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Theatre and music merge

Fred Fountain and his wife Elizabeth celebrating with Dal theatre and music students (Press photo)
Fred Fountain and his wife Elizabeth celebrating with Dal theatre and music students (Press photo)

Dalhousie University’s theatre and music departments will merge into the Fountain School of Performing Arts on July 1, 2014.

With a gift of $10 million from the family of Fred Fountain, Dal’s chancellor, going towards the development of the school, the arts community at Dalhousie anticipates the changes ahead.

Rob McClure, chair of the theatre department, says this is an “extraordinary opportunity” for the theatre and music departments.

A large portion of the donation will go towards undergraduate and graduate scholarships.

“Nationally and internationally we’re going to try to make this a destination school, certainly on the east coast of Canada,” says McClure. “It’s the only school of its kind east of Montreal.”

The process of merging the schools has been under development for over a year, since the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences heard the Fountain family was making a substantial donation.

Second-year acting student Ivy Charles says “I’m so excited about this. We had a big celebration for it. Basically, it includes new scholarships for undergraduate students like me. Since I’m in second year I’m going to benefit a lot from that.”

The donation, which will be invested over the next five years, will also go toward outreach initiatives, the sponsoring of guest artists and excellence awards.

“Arts are definitely one of the least supported things, especially in Halifax,” says Charles. “We have such a good arts community and it really deserves support from the general public, so we’re all very happy that we’re finally getting such a big donation for the school.”

Charles hopes the changes will increase the profile of theatre and music in Halifax.

“I think it helps to get the community supporting the arts more because if we are taken more seriously within the community then people will begin taking us more serious, as artists,” says Charles.

“I feel there’s a certain reputation with artists, that we’re just not going to go very far and that sort of thing, and that’s just not true.”

According to Statscan, a total of $800,000 in revenue after expenses was generated by the performing arts industry in Nova Scotia in 2010.

The total revenue earned was $18,500,000. Of that, $5,700,000 went towards salaries, wages and benefits offered.

Fountain said in May that a lot of areas of Dalhousie achieved very large support from its Bold Ambitions fundraising campaign, but nothing dramatic for theatre and music, and “the funding for the arts tends to be the last on the list.”

McClure says it’s always a struggle in the arts.

The arts are invaluable to living in the world today,” says McClure. “That we need them desperately to know why we’re here, what it is to be human.”

Jesse Ward
Jesse Ward
Jesse, editor-in-chief of the Gazette, is a fifth-year student of journalism at Dalhousie and the University of King’s College. He started university with three years of experience writing for Teens Now Talk magazine, where he is now copy editor. Before writing a story Jesse likes to think about how his metal detector could finally be useful in researching this one, but there is never a way it could be. Jesse has produced writing and interactive features for and The Chronicle Herald. He may be followed on Twitter, @RealJesseWard, or from the Gazette office on Mondays around 8 p.m. to his home in West End Halifax. Email Jesse at

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