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Diane Petrella: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

Photo Credit: James Allison

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Diane Petrella.

Without a doubt, one of the things UMKC is known for is its internationally recognized Conservatory of Music and Dance.  Enrolling about 600 students, the Conservatory enables those students to “interact with an exceptionally gifted faculty and with leading visiting artists in ways that are supportive, yet rigorous.”  Among this faculty is none other than our next featured panelist and recently named Dean of the Conservatory, Diane Petrella.

Diane Petrella’s appointment as Dean this past summer came at the request of Conservatory faculty and staff.  An honor, to be sure, this appointment is particularly unique in that it “marks the first time in the Conservatory’s 112-year history that a woman has held this post.”  Diane actually wears quite a few hats for the Conservatory on top of being appointed Dean.  Having been with the Conservatory since 2006, she is also currently Chair of the Keyboard Studies Division and Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy.  She teaches applied piano and piano pedagogy courses for the Conservatory and also coordinates the group piano program. With so many accomplishments under her many hats, it should come as no surprise that the Conservatory awarded her the Kauffman Award for Outstanding Service in the spring of 2015.

In addition to her work with the Conservatory, Diane has had many unique experiences in her life as a musician and music educator.  For example, she has collaborated with her husband and fellow Conservatory educator, Nick Patrella, on many projects. Together, they formed the Petrella Ensemble in 2002, a touring performance group that has traveled throughout the United States as well as Mexico, Poland, Austria, and the Czech Republic in an effort to perform and commission new music.  In 2006, they worked together to publish The Musicians Toolbox, Thoughts on Teaching and Learning Music, which was contracted for distribution by Alfred Publications in 2012.  Diane and Nick also collaborated on the article “I’ve Got Rhythm, I’ve Got Phrasing,” which was published in the August/September 2012 issue of American Music Teacher.  

According to her bio page on the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance’s website, Diane “has appeared as a soloist with several regional orchestras and is active as a soloist, collaborative pianist, speaker and adjudicator throughout the United States, including her recent appointment to the College of Examiners of the Royal Conservatory, Toronto, Canada.”  In addition to her roles as musician and educator, Diane is also a mother of five children, including 9-year-old triplets.  “I think managing a hectic home life has certainly honed my leadership and organizational skills,” she quips. We would agree, Diane!  We look forward to hearing more from you as well as our other panelists on October 24!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit