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New director wants to conduct new era in School of Music

Sara House
The Center of Performing Arts is located at 1325 Theatre Drive on campus.

Music has always played a major part of Sarah Labovitz’s world, and now she says it is the biggest pillar in her current career position. 

At the age of three, Labovitz had a Fisher Price build-your-own instrument kit. Whenever she saw someone making music on television, she would create replicas of the instruments and mimic their movements. 

 “Sesame Street had this fusion jazz tune about the birds in Bird Land,” Labovitz said. “I would take my little kit and put it together to make it look like a saxophone and play along.” 

An extensive music background

Fisher Price instruments were just the beginning of Labovitz’s life of music and career in music education. Labovitz, who became director of the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music in July, said she uses her education and passion to build Kent’s music program.   

While attending Firestone High School in Akron, Labovitz knew she wanted to become a music educator. She said she was constantly learning how to play more instruments and working on perfecting her craft.   

“For every birthday or for Christmas, I would always ask for another instrument,” she said.

Sarah Labovitz became the director of the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music in July 2023. (Courtesy of Kent State University)

Labovitz is trained in clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, flute, piano and euphonium.  

After graduating high school, Labovitz attended Bowling Green State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Education in 2004.  She then accepted a position as the director of instrumental music at Lorain Admiral King High School in Lorain. 

In 2010, Labovitz earned her master’s in Music Education from Indiana University and worked as the director of bands and coordinator of music education at Athens High School in Athens. 

While Labovitz worked towards her doctorate in wind conducting from Kansas University, she was also the director of athletic bands at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. 

Labovitz later moved to Arkansas and worked in various music education roles at Arkansas State University for 11 years. 

This is where she found an interest in administration.   

“I was looking for administrating positions, and when I saw that this job was open at Kent State, in a part of the world that I knew, I was very interested,” she said. “The combination of it being close to my family and it having the ensembles, the classes and the majors that I get excited about is what drew me to the position.” 

A focus on improvements

Bret Peppo, interim director of choral activities in the School of Music, said the importance of recruiting the best performers for art programs is similar to athletic recruiting. 

As a band director, Labovitz has experience with recruiting students. She knows how important those strategies and ideas are, and she understands that without recruiting, the program is unable to grow, Peppo said.     

Labovitz also has plans to update the Center of the Performing Arts infrastructure, she said, including renovating the bathrooms outside of Ludwig Recital Hall to make them ADA compliant and adding more spaces for students to use within the building.  

Labovitz said she wants to improve the logistical work of the school while also keeping music at the center of the program.

“I am an advocate for music and music education,” she said. “I would encourage everyone to stay involved with music. It is so good for us physically, mentally and morally, and it can be such a positive factor in our lives both directly and indirectly. I like to say, ‘A musical world is a happy world.’”

In the few months he has worked with Labovitz, Peppo said he would describe the director as honest and sincere in the new role. 

“She cares about you as a teacher, musician but also as a whole person,” he said. 

A connected vision 

Labovitz said she wants to have an open line of communication with everyone involved in the university’s music program. 

“I am making it a point to meet with all School of Music faculty,” she said. “There are lots of meetings so that we can not only continue the day-to-day business but also look ahead and discuss how we’re going to enact change moving forward.” 

Labovitz stressed she wants to have continuous conversations with the students, as well.  

Senior music education major Alex McPherson said Labovitz has already assisted students with their own goals for the School of Music.

“I think she’s done a great job of putting herself out there to connect with students in her first year,” he said. “She is very much a ‘the door is always open’ kind of person. I was able to just walk into her office and talk with her.” 

McPherson said some students want to form a Student Advisory Council, which will feature a diverse group of students from across the school collectively bringing their concerns to the director.  Labovitz said she likes the idea because it would bring more opportunities for communication.

“I want to be an agent of positive change,” Labovitz said. “If any of my School of Music students have any questions, concerns or hurdles that are keeping them from reaching their goals, I have implored all of them to come and talk to me. I mean that 100 percent.

“Life is going to throw lots of things at us, and I want to be there to encourage folks to stay steadfast in their goals. If something is happening that’s making it harder to achieve them, come find me. I can’t guarantee a solution, but I guarantee I’ll listen and help try to find a solution.” 

Abigail Kinney is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

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    LizDec 8, 2023 at 11:45 am

    The entire building’s bathrooms need to be renovated for ADA compliance. I was a member of Kent Chorus, (I’m currently pursuing graduate studies and on hiatus from KC), and it would take me fifteen.minutes to leave the choral room, get on the elevator, go down to the accessible bathroom near Ludwig, and make the return trip. I use crutches and can walk fairly quickly with them. It is time for the plumbers to get into action and make the third floor (and second floor) toilets ADA accessible.