be its new director.

Gaines, who has taught at MU for 18 years, was one of several people who went in for interviews for the position, said Michael O'Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science.

"She has been here a long time, and she has a great understanding of the School of Music," O'Brien said.

Administration has always been on Gaines' radar, but she had not been able to pursue it because of the classes she teaches.

Still, she has been part of several committees on campus and within the MU School of Music, including the Arts and Science Executive Committee and the Research Council.

Robert Shay, who has been the director of the School of Music since 2008, is leaving the job to start working at the University of Colorado-Boulder as the dean of the College of Music.

Gaines said that Shay was an excellent director and that she wants to build off of what he has done.

Her main goal as the new director is to try to get the MU School of Music a new building and have the Fine Arts Building renovated.

"Our biggest challenge is that we've needed a new building for years," Gaines said. "We are operating in a deficient location and have been for years."

O'Brien said the college has the floor plans for the new building and knows what it is going to look like and cost, but it just needs the funds.

"We have a world-class faculty and they deserve a world-class facility," O'Brien said.

Currently, the faculty for the MU School of Music is spread across campus.

"When your department or school is split among seven buildings, you get less cohesion among the students and the faculty," Gaines said.

Engaging alumni to get them more involved in the school and fundraising are some of the main things that Gaines hopes to achieve to get a new building for the school.

"I would like to see events that engage our alumni in Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City, and I hope to be able to have those events during the fall semester," Gaines said.

Gaines hopes that the relationships that she has built with her students over the years she has been teaching will help get alumni and donors involved in the plans for the School of Music.

She said that there is a better relationship between music students and their teachers because the students take lessons "every week, every semester of their university career."

Liz Fornango, who graduated from MU in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in music and communication, said she valued Gaines as a mentor.

"She was a great teacher," Fornango said. "She cared a lot about her students' education, but more importantly she cared about them as people, too."

Gaines received her bachelor's degree from the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, her master's degree from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, and her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma. Gaines joined the faculty at the MU School of Music in 1996.

Although Gaines' role in the School of Music will go from teaching to an administrative role, she said that she is not completely going to part from instruction and creative pursuits.

She hopes that she can still conduct some of the ensembles and teach some of the graduate students and seniors, but her main priority will be that of the director.

Gaines said that the transition into administration will be a change from her usual percussion classes.

"I'm going to miss hitting things every once in a while because that's what I like to do," Gaines said.

Supervising editor is Mary Ryan.

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