Text Only Version

Shenandoah Conservatory Hands Over Facilities and Programming to Students in Unprecedented Initiative A first-in-the-nation initiative fostering student creativity and collaboration

In a groundbreaking new initiative, Shenandoah Conservatory is canceling its regular classes and rehearsals for one week, and turning over its facilities and resources to the students, in order to support student-run projects, which emphasize collaboration and interdisciplinary partnership.The initiative, modeled after similar programs in the United Kingdom, will be the first of its kind in the nation. From Tuesday, Nov. 27, through Saturday, Dec. 1, students work across disciplines on self-directed, time-limited projects fueled by their own passion, drive and curiosity. The week culminates with a Festival of Arts, Ideas and Exploration, on Dec. 1, featuring more than thirty innovative and provocative music, theatre and dance projects, which highlight student creativity and collaboration.

While the daylong festival offers audiences access to a wide variety of live performances and presentations, the underlying goal is to inspire artistic and scholarly excellence, preparing talented students for successful careers in the arts. “Polling of top CEOs and arts leaders is clear: the career success of this generation of students will hinge on their ability to work collaboratively, to solve problems with independence, and to be innovative in bringing people together around projects that matter,” said Shenandoah Conservatory Dean and Professor of Music Michael Stepniak, Ed.D. “Student Performance Week is so significant because it provides conservatory students an extraordinary opportunity to practice and strengthen these very skills.”

The journey to Shenandoah Conservatory’s Student Performance Week (SPW) began in the UK in 2017, when Dr. Stepniak visited The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. At the time, both schools were in the midst of initiatives which effectively turned college instruction on its head, freeing students to interact and create in ways both new and completely of their own design. Excited about the possibilities of such a program existing at Shenandoah Conservatory, Stepniak assembled a small student/faculty task force and, thanks to funding from the Dean’s Circle, supported an exploratory return trip the following year. After a four-day whirlwind tour in early 2018, the group returned to Shenandoah with a positive recommendation for creating a similar initiative at Shenandoah Conservatory; albeit with the important caveat that it must include students from across the entire conservatory — music, theatre and dance, as well as the academic and research-oriented departments. Since gaining approval, the task force has shifted to planning and promoting this massive project.

From a field of 67 submissions, 33 projects were selected and will be featured across main campus in the Festival of Arts, Ideas and Exploration from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., on Saturday, Dec. 1. More than 100 additional conservatory students are collaborating with project leaders to make their creations a reality. Festival-goers will receive wristbands, giving them access to a day of performances and presentations, as well as an after-party celebration, which begins at 10 p.m. in the lobby of Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre.

Wristbands are available for a suggested donation of $10 ($5 for students and youth). Proceeds support ongoing Student Performance Week efforts. Festival wristbands and information are available at the Shenandoah Conservatory Box Office at 540/665-4569, located in the lobby of Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre and online at conservatoryperforms.org.

MEDIA INFORMATION: Photo & Interview Opportunities

Throughout the week of Nov. 27, rehearsals for Student Performance Week and preparation activities for the festival are open for press to observe and photograph. Additionally, Dean Michael Stepniak, as well as members of the Student Performance Week Planning Committee and student participants are available for interviews.

High­-resolution photography are available upon request.

Additional information and a summary of featured projects can be found on the Student Performance Week webpage.


Courtney Reilly
Managing Director, Shenandoah Conservatory
(540) 535-3530 | creilly@su.edu


Shenandoah Conservatory ​is home to more than 600 students enrolled in baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral programs in the areas of music, theatre and dance. Virginia’s oldest and premier center for performing arts training, the conservatory is led by a dynamic faculty composed of performers and scholars of national and international repute.

Shenandoah University was established in 1875, and is headquartered in Winchester, Virginia, with additional educational sites in Clarke, Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Shenandoah is a private, nationally recognized university that blends the best of professional studies and the liberal arts. With nearly 4,000 students in more than 100 academic programs in seven different schools, Shenandoah promotes a close-knit community rich in creative energy and intellectual challenge. Shenandoah students collaborate with accomplished professors who provide focused, individual attention, all the while leading several programs to be highly nationally ranked. Through innovative partnerships and programs at both the local and global level, there are exceptional opportunities for students to learn in and out of the classroom. Shenandoah empowers its students to improve the human condition and to be principled professionals and leaders wherever they go. For more information, visit su.edu.