Thursday May 26, 2016

New Graul Chair

Sharon Davis Gratto, a champion of world choral music and the Dayton arts community, has been appointed to the Graul Chair in Arts and Languages at the University of Dayton.

Gratto, a music professor, will carry the title Graul Chair-designate and continue as chair of the department of music through the 2016-17 academic year. She will begin her four-year term as Graul Chair in the 2017-18 academic year, with an installation celebration in fall 2017.

Gratto succeeds Richard Chenoweth, horn professor in the department of music, as the fifth holder of the endowed chair, and the first woman to serve in that position. During his tenure, Chenoweth created “Rites. Rights. Writes.,” a University-wide initiative that combines events, courses and discussions to understand the power of the arts to create change.

As Graul Chair-designate, Gratto plans to draw on her international experience and ties to Dayton-area performing arts organizations to develop new campus and community initiatives in the arts and languages.

Gratto, who has lived and taught music in Germany, Spain and Nigeria, created and directs the UD World Music Choir. The non-auditioned student ensemble promotes cultural understanding and sensitivity by learning music from around the world in its historical and cultural context, and performing in many challenging languages.

“Those goals of that ensemble are something that will be integral to my work as the Graul Chair,” she said. Her proposed initiatives include ensuring that students who study abroad have at least some introductory training in the conversational language of the country they visit to help promote better cultural understanding.

She also hopes to develop new initiatives to connect the arts and languages, such as reviving language-specific music recitals for both voice and language students, which would allow the latter to experience the language they are studying through campus arts events.

Gratto is a founding trustee of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance and a board member of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. She serves as an on-air fundraiser host for classical music public radio WDPR-FM in Dayton and hosts the annual WDPR Young Talent Search Concert on campus.

Another proposed initiative is a “syllabus” for students about artistic and cultural opportunities to pursue as residents of Dayton. For example, Gratto said students should see at least one performance by DCDC, which is in residence at the University. They also should attend a play and concert, and visit the Paul Laurence Dunbar House, Carillon Historical Park, and the gravesites of local luminaries such as Wilbur and Orville Wright at nearby Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum.

“I think it is too easy for students to let those things slide and be locked into the student neighborhood and classes,” Gratto said. “There has to be a way to get them out while they are living in Dayton. I think they have a responsibility to know the city, as well as the campus.”

Gratto, a flutist, mezzo-soprano and choral conductor, joined the University faculty in 2008 as department of music chair. In 2012, she organized and hosted performances for the opening ceremony and celebratory concert at the China Institute in Suzhou, China. She was honored with the 2014 College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Service Award.

“I am delighted that Dr. Gratto will serve as the College’s next Graul Chair,” said Jason Pierce, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Anyone who has worked with Sharon knows her passion for and commitment to the arts on campus and in our community. I particularly appreciate how Sharon has brought a global lens to the arts. As the next Graul Chair, she’s poised to launch a number of exciting initiatives.”

The Graul Chair is named for Thomas C. and Janet M. Graul and is designed to promote interdisciplinary approaches to the arts and languages with a particular focus on international perspectives. These disciplines engage people in questions about difference, as well as enable them to celebrate and embrace those differences.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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