About Our School

percussion lesson

The State University of Iowa—as it was then known—was founded in 1847 and began operating in the fall of 1855. Instruction in music began just five years later through a series of affiliated quasi-independent units. In 1921, the School of Music was fully incorporated into what was then called the College of Liberal Arts. As the first public university in the United States to admit men and women on an equal basis, the University of Iowa was also the first institution to accept creative work as theses for advanced degrees in theater, writing, music, and the visual arts.

The School of Music is a unit within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that is rich in tradition, with a national reputation for excellence. The School has a productive and dedicated faculty, and a comprehensive array of degree offerings and areas of specialization. Our mission is to teach, present through performance, and explore through scholarly inquiry diverse musical traditions of all eras, while also promoting the creation of entirely new works of art.

The University of Iowa is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU)—joining in 1909. The School of Music is a Charter Member of NASM, and is the Iowa representative to the National Association of Music Executives at State Universities (NAMESU).

Our faculty is highly productive in creative work and scholarship. In 2017 alone, faculty were involved in more than 150 performances and presentations at local, national, and international venues in 27 states and 18 countries. Additionally, faculty produced seven new published audio recordings; 10 new compositions or editions; 15 articles or published scholarly contributions; three books; and several book chapters. Faculty seamlessly fold their creative efforts into the teaching and mentoring of students —often involving them in the production of their work.

Facilities, Instruments, and Equipment

The School of Music is housed in the award-winning Voxman Music Building —a $152 million, 190,000 square-foot state-of-the-art music facility that opened in Fall 2016. Following a flood in 2008 that permanently destroyed the original Voxman Building, the facility was built with federal assistance (FEMA) and private donations. It is the new artistic focal point of downtown Iowa City. For more information about the Voxman Music Building, visit https://music.uiowa.edu/about/voxman-music-building-facilities.

The University of Iowa boasts an extensive inventory of musical instruments and equipment to support the performance, teaching, and research of School of Music faculty, staff, and students. Beyond the typical instruments and equipment required by a top-tier music school, a few aspects of our inventory are particularly notable:

  • The Organ Area has three practice organs (two of which are high-quality, mechanical-action instruments), a large two-manual, mechanical-action studio organ, and an exceptional mechanical-action Baroque organ built by Taylor and Boody that is housed in a beautiful 70-seat Organ Recital Hall specifically designed in the Baroque style for the organ. Housed in the 700-seat Voxman Music Building Concert Hall, the primary teaching and performance instrument is a world-class, mechanical-action, three-manual Klais organ designed and built for the SOM in the German Romantic style.
  • The percussion facility is housed in a 2,500-square-foot suite with easy access to the two main performing halls and rehearsal rooms.
  • Located in the heart of the Voxman Music Building, the recording studios are a distinctive component of the building with three control rooms, two staff offices, equipment storage space, and a large patch bay. There is also a dedicated recording studio within the percussion suite and a five-room music production suite in the Electronic Music Studio. The Music Therapy program utilizes a dedicated space for observing and recording clinical sessions from behind a reciprocal mirror.
  • The Rita Benton Music Library is housed within the Voxman Music Building, and holds more than 210,000 volumes including scores, books, recordings, journals, and microfilms. It maintains robust online database and streaming subscriptions that support teaching, performance, and research within the School of Music. The Rita Benton Music Library is also home to the Arthur and Miriam Canter Rare Book Room, which houses more than 2,800 rare books and scores from the mid-16th century to present day. As the repository for the School’s recordings archive, the Rita Benton Music Library inventories, archives, preserves, and makes accessible faculty recital and ensemble recordings and 15 programs, both current and historic. The Rita Benton Music Library employs one full-time librarian and two full-time staff members —all trained musicians knowledgeable in repertoire and practice.
  • As the School of Music explores 21st-century methodologies, tools, and practices, the broader University of Iowa Libraries play an important role in supporting their endeavors. Resources like the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio, Open Access Fund, and data management services are just a few of the broader services the UI Libraries provide that the School can leverage when navigating new frontiers in music performance, research, and leadership.

Distinctive Programs

The School of Music supports a wide range of excellent programs and distinctive curricular initiatives, including:

  • The Center for New Music was created in 1966 with a $100,000 matching grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The Center, like the internationally renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop, embodies the University of Iowa’s commitment to the vital role of the creative arts at the frontiers of human experience.
  • Percussion education has its roots in Midwestern universities. Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan were among the first to institute formal programs for the study of percussion. Established in 1958 when the University of Iowa appointed Professor Thomas L. Davis (1931-2011), Iowa Percussion is among the oldest percussion programs in the country.
  • Music Therapy at Iowa is an American Music Therapy Association (AMTA)-approved program with a long history of producing outstanding music therapists. It is a destination for students from around the world. Music Therapy faculty have received the AMTA’s highest honors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Outstanding Research and Publications Award. One faculty member is a member of the Iowa Cochlear Implant Team in the Department of Otolaryngology at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and is Principal Investigator for the NIH-funded Music Perception Project investigating musical perception and enjoyment by deafened adults who use a bionic inner ear (cochlear implant).
  • The Organ Area at Iowa is recognized by the American Guild of Organists as one of only 32 programs nationwide to offer a doctoral degree in Organ Performance. At a time when some universities are shuttering their organ departments, the organ program at Iowa is thriving as a result of generous endowments, the majestic Klais Organ, a new organ recital hall, and outstanding faculty.
  • Other innovative programs include the UI String Quartet Residency Program, Martha Ellen Tye Opera Theatre, Iowa Saxophone Workshop, and Piano Sundays in the stately Old Capitol Museum. Emerging curricula include the MA in Jazz (2008) and the recently approved BM in Jazz, which began accepting students in Fall 2018.

An Academic Community of Creativity and Collaboration

These programs, and the School of Music’s strong studios, major ensembles, and academic programs, all benefit from the University of Iowa’s historic legacy in the arts. We are part of a vibrant arts community that includes the Departments of Theatre Arts, Dance, and Cinematic Arts; the School of Art and Art History; and many other campus entities focused on creative production and scholarship in the arts.

Iowa’s institutional identity has the arts at its center, and collaborative opportunities within and across disciplines and media abound. The School of Music works closely with the Universtiy of Iowa’s state-of-the-art performing arts center, Hancher Auditorium, to bring an educational component to its roster of professional musicians and ensembles.

The Division of Performing Arts, an administrative layer that serves to coordinate the Music, Dance, and Theatre Arts programs within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is often a nexus of collaborative work between the three units.

The UI Academic Mission states: “In pursuing its missions of teaching, research, and service, the university seeks to advance scholarly and creative endeavor through leading-edge research and artistic production; to use this research and creativity to enhance undergraduate, graduate, and professional education, health care, and other services provided to the people of Iowa, the nation, and the world; and to educate students for success and personal fulfillment in a diverse world.”