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History of the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment


Oklahoma City University, under the leadership of Professor Jo Rowan, founded an American musical theatre dance program to educate and train performers for careers in the American entertainment industry. The program was also created to recognize the legitimacy of the American dance art forms of tap, jazz, and theater dance.

At that time, university and college dance programs uniformly focused on ballet and modern dance. Few, if any, dance programs required majors to study tap and jazz; and none offered specialization in tap and jazz leading to a bachelor's degree. Professor Rowan designed a degree which, with Dean John Bedford, has been refined over the years to give thorough preparation to students wanting dance performance careers in the American entertainment industry.


Dean Bedford developed an arts management program at Oklahoma City University for both graduate and undergraduate students. The general wisdom of the time in higher education was that arts management should be a field of study reserved for graduate students with the maturity and seriousness that undergraduates interested in the arts could not have. In 1985, the university trustees approved a new Bachelor of Science in Dance Management degree which now averages around 70 majors.

The Master of Business Administration with an Arts Management Track, established in 1984 in collaboration with the Meinders School of Business, provided graduate level education and training in both business and arts management. While the MBA with Arts Management Track was later discontinued due to restructuring in the Meinders School of Business, graduates from the program have worked for Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, Assembly of Community Arts Councils of Oklahoma, Pollard Theatre, Allied Arts, Ballet Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, BLAC, Inc., Nashville Symphony, the New York Philharmonic and other professional arts organizations.


A Bachelor of Science in Entertainment Business degree was created. Originally for students interested in careers in music business, the degree was modified to a general arts management degree allowing students to tailor a portion of the curriculum through a choice of specialty tracks to support their personal career objectives. The tracks include Sports Entertainment, Event Planning, Entertainment Marketing, Entertainment Tour Manager, Fashion Event Planner, Film Business, Church Arts Program Manager, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Political Events Manager, Entertainment Pre-Law, and Venue Management.


Professor Rachel Jacquemain joined the arts management faculty and was appointed director of the Entertainment Business program.


Dance Magazine’s Managing Editor, K.C. Patrick, declared the Oklahoma City University dance program as the “best preparatory dance program in the nation.”


The School of American Dance and Arts Management was renamed The Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management honoring Oklahoma City University trustee and benefactor Ann Lacy.


A $3 million grant from the Inasmuch Foundation was combined with a $3.5 million contribution from Ann Lacy and a $750,000 contribution from the Mabee Foundation to make new facilities possible. Renovation and construction of the Edith Kinney Gaylord Center, the new home of the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management, was completed in the fall of 2007. The new facility for dance and arts management instruction was revalued at $28 million and was declared in the dance press as possibly the finest facility for dance in higher education in the world. Professor Melanie Shelley was appointed as Associate Dean of the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management.


Dance workshops were expanded to include four Saturday workshops during the regular school year for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The first classes were offered in the Edith Kinney Gaylord Center’s new Community Dance Center.


Dean John Bedford and Dance Chair Jo Rowan announced their joint retirement from the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment. John, the longtime dean of the dance school, and Jo, the dance chair and founder of the dance program, marked the end of their 42-year tenures at the university on June 30. Taking over administration of the dance school on an interim basis was Associate Dean Melanie Shelley. Melanie began as interim dean on July 1. She worked closely with John and Jo to ensure a smooth transition and a continuation of the excellence. That excellence is due to the dedication and efforts of John and Jo, as well as numerous dedicated faculty, staff, students and alumni over many years.