Brian Cole

Brian Cole, an innovative, experienced and bilingual arts leader, is the ninth chancellor of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). UNCSA is the nation’s first public arts conservatory, one of 17 constituent campuses in the University of North Carolina System, and home to some of the top-ranked professional artistic training programs in the world. Cole leads nearly 1,300 students from high school through graduate school, as well as 700 summer and 500 community school students, and more than 600 faculty and staff.

The UNC System Board of Governors appointed Cole as chancellor on May 20, 2020. He previously served as interim chancellor at UNCSA since August 2019.

Cole’s strengths include curriculum and program development and collaborative arts initiative development and implementation. In 2016, he joined UNCSA to serve as the dean of the School of Music. In that capacity, he oversaw operations at the school and all programs at the graduate, undergraduate and high school levels, as well as the Summer Intensive Programs and the UNCSA Community Music School. In addition, he has served as the executive director for two preprofessional graduate institutes at the school: the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute and the Chrysalis Chamber Music Institute.

In collaboration with the vice chancellor for advancement at UNCSA, Cole has served as the lead for advancement projects for the School of Music. Under his leadership, the school has doubled merit-based scholarship resources through major gifts totaling $4 million, and has achieved a 150 percent increase in applications.

Additional accomplishments as dean include developing the first-ever strategic plan for the School of Music, which establishes ambitious five-year goals, including the expansion and integration of the UNCSA Community Music School, a revision and modernization of existing academic programs, and the creation of new graduate and undergraduate program options. He also developed international partnerships for the UNCSA School of Music with institutions in Germany, Austria, Spain and a consortium of six universities and high schools in China. 

Prior to joining UNCSA, Cole served four years as the founding dean of academic affairs at Berklee College of Music’s campus in Valencia, Spain. Before that, he served seven years as associate dean of academic affairs at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music.

An accomplished conductor, Cole has led orchestras and operas throughout the United States, Europe, South America and the Caribbean. He has served the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as conducting assistant and also as assistant conductor for the May Festival. He has held the positions of assistant conductor and director of education and outreach programs for the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, and as music director of the Concert Orchestra of the University of Cincinnati College – Conservatory of Music. 


Doctoral Candidate, Orchestral ConductingUniversity of Cincinnati

M.M., Instrumental ConductingUniversity of Illinois

B.M., Bassoon PerformanceLouisiana State University