Randall Umstead, DMA

Randall Umstead, DMA

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Charles W. Evans Chair in Voice
Associate Professor of Voice
Faculty Regent
Immediate Past Chair, Baylor Faculty Senate

While people may wonder at first why Baylor has chosen to link human performance in athletics with the arts, the connection has always been apparent to me. 

Perhaps it helps that I have always been somewhat of an outlier in my field as both an avid sports fan and ardent classical musician. However, teaching an athlete the disciplined mechanics of a baseball swing is surprisingly similar to teaching a pianist the technique required to accurately play scales.

“The arts help us explore other cultures, times and places with a sense of wonder and fascination, rather than fear or anger.”

Also, as in athletics, our fine arts faculty form mentoring relationships with our students that last for years beyond graduation. Our primary focus is instructional, but it is impossible to cooperatively explore a piece of music, theater or art that deeply examines the human condition without also forming a personal bond.

I witnessed the result of this type of relationship at the retirement dinner for Dr. Doris DeLoach, Professor Emerita of Oboe. Filled with laughs, tears and embraces, the event was organized by her former students. Many traveled the country to celebrate her tremendous accomplishments, as well as to express their gratitude for her profound influence on their lives. I, too, have hugged, cried with and prayed alongside my own students as we walk together in their growth as people and aspiring professional artists and teachers.

Naturally, though, there are qualities of the arts that separate them from sports, and which also contribute to their critical importance at Baylor. Historically, music and art have been inextricably linked with faith, and we have long understood that the arts help connect us with God in a unique way. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” Baylor’s mission requires us to pursue excellence in the arts, as the arts provide a vibrant connection to the soul.

The arts also help us explore other cultures, times and places with a sense of wonder and fascination, rather than fear or anger. We are enriched by playing a character from another place or by singing songs in languages other than our own. The roster of any orchestra consists of members from many races, creeds and nationalities. Those members have set aside that which separates them in order to create a harmonious sound, and they began learning the value of that process from a young age. Sharing in that generous, collaborative process must continue to be part of a liberal arts education at Baylor if we are to educate the whole person.