Peter Witte, dean of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance since 2008, will soon be leaving Kansas City for Stockton, California. The University of the Pacific announced on Wednesday that Witte had accepted the job as dean of their Conservatory of Music.
This news comes at a critical time for the UMKC downtown arts campus at the corner of 17th and Broadway, just south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
The city of Kansas City, Missouri, and private donors have pledged $48 million for a new Conservatory building and the property — contingent on matching state funds. And last week, a Missouri House Committee voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill to secure the remainder of the funding.
"It’s a chance for the state of Missouri and the university system to get almost a $100 million building for half price," said Lee's Summit Republican Mike Cierpiot, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, as a guest on Statehouse Blend Missouri. "It will be a wonderful asset for UMKC and for the state, I think."
The bill is scheduled for a rules committee hearing on Monday. If recommended, it will head to the House floor.
A new downtown arts campus for UMKC has been a primary focus for Witte since it was announced as a Big 5 idea in 2011. He described the decision to move to California as "the right thing" for his family. "This opportunity just presented itself and the fit just felt fantastic."
"Kansas City is a remarkable community," said Witte. "Our family showed up, we believe, at just the right time. And the way that this city has opened up its arms and heart to us as a family, but also to the Conservatory and what it represents to Kansas City's future. It's a story and a time that will stay in my heart forever."
In a statement, UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton praised Witte for his "eight years of exceptional service to UMKC and our Conservatory."
Morton added, "In terms of local impact, it’s important to remember that while Peter’s leadership has been a major benefit to the campaign to create a new Downtown Campus for the UMKC Conservatory, the broad and deep civic support for that effort from the Greater Kansas City Community has been a team effort and has always been based on the Conservatory’s historic strengths and global reputation."
Additional reporting by C.J. Janovy and courtesy of Statehouse Blend Missouri.
Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer.