Dean of School of Music steps down; students, faculty critical of leadership


Courtesy of Marco Sanchez

School of Music Dean Ronald Caltabiano announced on Sept. 9 that he would step down from his role effective Sept. 16 for personal reasons.

School of Music (SOM) Dean Ronald Caltabiano stepped down from his role on Sept. 16 for personal reasons, but many are not grieving the loss of Caltabiano. 

“It is with great sadness that I step aside from my role as dean of the School of Music,” Caltabiano said. “It’s been an honor of a lifetime to work with such talented students, faculty, and staff. I will forever be grateful to the extended DePaul community for helping us build state-of-the-art music facilities that truly showcase the talents of our faculty, staff, and students, and are as impressive as any country house on a college campus. I look forward to watching the school grow and thrive in the coming years.” 

Katherine Brucher, associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor of music, will serve as acting interim dean.  

Nominations for interim dean of the SOM have already begun being solicited the week after Caltabiano stepped down, according to DePaul Newsline. For those who accept the nomination, feedback will be requested from faculty and staff in the school.  

The university will share more information regarding the search for the school’s next dean when it is available. 

Caltabiano joined DePaul in July 2016 and oversaw the SOM’s move into the state-of-the-art Holtschneider Performance Center and the Sasha and Eugene Jarvis Opera Hall. He is also credited with expanding the school’s degree offerings, bringing new students and faculty to the school and increasing the number of degrees offered to 16.  

He also cultivated relationships with donors, raising nearly $25 million in funding for student scholarships and degree programs.

Though Caltabiano has received praise for his achievements as dean, his tenure has also been open to criticism, with students even calling for his dismissal in 2020

As for what students hope to see in the SOM’s next leader, some hope that Caltabiano’s financial savviness will be repeated in their next leader, but not prioritized. 

Katherine Brucher, associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor of music, will serve as acting interim dean. (Courtesy of the School of Music)

Drummer and senior jazz studies student and senior Alejandro Salazar believes the SOM needs a Black leader, preferably a woman. 

“We just need someone different,” Salazar said. “This school has been run by all white men, so let’s just do the complete opposite. I mean, the Black woman is the most underrepresented person in this school, so why not have one be our leader?”

“On top of that, it’s disgraceful that the School of Music only has one Black professor, Dana Hall,” Salazar said. “It’s absolutely disgusting, actually.” 

Generally, Salazar said, the SOM should have more leaders and professors representing the students they teach, as well as teaching the music born from their respective demographic. 

“We need Latinos teaching Central and South American and Caribbean music,” he said. “To me, it’s logical. So many other schools get it, but for some reason, this school just doesn’t.”

There are many talented students of color coming in and out of DePaul, Salazar continued. 

“For us to look up to and be like, ‘yeah you like us, I’ve seen people like you all of my life, and you’re doing this thing at such a high level,’” he said. “That’s so inspiring for people of color, to see someone like them do the thing, be the leader.” 

Connor Sullivan, bass player and first-year jazz studies student, echoed Salazar’s sentiments and hopes to see more representation in the SOM’s faculty.

“We have no world music degrees either,” Sullivan said. “We have a small number of classes for world music and African music which is super influential on what we’re listening to today.”

SOM alumnus J Holzen’s first in-person academic year at DePaul was in the 2021-2022 school year, the year they graduated. Upon arriving to the SOM, they faced issues that made it difficult and uncomfortable for them to be transgender.

Holzen said they raised a concern to then Dean Caltabiano via email about a lack of gender-neutral bathrooms in the new Holtschneider Performance Center and the Sasha and Eugene Jarvis Opera Hall buildings. 

Erin Henze

Caltabiano acknowledged Holzen’s concern and said that there were in fact three gender neutral bathrooms. Holzen said these bathrooms were either spread far apart on opposite ends of the building, had no specification of gender neutrality, or were always locked. 

After speaking with the SOM’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Holzen’s concern manifested into one of the single-use bathrooms receiving a laminated-sign specifying gender-neutrality.

“I eventually decided that it wasn’t my job to make the entirety of the School of Music more accommodating to trans people in the most minimal ways, and the most basic ways,” Holzen said.

Holzen hopes the SOM’s future administrators have a “healthy awareness for what they can and cannot do.”