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McNally Smith College of Music Spring 2009 Commencement

On Saturday, May 2, 2009, McNally Smith College of Music held its Spring 2009 commencement ceremony at the History Theatre on the college’s campus in downtown Saint Paul. The event was a spirited celebration of the more than 50 students receiving degrees and diplomas, highlighted by Grammy® winner Dan Wilson’s keynote address. Speeches by McNally Smith President Harry Chalmiers and graduate Christopher “Max” Corcoran, musical performances, and the conferring of degrees and diplomas by Dean of Academic Affairs Cliff Wittstruck were also warmly greeted by graduates and the large crowd of supportive family, faculty and friends.

Harry Chalmiers welcomed the crowd early in the ceremony and introduced dignitaries on the stage. Introducing the college’s founders Jack McNally and Doug Smith, Chalmiers referred to the two as “courageous” and “visionaries.” Reflecting on the growth of the school since its start in 1985, Chalmiers added, “Not bad for a couple of guitar players.”

Vice President of Organizational Development Chris Osgood introduced Chris Corcoran, who spoke on behalf of the graduates. A Summa Cum Laude graduate with a Bachelors of Music in Performance (Brass & Woodwind), Corcoran gave a heartfelt address that included pondering the answer to the question, “What are you going to do with a degree in music.” He noted that it’s a question he gets from peers, family, friends and “even strangers” (which drew a knowing and amused reaction from the crowd). Corcoran’s message of pursuing a career that makes you happy was especially fitting.

Dan Wilson was next to speak, and he brought an abundance of music industry experience to his topic. Wilson, a Grammy® winning songwriter, an acclaimed solo artist, a founder of the group Semisonic, and a member of the late, great Trip Shakespeare, will serve as an Artist in Residence during the 2009 / 2010 McNally Smith academic year. Introducing his topic, Wilson said, “I’m here to talk about what happens next.” He urged the class of graduates to “get in the pool.” By collaborating with others, and helping others achieve their goals, Wilson relayed that musicians create a community – and access to music executives and opportunities will come to that community. “Don’t save your ideas, spend them,” Wilson advised. “Get them into circulation.” He also added that by going straight to the audience with musical ideas, the audience will “refine your work in the most ruthless and efficient way.” His mix of practical advice and philosophical reflections on the music business was refreshing and extremely positive.

An outstanding performance by the MSCM Classical Guitar Ensemble greeted guests and graduates as they entered the History Theatre. As a prelude to the conferring of degrees and diplomas, the McNally Smith Contemporary Vocal Ensemble performed a moving rendition of “In the Silence of Time.” Faculty representatives from each department greeted their graduates with a diploma or degree certificate in a very personal ceremony. With degrees conferred, grads and guests reveled in the moment at a reception following the ceremony. From there, the graduates walked out of the building, headed for the pool.

Read Dan WIlson’s Speech Here