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USU Fills Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair for Elementary Arts

Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011

Sylvia Munsen joins USU as endowed chair for elementary arts education

Sylvia Munsen joins the faculty at Utah State University as the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair for Elementary Arts Education.

The Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services and the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University announced that Sylvia Munsen is joining the university as the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair for Elementary Arts Education. In this position, Munsen will develop the skills of those who teach arts to elementary students, teaching university students how to incorporate music, dance, drama and visual arts into the core curriculum of English, science, math and social studies.

Munsen was introduced at a special event April 15 that honored arts advocate Beverley Taylor Sorenson for her many contributions made to arts and education in the state of Utah. The event featured an arts program including elementary- and high school-aged student performances, the USU Chorale and a student artwork display.

Beth Foley, dean of the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, said Sorenson deserves special recognition for helping to return arts education to Utah classrooms through her philanthropy and her work with the state legislature, educators and business and community leaders.

“Mrs. Sorenson has long recognized that the arts, including music, dance, theater and visual arts, play a vital role in supplementing the academic experiences of children and helping them to integrate learning across the curriculum,” Foley said.

Foley noted research by Stanford University and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching that shows that children who participate in the arts are:

  • 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement
  • 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair
  • 3 times more likely to be elected to class office in their school
  • 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem.

Research also shows that high school students who take arts classes have higher verbal and math SAT scores than students who take no arts classes. High school students involved in the arts have higher graduation rates than those who do not have arts experiences. Other research findings indicate that music instruction enhances the same higher brain functions required for mathematics, chess, science and engineering.

“Mrs. Sorenson sees the magic in children, the creative spark and potential inside each one, and she urges us to nurture those qualities,” Foley said. “She knows that the arts transcend poverty, transcend language barriers, transcend disability and transcend ethnic and cultural boundaries.” 


In her new role at USU, Munsen will coordinate arts education workshops on campus for classroom teachers and arts specialists. With special experience in choral music education for youth choirs, Munsen will teach children’s vocal sessions, coordinate and conduct various choral festivals and choirs, as well as provide artistic leadership for the Cache Children’s Choir program.

“The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair for Elementary Arts Education is an important addition to the college and to the university, because it teaches educators how to effectively incorporate arts education across the curriculum in their classrooms,” Foley said. “We are grateful to have this endowed chair, as the arts play a vital role in student behavior, engagement and performance.”

Munsen will be housed in the College of Education and Human Services, but her position as endowed chair is intended to be a collaborative effort between the College of Education and Human Services and the Caine College of the Arts.

“The training teachers receive from both colleges will be complementary,” said Craig Jessop, dean of the Caine College of the Arts. “The College of Education trains teachers exceptionally well to go out into elementary school classrooms, and these teachers will receive important training and mentorship from our arts professionals in the Caine College. Teachers will learn to incorporate art into their curriculum in innovative ways, and Dr. Munsen will coordinate the program to ensure a special experience for each of them.”

Munsen has more than 30 years of experience in music education, formerly serving as the chair of music education at Iowa State University. There, she mentored university students of arts education and founded and conducted the Ames Children’s Choirs, which developed into a widely recognized program of choral excellence for youth. Munsen has conducted more than 45 honor and festival choirs, some of which have been selected by juried CD selection to perform concerts and conduct demonstration workshops for prestigious regional, national and international conferences and festivals.

“We are thrilled Sylvia has chosen to share her extensive musical talent and teaching experience with Utah State University, which will benefit not only students, but the surrounding community,” Foley said. “Sylvia is a great fit for our college because, like much of our faculty, she is already known across the country for her superior work.”

Jessop said the collaborative venture of the College of Education and Human Services and the Caine College of the Arts with Beverly Sorenson’s Endowed Chair for Arts Education at USU is a perfect match, and he praised Munsen.

“With the appointment of Sylvia Munsen as the endowed chair recipient, we bring to USU an arts educator and performer of international stature,” Jessop said.

“The College of Education and Human Services at USU has achieved national recognition for its excellence in research and education, and I am excited to be a part of the outstanding work taking place in that college and in the Caine College of the Arts,” Munsen said. “Artistic experience enhances the quality of life and is central to the education of the ‘whole child.’ I am honored to support endeavors of excellence in the arts for children, who are the future leaders of our communities.”

With numerous degrees and certificates in teaching and music, Munsen has a deep range of scholarship and creative activity. Her professional expertise has taken her across the country teaching music education workshops, presenting choral demonstrations and conducting choral festivals, in addition to mentoring future arts educators. She has published choral octavos and arrangements nationally and internationally.

Munsen earned her bachelor of arts in music education at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., as well as a master of science in music education and a doctor of education in music education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Related links:

USU Caine College of the Arts

USU Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services

Writer: Tim Vitale, 435-797-1356,

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