Breaking: Glass ceiling broken at top US conservatory

Breaking: Glass ceiling broken at top US conservatory


norman lebrecht

May 11, 2015

A woman provost and dean, rare among US music conservatories.

Press release:


The San Francisco Conservatory of Music is pleased to announce the appointment of Kate Sheeran as Provost and Dean of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Currently Assistant Dean at Mannes School of Music of The New School, Sheeran takes up her new position on July 1, 2015.  She succeeds Robert Fitzpatrick, who retires from the Conservatory after ably serving in this role in an interim capacity since January 2014.

“I am delighted to appoint Kate Sheeran as Provost and Dean of the Conservatory,” says David H. Stull, President of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. “She is a tremendous advocate for young artists, and her experience as an innovative leader, performer and teacher make her an outstanding choice for SFCM. Kate will play a critical role in executing the Conservatory’s strategic plan to pioneer a new standard of conservatory education, one which provides a transformative experience for our students and prepares them for a lifetime of success.”

“I am thrilled to be joining the SFCM leadership at this truly exciting time for the school,” says Kate Sheeran.  “I am looking forward to working with the entire community to strengthen our curriculum, incorporate many of the wonderful things that are happening in music today, and implement our new strategic vision and plan. Together, we’re going to build an unparalleled education for 21st century musicians, who will be equipped to have an important impact on the music field and the world.  I can’t wait to get started!”

As the institution’s chief academic officer, Provost and Dean Sheeran will oversee all aspects of the school’s academic program.  She will ensure the Conservatory’s compliance with the standards of the WASC Senior College and University Commission, which approves accreditation. She will lead, support and build the faculty and work with them to implement curricular modernization and development. She will oversee the assessment of student learning outcomes and academic performance and seek to attract students of the highest caliber to the school.

As an Assistant Dean at the Mannes School of Music, Sheeran directed Mannes Prep for students aged 4-18 and continuing education through Mannes Next, which together serve more than 700 students and whose faculty number more than 100 members. During her tenure, Sheeran has modernized curricula, strengthened composition and improvisation courses and introduced a robust series of visiting guest artists. She overhauled its adult learning offerings and developed Mannes Next, a forward-thinking continuing education program awarding certificates and diplomas, and launched two new minors for matriculating Mannes students, Post-Genre Music and Composition.

kate sheeran
A professional hornist as well as an energetic administrator, Sheeran is also an accomplished musician and educator. She has performed with such cutting-edge ensembles as the Wordless Music Orchestra and Alarm Will Sound and has recorded for the Tzadik, Warp, New Amsterdam and Nonesuch labels, among others. Sheeran has served on the horn faculty at Mannes Prep, Dickinson College, Susquehanna University and Bucknell University. She earned a B.M., Performer’s Certificate and Certificate in Arts Leadership from the Eastman School of Music and an M.M. from the Yale School of Music.


  • Anon says:

    David Stull’s successor at Oberlin (where he was previously Dean) was also a woman, Andrea Kalyn. As a matter of fact, it’s my understanding that 3 of the 5 Assistant Deans at Oberlin are also woman.

    • Scott Foglesong says:

      Two of our former Deans at the SF Conservatory have been women — Mary Ellen Poole, who was Robert Fitzpatrick’s predecessor, and Deborah Berman, who was Dean Poole’s predecessor.

    • James says:

      Marjorie Merryman is Provost and Dean of the College at Manhattan School of Music.

      • Greg says:

        Wow, I had no idea. She was my sophomore music theory teacher at Boston U in the mid-80s. Good for her. She was great. Former Met soprano Phyllis Curtin was the dean at the time. Class act.

      • JAMA11 says:

        This is nice news; good people deserve good jobs.

        Norman being Norman, I don’t know how to interpret his claim that this is a “glass ceiling broken” and that female provosts/deans are rare at US conservatories.

        Can anyone point me to some relevant data about the place of women in this field, in the US as well as in Europe? (So often, such claims are posited as “well, in the US…” as though things are obviously totally different in Europe.)

  • maryclare brzytwa says:

    Dean AND provost.

  • Gary Lee Nelson says:

    Not so fast! David Stull, president of the SFC was previously dean at Oberlin. His successor is a woman. During my tenure we had another woman as dean and another as acting dean.Still a good thing!

  • John Porter says:

    Stull’s predecessor at Oberlin was a woman and Bob Sirota’s predecessor at MSM was also a woman.

  • Orlay Alonso says:

    To hold both positions (Provost & Dean) is a huge accomplishment! Kate Sheeran is now the top person in charge of education and the top professor overseeing the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

    Just to clarify, the Provost is the chief academic officer. Usually ranked at the Executive Vice-President level.