Monday Message from Dean Nancy J. Uscher - April 27
We are living in a new reality. A colleague recently wrote to me that “Our worlds have turned upside down, have they not?” We are struggling to adapt to a wildly unfamiliar landscape. Day-to-day life has been completely upended.
Many of us are experiencing fear and anxiety, while at the same time being touched by feelings of hope, creativity and possibility. With all of this said, I do believe that we will be better and wiser for having gone through this unprecedented time together. Moreover, our students are learning rich life skills. While they came to UNLV to study in our stellar programs and are being educated to have lives and livelihoods as artists, their talents are also widely transferable and highly marketable. Living through this pandemic will teach our students and graduates resilience, coping strategies and agility. This new toolkit will serve them well as they build their future careers.
I would like to share a story with you that comes to mind, because it reminds us how fundamentally artists can influence their environments and bring health and well-being to their communities.
Many years ago, during the time in which I was working on a book entitled Your Own Way in Music: A Career and Resource Guide, I traveled the globe to undertake research about artists’ lives. Most importantly, I was searching for the key message that I hoped to convey in my work-in-progress. Shortly after I arrived in Fiji for a residency at the University of the South Pacific, I discovered what would become the central theme of my future book, inspired by a musician I met named Ueta Solomona.
Here is how my experience in Fiji unfolded: Mr. Solomona picked me up from the airport in his jeep. He greeted me with a warm and enthusiastic welcome. During the 20-minute ride from the airport to the university, he told me about his background. Mr. Solomona explained that he was originally from Western Samoa and had attended four years of college in the United States on a Fulbright scholarship, majoring in music education. This opportunity had been precious to him. After graduation he returned to his native Western Samoa and there he created a music curriculum in the schools, introducing Western instruments and fashioning a program of Western and Samoan music. Armed with determination, vision and a trunk of instruments, he vastly changed the culture of the region. He started a Western-style orchestra (teaching all of the instruments single-handedly to community members). In Fiji he founded the department at the University of the South Pacific, guided programming on the local radio station, and started a police band. He designed a music theory and appreciation syllabus through distance correspondence courses (the precursor of our remote online education) for citizens of the Solomon Islands, Tonga and other places without access to arts education. He was also active as a local pianist and composer (we played a recital together on which he programmed his own viola composition, written for the occasion!) One person with an unwavering sense of purpose and a big dream had transformed his communities. He brought new educational horizons to Western Samoa and Fiji.
After hearing all that Ueta Solomona had achieved, I knew that I would strive to communicate this critical message in my book: that each one of us has the power and authenticity to make truly meaningful contributions that will positively impact the lives of others.
For me, this narrative presents a vivid example of how the imagination, tenacity and generous spirit of a single individual can make such a profound difference. In this same context, our students, too, with their inner resources and knowledge acquired during this challenging time, have the capability to invent and shape their own pathways, driven by innovative concepts and with the grit to make their ideas come alive.
Colleagues, thank you for all that you do to illuminate the goodness of our college. As we move through the final weeks of the semester, we will continue to unveil episodes of UNLV Arts Worldwide. Tonight, for our Monday, April 27 episode at 6 p.m. on the College of Fine Arts YouTube channel, we will focus on Health, Wellness and Art – a timely topic during this global pandemic crisis. (https://youtu.be/O__-smN-1IM) After UNLV Arts Worldwide, our Department of Dance will feature its virtual dance concert at 7 p.m. on the Department of Dance YouTube channel. (https://youtu.be/rsGt4t13fcQ)
I will leave you with these words: Always know that your art and creative contributions heal us and keep our society healthy.
My thoughts are with all of you. Be well and stay safe. Please let me know if ever I can be helpful.
With warmest wishes,