Carnegie Mellon University

Image of Dorothy Jackovic; Denis Colwell, Karen Emmerich, Bill Doring; Joseph Jackovic

December 14, 2017

Colwell Named Jack G. Buncher Chair, Reappointed Head of CMU's School of Music

By Pam Wigley

Emily Rybinski-Benish
Pam Wigley
  • Colllege of Fine Arts
  • 412-268-1047

Associate Professor Denis Colwell has received the Jack G. Buncher Chair and has been reappointed head of Carnegie Mellon University's School of Music, a position he has held since 2012.

"I look forward to another five years of Denis' innovative ideas, creative approaches, impactful pedagogical philosophy, and strategic-thinking skills, not to mention his passion for the school and its people," said College of Fine Arts Dean Dan Martin. "For these and so many other reasons, Denis is richly deserving of this tremendous honor made possible through the Buncher family."

The Buncher family established the chair with a $5 million gift to CMU's School of Music. To acknowledge the gift, longtime School of Music faculty member Marilyn Taft Thomas composed "The Buncher Suite" for violin soloist full orchestra. The CMU Philharmonic recorded the composition with University Professor Andres Cardenes as soloist, and Philharmonic Assistant Conductor and Music Director of the Contemporary Ensemble Daniel Nesta Curtis conducting. A recording of the piece and a documentary DVD will be given to the Buncher family as a gesture of gratitude, Colwell said.

Colwell trained as a trumpet player and completed his bachelor's of fine arts degree at Carnegie Mellon, studying under the legendary trumpeter Anthony L. Pasquarelli. He became assistant head of the school and, at the same time, served as music director of the CMU Wind Ensemble. He also directed and performed more than 1,400 concerts across the United States with Pittsburgh's River City Brass Band.

When Colwell became head of the Carnegie Mellon School of Music, he began to make positive changes almost immediately, Martin said. He made the management of the school more transparent and democratic, he instituted a number of initiatives that increased the quality of education and performance within the school, and he helped to engage the campus community with the school in a way that had not been accomplished before.

"It is a very great honor to be the first holder of the Jack G. Buncher Chair and to be reappointed as the head of the School of Music," Colwell said. "I want to very humbly thank and recognize all of my colleagues on the faculty and staff for their dedication and commitment to the school, and also our students — who work so very hard to continue the school's tradition of excellence. We are all enormously grateful to the Buncher family for their confidence in our school and for their magnificent generosity, the long-term benefits of whicih are nothing short of transformational. And, of course, thanks to my wife and daughter for their love, support and understanding."