During Lutkin’s 33-year tenure the school grew to a position of national prominence. A new music building opened, the “Beehive” practice facility was constructed, and the first honorary doctor of music degree was awarded in 1915 to Frederick Stock, conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Lutkin was succeeded in 1928 by Carl Beecher, who had earned the school’s first bachelor’s degree. Music education professor John W. Beattie was appointed the school’s third dean in 1936. During his administration the graduate program was expanded and Lutkin Hall constructed in 1941. George Howerton, a 20-year faculty veteran, assumed the deanship in 1951. Under his leadership the school established an opera program, began a series of guest artist master classes, and greatly increased the music library’s holdings. He was succeeded in 1971 by Thomas Miller, whose tenure brought sweeping revisions to the undergraduate curriculum as well as the opening of Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in 1975 and Regenstein Hall of Music in 1977. Bernard J. Dobroski became the school’s sixth dean in 1990. His term featured a new emphasis on faculty and student recruitment, expansion of course offerings for nonmajors, and community engagement programs.
In 2003 Toni-Marie Montgomery was named the school’s seventh dean—the first woman dean of the school and Northwestern’s first African American dean. Under her leadership the school established two major international awards, increased guest-artist residencies, provided all doctor of musical arts candidates with full-tuition scholarships, established the Institute for New Music, appointed the Dover Quartet as the school’s first quartet-in-residence, opened the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, and initiated a tour to Asia by the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra.
In 2008 the school was renamed the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, honoring retiring Northwestern University President Henry Bienen and his wife. The naming gift, made possible through the generosity of trustees, alumni, and friends of the University, provides an endowment for scholarships and new creative and scholarly initiatives.
Today the Bienen School of Music has an enrollment of more than 600 undergraduate and graduate students and a world-renowned faculty of 125. Students pursue degrees in performance and music studies as well as dual bachelor’s degrees. Alumni hold positions as performers, administrators, and educators in leading arts and educational institutions throughout the world.
Jonathan Bailey Holland has served as dean since 2023.