Roman Totenberg, virtuoso violinst, beloved teacher, has died at 101.

Roman Totenberg in Poland, 2000.  Photo: Tomasz Skowronski. Wikimedia Commons image.

Roman Totenberg in Poland, 2000. Photo: Tomasz Skowronski. Wikimedia Commons image.

Was Still Teaching … Even On His Deathbed

I am saddened to inform you of the passing of our esteemed colleague and dear friend, Professor Emeritus of Music Roman Totenberg.

A survivor of two world wars, Roman offered the world hope and love through his extraordinary music-making. First guided in his art by 19th century masters such as Flesch and Enescu, his legacy is a testimony to the power of human strength and resilience.

Throughout our long and wonderful relationship with him, he always kept BU and its students in his heart; now, we will forever hold him in ours.   We are so grateful to have known such a unique and generous artist and human being; more than a virtuoso, he was a true global citizen who bridged three centuries with his artistry and teaching.

Our thoughts are with his family.

Details of his memorial service will be posted here when they are announced.

BU Today obituary

Bruce MacCombie 1943-2012

Bruce MacCombie.  Image: UMass-Amherst

Bruce MacCombie. Image: UMass-Amherst

Composer Was Dean of the College of Fine Arts 1992-2000

I am sorry to announce that Bruce MacCombie has passed away after a long illness.  He served as dean of the College of Fine Arts (then School for the Arts) from 1992-2000.

A distinguished composer and theorist, his works have been recorded on the BGS label, Virgin Classics, BIS Singapore, and the Eastman American Music Series.

Bruce MacCombie was also a gifted administrator and an important leader who left a lasting mark during his tenure at BU.

He began his academic career in 1975 as an assistant professor, then became associate professor of composition and theory at the Yale University School of Music. In 1980 he moved to New York City to become vice president and director of publications for G. Schirmer and Associates Music Publishers, and in 1986 was appointed dean of the Juilliard School.

Upon leaving BU, he served as Executive Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and from 2002 to 2006 as associate dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he was emeritus professor of music at the time of his death.

During his tenure at CFA, (then SFA) Dean MacCombie worked closely with International Programs at BU to develop one-semester residencies for theatre students in London, visual arts students in Venice, and music students in Dresden.  Enrollment increased as did alumni involvement and support.

Our deepest condolences to his wife Turi, his family, and friends.

Read obituary.

Minister’s Questions: British MP David Lammy Addresses CFA Class


British MP David Lammy. Wikimedia Commons image.

I was honored to have British MP and former Culture Minister David Lammy speak and take questions in my arts leadership class this evening.  The Labour party member who is expected to seek higher office, spoke of the transformative role choral singing played in his development as a young man. Lammy emphasized that art teaches excellence through consistent, hard work.  It was this discipline that lead him to the life he could scarcely dream of growing up in Tottenham.

Lammy, who now represents that same Tottenham constituency which was  wracked by riots in 1985 and again in 2011, asserted that it is especially important for disadvantaged young people to know that opportunities come from excellence achieved through diligence.

In a far-ranging talk without notes, he went on to discuss two meta-trends that shape the current political and economic landscape: social liberalism and economic liberalism.

Social liberalism brought us the civil rights movements for blacks, women and gay people.  While society is more fair and just, these movements may contribute to an individualized world view (what is good for me, rather than what is good for us).

Random House UK, 2011.

Random House UK, 2011.

Economic liberalism, which allows private enterprise to expand the economy  (positive) while amassing profits without regulation or conscience, has brought the world to the brink of economic collapse (obviously, negative).

Lammy challenged students to build a new world that incorporates the best of social and economic liberalism while rejecting the hyper-individualized society they spawned.

What that new and better world will look like is not yet known but Lammy says, artists will be the first to see and describe it.

Opera Institute Graduate Morris Robinson in Showboat at Chicago’s Lyric Stage

Morris Robinson Photo: Lyric Stage

Morris Robinson Photo: Lyric Stage

A"perfectly cast ensemble performs some of the most enduring songs and theatre music ever written...Morris Robinson (Joe) sing(s) with touching realism and personal connection... No one should miss it"-- Chicago Sun-Times

See a short introduction of this lavish production by Renee Flemming and hear Morris Robinson sing:

Famed Parisian bookseller and BU alum George Whitman dies


George Whitman reads outside his Shakespeare and Co. bookstore in 2007. Photos by Jim Donnelly and Ard van der Leeuw

CFA salutes George Whitman (COM’35, SMG’35), who died at 98 shortly before Christmas, founded Shakespeare and Company, a harbor for any writer from expatriate celebrities to drug-addled wannabes, in 1951. Bracketed by the Seine and Notre-Dame, the store, named after the French bookshop that was the Jazz Age haunt of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, attracted its own literary glitterati for readings and book signings, among them Nin, Henry Miller, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg.

