Steven Block has traveled more than 900 miles, from New Mexico to the Rio Grande Valley, since the announcement that he will lead one of the 10 colleges at UTRGV.
Block, former chair of the music department at the University of New Mexico, will begin his appointment as dean of the College of Fine Arts on March 1.
“What I bring is the energy and desire to build programs in the same way–similar way–that I build them in New Mexico,” Block said. “By hiring really fine faculty with new ideas and new energy, we’re going to bring what we do best into greater relief, you know, in the Valley. … That’s the heart of everything, to build what we already have here and to bring that out further into the world. ”
During his 16-year career at New Mexico, Block said he helped the department increase enrollment from 170 to more than 400 music majors at the institution.
“Because of those 16 years [at New Mexico], part of me was looking for new challenges,” he said. “Not just working for a music program but for arts in general. ”
Block graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a doctorate in composition and theory and a master’s in composition from the University of Iowa.
Among the programs he helped create at New Mexico is the Arts-in-Medicine program, which “engages people in their own healing process through creative encounters involving music, poetry, meditation, yoga and others,” according to the program’s website.
Asked if he is thinking of creating a similar program at UTRGV, now that the university will have a School of Medicine that is scheduled to open this summer, Block replied: “I would love to–I haven’t had a chance to meet the dean there but I understand, again secondhand, that he’s very positive about the idea. The people I know in the field, I’m sure I can get them to come in and present and talk about how it can be used and this is the perfect location.”
One of the programs Block is planning to expand at UTRGV is Patron of the Arts.
“The Patron of the Arts program, as it exists, is and was a fine program,” he said. “I’m looking at ways to build that up further, to make it more prominent and selective than it already is.”
The Patron of the Arts was created 31 years ago under UT Brownsville, a legacy institution of UTRGV.
“Patron of the Arts is the performance and membership series of the [UTRGV] School of Music,” said Catherine Compton, Patron of the Arts program coordinator. “It includes student ensembles, faculty artists and guest artists who come to campus and perform for the community.”
As part of the program, the UTRGV Ballet Folklorico will showcase the first of its six performances at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 in the Performing Arts Complex on the Edinburg campus.
In Brownsville, Nicole Asel, a mezzosoprano, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Texas Southmost College Arts Center.
“Over the last three decades it’s been expanding and the membership base has been growing in this area,” Compton said. “This is the first year that it’s been expanded to include Edinburg as well.”
Admission to the concerts is $5 for students, $10 for non-students and $20 for a season pass.
“I encourage faculty and staff and students to take advantage of the concerts that we have,” Compton said.
“We have two beautiful venues. … Both of these places are wonderful to be able to hear this beautiful music and I think it’s a great opportunity to feel more connected to the campus.”
For more information on upcoming events, visit www.facebook.com/utrgvpatron.