Meet the Dean - Q&A with Peter Alexander

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Q: Prior to coming to UNCG, you were the dean emeritus of the Jordan College of the Arts at Butler University in Indiana. Tell us a little about your background in the performing arts.

A: I fell in love with music and the clarinet in junior high and, thanks to a wonderful teacher who took an interest in my development and mentored me, I decided to pursue a career in music. Eventually, I received degrees from the Eastman School of Music, the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University. Beginning in high school, and continuing throughout my college years, I taught clarinet privately. I was fortunate to have studied with truly great, transformative teachers and their influence turned me toward college teaching. My first university appointment was at State University of New York at New Paltz. Years later, I became a department head then dean and had appointments at the University of Southern Mississippi, and Butler University in Indianapolis.

For many years, I performed with orchestras, chamber music ensembles and in new music groups. The thing I liked best was working with contemporary composers who wrote music for me to perform and record. Music notation only tells part of the story and it was always really enlightening to ask these composers questions. If Beethoven was in the room, what would you ask him?

Q: During your interview process this past spring, what did you find most appealing about UNCG, and the School of Music, Theatre and Dance in particular?

A: I've known about the performing arts at UNCG for many years. I came to Greensboro to see the music building shortly after it was first completed and couldn't help but be impressed. I've had friends who have attended conferences at UNCG for instance, the American College Theatre Festival. They reported great things about the School and its faculty. SMTD has a strong record of shaping students who go on to successful careers in the arts. I was deeply honored when I was asked to become a member of the UNCG community.

Q: Though you've been on campus for a short time and are just getting settled, what is one of your top priorities for the SMTD in the coming year? What are you most excited about?

A: One thing especially excites me about being here: the School of Music, Theatre and Dance is only three years old. Its individual departments all have rich histories and are very strong, but there are many synergies still to be built. The past initiatives of which I am most proud have involved interdisciplinary collaboration, international programs, new degree program development, community outreach and so on. How my past experiences will play out here remains to be seen. I've been on campus only a matter of days and am meeting people for the first time. I am just starting a period of intense listening and fact-finding. Any ideas I have right now are extremely provisional.

Q: When you're not busy "being the dean", what activities outside of academia do you enjoy?

A: My wife is a world-class photographer. I love being around visual artists, and going to museums has been a life-long passion. I have studied German for about a dozen years and have spent time over the last few summers studying that language in German…a real thrill. I am a decent cook and run several days a week. Family is important.

Q: And finally, Eastern style or Lexington style barbecue? (Answer carefully!)

A: The best barbecue is the pulled pork I fix myself!