Indiana Daily Student

Jacobs School of Music hires professional opera singer as associate professor

<p>Associate professor Russell Thomas poses for a headshot. Thomas will begin teaching in the Jacobs School of Music this August.</p>

Associate professor Russell Thomas poses for a headshot. Thomas will begin teaching in the Jacobs School of Music this August.

Professional opera singer Russell Thomas will start as an associate professor of music in voice for the Jacobs School of Music in August.

Thomas will be teaching the applied voice class through one on one lessons with six students. He has not yet had a university teaching position. He said he is excited to teach at IU.

“IU, for the school of music and for other reasons, is a historic school and one that is very notable,” Thomas said. “It’s a great opportunity to teach at a school with such notoriety.”

Thomas is a graduate of New World School of Arts in Miami, Florida. He has performed in opera companies around the world, including the San Francisco Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Washington National Opera and the Canadian Opera Company, according to a statement IU released in March. Thomas said he has performed for more than 20 years.

"Students will learn directly from a practitioner and a pedagogue who has given great thought to the practice and the art of singing," Gwyn Richards, dean of Jacobs, said in the statement.

He will join 15 other members of the voice faculty.

Brian Horne, chair of the department of voice, said he hopes Thomas will bring his real-world experience to the department and to his students.

“His presence, his connections, his experience and his ability and just what he has learned from singing around the world will be accessible 100% to us,” he said.

Thomas said he will only have six students in his class instead of the traditional 18 so he can still perform. 

“It’s going to be a bit of a juggling act,” he said.

The students will primarily be graduate students, Horne said.

Thomas will eventually ease into a full-time position, Horne said. He said they hire faculty from the performance field who gradually decrease performance commitments so they can work their way up to the full class load.

“To hire the kind of people we want to hire, it’s impossible for them to just stop their career on a dime and come here,” Horne said. “Everybody in that field has commitments that are going two or three years out.”

The applied voice class requires one hour instruction time per student, Thomas said in an email. He said when he is not available in person, he will be available virtually.

Horne said students should not worry about not earning enough hours or not receiving enough instruction. He said the music school is receiving a professional with real-world connections and that he thinks Thomas working his way up to a full-time position is a fair trade-off.

“I think there would be some people who would look at the situation and think, ‘Well, I don’t want a teacher who’s not here full time,’” Horne said. “They would be missing the point about that.”

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