His generosity and kindness will be remembered by his family, countless friends, writers, fellow bibliophiles and anyone lucky enough to meet him.

Our sympathy to the Whitman  family.

Sylvia Beach Whitman, George's daughter, will continue to run the shop.

Photo and some content from BU Today.

BU Virtual Concert Hall Launched!

Arnold Schoenberg: A Survivor from Warsaw from BU School of Music on Vimeo.

I am pleased to announce the launch of our newest web initiative, BU's Virtual Concert Hall.

We have decided to coincide the launch with the release of the video production of our most recent concert at Symphony Hall, which featured a great pre-concert talk by STH/SOM faculty member Andrew Shenton, Schoenberg's A Survivor from Warsaw conducted by David Hoose and narrated by Frank Kelley, as well as Verdi's Messa da Requiem which was conducted by Ann Howard Jones and featured our renowned alumni soloists Michelle Johnson, soprano, Daveda Karanas, mezzo-soprano, Clay Hilley, tenor, and Morris Robinson, bass.

As new projects come up, they will be featured in this area, and projects will be continually archived under the Concert Archive section.

The concert was recorded in 5.1 surround sound and full HD video.

Dean Juárez Speaks Out on Arts Budget Cuts

By the numbers:

$1.68 = One grande coffee.

$1.46 =  Amount of yearly U.S. (state and federal) arts funding per person.

In a recent letter to the editor published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Benjamín Juárez, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, explains how arts infrastructure is being “dismantled” by shrinking state and federal funds for the arts and arts education.

In the video below, Dean Juárez discusses the current state of arts funding and what schools and communities can do to help keep the arts an integral part of children’s lives and development in the 21st century.

Governor Scott’s Shortsighted Proposal

Dr. Michael M. Crow. ASU image.

Dr. Michael M. Crow. ASU image.

Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has proposed reducing state aid to educational programs that are not in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math.

This is a bad idea.

I support Michael Crow's (president, Arizona State University) position that our graduates must have the "ability to understand the complexity and interrelatedness of our cultural, economic, natural, political, social, and technological systems."

We cannot predict precisely what jobs will exist in the future.  Our educational objectives should therefore be aimed at the person, not a particular job market.  Only in this way can we prepare graduates for a future we cannot see.

I welcome your thoughts.

Dr. Crow's statement from

Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for reductions in state appropriations for particular academic disciplines so that public universities can focus resources on producing graduates in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math. This shift, he claims, would better serve the state by spurring job creation. For some reason, he seemed especially concerned that Florida universities might be producing too many anthropologists. He was quoted as saying: “We don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state. … I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on, those types of degrees, so when they get out of school, they can get a job.”

At the end of the day, the objective of our universities, both public and private, should be to create teaching, learning, and discovery environments capable of producing learners of the highest caliber. Differentiated learning platforms must accommodate the immense variability in types of intelligence and creativity that have made the United States the dominant source of innovation worldwide. Within this context, it is critically important that students develop the ability to move from subject to subject and problem to problem, and from environment to environment and opportunity to opportunity, in ways that unleash and utilize their innate capacities and creative potential. Such mental agility will allow them to establish new business enterprises, scientific or technological capabilities, social initiatives, and creative endeavors in every sector of the economy. It may come as a surprise to Gov. Scott, but the perpetual innovation that drives our economy could even be inspired by anthropologists.

The objective of public universities should not be to produce predetermined numbers of particular types of majors but, rather, to focus on how to produce individuals who are capable of learning anything over the course of their lifetimes. Every college student should acquire thorough literacy in science and technology as well as the humanities and social sciences. Every student should have an understanding of complexity and sustainability and decision-making matched with a general awareness of entrepreneurship and business. From this breadth of experience, students gain the perspective and focus necessary to succeed in any academic field and subsequent career trajectory. Given the multiple dimensions and global interconnectedness of many professional sectors, the trend toward choosing two or even three majors is entirely appropriate. Needless to say, the challenge is to design universities that have the capacity to produce such individuals who are also ready to work within the contexts of initially narrower assignments.

