New School of Music dean to pursue excellence


By Kalli Damschen
Staff Writer

Baylor has appointed Dr. Gary Mortenson as dean of the School of Music after a months-long search.

Mortenson, the current director of the Kansas State University School of Music, Theatre and Dance, will succeed Baylor alumnus Dr. William V. May, who retired as dean in July 2014. Since that time, Dr. Timothy McKinney, professor of music theory, has served as the interim dean.

Mortenson received a bachelor’s degree in music education from Augustana College, a master’s degree of music in trumpet performance from Ithaca College, and a doctorate of musical arts in trumpet performance from the University of Texas at Austin.

Mortenson said he was drawn to Baylor because of the school’s reputation for excellence and because of family ties to the university. As the dean, he hopes to see all areas of the School of Music thrive.

“I think that being a dean is not a dictatorship,” Mortenson said. “I think being a dean is being a facilitator. So the number one thing I want to see as a leader is I want to see everyone grow and prosper. If one area of the school is not doing well, I’m not happy. I want all areas to do well.”

Before he began his work at Kansas State University in 1989, Mortenson spent five years teaching at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Mortenson served on the International Trumpet Guild (ITG) board of directors from 2001 to 2013, where he served as the publications editor. During this time, he represented the guild at trumpet competitions and conferences around the world. In 2014, Mortenson received the International Trumpet Guild’s award of merit.

Mortenson’s research has been published in the Instrumentalist, Jazz Educator’s Journal, Music Educator’s Journal, Medical Problems of Performing Artists and the International Trumpet Guild Journal.

Mortenson’s appointment to the position followed a lengthy application process, which included letters of recommendation, interviews and meetings with Baylor faculty and students.

“Dr. Mortenson stood out to the search committee for his leadership qualities, his belief in the importance of quality music education, his creativity, and his research,” said Dr. David Garland, the provost and executive vice president. “He recognizes that Baylor has an extraordinary music school, and I firmly believe that he will lead to new heights this wonderful school that is so important to our campus and to our community.”

Dr. James Bennighof, Vice provost and professor of music theory, highlighted Mortenson’s experience and abilities when recounting why Mortenson was appointed dean.

“He has experience guiding an academic unit that’s similar in scope to Baylor’s School of Music,” Bennighof said. “He is an accomplished musician and teacher. He seems very able to work with a wide variety of people, including faculty, staff and students, as well as other constituents of the School of Music.”

Dr. Jean Boyd, professor of musicology, was impressed with Mortenson after his meetings with faculty.

“I think the programs that he helps put in place will affect the students the most,” Boyd said. “Those will affects all of us. We all have to work together for the good of everybody, and I think that this particular gentleman will do just that.”

Mortenson will officially begin his tenure as dean of the School of Music on July 1.

“I believe in servant-based leadership, which means that the notion of a dean being a person up on a pedestal, making decisions and looking down, is totally foreign to me,” Mortenson said. “I believe in serving the people of Baylor University and serving the students, because that’s why we’re really there, to serve the students.”