Over the past five years, few public research universities have risen in stature as quickly for both academic excellence and the creation of life-changing technological and medical innovation than the University of Utah. With the urban and cultural advantages of Salt Lake City out its front door, and the majestic Wasatch Mountains and some of the best outdoor recreational opportunities in the world in its backyard, the University of Utah is the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, currently hosting 31,000 students. In 2011, the University furthered its mission of excellence by joining one of the country’s most prestigious conferences— both athletically and academically—in the Pac-12.
A Bit of History
On March 13, 1948 during the intermission of the Utah Symphony’s penultimate performance of the inaugural season under maestro Maurice Abravanel, University of Utah President A. Ray Olpin announced from the stage, that,
The University of Utah invites the Utah Symphony to make its home on our campus and join with the University in enriching the cultural life of our state.
With this stunning and, to the orchestra and gathered audience, welcome announcement, the course of music in the community as well as music study at the University of Utah was set, and a collaboration that continues to this day was established. It was a singular point in the history of the performing arts in Salt Lake City when, from 1947 through the next decade, the coming together of influential leaders and artists in music, theatre, and ballet would put Salt Lake City on the road to becoming one of the most culturally endowed (per capita) cities in the nation.
With the presence of the Utah Symphony on campus, music students who previously had to travel to either coast for expert instruction were now able to study with experienced professionals who had leadership positions in the Symphony and adjunct faculty appointments at the University. This practice of utilizing the best available resources to serve music students, established some 60 years ago, continues today with 20 members of the Utah Symphony teaching as adjunct members of our applied orchestral faculty.
The year 1948 also brought LeRoy Robertson, then Utah’s most famous composer, as chair of the Music Department thus ushering in its arrival of the “modern era.” It was Robertson who, in 1952, secured accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music.
The Department was initially housed in barracks-style buildings inherited from World War II days. In 1955, when the Olpin Student Union replaced the original Union Building, the latter became the home of the Department of Music, Ballet, and the newly established campus public television station, KUED. The building was renamed the Music Hall in 1957. Eventually Ballet was relocated, and in 1980 the building was given its current name in honor of the University’s president, David P. Gardner.
In 1997, following the 1995 relocation of KUED to the Eccles Broadcast Center, Gardner Hall was totally renovated and a concert hall, rehearsal rooms, faculty offices, and practice rooms were added to provide a state-of- the-art facility for the Department of Music. Dedicated in April of 2000, Gardner Hall has continued to provide students, faculty, and patrons world-class facilities in which to study, teach, and enjoy great music.
In 2002, the Music Department was re-designated as the School of Music by the University, thus reflecting the comprehensive structure of graduate and undergraduate degree programs offering outstanding performance experiences balanced with rigorous professional and academic training. With the addition of the DMA degree in 2008, the School of Music--with superior facilities and re-invigorated prominence at local and regional levels--is poised to become a national force among university music schools.