The University of Nevada, Las Vegas’s College of Fine Arts, a creative nexus anchored within the vibrant and diverse culture of Las Vegas, boldly launches visionaries who transform the global community through collaboration, scholarship, and innovation. Being a student of fine arts means heightening your physical, intellectual and cultural awareness. UNLV’s fine arts program prepares students for professional careers by helping them hone and perfect their talents. A wide array of campus venues, including theatres, performance halls, studios and an architectural library, are available to students as they pursue their passions. Our artist-in-residence program brings pre-eminent creators to UNLV. It also brings them into the classroom.
At UNLV we illuminate the power of the arts amidst breathtaking advancements in science and technology. In doing so, we are creating a global destination at the forefront of transforming arts and design. To accomplish this we encourage agency, inventiveness, problem-solving, and big-idea thinking in our students, faculty, and staff. We make education relevant through curriculum and effective learning outcomes. We are passionate and compassionate, principled and supportive, joyful and kind. We believe in inclusion, invention, transformation, engagement, and rigor. These vital principles underpin all our efforts and guide us in fulfilling our mission.
The UNLV College of Fine Arts includes the School of Architecture, School of Music, Department of Art, Department of Dance, Entertainment Engineering and Design, Department of Film, Department of Theatre, and UNLV Performing Arts Center.
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Dr. Nancy J. Uscher is Dean of the College of Fine Arts and presidential professor of music. She oversees seven departments and schools, eight curated gallery spaces, including the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art; six theatre venues, and the UNLV Performing Arts Center.
Prior to joining UNLV in 2016, Dr. Uscher was president of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle for five years. Before that, she was provost for seven years–and for six months co-acting president–of the California Institute of the Arts, where she also was on the music faculty. Dr. Uscher previously spent 12 years at the University of New Mexico as professor of music, and, at various times, associate provost, department chair and center director. She also taught in the women studies program.
A concert violist, Dr. Uscher earned her bachelor’s degree in music at the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY, her master’s degree in music at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and her Ph.D. from New York University. She also holds a certificate of advanced study and A.R.C.M. from the Royal College of Music in London and also studied at The Juilliard School in New York City.
Dr. Uscher had an international career as a violist that spanned more than two decades, including six years as co-principal violist of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and performances on six continents. She has recorded works of Mendelssohn, Shostakovich and Hindemith for the Stereophile and Musical Heritage Society labels. In addition to guest teaching and coaching in more than 20 countries, Dr. Uscher has authored two books and more than a score of articles, mainly for music publications. She is a past board member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, and past vice chair and board member of the American Composers Forum.
As Learning Technologist for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Fine Arts, Dr. Yvonne Houy supports faculty in all of its seven areas (Architecture, Art, Entertainment Engineering Design, Dance, Film, Music and Theatre)—over 120 tenured and tenure-track faculty, part-time professors of practice and graduate teaching assistants. Her goal is to improve faculty satisfaction and student learning outcomes through a wide variety of online educational resources for in-person, hybrid and fully online courses.
A graduate of Cornell University (M.A. & Ph.D.) and the University of California, Berkeley (B.A.), and former Visiting Assistant Professor at the highly selective, liberal arts-focused Pomona College, Dr. Houy understands the needs and challenges of higher education institutions that value research, teaching, and diversity. This is enhanced by her interdisciplinary career: After earning her Ph.D. in the Humanities with a media studies emphasis, she followed her interest in online learning technologies and computer programming to become a learning technologist and professional development facilitator.
Believing deeply in the power of learning to drive equity, she is an active member of the international Computer Science For All movement, and, since 2016, a national professional development facilitator for the Code.org Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles curriculum. At the regional level, she has produced events such as the Las Vegas Maker Faire, the local STEAM educators’ showcase Explore.Learn.Inspire., the interdisciplinary Las Vegas Make-a-thon 2.0 on the future of experience design, and online transdisciplinary design charrettes to transform arts education. In all these projects and her courses she enjoys teaching artists and designers how to use coding and mobile app development as a new creative “canvas.”
Influenced by Design Thinking and Aikido, she is known in the UNLV community as a resource who bridges divergent perspectives for productive collaborations. She has facilitated Design Sprints, transdisciplinary program development discussions, chairs the College of Fine Arts Work Climate Task Force, and is a trained mediator. She serves on the UNLV Faculty Technology Advisory Board and the UNLV Senate Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, and is an active member in the UNLV Office of Online Education Community of Practice. These efforts all support College of Fine Arts’ goals to broaden student access and expand awareness of UNLV’s contributions to the Arts.
Her scholarship focuses on socially and culturally disruptive mobile technologies, propaganda technologies and techniques, and research-based best practices for online student engagement, which is intertwined with her interests in Flow experiences, mental states conducive to productivity and creativity, and her 15+ years of experience in Aikido, the martial art known for balancing conflict resolution and collaboration.
Stephen Caplan’s performances have been heard at venues throughout the world, including the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and have been featured on several recordings. His solo recording of American music for the oboe, A Tree in Your Ear, has received international acclaim.
Principal oboist with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, Dr. Caplan also plays in orchestras accompanying popular superstars on the Las Vegas Strip. His eclectic performance background includes professional affiliations with a baroque period-instrument ensemble and a Sousa style concert band, as well as soundtracks for television and film. He has been a concerto soloist with numerous orchestras throughout the United States and in Europe. Caplan is the only performing artist to receive the Nevada Arts Council’s prestigious Artist Fellowship Award three times, and was awarded the 2017 Fellowship Project Grant, resulting in a series of teaching and performance videos.
