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University of Arizona appoints alum to lead Fred Fox School of Music

University of Arizona appoints alum to lead Fred Fox School of Music

“I am so pleased to be back,” says Lori Wiest, 59, who comes to the UA from Washington State University.

The University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music’s newly named director won’t need a map to get around campus when she arrives in Tucson in early August.

Even though it’s been nearly 30 years since she stepped foot on the UA campus, Lori Wiest is very familiar with the school of music, where she earned her doctorate in choral conducting.

On July 1, she officially becomes the new director of the Fred Fox School, replacing interim director Rex Woods. Woods has kept the seat warm through the 2019-20 school year after Ed Reid stepped down late last summer.

“When I saw the virtual tour of the Fred Fox school, it just felt like home,” Wiest said Thursday, the day after the UA announced her appointment following an extensive national search. “I’m so excited to be back.”

Wiest expects to be on campus Aug. 1 after tying up loose ends in Pullman, Washington, where she has taught and held administrative positions at Washington State University since 1991.

Wiest’s ties to Arizona go back to the mid-1980s, when she moved to the state to pursue her master’s degree at Arizona State University.

Having grown up in the cold climes of North Dakota, “I remember that opportunity to sit outside and have my lunch without boots and a big coat,” she said.

But it is the makeup of the Fred Fox school, from the students and alumni and the faculty, and the idea that the school is under the umbrella of the College of Fine Arts, which includes the dance and visual arts programs, that Wiest finds most appealing. The music school at WSU is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, which includes everything from women’s studies to politics, sociology and criminal justice.

Being part of fine arts will enable Wiest to explore collaborations with the dance program and visual arts in a way that she was unable to at WSU.

Wiest said her goals include collaborations with faculty and other departments on campus, and to “provide pathways for our students, for our graduates, that they are prepared for their careers in the 21st century,” including in areas of industry and health sciences.

“We live in a world that has such complex problems and I think the creativity of an artist is needed in how we solve problems,” she said.

Wiest is only the second woman to hold the UA music school’s top job and the first one in more than 25 years, according to UA officials.

“Dr. Wiest clearly emerged (as) the candidate best suited to build on the considerable strengths of the school, and to work collaboratively with faculty and staff to look toward new ways to prepare our graduates for the new opportunities and challenges of the coming years,” Andrew Schulz, dean of the College of Fine Arts and vice president for the arts, said in a written statement.

“She comes to us with a wealth of administrative experience, and I look forward to working closely with her to further enhance the visibility and reputation of the school.”

“I am so pleased to be back,” said Wiest, 59. “It’s truly kind of that dream that I am returning to a place that I’ve been engaged with as an alum and when I was a student there. True honor.”

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

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