To Swell the Soul with Music

Near Third and Jordan
Indiana University
April 8, 2011


In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius advises his son Laertes, “[T]he apparel oft proclaims the man.”1

The first dean of what was then the IU School of Music, Winfred Merrill, borrowed this reference in a 1924 letter to Indiana University President William Lowe Bryan, writing that “in my heart I know that Polonius was right in the matter of his son’s apparel, and that the pupil who joyfully announces to me that he is going to a ‘Conservatory’ next semester, only voices the general feeling that we haven’t a ‘School of Music’ here because we lack the visible sign.”2

For Dean Merrill, that visible sign was a building that conveyed what he called the “solid dignity and worth” of the School of Music.

Today, as we break ground on the new Music Studio Building, we all recognize the great role that music has played—and continues to play—at Indiana University, and we can see evidence of the visible signs that Dean Merrill sought from the earliest days of the school.

A School of Solid Dignity and Worth

The school itself has grown from a Department of Music established in 1910 to a full-fledged School of Music in 1921 with its first graduate—Gertrude V. Schaupp—in 1923. Since those early years, with the leadership of visionary deans, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music has become one of the largest schools of music in the country and one of the best schools of music in the world.

I could mention the fine instruments maintained by the school—187 Steinways, 20 harpsichords, 11 organs, among over 2,800 instruments on inventory—or the nine bands, six jazz groups, seven orchestras, and the even dozen choral ensembles; or the over eleven-hundred concerts, operas, ballets, and recitals performed by Jacobs School faculty and students every year; or the twenty-two opera world premieres, including tonight’s premier of Vincent.

These are certainly extraordinarily impressive numbers.

An Unparalleled Faculty

But all of us know that the true measure of any school can be gauged by the quality of its faculty, the dedication of its students, and the success of its alumni. By those three measures, the IU Jacobs School of Music is certainly the finest school of music in the world.

From world-renowned musicologist Willi Apel to master string teacher Mimi Zweig; from stage directors Ross Allen and Hans Busch to set designers Mario Cristini and Antonin Dimitrov; from the inimitable Janos Starker to the late, much-beloved tubamaster Harvey Phillips: from the incomparable Menahem Pressler to David Baker, the jazz living legend; the Jacobs School of Music conjures names like Kozma, Gingold, Gaber, and Gillespie; Burkholder, Brown, and Bell; Sebok, St. Leger, Simpson, and Slatkin; Rousseau, McNair, McDonald, and Vernon; Wennerstrom, Watts, and Williams; Aronoff and Effron; Dzubay and Zeani.

To quote Beverly Sills, “The music faculty at Indiana University in Bloomington is absolutely mind-boggling.”3 And I would add that the dazzling achievements of Jacobs School graduates offer resounding testimony to the quality of that outstanding and world-renowned faculty.

Dean Merrill's Visible Signs

Today on this day of celebration, we recognize the faculty, students, and alumni of the Jacobs School of Music, but we also turn to those other visible signs of the school’s growth and progress.

The Music Building—renamed Merrill Hall in honor of the school’s founding dean—was a Public Works Administration project, originally dedicated in 1937.

The Music Building Addition was dedicated in 1962. It and the Applied Music Building—dedicated in 1979—added much-needed practice space.

The Musical Arts Center was dedicated with much fanfare and both national and international attention in 1972.

And the Bess Meshulam Simon Music Library and Recital Center dramatically expanded the space available for music library holdings and performance. This building transformed what had been home to the School of Education and before that the University School building.

Unparalleled Generosity

It is now home to the Ione B. Auer Concert Hall with its magnificent Maidee H. and Jackson A. Seward Organ, the Richard Ford Chamber Recital Hall, the Elsie I. Sweeney Lecture Hall, the James and Alice Cole Lobby, and a variety of other administrative, teaching, and performance spaces.

On the other side of the building, where the road curves, you will find the David H. Jacobs West Terrace and Plaza, and just across the street from us is the Frank E. McKinney Jr. Fountain.

I should also mention the generous support of such families as the Krannerts, the Geigers, and so many others. Of course, the very name of the school—the IU Jacobs School of Music—is further testimony to the remarkable generosity of the Jacobs family.

All of these names—of our outstanding faculty, our accomplished graduates, and our generous supporters—have made the IU Jacobs School of Music what it is today.

The Lilly Endowment

As I mentioned earlier, in 2007, the Lilly Endowment made an extraordinarily generous gift in support of the Music Studio Building. With this gift, the Endowment has given over $480 million to Indiana University over recent decades.

It has supported genomics, neurosciences, and other life sciences research. It has supported IU’s emergence as one of the country’s leaders in the uses and applications of information technology. It has funded research centers and institutes that help Indiana University continue to push back the frontiers of knowledge. It has helped build IU’s extensive system of libraries and archives. And it has supported scholarships that have opened countless doors of learning and success to IU students across the state.

The Endowment’s generosity has transformed the face of this university.

Hence, I am particularly delighted that Vice President Sara Cobb and Program Director Patty Villars could be with us this afternoon. On behalf of Indiana University, I would like to express to them our deep gratitude to the Lilly Endowment for this extraordinarily generous gift. We are deeply grateful to you for your unwavering support of IU that has, over the decades, been so crucial to us.

The Music Studio Building will continue that transformation. Distinguished Professor Menahem Pressler has said that “[t]he new building will give the Jacobs School a new soul and the strength to do remarkable things.” Distinguished Professor David Baker described the Lilly gift as “a fairy tale come true” and added that “[s]pace is so central to how we teach, how we play, how we live as musicians. Excellent space enables excellent teaching.” And Professor Otis Murphy, from whom we will hear in just a moment, explained that his office space “is simply too small for the saxophone’s large sound.” He said that the new building will allow faculty and students alike “to reach new horizons in [their] mission here in the Jacobs School of Music."4

Testimony to Leadership

This new soul, this fairy tale come true, would not be possible without the many strong leaders who have made the IU Jacobs School of Music what it is today. I have mentioned Dean Merrill, but I must also acknowledge Dean Wilfred Bain, who, I understand, was a nearly unstoppable force, and Dean Charles Webb who oversaw dramatic expansion of the school of music. Together Deans Bain and Webb oversaw the school for half of a century. And Dean Gwyn Richards follows in these leaders’ footsteps, with a vision for the IU Jacobs School that certainly stretches towards the horizons.


In 1979, at the dedication of the Applied Music Building, President Ryan explained to the audience that “[b]y design, our ceremony will be brief so that we may afford you an exciting opportunity to see precisely how this new building will be used. Dean Webb has arranged for virtually every practice room in this building to be in use by performing artists during the open house which follows this ceremony.”5

As I look to the future, to that new horizon that Professor Murphy described, I can already imagine that when we dedicate this magnificent new building, our ceremony will also be brief so that we can hear the soul of this new building as it swells with music.


Source Notes

1 Hamlet.  1603.  London:  Sampson Low, Son, 1860. I.3.72.

2 Merrill, Winfred.  Letter to IU President William Lowe Bryan.  22 Feb. 1924.  Indiana University Archives.

3 Piurek, Ryan.  “Stars Align Again at Jacobs School.”  Indiana University Research and Creative Activity Magazine 39.2 (Spring 2007).  <>.

4 “Statements on Lilly Endowment Gift by IU Music, Law Faculty.”  Indiana University Website.  11 Dec. 2007.  <, accessed 3/29/11>.

5 Ryan, John.  Remarks delivered at the Dedication of the Applied Music Building.  13 Oct. 1979.  Bloomington, Indiana.  Indiana University Archives.