George Trudeau, director of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State since 2004 and an associate clinical professor in the College of Arts and Architecture, has announced his retirement, effective July 31, 2020.
Under Trudeau’s leadership, the Center for the Performing Arts significantly elevated its national profile for programmatic excellence and leadership in the arts, driven by substantial increases in foundation and philanthropic support. Trudeau has overseen growth of the center’s partnerships across the University and central Pennsylvania, resulting in an ever-expanding scope of artistic residencies, academic relationships and engagement programs.
“Known as a national leader among university arts presenters, George Trudeau’s advocacy for the arts within the University and the surrounding region enlivens the performing arts in central Pennsylvania,” said Barbara Korner, who retired as dean of the College of Arts and Architecture on December 31, 2019. “His commitment to fostering master classes, educational programs in community settings, and reaching students and University employees means that many more people have a chance to experience the arts in meaningful ways.”
B. Stephen Carpenter II, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture effective January 1, said the Center for the Performing Arts has thrived under Trudeau’s leadership. “During George’s time as director, the center underscored Penn State’s ability to attract world-class performers and its capacity to host relevant community-based programming in the arts. He helped shape the center as an influential arts, culture and education resource in Pennsylvania.”
Over 16 seasons, Trudeau has curated the center’s presentation of world-renowned performing artists and companies representing a broad range of artistic genres and cultural traditions. Highlights of his record of programmatic excellence include week-long runs of major Broadway productions, rotating engagements by Apollo’s Fire and Tafelmusik, two Banjo Summits, cycles of Beethoven quartets and trios, a celebration of American dancemaker Paul Taylor and a growing partnership with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, among many other artistic milestones. A highpoint of Trudeau’s artistic direction was a memorable performance in 2009 by three classical superstars—Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax—the evening prior to their concert in New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Under Trudeau’s direction, the center became an active commissioner of new work, presenting many world premieres while hosting residencies by composers and creators. A commitment to support inventive contemporary circus companies included co-commissioning and presenting three new works by the world-renowned Cirque Éloize. Trudeau brought to the center some of the most innovative artists of our time, including the Kronos Quartet, Diavolo, Maria Schneider, Engarde Arts, Roomful of Teeth and Bang on a Can All-Stars.
Significant grants during Trudeau’s tenure from the Doris Duke Charitable Trust and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have supported major multi-year innovative projects expanding the scope of the center’s engagement with academic and community partners. The Secret Life of Public Spaces project was an 18-month collaboration between the center and Penn State's Architecture, Dance, Engineering, and Landscape Architecture programs, with Los Angeles-based Diavolo dance theater as the artistic partner. The center’s Classical Music Project over eight seasons elevated its classical music program with a focus on engaging Penn State students with visiting artists and presentations. During the 2019–2020 season the center embarked on perhaps its most ambitious Mellon-funded program yet, The Reflection Project: Looking at Who WE ARE, which explores identity, community and empathy through the WE ARE lens.
Trudeau’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the arts has placed the center at the forefront of national programs that support diverse artistic voices while also cultivating organizational excellence in providing welcoming and inclusive spaces for all. In 2016 the center launched its Diversity and Inclusion Collaborative to elevate the role of the performing arts in fostering a welcoming, diverse and inclusive environment at Penn State. Trudeau serves on the National Advisory Board of Sphinx, a social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.
Trudeau’s support for fully staged operatic productions in Eisenhower Auditorium, co-produced with academic partners, has resulted in acclaimed performances of Bernstein’s “Mass” and Puccini’s “La Bohème,” and continues with the upcoming presentation of Bizet’s “Carmen” in March 2020.
Trudeau’s work to engage students with the arts has been driven by the long-term goal, established in his tenure, to make the Center for the Performing Arts one of the top three reasons students want to attend Penn State. He forged a strong partnership with Penn State Student Affairs and in 2015 led the College of Arts and Architecture’s student-focused arts celebration “ArtsUP.” The center has experienced significant growth in student attendance, leading its peers nationally, and its student engagement programs have become a national model for the field.
A strong proponent for major upgrades to Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium, Trudeau’s advocacy has helped to realize a series of significant and ongoing projects and equipment upgrades to central Pennsylvania’s premiere performance facility.
“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to serve Penn State and the communities we impact. It has been an honor and privilege to work alongside an amazing and dedicated team, engaged faculty, inspiring students, passionate donors, patrons and volunteers, and with great colleagues in the College of Arts and Architecture,“ said Trudeau. “I am very thankful to Dean Emerita Barbara Korner for all her support.It has not been an easy decision to step away at this time, but I do so knowing the center is well-positioned to continue to advance as a leader amongst university-based performing arts centers.”
The center’s national and international profile has been elevated thanks to Trudeau’s leadership in multiple professional organizations. He has served on the board of the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA), on its executive committee, and as chair of several ISPA committees. He has served on the artistic and management committees of the national commissioning consortium Music Accord. As a member of the Major University Presenters consortium, Trudeau led a delegation to China resulting in tours of Chinese performing arts companies to the United States. His long-time professional affiliations also include the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, Chamber Music America and Pennsylvania Presenters.
A long-time Rotarian, Trudeau is a member of the Rotary Club of State College Downtown and is a past president of the club.
Before coming to Penn State, Trudeau was director of performing arts at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York. He had previously served as director of the Orchestra and Wind Ensemble Division of the New England Conservatory of Music. Trudeau’s academic roles include a faculty appointment with the State University of New York and as faculty for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters course Presenting the Performing Arts.
Trudeau is the recipient of the Harold Shaw Award for Excellence in Recital Programming and Presentation and the Central New York Arts Council Award for Outstanding Service in Promoting Aesthetic Education and Collaboration in the Arts. He is a former member of the New York State DanceForce and has been a grant panelist and committee member for the New York State Council on the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour. He also served as co-chair of Upstate New York Presenters and two terms on the Northeast Performing Arts Conference Committee. Trudeau has served as consultant for the Catskill Mountain Foundation, and for the State University of New York campuses at Potsdam and Fredonia.
Trudeau is a graduate of New England Conservatory of Music and Western Washington University with degrees in music performance. He enjoyed an active professional performance career for many years as a trombonist, most notably in Seattle and Boston.
“I look forward in the years ahead to having the opportunity to give back to my profession, to take a more active role in volunteer service and enjoy time with our growing family,” Trudeau said.
PennState’s Center for the Performing Arts is a national leader in presenting a diverse program of music, dance and theatre performances, developing and presenting education and engagement programs, and commissioning new work. The center manages Penn State’s 2,500-seat Eisenhower Auditorium while providing production, ticketing and audience services for the University and other organizations.
A national search to find Trudeau’s successor will begin in the near future, with a new director anticipated to be appointed by August 1, 2020.