The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) has named bassoonist and educator Saxton Rose as its new dean of the School of Music, effective immediately. Rose has served as interim dean of music since July 2020, including leading the school through the COVID-19 pandemic with an entire academic year of in-person instruction and performance. He has been on the faculty since 2008, having chaired the woodwind department since 2009 and been named associate professor of bassoon in 2015. Rose is an active leader within the School of Music and the university at large, holding leadership positions within the music school’s strategic planning and curriculum revision task forces, with a particular focus on technology development; innovative approaches to ensemble training; and equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB) initiatives. He has chaired the university’s faculty welfare committee and served as a member of the faculty council.
As dean, Rose will serve as executive of all programs, operations and personnel in the School of Music, including all graduate, undergraduate and high school academic offerings. He will lead and supervise 47 faculty and 11 staff. As the artistic director of the School of Music, he will lead the production of more than 200 performances and events, will engage guest artists and will curate all concert series. He will also oversee the A.J. Fletcher Opera and Chrysalis Chamber Music institutes that are part of the school.
An accomplished soloist and chamber musician, he is principal bassoonist with the Winston-Salem Symphony and a member of the acclaimed New York-based wind quintet Zéphyros Winds. He is also director of the nu ensemble, the School of Music’s contemporary music group, and a co-founder of Dark in the Song, a bassoon “super-group” dedicated to commissioning and performing contemporary music. Past professional positions have included principal bassoonist of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, bassoon professor and chair of the woodwind department at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music and concerto soloist with orchestras throughout the world such as the national symphonies of Colombia and Panama.
Rose succeeds Brian Cole who was appointed chancellor of UNCSA in 2020, having served as dean of the School of Music for four years.
“Saxton Rose has a keen understanding of where the music industry is going alongside an appreciation of the conservatory model and a focus on excellence in preparing students for careers,” said Chancellor Cole. “We are so pleased to have him continue to lead in this expanded role, building on years of experience bringing value to the School of Music and helping push it to new heights. Saxton is also a collaborator with great ideas for how to fully leverage our institution’s arts ecosystem, as well as forge new partnerships to connect the school to the state and world. Most of all, Saxton is prepared to play a leadership role in helping influence the music world for the better through a focus on issues of diversity and inclusivity that will create a broad pipeline of talent and much-needed change to the industry.”
Rose said he looks forward to continuing the work he began as interim dean, especially with regard to helping students prepare for post-conservatory careers.
“Preparing young musicians for successful futures obliges us to think beyond the present,” he said. “A conservatory should reflect the needs of the professional landscape not just now, but for the future. This includes embedding inclusivity into our programs as well as ensuring the health and wellness of our students. I believe we can evolve while maintaining the culture and DNA of our institution through creative offerings and partnerships and by letting the industry and our alumni help and guide us while maintaining the highest artistic standards.”
In addition to the School of Music, UNCSA is home to schools of Dance, Design & Production, Drama, and Filmmaking, offering a rare opportunity for students and faculty from the various disciplines to interact. Rose is one of three new deans to be appointed this year with the schools of Dance and Filmmaking also announcing new leadership. All will be charged with finding ways to expand the University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ curriculum by developing collaborative programs.
Rose gained experience in this collaborative approach during the COVID-19 pandemic when all of the schools had to pivot from live performances to digital as well as keep students safe. During this period, Rose oversaw the acquisition and creation of music-related PPE and barriers, developing music performance safety protocols necessary to enable students to rehearse and perform on campus. He also directed the transition of approximately 200 School of Music performance offerings from traditional presentations to livestream productions, a transition that saw the schools of Music, Filmmaking, and Design & Production work closely together, including a “reimagined” filmed version of “The Nutcracker” that was released in December 2020.
Rose says the digital capabilities developed during the pandemic will continue, enabling the school to extend its reach into the greater North Carolina community, part of its mandate as a state-supported institution.
“An ideal way to reach more people across our state is through the use of technology,” he said. “By cultivating synchronous online engagement events, increasing our livestreaming capabilities and creating instructional video programming, we can connect with students and school directors like never before. I envision establishing statewide connections that will empower UNCSA to enrich the lives of people throughout our region and beyond.”
Programming, performing and recording contemporary music has also been a key component of Rose’s professional career and his academic life. As interim dean, he expanded this focus to encompass the university’s evolving EDIB objectives, creating the school’s first EDIB progress report that outlined the ways in which the School of Music community is addressing the historical disregard of contributions by non-white, female-identifying and LGBTQ+ musicians. He launched a fellowship program with the Winston-Salem Symphony to support graduate musicians of color, and led a schoolwide project to record works by Reena Esmail, Jessie Montgomery and Valerie Coleman.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Patrick J. Sims said, “As interim dean, Saxton has successfully addressed areas of growth within the School of Music that are essential for the next leader, including new programmatic possibilities, cross-school collaborations and a focus on preparing students for careers in an evolving industry. Saxton also has strong ideas for how to pedagogically and philosophically position the school to be responsive to the institution’s work in equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging as well as contemporary musical genres that embrace a more diverse repertoire, balanced with the classical canon.”