My Letter To CFA Alumni

274725_777603146_2075294993_qDear College of Fine Arts Alumna/us:

I have recently completed my "freshman" year as dean of the Boston University College of Fine Arts. My course of study, not surprisingly, was two invigorating semesters of what might be called "CFA 101." I have learned many things—about the interests of my fellow faculty members, the ambitions of our students, and the accomplishments of our alumni community. All are great assets of this College.

I also have discovered exciting opportunities to build upon CFA's strong foundations, and take our College to the next level. Those opportunities can be summed up in three words: collaboration, innovation, and globalization.

The stakes are high. Artists will play vital roles in the 21st century, as social leaders, agents of change, promoters and ambassadors of the arts, creators of social capital, architects of value, and humanist entrepreneurs. At the College of Fine Arts, we must seek to nurture artists able to thrive in difficult times—resilient in uncertainty, and proactive in making the world a better place. Below, I outline our plans for doing so. I hope you will join us in our effort.


For many years, the College has tended to operate as three separate entities. School of Theatre students rarely interact with School of Visual Arts students, and neither of those groups spends much time with their counterparts at the School of Music. But one thing I've learned is that the CFA whole is, or can be, greater than the sum of its parts. This fall, therefore, we're launching a mandatory freshman colloquium called "The Freshman Experience," to expose new students to all three disciplines. This series of cross-disciplinary lectures will help freshmen explore how their artistic endeavors can complement each other during their years at CFA.

We are extending that spirit of collaboration across BU as well, in an effort to help reinforce what we like to call the "creative campus." One example is our keyword initiative, which we are beginning this year with generous support from alumna Nancy Livingston (COM'69) and her husband, Fred Levin. Each year, we will select a keyword that will inspire our programming. This year it is violence—a reality that unfortunately intrudes into almost every corner of our society. Finding solutions almost certainly requires a holistic, interdisciplinary approach. The School of Theatre, where the initiative originated, will illuminate the subject by performing plays related to conflict. The School of Visual Arts is welcoming Enrique Chagoya, whose recent work denounces the abuse of children by priests—so powerfully, in fact, that last fall a crowbar-wielding museum-goer in Colorado was moved to destroy one of his lithographs. The School of Music is presenting works written in times of revolution and war. We have invited the rest of the BU campus to contribute lectures, symposia, and other programming that invites discussion of our keyword throughout the year.


This fall, we will also begin a new workshop series, open to all BU students, that will focus on the nuts and bolts of artistic leadership: how to develop and market a creative enterprise. This series will be the precursor to new campus-wide collaborative minors, and offer students the ability to take courses in conjunction with many other BU schools and colleges. I have heard from many alumni that their studies at CFA were heavy on technique and short on other skills needed for succeeding in a creative field. By providing an awareness about the legal, financial and social implications of launching and sustaining a career in the arts, this series will help teach students how to promote their talent and their discipline and at the end become more resilient as artists.


As a conductor, I have led orchestras all over the globe, from my native Mexico to China. Today, a global perspective is a necessity for most creative people, and I hope to raise the global awareness of CFA as an institution. The artists and performers we train must be prepared to work and thrive in an increasingly global and interconnected world. In the future, we will infuse the curriculum with new global perspectives, in part by empowering our faculty to participate extensively in international conferences, performances, and exhibits.

Embracing a global, technologically interconnected arts society will help CFA bridge cultural and geographic divides. Last November and April, for example, CFA held the first orchestra concerts ever to be streamed live via the internet from Symphony Hall. After the performance, one of the performers from the School of Music sent me a lovely note. Her mother was in Chicago, and her father was serving in Afghanistan—but thanks to our web feed, both were able to see her perform.

My faculty colleagues and I are determined to steer CFA in exciting and productive directions. In truth, this is a necessity. Many institutions make the mistake of concluding that the best way to face the future is to improve what they did in the past. This is no longer true, if indeed it ever was. To allow young artists to live their dreams in a rapidly changing world, we need to embrace change. And we will need the full commitment of our faculty, administration, collaborators, and alumni.

Thank you for your generosity to CFA. To make your gift online, please click here.

Benjamin Juarez
Benjamín Juárez
Dean, Boston University College of Fine Arts

P.S. During my sophomore year, I will be enrolled in "CFA 201": getting to know our alumni. I look forward to seeing you during my travels around the globe—and on campus during Alumni Weekend, October 28–30. Visit for more information and to register.

Boston University Boston University College of Fine Arts
855 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

CFA Saturday Workshops! All BU Students Welcome

clip_image001Click on the poster for more information. Please urge your students to attend.