Dean McLean’s Four Wishesby Crystal Chan
/ October 1, 2011
Flash version here.
Don McLean is back
in his home province of Ontario after 20 years in Quebec, the last 10
of which he was the Dean of Music at McGill University’s Schulich
School of Music. He stepped into the Dean’s shoes at the University
of Toronto’s Faculty of Music on January 1, 2011.
Toronto is not at the level it should be in terms of performance
and music research. The idea was to come back and see what could be
done about that. I came with four things in mind
collaboration between the Royal Conservatory of Music and the U of T
I taught for both places. I’m a graduate from both. What
I’m hoping for is a series of complementary relationships between
the two institutions that will allow them to function across a wide
range of professional, artistic, educational, and research initiatives.
One of the more modest things I’ve just done is offload our U of T
box office operations to the RCM. In the current global context of limited
resources the need for these kinds of partnerships seems pretty inevitable.
But there are no high-level “merger” talks going on at this time.
I fully understand the RCM’s need to protect its hard-won independence.
At the same time, U of T has one of the most federated structures around—
a college system, affiliated hospitals, and so on—which suggests it
might not be that difficult over time to find a model that would allow
the RCM to remain a pretty autonomous entity yet linked back to the
U of T universe. Meanwhile, there is much to be done in both places.
Develop a number
of interdisciplinary research initiatives
A big thing for us is a whole variety of activities in music, health
and society. Toronto’s very strong in various rehab and clinical research
related to music and sound. I’ll give you a couple of examples: I
have a number of people doing cochlear implant research here involving
hospitals. That’s just one of maybe a dozen areas of health-related
research. In the musicology department, for example, there are people
doing research on music and violence. So there’s a lot of stuff related
to music’s role in society.
Links to the professional community so far include singers Wendy
Nielsen and Dan Taylor coming on board; we’ve begun to put into place
a number of partnerships between the Canadian Opera Company and the
U of T. The idea is to really build the vocal department.
Space, the final
We’re doing some renovation here and we’re also looking at the
planetarium site of the Royal Ontario Museum; the U of T has acquired
that site now. There may be several partners involved in building that
site but one of them will be the music department. As you know I’m
a crazy man; the idea of doing another building project is a big challenge
[McLean’s tenure as McGill music dean saw a new building inaugurated
in 2005]. There are two different aspects to this: the Faculty of Music
was built in 1960-1962. It’s antiquated; there hasn’t been that
much by way of renovation.
The MacMillan Theatre
has a full fly tower that’s fantastic; it has a huge stage. There
isn’t another music school in the country that has access to that.
That’s a phenomenal thing. But the theatre itself has all kinds of
structural problems. The seating is on the wrong angle; the balcony
is not helpful from an acoustic perspective and has bad sight lines.
The sound’s a bit dead; it doesn’t resonate. So what I’m doing
now, at the planning stage, is working with Marianne McKenna—who did
the great Koerner Hall here—and several of her team members [at KPMB
Architects]. The objective is: can we significantly renovate the MacMillan
to make it the lead opera-training house that it can be? Right now it
has about 815 seats. If we do a renovation we want to move to 1,000.
The concert hall
here, Walter Hall, also needs some work. One of the things is that you
can detect a quite strong subway rumble in there. Fixing that is almost
impossible, so we are looking for more modest changes or a new facility
that would bring in another medium-sized hall. The question is: is it
cheaper to renovate or to build new? If we can upgrade that one then
the idea of a new 150-250-seat lecture and recital hall is also possible.
Right now a lot of large music classes are being taught elsewhere on