The History of VanderCook College of Music

VanderCook College of Music traces its roots to 1909, when Hale A. VanderCook established the institution as a school where professional musicians could learn to function as public school band directors. The early curriculum focused upon techniques for developing skills in conducting, music composition and arrangement, organizing the high school band program, performing music with expression, and principles of musical performance. This early program was offered in an old brownstone on Chicago’s west side neighborhood to groups of six to eight students. A “hands-on” performance-oriented learning environment – essentially an expanded music teaching studio – characterized the program.

The college’s reputation as a teacher-training institution grew through the early decades of the 20th century, in part because of correspondence courses in conducting and cornet performance that were marketed nationwide. Also, early monographs on teaching the high school band and musical expression were widely disseminated, as were an extensive series of solos and ensembles for young band students. 

In 1928, the college was incorporated as a not-for-profit educational institution and a curriculum designed to prepare music teachers was recognized by the State of Illinois. Largely through the work of Hubert E. Nutt, co-founder of the college, VanderCook became one of the first three institutions in the United States to offer a degree in instrumental music teacher education.

Although the curriculum has expanded, to this day it remains exclusively focused upon music teacher education, the only such institution in the United States. The 3,500 living alumni of the college teach music to school children in most states of the country and abroad.

Learn more about the history of VanderCook


Dr. Roseanne K. Rosenthal


Dr. Roseanne Rosenthal is no stranger to the role of president at VanderCook. She previously served as president from 1989 to 2004 and has remained active on the faculty ever since. She currently teaches coursework in methods of music teaching, research, technology and education psychology; supervises student teachers; and coordinates graduate master’s projects for the college’s famed summer master’s degree program. 

Dr. Rosenthal received her Bachelor of Music degree from SUNY Fredonia, and Master of Science and Doctor of Education degrees from Syracuse University under the direction of Dr. Cornelia Yarbrough. She is the current chair of the Board of Directors of Ada S. McKinley Community Services, and serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Music Education. She is the former president of the Illinois Music Educators Association, and former chair of the Music Education Research Council for the National Association for Music Education. Dr. Rosenthal previously served on the editorial board of the Journal for Research in Music Education, and has published and presented research articles pertaining to music teacher education and music learning.

Cindy Tovar
Director of Admissions & Alumni Relations 


Cindy Tovar (BMEd ‘00) is the Director of Admissions and Alumni Relations at VanderCook. Devoted to the mission of the college, she has been serving on staff ever since earning her bachelor’s degree. She began working in the Band Office as part of a summer student crew and was later assigned as the Assistant to the Undergraduate Dean. In 2004, she became the Director of Outreach and Ensembles Coordinator until becoming Assistant to the President in 2009.

In addition to administrative duties, Tovar serves as the building monitor, ensuring a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students. She works closely with student leaders and is the staff advisor for VanderCook's student chapter of NAfME (National Association for Music Education). Outside of VanderCook, Tovar serves on the Midwest Clinic conference staff and is an alumni board member at St. Benedict High School.

Stacey Larson Dolan
Dean of Undergraduate Studies &
Associate Director of Bands


Professor Stacey Larson Dolan (MMEd '98) is Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor of Music at VanderCook, where she teaches music education courses, conducting courses and band at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Dolan enjoyed success teaching elementary, middle and high school music before joining the faculty at VanderCook in 2004. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from Millikin University and her master’s from VanderCook. Dolan was on the design and teaching staff for the National Champion Lake Park Marching Band for 12 years and was the creative director and conductor of the Bensenville Young Musicians Mentor Band from 1995 to 2007. She has conducted honor bands and presented workshops at MEAs and festivals in China and throughout the United States. She has taught tens of thousands of middle school and high school students through her work as a clinician, adjudicator and guest conductor. Her professional affiliations include NAfME, Phi Beta Mu, NBA and CBDNA.

Dr. Robert L. Sinclair
Dean of Graduate Studies &
Director of Choral Activities

SinclairNewDean of Graduate Studies Dr. Robert L. Sinclair has served VanderCook as Director of Choral Activities since 2001. His educational background includes three years at Luther College, where he sang in the Nordic Choir under the direction of Weston Noble. After transferring to Sam Houston State University, he completed his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Music degrees with B.R. Henson. In December of 2000, Dr. Sinclair completed a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction (music education) at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he worked with Drs. David Rayl and Wendy Sims. Dr. Sinclair has 10 years of public school teaching experience and has presented sessions to the Music Educators Associations of Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and Texas, the Illinois Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), as well as the Southwestern and Southern Divisions of ACDA. He continues to work as an active choral clinician and adjudicator for junior high and high school students from across the nation and abroad, including honor choirs in Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, and Japan in addition to all-state choirs in Illinois and Wisconsin. Dr. Sinclair is an active member of ACDA, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Music Fraternity, Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honors Fraternity, and the National Association for Music Education.

