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Friday Profile: Thurnau Professor Michael Haithcock
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Michael Haithcock is well-known beyond U-M as a great conductor. He has garnered widespread acclaim for directing the world-class University of Michigan bands, he has commissioned and recorded numerous new musical works, and he is much in demand as a guest conductor. Given this high profile, it might be easy to lose track of the fact that he's also an outstanding teacher of student musicians right here at the University of Michigan. As a teacher of conducting and director of student ensembles at U-M since 2001, Haithcock has gained a reputation as a professor who devotes extraordinary amounts of time to his individual students. He meets one-on-one with every member of the Symphony Band each semester, attends the senior recital of every band student, and writes scores of recommendation letters annually.
This individualized attention correlates to Haithcock's philosophy of conducting. He regards the ensemble rehearsal as a collaborative exploratory endeavor. His colleagues in Music describe him as a "master classroom instructor," a conductor who uses rehearsal time not only to prepare excellent performances but also to assess how well students are learning, to attend to the growth of each student musician and adjust his pedagogical practices accordingly. His students attest to the shared sense of responsibility he cultivates among members of the Symphony Band, and they are inspired by his remarkable example of "preparedness, discipline, responsibility, and respect" as he establishes a "cycle of trust" that motivates student musicians to play their very best.
Haithcock has also actively facilitated U-M music students' global engagement. When he planned the Symphony Band's historic trip to China in 2011, for instance, he organized not only an ambassadorial experience but also a richly educational one. He and the student travelers prepared for the trip with seminars in Chinese language, culture, and history. During the trip, he facilitated students' interactions with Chinese citizens and arranged visits to a range of important cultural sites. As a result, as one of Haithcock's colleagues describes it, "Our students grew as artists, they grew as cultural citizens, and they grew as human beings."
To learn more about the Thurnau Professorships, click here. To learn about other outstanding teachers at the University of Michigan, click the "Friday Profiles" tag button below.