Partners Across the Pond

dublin_lgWhen UConn dramatic arts professor Karen Ryker directed a production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the Dublin Institute of Technology’s Conservatory of Music and Drama in 2008, Mary McAleese, Ireland’s president, was among those in attendance.

The well-received show, the Conservatory’s first full-scale opera in 25 years, was just one in a long line of joint performances involving faculty and students from the University’s School of Fine Arts and the Dublin Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Applied Arts and Tourism, dating back to 1995.

On Aug. 23, officials from both institutions solidified the partnership by signing an Agreement of Cooperation and Collaboration in a formal ceremony at the Nafe Katter Theatre on UConn’s Storrs Campus. The special guest of the day was Frank McMahon, director of academic affairs for the DIT, a position that is the equivalent of provost in U.S. universities.

“Over the past 15 years, the School of Fine Arts at the University of Connecticut has been involved in numerous programs in art, music, and dramatic arts at the Dublin Institute of Technology,” says David G. Woods, dean of the UConn School of Fine Arts. “This official collaborative agreement will be of benefit to both institutions as we pursue cooperative partnerships, not only in the Fine Arts, but in other areas of the two universities. As dean of the School of Fine Arts, I am very honored that Dr. McMahon has made the trip from Ireland to sign this significant and important agreement with us.”

Following the signing of the agreement, McMahon spoke to UConn administrators, faculty, and staff about the Bologna Process, a widely-publicized effort at reforming higher education in 47 countries in Europe, including Ireland. The Dublin Institute of Technology is the largest and one of the most popular higher education institutions in the Republic of Ireland.

As the center for the visual, performing, and media arts in Ireland, DIT’s Faculty of Applied Arts and Tourism offers the country’s most comprehensive range of programs in music performance and composition, drama, design, fine art, broadcasting, filmmaking, photography, multimedia, journalism, and public relations.

McMahon said the two institutions’ new collaboration will go far beyond periodic joint performances. He envisions the two schools engaging in more student and faculty exchanges, joint seminars through video conferencing, and potentially even joint and/or dual degrees.

“We hope to foster student exchanges at all levels,” McMahon says. “DIT offers bachelor’s degrees in music, master’s degrees in music, and Ph.D. studies. Student exchanges at all levels would enrich the student experiences.”

Some of the highlights of the past relationship between the two schools include a week-long visit by DIT students and faculty to UConn in 2006, during which they joined UConn singers and faculty in master classes. Additionally, the DIT singers joined UConn students for a performance of Cosi fan Tutte at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

During the 2010-2011 academic year, UConn associate professor of music and coordinator of vocal studies Constance Rock, together with UConn voice and opera students from the Department of Music, will visit the Dublin Institute of Technology. Rock will provide master classes and the students will be involved in dress rehearsals and performances of Candide with students from the DIT.

As for other UConn visits by those across The Pond, William Halpin, conductor and senior lecturer in flute at the DIT Conservatory, has had extensive connections with the University over the years. Halpin spent the 1997-98 academic year in Storrs, where he studied with Jeffrey Renshaw and conducted the Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Concert Band, University Chorus, and University Symphony Orchestra. In May 1998, he received the degree of Master of Music from UConn. Halpin, while on sabbatical from DIT, returned to UConn from 2004-2007, where in May 2007 he was received a doctoral degree in the musical arts.