Taking the stage: College of Performing Arts grads celebrate Commencement with performances, Rowan pride

Taking the stage: College of Performing Arts grads celebrate Commencement with performances, Rowan pride


Inside Pfleeger Concert Hall on Wednesday, May 15, the graduates of Rowan University’s College of Performing Arts celebrated the creative work of classmates along with family, friends, faculty, staff and administrators before hearing “good news” about the path ahead.

“I have great news. You are not alone,” speaker Andrew Simonet told them. “You are joining thousands and thousands of makers, builders, performers, question askers, truth tellers, tradition bearers, and tradition disrupters.”

Author, activist and founder of Artists U and Philadelphia's Headlong Dance Theater, Simonet shared a positive­­--but challenging--message to those who’d just completed studies in music, theatre, dance, music industry, and arts education.

“I think of us like scientists and researchers: we start with a question,” he noted, explaining that artists then follow a process of creating and exploring before sharing the results. “We artists discover new ideas, new solutions. And that is a sacred role.”

Much of these ideas were on display during the ceremony as winners of the college’s medallions were showcased in presentations reflecting the varied disciplines represented by the degrees conferred.

The “show” at the center of the afternoon program featured examples of one student’s work in music production, original student choreography, a classical saxophone performance, a musical education student’s journey, a piece of performance art with a student-composed song, and a musical theatre duet.

The Commencement performances are a true point of pride for the College of Performing Arts, Dean Richard Dammers said.

Dammers also enumerated changes and achievements that have taken place during the time the Class of 2019 has been on campus, with added degree programs, newly-dedicated outdoor performances spaces, an effort to address topical social themes, as well as inevitable changes in faculty. He honored retiring professor and orchestra conductor Salvatore Scarpa as part of his reflection.

“While we continue to grow and change, there is a common, unwavering thread to our work,” Dammers pointed out, adding, “The arts improve our lives and our world.”

There was a more somber note as well, as Dammers presented a posthumous degree to the mother of Ceara Reagan, a musical theatre major who died suddenly over winter break.

Dammers shared that “shortly before her death, she posted on Facebook that, ‘Sometimes there are days when I’m overwhelmed with love for theatre and acting. Today was one.’

“I have found it comforting,” Dammers continued, “knowing that Ceara was studying what she loved, and was loving the process of creating theatre.”

Justin Seenarine, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Industry, recognized the day as a milestone and the culmination of thousands of hours of practicing. He also reflected on some of the deeper and more unexpected lessons learned on his way to a diploma.

“There are a lot of things, personally, that I learned that I didn’t think I’d learn,” he said. “I found my way.”