Milestones in the History of Performing Arts at Virginia Tech

The departments of music, theatre, and cinema merged to form the School of Performing Arts.  This change has made all areas within the School better able to move forward in a stronger and more unified direction.

The Moss Arts Center (Center for the Arts) and ICAT (Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology) open. These new state-of-the-art facilities offer students, faculty, and the community access to experiential lab space and professional performers from around the globe.

Room 105 in the Performing Arts Building was renovated into a Cinema Screening Room for the Cinema faculty and students to utilize in their work and studies.

The Department of Music became accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).

The cinema program shifted from its home in the Department of Communication to become part of the Department of Theatre and Cinema.

The Department of Theatre and Cinema moved its operations into the newly renovated Henderson Hall and the newly constructed Theatre 101. Theatre 101 was the first LEED certified building on the Virginia Tech campus.

The Department of Music moved part of its faculty into Henderson Hall.  In addition to faculty offices, Henderson Hall provided 12 additional music practice rooms.

Renovations on Squires Student Center were completed, with new spaces for theatre and music added.

The Department of Music moved into the Squires Student Center to utilize individual studios, practice rooms, a large instrumental rehearsal room, an electronic piano laboratory, a special audio-visual laboratory, and an electronic music laboratory for new and experimental work.

The Studio Theatre and the Recital Salon in Squires opened.  The theatre is a state-of-the-art 220-seat thrust theatre space, and the recital hall seats 240 in an acoustically tuned space.

The Departments of Music and Theatre Arts were reunited to become the Division of Performing Arts in July, 1983. Tony Distler was appointed Director of the Division, with Don Drapeau as Head of Theatre Arts and John Husser Head of Music.

The M.F.A. in Theatre's inaugural class started in the fall of 1978. Today the graduate program offers students the choice of pursuing study in the areas of:

  • Arts Leadership
  • Costume Design and Technology
  • Directing and Public Dialogue
  • Lighting Design
  • Properties Design
  • Scenography
  • Stage Management
  • Technical Direction

The first class with a B.A. in Music graduates.

The Marching Virginians, Virginia Tech's 330-piece band, was founded in September of 1974.  The band mixes pageantry, corps-style elements, massive sound and lost of college rah-rah into their unique showband style.

The first concert by the Choral Union (this group would eventually become the Blacksburg Master Chorale).

The first concert by the New River Valley Symphony.

The BA in Theatre Arts was approved by the University and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

The Department of Performing Arts and Communications (PAC) was established, with the three programs of theatre arts, music, and communications (speech and photography/videography). Theatre faculty member Tony Distler was appointed Head of the new department, and theatre faculty member Don Drapeau accepted the position of Director of Theatre Arts. 

The theatre program inaugurated a state-of-the-art 500-seat proscenium theatre (now called the Haymarket Theatre) on campus with a production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.

The University takes the recommendations of the accreditation report to put more emphasis and resources into the arts on campus, setting the stage for music and theatre to thrive and expand into degree-granting departments.

Productions were staged in a 300-seat proscenium theatre that was rented from one of the campus ministries, just off campus.

The University's accreditation evaluation report from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools recommended twice that if Tech wished to achieve major university status, it must establish strong academic and public performance programs in the arts.

The dramatic society at Virginia Tech was officially named the Tech Players, with Prof. Homer J. Cleary as its director, and theatre once again became an official part of the University. 

During the early years of the twentieth century, the Thespian Club was a strong component of the extra-curricular life of the University, presenting two or three scripted productions each academic year.

The first student choral organization was a male singing group known as the Glee Club (The Glee Club eventually became known as the Virginia Tech Showmen in 1971.)

The first formal theatre group was organized and recognized as an extra-curricular student organization: the VAMC Thespian Club. When the school adopted a new name in 1897 (Virginia Polytechnic Institute), the theatre group became the VPI Thespian Club.

The earliest recorded theatre event at Virginia Tech is when a student drama group presented performances on the nights of April 28 and 29 of that year. They evidently were well received, for the school yearbook comments: "We hope they will amuse us again."

To make a gift to the School of Performing Arts visit the link below. Designate your gift to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Once you select the College a secondary field will open and you may then designate the School of Performing Arts.

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