Message from the Director

Missy Pfohl Smith

I step into the the role of director of the Institute for the Performing Arts (IPA) with gratitude and enthusiasm for the rich arts experiences that the University of Rochester is fostering. The IPA has a mission to champion, cultivate, and promote engagement and collaboration in the performing arts; encompassing scholarship, research, creation of new work, performance, and arts appreciation within the University, the greater Rochester community and beyond. While I continue to direct the vibrant Program of Dance and Movement, I am excited to nurture collaborations among our performing arts programs, students, and faculty and between the performing arts and the multiple disciplines with which it has the potential to interact.

Creative activity and the performing arts are vital to the success of a major research university. The University of Rochester has long enjoyed world-class programs in the performing arts through the Eastman School of Music, and through hidden gems in the School of Arts and Sciences including the International Theatre Program which hosts guest artists, directors, and designers from all over the world to work with its students, the burgeoning Program of Dance and Movement, which now has a BA in Dance, with two concentrations—one in Creative Expression and another in Performance and Dance Studies—and which brings in guest choreographers and leading performers in the dance field, and the Department of Music, which offers a BA in Music, a BA/MA program in collaboration with the Eastman School, as well as housing the Institute for Popular Music and numerous performing ensembles, some of which integrate with musicians in the community and with Eastman students.

The birth of the Institute for the Performing Arts in 2015 refreshed the University’s commitment to the arts overall, and we are grateful to our many alumni and supporters who have also made it possible to construct the new Sloan Performing Arts Center, to be opened in fall 2020. The state-of the-art facility will support river campus theatre, dance, and music with a performance space, a conditioning lab, scene and costume shops, and more!

The combination of a rich arts environment at the University and the vibrant local and regional arts community gives the Institute for the Performing Arts a creative playground for fostering new ideas and sharing the performing arts with wide audiences. Each fall, well over a dozen original shows created and/or performed by University of Rochester students, faculty, staff, and alumni are performed in the Rochester Fringe Festival, and this is only one example of the off-campus engagement in addition to the plethora of on campus activities you will read about in our calendar! We also partner with various performing arts companies, venues, and entities both within the University campuses and in the greater Rochester area. One example of these partnerships has been with the Arts in Mind (AIM) Project, housed within URMC with a goal for a didactic collaboration between the fine and performing arts and the humanities and sciences.

The IPA encourages participation in the performing arts in various ways, including:

  • Supporting students and faculty who create and perform in theatre, dance, music, and multi-disciplinary work
  • Sponsoring experiences for students to attend diverse professional concerts and performances and often to meet the artists, made possible through a generous alumni gift
  • Providing mini-grants for student-led performing arts endeavors
  • Collaborating with a number of departments and entities on campus who integrate the performing arts in order to further their multi-disciplinary goals
  • Organizing pop-up performances in unexpected venues across the campus in order to make our creative inquiries visible and accessible to the entire campus

The IPA believes that study and performance in theatre, dance, and music greatly enrich an undergraduate education, not only for majors, but also for the wider campus community. We are currently planning an inaugural guest artist visit/lecture with a prominent innovator in the field who will share their unique experience as a performing artist and voice in society, and look forward to announcing this very special event in the near future. We are also eager to grow and develop collaborations both within and beyond our campuses, while continuing to support the goals and objectives of our collective performing arts programs—fostering emerging artists and promoting a broad and lifetime participation in and appreciation of the performing arts.

It is my hope that you will join us to participate, celebrate, bolster, and become enriched by the wide array of excellent performing arts experiences the University of Rochester has to offer!


Missy Pfohl Smith
Director, Institute for the Performing Arts
Director, Program of Dance and Movement