Patrick Benson
Director of Continuing & Outreach

2015VCM7475Patrick Benson (BMEd ‘08) joined the administration of VanderCook in July 2015 as the Director of Continuing and Online Education. Benson earned his bachelor’s degree from VanderCook in 2008 and is also a recipient of VanderCook’s Esprit de Corps Award. Benson attended the School for New Learning at DePaul University, earning his Master of Arts in applied professional studies in 2017. While at DePaul, Benson was awarded the School for New Learning’s Student Excellence Award and Writing Showcase Award. Benson returns to his alma mater having taught for seven years at Hubbard High School in Chicago as the director of bands. While at Hubbard, he led the marching, jazz and pep bands, and was the audio/visual coordinator, as well as the school activity director and a local school council representative. Benson is a member of VanderCook’s Alumni Association and served as its president from 2014-2015. He also teaches Technology in Music Education to VanderCook undergrads. In addition to teaching and working at VanderCook, Benson is an active percussionist and drummer in the Chicagoland area, and currently serves as the assistant director of the Lakeside Pride Jazz Orchestra.

Sirena Covington
Director of Financial Aid

_Y0A6704Sirena Covington joined VanderCook College of Music in 2011 with more than ten years experience in Financial Aid. She holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Illinois Institute of Technology and Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University. She is a current member of Illinois Association of Student Aid Administrators (ILASFAA) and the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). She currently participates in the Chinese American Service League (CASL) annual Financial Aid workshop to inform the community of financial aid options.



Dr. Bonnie Campbell
Director of Applied Studies


Dr. Bonnie Campbell is currently the Director of Applied Studies and Clarinet Professor at VanderCook College of Music.  She received a doctor of music degree in music literature and clarinet performance from Indiana University. She also holds degrees from Yale University and Roberts Wesleyan College (summa cum laude) and has attended the Banff School of the Arts. Her teachers include James Campbell, Keith Wilson, Margaret Quackenbush, and Alan Hacker.

Dr. Campbell has performed guest recitals at colleges and universities across the country. Her orchestral experience includes performances at the Evian Festival (France) as well as at the opening ceremonies of the Bastille Opera House in Paris. She has been a member of the South Bend Symphony and the Camerata Chamber Orchestra of Bloomington, an ensemble jointly comprised of faculty and students from the Indiana University School of Music. She has performed in New York City at Merkin Hall and at Lincoln Center, where she played the Mozart Clarinet Quintet as part of the Mozart Bicentennial Celebration. 

In Chicago, Dr. Campbell performs frequently at the Cultural Center. She has also been heard on WFMT’s Live from Studio One and on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series. She is a founding member of the Daedalus Duo and Vermillion (with pianist Diana Schmück and cellist Judy Stone), with whom she performed at the International Clarinet Association’s ClarinetFest 2007 held in Vancouver, BC. At the invitation of the International Clarinet Association, she presented the world premier performance of Robert Kritz’s Diaspora Dances at ClarinetFest 2009 in Oporto, Portugal.

Dr. I-Hsuan Tsai
Head of Piano & Theory Faculty

IMG_2614_RETOUCH_REBALDr. I-Hsuan Tsai is the head of the piano and theory department at VanderCook College of Music. Dr. Tsai joined the teaching faculty at VanderCook in 2004. Previously, she taught at the University of Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina Community College. Dr. Tsai received a doctor of musical arts in piano from the College-Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati, a master of music in piano and bassoon, and a bachelor of music in piano from Indiana University. An active soloist and chamber musician, she is the winner of the Buckeye Piano Competition and the Graves Piano competition. Dr. Tsai’s recent performances include concerts at the Kennedy Center, the United Nations, live performances on WFMT, the Aspen Music Festival, Roosevelt University, Northeastern University, as well as the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series. She also has performed and taught internationally in Mexico, Brazil, China, Portugal, and Taiwan.


Dr. Charles T. Menghini
President Emeritus

2016VCM3531Dr. Charles T. Menghini is president emeritus of VanderCook. Dr. Menghini served as president and director of bands from August of 2004 through May of 2017 and prior to that time served as undergraduate dean and director of bands. He began his teaching at VanderCook College in 1994 and in addition to being director of bands he taught instrumental conducting, organization and administration, curriculum and supervision, brass methods and rehearsal techniques classes.

Dr. Menghini brought with his appointment to VanderCook 18 years of successful high school band experience in Missouri and Kansas. Bands under his direction received consistent Division I ratings in regional, state and national music festivals, performed at various state music educator conventions and performed in the Tournament of Roses Parade, Orange Bowl Parade, Bands of America International Festival and the XV Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Originally from Iron Mountain, Michigan, Dr. Menghini attended Northern Michigan University and the University of Missouri – Columbia where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education. He also holds a Master degree in Educational Administration from the University of Missouri – Kansas City and a Doctorate of Arts in Wind Conducting from the University of Missouri – Kansas City Conservatory of Music. Dr. Menghini recognizes Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, Gary Green and Gary Hill as being most-influential teachers in his growth and development. Read his full bio here.




VanderCook College of Music

3140 South Federal Street
Chicago, IL 60616-3731
(312) 225-6288

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