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Keeril Makan Named Associate Dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

Keeril Makan Named Associate Dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

  • The professor and composer of Indian and Jewish descent will lead special projects in his new role while continuing to serve as head of the Music and Theater Arts Section.

Professor and composer Keeril Makan has been named associate dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), effective July 1. He will serve concurrently as associate dean and in his current role as head of the MIT Music and Theater Arts (MTA) Section, the school announced. 

In a statement, Makan, of Indiana and Jewish descent, said he’s looking forward to bringing his collaborative leadership approach to this new role. “One of the things that excite me about being head of MTA is working on larger projects that advance the mission of the unit, the mission of the Institute, and have a large impact on the community,” he said. “This involves getting a lot of people together from different parts of MIT, working towards a common goal, skills that I’ve developed through my work as a composer. I look forward to working in this way at the SHASS-wide level, as well as finding common ground between SHASS and the STEM fields.”

Makan joined the MIT faculty in 2006, and was named head of MTA in 2018, the school said. In addition to being section head, Makan is currently the Michael (1949) and Sonja Koerner Music Composition Professor. Some of the projects he has helped lead is “the construction of MIT’s new music building, which is set to open in fall 2024,” the school said. He’s also worked to develop MTA’s music technology offerings, including the upcoming launch of a new master’s program, joint with the School of Engineering. 

Recipient of the Luciano Berio Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, he has also received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Fromm Foundation, the Gerbode Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, Meet the Composer, the Aaron Copland House, the Utah Arts Festival, and ASCAP. 

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Makan was raised in New Jersey by parents of South African Indian and Russian Jewish descent. After training as a violinist, he received degrees in composition and religion from Oberlin College and Conservatory and completed his Ph.D. in composition at the University of California at Berkeley, with additional studies in Helsinki and Paris. He is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Luciano Berio Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, among other accolades. His music has been recorded by the Kronos Quartet, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and the International Contemporary Ensemble, and performed at the Los Angeles Opera, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Tanglewood.

His music has been reviewed by leading publications. The New Yorkers described him as “an arrestingly gifted young American composer.” The New York Times called him “consistently stimulating,” while The Boston Globe portrayed him  as a composer “whose music deserves to be more widely heard.”

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