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ASU graduates celebrate in small gatherings on Tempe campus

School of Music, Dance and Theatre grads told to make time to be creative

About 30 students in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts celebrated two “firsts” at their graduation celebration the evening of May 4: They were the first graduates of the new School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University, and they were the first graduates to celebrate in the newly renovated courtyard outside the Nelson Fine Arts Center.

The graduates, along with their families and faculty members, gathered in a socially distanced setting at sunset. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASU is holding many small, in-person celebrations instead of one large commencement for spring 2021.

“What a wild ride it’s been for the past 14 months,” said Heather Landes, director of the school, which combined the three performance disciplines into one school for the first time.

“I want to recognize that the past year has not been easy for anyone, but especially for those of us in the performing arts.”

Landes exhorted the students to find time every day in their lives to create their art.

“Even when you’re faced with creative blocks or failure, return to your creativity and your foundation and it will help you.

“Keep making your art to bring people together from all backgrounds, to promote collaboration and to challenge the norms of our society in a tangible way. And most of all, to create community across difference.”

New graduate Liuyi Jiang is looking forward to returning to her hometown in China for the summer before pursuing a master’s degree at ASU in the fall.

“It’s been two years because of COVID and I want to see my family,” said Jiang, who would like to be a stage actor. She earned a degree in music theater performance.

“’Miss Saigon’ is my dream role and my favorite show,” she said. She performed the song “Movie in My Mind” from that show for the graduating class showcase.

“I explored all the characters and the whole show in my junior year. I analyzed the lyrics and the story and I watched the show at Gammage. I used a student ticket and was very, very close to the stage.”  

Steven Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute, told the graduates that they represent the embodied expression of artistic ideas.

“It is through you and through your bodies that our shared culture comes to life. I don’t think there is anything more noble than to put your entire being, mind and body, in the service of expressing creativity and art.

“And we are so grateful to you for dedicating that full self.”

Top image: Liuyi Jiang performs with her fellow graduates before the graduation celebration of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre on May 4 in the Nelson Fine Arts Center courtyard on the Tempe campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU News

More images from the Tempe campus celebrations

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Farmer Building Tempe graduation celebration

Students gather in the Farmer Building atrium for a photo following the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College doctoral hooding ceremony on May 4. Photo by ASU

College of Global Futures

Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

More campus celebrations

Top photo: Undergraduate musical theatre graduates sing as a choir before the start of the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts School of Music, Dance and Theatre convocation on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 4, on the Tempe campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU

marybeth.faller@asu.edu