The installation ceremony of Brian Cole as the UNC School of the Arts‘ ninth chancellor was a polished performance, and offered many glimpses into what should be a rosy future for UNCSA and for the ever-widening spheres of audiences who attend performances of increasingly inventive scope. The program was presided over by Peter Hans, President of the University of North Carolina System, and took place on a lovely Friday morning on the thrust stage of the Gerald Freedman Theater of the Alex Ewing Performance Place. The Bergstone Brass played a lusty set of fanfares and dances to open, and the UNCSA Percussion Ensemble played the recessional in the distant lobby, getting ever louder as the audience of some 300 supporters exited the hall.

After a witty and warm welcome from Hans, we were greeted by no less than seven dignitaries, including Allen Joines (Mayor of Winston-Salem), Randy Ramsey (Chair of the UNC Board of Governors), Ralph Womble (Chair of the UNC School of the Arts Board of Trustees, and an alumna of UNCSA), and distinguished representatives of the student body, faculty and staff.

Then we were treated to a mock ballet class, rehearsing the “Pink Pas…” from Act II of The Nutcracker, presented by un-named students from the School of Dance – which was crashed by protesters objecting to the cancellation of Swan Lake due to COVID-19. The short (6’33”) film, “Swan Lake: Cancelled,” which has since gone viral, is the source of this amusing skit.

The oath of office of Chancellor was administered by Judge Carrie F. Vickery, followed by the presentation of the emblem of authority. Finally, the newly installed chancellor spoke of his duties, dreams, and proposed programs for the next five years. He likened the artist’s conservatory to the scientist’s laboratory, touting the artist as “the ultimate problem solver.”

Chancellor Cole outlined five points in a proposed plan which he calls “UNCSA Forward.” The first point deals with a visionary plan that stresses attention to equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging (E.D.I.B.), by identifying and dismantling systems and practices of bias, exclusion and oppression. Point two emphasizes attention to the health and well-being of the artist, student, faculty, or professional. Point three focuses on interdisciplinary arts, innovations, and experiences. Point four seeks to maintain and extend the relevance of the arts to other fields – the artist as problem solver. And finally, UNCSA must ensure institutional stability. Click here to view the entire address.

After a lengthy standing ovation, Chancellor Cole yielded the stage to the lovely voice of Jodi Burns, soprano, and Angela Vanstory Ward, piano, for a touching closing number that echoed the sentiments of all devotees of the School of the Arts: “Take Care of This House,” by Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner.

There followed an outdoor open-house picnic for all guests and students during which we were serenaded by the excellent UNCSA Jazz Ensemble, directed by Ron Rudkin.