With the Sierra Winds, Caplan made six critically acclaimed recordings and was the recipient of numerous awards including the Nevada Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Caplan is author of two books, Oboemotions: What Every Oboe Player Needs to Know about the Body, and The Breathing Book. He has developed innovative coursework for music students incorporating a better understanding of the body in performance, and has been a guest clinician for music programs internationally. He has a Bachelor of Music from Northwestern University and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan, and is a licensed Body Mapping Educator. Caplan is a Buffet Group USA Performing Artist.
Janis McKay is an academic leader, author, and musician residing in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is Vice Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Professor of Music in the School of Music at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Musical appointments include Principal Bassoonist of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, Contrabassoonist of the Reno Philharmonic, and Principal Bassoonist of the Classical Music Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria.
In 2020, McKay was appointed Vice Dean for the UNLV College of Fine Arts where she, in partnership with the Dean, faculty, and staff, ensures the mission and strategic initiatives of the college are carried out within the broad scope of the university’s communities. Prior to her appointment as Vice Dean and while serving as a longtime member of the UNLV faculty, McKay held the positions of Chair of the UNLV Faculty Senate (’19-’20) and Vice Chair in the previous term (’18-’19). In this role, she helped to oversee the promotion and implementation of shared governance and a presidential search at the R1 institution – a title given by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. As Professor of Music, McKay maintains a vibrant bassoon studio of young arts professionals and has taught numerous undergraduate and graduate courses in musicology and research. Academic areas of focus include local & state music history, Igor Stravinsky, Russian music, symphonic music, and music of the Classical & Contemporary periods. She previously taught at Baylor University, Capital University, Ohio Wesleyan University, and Wright State University.
As a musician, McKay has held positions and performed with numerous ensembles including Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Reno Chamber Orchestra, Canton Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Orchestra, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, and Louisville Orchestra among many others. As a freelance musician, McKay has performed and toured with artists such as Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Charlotte Church, John Williams, Seth MacFarlane, Kelly Clarkson, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Metallica, Stevie Wonder, and Tony Bennett. McKay has been a featured soloist twice with the International Music Festival in Ukraine, twice with the Classical Music Festival touring Austria and Hungary, and once with the Las Vegas Philharmonic. She can be heard on Summit, d’Note, Starkland Records, and First Edition recordings. Her solo album “Dark Wind” was released by Troppo Note Publishing in 2017.
McKay has published articles in the New Grove Dictionary of American Music and in Cuepoint (Medium). She is the author of a book about Las Vegas casino musicians, Played Out on the Strip: The Rise and Fall of Las Vegas Casino Bands, published by University of Nevada Press in 2016. She received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from The Ohio State University, a Master of Music degree from the University of Louisville, and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Georgia. Her major teachers were Christopher Weait, Matthew Karr, and William Davis.
American baritone Tod Fitzpatrick, D.M.A., is an active singer, teacher and researcher. Some of the organizations with which he has performed include the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera, Opera Pacific, the Virginia Symphony, Virginia Opera, the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra, the Britten-Pears Programme in Aldeborough, the San Francisco Opera Center, the Tanglewood Music Center, the Sacramento Choral Society, the Las Vegas Philharmonic, and the Utah Festival Opera Company.
Dr. Fitzpatrick can be heard on a recent recording of songs by American composer Celius Dougherty, released on Meyer Media Recordings, titled “Traditional American Folk Songs.” He can also be heard on a 2017 Albany Records recording of American art songs, titled “Love the Fair Day: Songs and Duets from the Second New England School.”
In the fall of 2015, Fitzpatrick was invited to present his research on “Performance Practice and Vocal Registration in Gustav Mahler’s “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen” at the Pan-American Vocology Association (PAVA) Symposium. He presented a study entitled “The Professional Las Vegas Singing Performer: An Assessment of Performance Activity, Environmental Influences and Vocal Demands” at PAVA in conjunction with the Fall Voice Conference in October of 2016.
Fitzpatrick was awarded the UNLV College of Fine Arts “Teacher of the Year Award” in 2014, and recently taught lessons and master classes at Chapman University, the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, California State University, Sacramento, the University of Notre Dame, and Baldwin Wallace Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. He was the Cal-Western Regional Governor for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) from 2010-2014, and coordinated the prestigious NATS Intern Program; he will serve as the Program Committee Chair for the upcoming NATS national conference.
Currently, Fitzpatrick hosts a weekly radio program on KUNV dedicated to the creative work of students and faculty titled “The Musicians’ Compendium,” and he also serves as the Associate Director of the School of Music.
Norma Saldivar arrived to UNLV in 2017 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison where she was a Professor in the Department of Theatre & Drama teaching acting, directing and leading the stage management curriculum. During her 20 years in Madison, she served the Theatre & Drama department as producing director, head of Graduate Directing, and executive director of the UW Arts Institute, where she oversaw the Interdisciplinary Arts in Residency Program, the Arts Awards, and the annual Wisconsin Film Festival. She is a proud member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SDC) and has directed shows across the country at leading regional theatres. She holds her BFA in Acting from Illinois Wesleyan University and her MFA in Theatre-Directing from the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign.