Pace University Announces the Sands College: A New Era for Performing Arts Education


Since its creation in 2014, the Pace School of Performing Arts (PPA) has been a leader in producing top talent, with its graduates widely represented in the film, TV, theater, and dance industries. 

When the program launched within Pace’s Dyson College of Arts and Sciences nearly two decades ago, it was Manhattan’s first new performing arts school in almost half a century. Today, in keeping with its long tradition of innovation and in recognition of the rapidly evolving industry, PPA is getting its own stand-alone identity: The Sands College of Performing Arts. 

“The Sands College of Performing Arts will be a path-setting performing arts college for the 21st century that leverages the vast creative resources of New York City to educate and inspire a new generation of diverse artists and arts leaders,” said Pace President Marvin Krislov. 

Sands College – the seventh school and college within Pace University – will commence with the 2023-24 academic year, enrolling its inaugural class this fall. It is named in recognition of a $25 million gift from Rob and Pamela Sands, J.D. ’84, and comes as Pace is transforming its flagship home in Lower Manhattan – One Pace Plaza – to include a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center. 

The arts center will have three new venues: a 450-seat proscenium theater, a 200-seat flexible theater, and a 99-seat black box theater. All of which will feature the latest technology and be supported by scene and costume shops, dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, green rooms, public spaces, and dance studios. 

“We’re thinking about where the industry is now, and where we’re likely to see it be in the future, ensuring our students are the changemakers and the leaders it needs – that’s why these new spaces are so important,” said Sands College of Performing Arts Executive Director Jennifer Holmes, Ph.D. “As the industry changes, we’re looking at new programs in immersive theater, tech, and design, which will be supported by the new spaces. We’ll also have more opportunities to invite members of the community in to see productions and experience our students’ incredible talent.”

Sands College will continue to maximize the opportunities presented by its location in the beating heart of the performing arts industry – New York City – and draw on the city’s vast creative resources. But there will a broader array of options for students, faculty, and visiting artists to explore the boundaries of their creativity, as well as collaborate with one another and other programs across Pace and the entire arts community, Holmes said. 

Jo Jo Carmichael, who graduated Pace in 2022 with a BFA in Commercial Dance, said she’s excited about the new performing arts college at her alma mater and the opportunities it presents for future students. 

“I only wish that was a thing when I was there,” she exclaimed. “Pace Performing Arts is so incredible, and what the program produces is insane – there are so many people working in the industry who graduated from there. It deserves to be its own school, and I’m glad that’s finally happening.”

Carmichael, an Alabama native, is currently in rehearsal for the national touring production of MJ the Musical. Prior to that, she did the out-of-towns for The Devil Wears Prada musical and was a New York City Rockette for two seasons. She credits the education and experience she received at Pace for helping to set her on the path to success in a highly competitive yet rewarding field. 

“Just the Rockettes alone, if you look at the Holiday Spectacular cast from 2022, there will at least 10 of us on that one job, if not more,” Carmichael recalled. “Not just commercial dancers, but actors, stage managers – to have all those people from one college on one contract together is huge.”  

The Sands donation is part of a larger campaign for the transformation of Pace’s campus that includes private donors, university investments, and $30 million in support from the state and federal governments. The start work on One Pace Plaza – including the performing arts center – will coincide with the completion of a new building at 15 Beekman that is scheduled to open this fall. 

Once the new arts center is complete Holmes said it will be part of a larger vision to cultivate not only the next generation of artists, but also audiences. PPA already collaborates with local arts groups and public schools, which is something Holmes hopes to see more of. 

“The next generation of stars are right here at Pace, and local students can have the unique and interactive experience of seeing them in action,” Holmes said. “While traditional forms of theater, I believe, will always exist, we have to recognize that the next generation sees the world in a different way. They’re on social media and TikTok, and we need to figure out how to engage them.”  

Though the new performing arts center is under construction, classes at Sands College will start this fall, continuing the Pace tradition of offering students an immersive experience with faculty who are working in the field and exposing them to professional opportunities long before they graduate. 

“We are excited to grow and expand our innovative performing arts programs,” President Krislov said. “We are confident that these students – like all our students – are talented, ambitious leaders who will go on to have amazing careers.”