Southern’s Department of Music hit one of its highest notes recently, when it received accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and became one of just five schools in Connecticut to hold the prestigious distinction. Now the department, known for its excellence and innovative curriculum, is on chord to develop a new degree program in Music Therapy – the first in Connecticut.
“The NASM accreditation brings prestige and notoriety to the institution,” said Craig Hlavac, associate dean, College of Arts & Sciences. Hlavac served as chair of the department from 2013-2017. “It is a testament to the hard work and dedication the entire music faculty have put forth to meet the rigorous standards of NASM. We should all be proud of this recognition and of the excellent work our faculty and students are doing in the area of music.”
The accreditation process was a years-long undertaking, one that some music students, such as Candace Naudé ‘20, observed first-hand.
“We had NASM representatives sit in on some of our classes, and one of the classes was Beethoven and Revolution, a music history class,” Naudé said. “The professor let us know that he didn’t want us to put on any type of show for the accreditors, and I thought that that was a very important statement to make. It showed that we weren’t trying to show off. We weren’t trying to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just had to show the accreditors what Southern’s Music Department and its students are capable of.”
This capability, coupled with Southern’s commitment to student growth, was one of the key strengths NASM recognized during the accreditation process.
“We meet students at their level and take them to the next level,” Jonathan Irving, professor of music, said, “and NASM recognized us for this tremendous commitment to student growth.” Irving served as Music Department chair from 2007 to 2013 and again from 2017 to 2019; he worked with Hlavac on the accreditation materials.
Growth of the department itself is a consideration as well; in that area, the department looked at how it could leverage growth and synergy with other programs on campus, Hlavac said.
“Southern is a chosen destination because of the strength of its programs, such as those in our College of Health and Human Services,” Hlavac said.
Much like health and human services workers, music therapists work in hospitals, hospice centers, behavioral health facilities, and other health-related settings, Hlavac said, and use music to help patients with physical rehabilitation, patient motivation, and emotional support.
“Music therapy is a natural fit, and we will be the only institution to offer it,” he said.
Irving echoed Hlavac’s sentiments: “Accreditation truly is based on commitment to the program – we are constantly moving forward and thinking creatively about growing this program. We are also extremely grateful for the ongoing support of the Stutzman Family Foundation, which has singlehandedly supported our music programs. In fact, the NASM executive committee cited its importance.”
Other outcomes of the accreditation include the expansion of the department’s outreach, such as using and enhancing Southern’s John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts and the Spring Glen Church in Hamden for performances, to better serve the community outside of Southern. The Music Department also is conducting a search for a full-time tenure-track chair.
“We may be small in size,” Irving said, “but we have a strong, non-traditional curriculum that includes world music and traditional music. We have jazz ensembles, a choir, and a band. We have plenty of reasons — and now the support — to grow the music program in very exciting ways.”
The National Association of Schools of Music is an association of post-secondary music schools in the United States and the principal U.S. accreditor for higher education in music. Fewer than 650 institutions across the country have the distinction of being accredited by NASM.