(Above: James Moeser with Mark Kleinschmidt at last month’s WCHL Community Forum.)

CHAPEL HILL – UNC Chancellor Emeritus James Moeser has been appointed as the new interim chancellor at the UNC School of the Arts.

Moeser will take over the position on August 1—succeeding John Mauceri, who announced last fall that he’d be stepping down after seven years in the post. Mauceri will step down on June 30; provost David Nelson will serve as acting chancellor through July. A search committee will begin looking for the next permanent chancellor in the coming months.

UNC System President Tom Ross issued the following statement upon his appointment of Moeser: “James Moeser’s vast administrative experience and his demonstrated love of and commitment to the arts and humanities make him uniquely qualified to lead the School of the Arts during a time of transition. He understands the many challenges and opportunities before this very special campus of the University, and I am grateful that he has agreed to accept this important assignment. UNCSA will be in very capable hands during this interim period.”

Moeser holds a doctorate of musical arts from the University of Michigan; he specializes in organ performance. He served as chancellor at UNC from 2000-2008.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Moeser on Thursday.


AARON KECK: Congratulations.

JAMES MOESER: Thank you, Aaron.

AK: So how did it all come about?

JM: It came about in a phone call from Tom Ross, who got me at home one day and said, ‘I don’t think you have enough to do.’

AK (laughing): Was he right?

JM (laughing): I–no. I don’t think–I said, ‘You’re not right, I’ve got plenty to do and I’m very happy, thank you very much.’

AK: So how long was the process that began with that?

JM: Actually, it was just a few conversations…To make a long story short, what happened at the School of the Arts was (that) they had a search for a chancellor which ultimately failed–they had a couple of really strong candidates, and their number-one candidate, whom I thought–and they thought–was coming, ultimately decided to stay where she was. Their second candidate dropped out–and the rest of the field wasn’t all that attractive. And I think there are some issues that really need to be dealt with over there that I think I can help with over the course of the next year. I told the chair of their board that my job was to make this the most attractive position I can, so that they’ll have a very successful search (when they) start it up again in the fall. So I’m anticipating being over there really for the academic year, not longer.

AK: Are you going to be involved in the search process at all?

JM: Not at all. Only until they bring people in and want me to talk with them…then I’ll help them sell the place, but no, I won’t be involved in the search at all.

AK: So what are your specific plans to move forward as chancellor for the coming year? What are you looking forward to doing?

JM: Well, I don’t know the people over there, so the first thing I’ll do is meet with the leadership team. One of the things I want to do is make sure the leadership team is working effectively and working as a team–that’s the way I led this university (UNC-CH) and that’s my style, to be the captain of the team but let the team really be important…

The School of the Arts is a very small place–as President Ross said, it’s a much smaller job than the one I had before–but it also happens to be in a field that I happen to know pretty well. It’s not unlike the two colleges or schools that I was dean of at Penn State and Kansas, both schools of fine arts–this is just performing arts. But this is right in my wheelhouse, and I have a lot of experience of being the chief administrator of an arts school. So it’ll be kind of fun to go back to my roots.

The School of the Arts is an incredibly fine institution–it’s the only publicly supported conservatory in the U.S., its students are just dazzlingly great–it’s one of the jewels in North Carolina’s crown, and it’s a very special place. So I just want to help them be successful.

AK: Best of luck to you.

JM: And the last piece of news is (that) I’m taking a leave from Carolina, but my intention is to come back and still be active here when this is over.