The brainchild of former N.C. Gov. Terry Sanford and author John Ehle, the North CarolinaSchool of the Arts was established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963. The Enabling Act directed the primary purpose of the School to be "the professional training, as distinguished from the liberal arts instruction, of talented students in the fields of music, drama, the dance and allied performing arts, at both the high school and college levels of instruction, with emphasis placed upon performance of the arts, and not upon academic studies of the arts."
The North Carolina School of the Arts is a free-standing campus within the University of North Carolina, and is quite different from its 16 sister institutions. Truly a cluster of conservatories, the School is a complex institution with a single, bold mission: to train talented young people for professional careers in dance, music, drama, filmmaking, and theatrical design and production. This training, coupled with the requisite liberal arts education, enables the School to offer undergraduate degrees as well as master’s degrees. In addition, the School offers the high school diploma with arts concentration in dance, drama, music, and visual arts. While courses are offered that give students an historic perspective and context in each of the arts disciplines, the primary emphasis in all programs is on performance and production. The School strives to foster an environment akin to that of an artistic colony where students are encouraged to develop their artistic abilities to the fullest. The School also provides a professional training ground in which students are actively involved in preparing for the practical aspects of making a living as artists.
The premise upon which the School was founded in 1963 was indeed unique. Many good ideas, including the establishment of this special conservatory, coalesced during the tenure of Gov. Terry Sanford. State funds were appropriated to begin a performing arts school and an Advisory Board of nationally renowned artists was established to recommend to the governor a site for the School. In preliminary reports, the Board recommended that "the host city should obligate itself to support the school." In return, "the school must serve the city as an arts center." Not surprisingly, there was considerable rivalry among the major cities of the state to be chosen for the site of the new school. The citizens of Winston-Salem, home of the country’s first municipal Arts Council, vied for the school with particular zeal. In a two-day telephone campaign they raised nearly a million dollars in private funds to renovate the old Gray High School building, a further contribution to the effort. An enticing incentive to the final host city was the possibility of receiving a challenge grant from the Ford Foundation to prompt the legislature to appropriate public dollars to support the operation of a performing arts school.
Composer Vittorio Giannini of The Juilliard School served as the School of the Arts' first president. It was his vision that shaped the School in the beginning and continues to make the School unique among its peers: utilizing a resident faculty of professional artists; beginning training at the age that talent first becomes evident; cultivating a true community of artists, living together in a conservatory environment; and emphasizing learning by doing, with performance as an integral part of instruction. During its formative years, the School also was guided by people of vision, particularly its Board of Trustees, which was chaired by Dr. James H. Semans, and included Smith Bagley, Hugh Cannon, Wallace Carroll, James McClure Clarke and R. Philip Hanes, among others.
Dr. Robert Eugene Ward, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and former member of the faculty of Juilliard, succeeded Dr. Giannini as the second president after Giannini’s untimely death in November 1966. Ward led the School through its first decade, while policies and programs were still being developed. During his tenure, the School more than doubled its faculty and enrollment; established a School of Design and Production, separate from the School of Drama; and created a high school Visual Arts program. Ward also presided over the incorporation of the School into the University of North Carolina in the early 1970s, when 16 public senior institutions — including the North Carolina School of the Arts — became constituent institutions of the University of North Carolina. The title of "president" at the School was subsequently changed to "chancellor."
A third composer, Dr. Robert Suderburg, became Chancellor of the School in 1974. Suderburg’s tenure was marked by major capital improvements at the School, financed through increased contributions from the state and private sources. Among these improvements were the completion of the Workplace and the opening of the Semans Library; the partial renovation of the old Gray High School building; the acquisition of the former Mack Truck facility; and the renovation of the old Carolina Theatre, now the Roger L. Stevens Center. Dr. Suderburg also received approval to establish the school’s first graduate program, an MFA in Theatre Design in Production in 1982.
Dr. Jane E. Milley, a pianist and former dean of the School of Fine Arts at California State University at Long Beach, assumed her post as Chancellor at the School of the Arts in September 1984, following Lawrence Hart, former dean of Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who was interim Chancellor during the 1983-84 school year. During her tenure, faculty salaries were increased; the School received funding from the North Carolina General Assembly for construction of Alex Ewing Performance Place and renovation of the Gray Building and Design & Production facilities. She secured increased state funding to operate the Stevens Center; acquired additional student housing; enhanced the visiting artists program; received approval from UNC Board of Governors to begin planning for a new School of Filmmaking and for the school’s second graduate program (Master of Music).
In the spring of 1990, Alexander Cochran Ewing was appointed chancellor. He took the helm following Dr. Philip F. Nelson, former dean of music at Yale University, who served as interim chancellor during the 1989-90 academic year. Mr. Ewing had been associated with NCSA since 1985, when he was asked to chair the newly reorganized Board of Visitors. In 1988 he established the Lucia Chase Endowed Fellowship for Dance at the School, in memory of his mother, a co-founder and principal dancer with Ballet Theatre, now known as American Ballet Theatre. A graduate of Yale University, Mr. Ewing came to the School with a background as a former journalist, arts administrator and owner of one of the largest herds of champion Hereford cattle in the country. Chancellor Ewing spearheaded the establishment and construction of a fifth arts school, the School of Filmmaking, filling the need for training in the growing field of the moving image arts. During his tenure, student life on campus was improved with the establishment of the position of vice-chancellor of student life and the opening of a 20, 000 sq. ft. fitness center. Early in his administration, Ewing saw a critical need to improve the campus environment and worked with local and state leaders to form the Southeast Gateway Initiative, a neighborhood improvement plan. The first comprehensive campus plan, designed to unify and enhance the entire campus, was created after months of planning and deliberation paving the way for the building projects of the next decade. Ewing successfully lobbied for the rerouting of Waughtown St. (a major city thoroughfare that divided the campus) and the creation of a new main entrance for the campus from South Main St. Enrollment was increased by 40% during Ewing’s tenure, a full-time alumni and career services office was established and Chancellor Ewing was instrumental in bringing the Kenan Institute for the Arts to the School. A comprehensive capital campaign exceeded its $25M goal and the School’s endowment was increased from $4M to $15M under his leadership.
After Ewing’s retirement, Earl Wade Hobgood, dean of the College of Arts at California State University at Long Beach, became chancellor in 2000. The first native North Carolinian to serve as chancellor, Hobgood worked to secure passage of $42.5 million in higher education bonds - approved by N.C. voters in the fall of 2000 - that allowed the School to build a new School of Music complex, a new Welcome Center, a new “connector building” to connect and add space to the two high school residence halls, a new School of Filmmaking Archives, an addition to Alex Ewing Performance Place and a new wig and makeup studio and costume shop. It was also during Hobgood’s tenure that the School acquired the former Our Lady of Mercy property on South Main and Sunnyside Streets and turned it into Workplace West campus. Hobgood initiated a proposal to provide free tuition, room and board for North Carolina High School students accepted to NCSA; the initiative was approved by the N.C. General Assembly in the fall of 2001. The creation of the Center for Creative Initiative (CDI) originally recommended by the AngelouEconomics report, was spearheaded by Chancellor Hobgood who led the effort to secure $12million in funding for the Center. Established in 2005 as a multi-campus research center of the UNC system, the CDI is a partnership between UNC School of the Arts, Winston Salem State University, and Forsyth Technical Community College located in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in Winston Salem.
On July 1, 2005, Dr. Gretchen M. Bataille, senior vice president for academic affairs for the 16-campus University of North Carolina, was named interim chancellor.
John Francis Mauceri took up the reins as School’s seventh chancellor on July 1, 2006. Founding director of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and one of the world’s most accomplished conductors, writers, arrangers and recording artists with a long and varied career spanning music, film and academia, Chancellor Mauceri heightened awareness of the School to audiences throughout the world. Under his leadership, “University” was added to the school’s name to distinguish it from the growing number of arts magnet high schools and to affirm the school’s relationship with the UNC system which had existed since 1972 but was generally unrecognized by the public. The School moved from a trimester institution to a semester school congruent with other UNC campuses and most American colleges and universities.
Mauceri actively engaged with alumni through appointments to UNCSA’s Board of Trustees
representing each of the arts disciplines, academics and high school and by creating
alumni hubs in New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Chicago. Maestro Mauceri
raised scholarship funds and dazzled local audiences with his gala West Side Story, Oklahoma and Nutcracker musical performances.
World premiere performances of Shostakovich’s Hamlet and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s complete score to Much Ado About Nothing; and the 100th anniversary celebration of the premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (followed by a five year commitment of $750,000 to televise UNCSA productions on UNC-TV) both challenged and shone a light on the school’s talented students.
Mauceri partnered with American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School
in an exclusive cooperative agreement as the official affiliate school of the UNCSA
School of Dance. On a number of occasions, Mauceri was able to invite students to
shadow him and experience and learn from his professional engagements at: The Hollywood
Bowl, the Vienna Concerthaus, the Grammys in Los Angeles, the Ravinia Festival (full
production of West Side Story), the Aspen Festival, the Kennedy Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Gewandhaus
Orchestra in Leipzig,Germany, and the Opera House in Bilbao, Spain.
$6 million from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust was added to the endowment of the Kenan Excellence Scholarship Awards under his watch.
Mark Lindsay Bierman arrived in Winston Salem on July 21, 2014 to serve as UNCSA’s eighth chancellor. He succeeds Dr. James Moeser who served as interim chancellor for the year 2012-2013.
In recommending Bierman to the Board of Governors, UNC President Tom Ross said: “Lindsay Bierman brings to the role of chancellor a rare combination of business and management acumen, strategic thinking, and innovation and creativity. An architect by training, Bierman has accumulated a wealth of leadership experience as an award-winning designer, magazine editor and business executive. A passionate and life-long advocate for the arts, he has proven himself to be a resourceful, collaborative leader who pushes creative boundaries, expects nothing short of excellence and leads by example."
Bierman’s education at Georgetown (history and french), University of Virginia (Master’s degree in architecture) and the acclaimed Institut d’Etudes Sciences Politiques de Paris and his internships on Capitol Hill, at Sotheby’s and the National Gallery of Art, nourished his artistic sensibilities and instilled in him a reverence for tradition and for excellence.
The former editor of Southern Living magazine, Bierman transformed the popular magazine launching it into the digital age using cutting edge technology and social media. As chancellor, he intends to utilize this experience to explore creative ways to advance performance and the arts through new digital platforms.
Bierman’s immediate priorities are fundraising, transforming the school’s image and expanding the school’s alliances. Noting the conservative nature of conservatories, Bierman has promised to work with stakeholders to redefine the role of a performing arts conservatory in the 21st century and to create an experience for UNCSA’s young artist’s which will be, if not avant garde, then thoroughly forward leaning.