Enabling new ideas in arts curriculum

By Jennifer Walker

Endowed Chairs Support the missions of dance, vocal studies, and professional studies

In 2017, Sandra Levi Distinguished Chair of Dance danah bella came to the Peabody Institute to start a new undergraduate dance program. That first year, bella — who brought her background as a modern dancer and an entrepreneur — created the dance curriculum and traveled around the United States to recruit students. The BFA Dance program officially launched during the 2018–19 academic year and welcomed all four years of students — 44 total — for the first time in 2021.

Peabody dance instructor dana bella gives direction to a dance student holding a pose at the ballet bar and talks with an onlooker.
danah bella (left) will be named the new Sandra Levi Distinguished Chair of Dance.

bella is one of three inaugural recipients of endowed chair positions, along with Elizabeth Futral, the Marc C. von May Distinguished Chair of Vocal Studies, and Zane Forshee, Peab ’01 (MM), ’02 (GPD), ’11 (DMA)the Marc C. von May Distinguished Chair of Professional Studies. These endowed chairs were made possible by donors Sandra Levi and Marc von May and could potentially support financial aid, master classes and boot camps, summer internship and student work positions, and new courses and tracks of study.

The endowed chairs also give bella, Futral, and Forshee, all of whom have had impressive careers in their disciplines, the foundation to bring new ideas to their departments.

Futral — a soprano who has performed internationally — wants to create tracks for specialization within the voice performance degree, such as vocal ensembles, chamber music, and opera. This would enable students to pursue individualized paths of study and could potentially attract new types of students to the program.

Guitarist Forshee has had the experience of forging his own path as a musician by drawing on his business, marketing, and storytelling skills — the same skills that he strives to pass on to students as endowed chair of the Professional Studies program.

In his new role, Forshee develops and coordinates a variety of courses that help students gain these same skills, including the three undergraduate courses required through Peabody’s Breakthrough Curriculum on exploring arts careers, building a portfolio, and pitching your creative idea. He plans to use some of the endowed chair funding to compensate students who are offered unpaid internships so they can take those opportunities and build valuable connections.

“We have a challenge in the arts in that there’s always a lack of funding, and this allows us to be able to create new opportunities for students to work with people in the industry and gain experiential learning,” says Forshee, who also directs Peabody LAUNCHpad, an office that helps students and alumni build fulfilling careers. “The endowed chair is a way of showing that people believe in that mission.”

Read the full story in the Peabody Magazine.

Make Your Gift

Interested in supporting faculty who can advance arts education?

Topics: Alumni, Parents, Peabody Institute, Fuel Discovery, Support Scholars