College of Fine Arts is working to expand opportunities for students

Bruce Pennycook

As a professor in the Butler School of Music, I read with interest the article published Dec. 1 and the response published as a Firing Line on Wednesday by UT alumnus Kenny Bergle. (Full disclosure: I arrived at UT long after Bergle graduated, but I do purchase for UT audio gear from Sweetwater Sound, where he works.)

First, it is indeed lamentable that two programs in music have been terminated. But given the intense pressure to reduce expenditures, I can understand why Mary Ellen Poole, director of the Butler School of Music, has targeted programs largely (though not entirely) taught by non-tenure track instructors.

However, it would be incorrect to assume that UT-Austin is insensitive to a rapidly changing cultural market. Last year, the Texan published a report on the formation of the new Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies, of which I am the director. This is a very exciting and forward-looking program that hopes to admit the first cohort of students into a BA in Arts and Entertainment Technologies (BA-AET) in the fall of 2016. The center is also working hard to create deep and lasting relations with cultural enterprises in Austin and beyond toward a truly integrated learning experience for these students. We envision numerous internships and company-sponsored research initiatives for all the undergrads in the new program.

We are also embarking on a project with the Fine Arts Library to provide new resources not just for College of Fine Arts students, but for the entire student body. We are calling this the Creativity Commons. In the near future, all UT students will be welcome to explore and develop their own creative projects within the commons. We intend that many of these resources and activity units will be company-sponsored, thus providing new career opportunities.

All this is to say that while the Butler School of Music has chosen to make certain kinds of decisions in support of its mission, the College of Fine Arts and UT-Austin at large are acutely aware of the growing student demand in arts and technology and have responded with the formation of an entirely new center and degree program.

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— Bruce Pennycook, music professor and director of the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies in the College of Fine Arts, in response to last week’s coverage of the suspension of the Butler School of Music’s music recording technology and music business programs.