The Dana School of Music: 145 years and going strong

danaIn 1869, 23-year-old William Henry Dana had a dream to open a music conservatory. Dana opened his musical institute above a hardware store in downtown Warren. This year, the school celebrates its 145th anniversary as the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University.

Throughout its history, the Dana School of Music has shaped conductors, producers, professional recording artists and featured soloists that travel around the globe to perform. It is one of the oldest music schools in the country, and its orchestras, concert bands and choirs continue to receive recognition for their achievements.

John Wilcox, director of the Dana Symphony and Chamber orchestras, said that it has been an honor to teach at the Dana School of Music for the past 35 years.

“We like to create a nurturing environment for our students. We want them to actually take what we teach them into the real world,” Wilcox said. “Our faculty has been known for our commitment to our students. No matter if it is one-on-one or in a classroom…all of them [the students] are fantastic.”

When he first opened his school, Dana turned it into a miniature college campus, filled with musical organizations, fraternities and sororities, church services and holiday celebrations.

In 1941, Dana’s Musical Institute became a part of Youngstown College. After the institute became a part of Youngstown College, the faculty and students of the music department insisted to change the name. Dana’s Musical Institute became the Dana School of Music. In 1977, the Dana School of Music moved into the new Bliss Hall, where it currently is housed.

Steven Weeden, a senior fashion merchandising major, said that although he is not a music major, he has played in the symphony and chamber orchestras throughout his college career.

“I played the violin in high school, and I wanted to keep up with it after I graduated,” Weeden said. “It was such a great opportunity to play some of the best pieces known world wide such as last year’s Beethoven [Ninth Symphony].”

Weeden said that the professors and instructors he has had over the years have dedicated their time to helping students flourish into the great musicians they hope to one day become.

Joe Testa, a sophomore biology major, said that he played in the Dana Symphony as a freshman cellist.

“The music was really challenging, and I felt lucky to be a part of it because there was always a guest conductor from different countries,” Testa said. “It was a really awesome experience getting to play with the Dana Chorale, too.”

One of the mission statements of the Dana School of Music is to “create diverse education experience that develops ethical, intellectually curious students who are invested in their communities.”

Wilcox said that he could see the Dana School of Music continuing for another 145 years.

“We need to keep teaching what needs to be taught and also keep the traditions going that we have had at the school,” Wilcox said. “We recreate and interpret music that has been around for over 300 years. We compete with schools like Kent State, Bowling Green and Akron, and, so far, we have done an amazing job with recruiting fantastic musicians and also a fine faculty.”