Mary Ellen Poole, dean of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, has been appointed director of the Butler School of Music and holder of the Florence Thelma Hall Centennial Chair in Music at The University of Texas at Austin, effective Sept. 1.
Dean of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for the past 10 years, Poole grew the enrollment by 50 percent, built a renowned faculty, internationalized programs and student enrollment, and oversaw construction of an $80 million facility behind a historic façade in the heart of San Francisco. She is well-known in the Bay Area for her partnerships with various civic organizations, including the San Francisco Opera, and is nationally recognized for her views on music education and curricular innovation.
“As dean of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Mary Ellen Poole put up an extraordinary leadership record, turning a very good music school into a great one,” said College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster. “That’s exactly her charge at The University of Texas, where we’re determined to make the Butler School of Music the finest public-university music school in the country. We couldn’t have a better director for the job.”
A multitalented scholar and musician, Poole joined the San Francisco Conservatory after 18 years on the faculty and administration of Millikin University, where she was named director of the School of Music in 1997. Before her appointment as director, she taught honors humanities, chamber music, Western music history, jazz history and world music, and gave flute lessons as an associate professor. In 2002, her colleagues recognized her achievements by bestowing upon her the university’s Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership Award.
“From the public schools all the way up through this university ‘of the first class,’ Texans know in their bones that the arts are essential to our common humanity,” said Poole, “and they back up that understanding with every ounce of their considerable ambition, energy and pride. The Butler School faculty, staff and students could have gone anywhere in the world to make and study music, but they’ve chosen to bring their extraordinary gifts together in this place. For all of us as artists, the challenges of this century require our freshest thinking and our most stubborn resourcefulness. It’s a great honor to be welcomed by this remarkable group of people at this equally remarkable moment.”
Her research, publications and presentations have focused on fin-de-siècle Paris: cabaret chansons and chansonniers, music as political propaganda during the Radical Republic, and the ideology of teaching music to the working class. She is currently active as a visiting evaluator and member of the Commission on Accreditation for the National Association of Schools of Music.
A native of Louisiana, she earned her degrees in flute performance from Baylor University and Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Illinois at Urbana.