The UW School of Music will have a new leader as it begins the fall 2013 semester. Though she's just stepping up to the helm, her face is familiar to students who study subjects ranging from viola to Victorian poetry.
Susan C. Cook replaces retiring tuba professor John Stevens as the school's director. Formerly the UW graduate school's academic associate dean for the arts and humanities, she has also been active in the community, serving on the board of the Madison Cultural Arts District.
One of Cook's goals is making sure the music school gets the resources it needs in an environment of shrinking budgets and program cuts.
"I want to make sure that music study, broadly understood, remains central to the public, state-supported university," she says.
Cook is only the second woman to serve as director, according to Katherine Esposito, the music school's communications and concert manager. Previously, Cook was executive director of the UW's Arts Institute and served as interim director of UW Press. Her areas of interest include American music and dance, issues of gender and music, and women in the arts. She has edited a number of collections on these topics, including the award-winning Cecilia Reclaimed: Feminist Perspectives on Gender and Music and Bodies of Sound: Studies Across Popular Music and Dance. Currently, Cook is writing a book exploring ragtime dance and its effects on the social roles of women.
Cook's first instruments were piano and violin, but she went on to study harpsichord with Max Yount at Beloit College and in graduate school with Edward Parmentier. She later taught the instrument as part of her first job at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Cook came to the UW in 1991 because she wanted to work with graduate students and be part of a larger, more diverse institution.
"Graduate education has consumed much of my attention since then: recruiting my own students, working as the director of graduate studies within the School of Music, and then moving into the graduate school as the associate dean," she says. "I'm looking forward to spending more time thinking through our undergraduate mission as well."
Cook is also eager to help music school faculty, staff and students, plus partners like the UW Foundation, share their accomplishments with a wider variety of audiences.
"We have great stories to tell about what we're doing," she says.