MSUM dean guides vision for campus engagement with arts

By Chelsey Engelhard Ewen, The Arts Partnership

MOORHEAD — When Dr. Earnest Lamb started playing cello in the sixth grade, he didn’t know how much it would impact his future career — or that it would help bring him to Minnesota State University Moorhead.

At the time, the honest reason the Little Rock, Ark., native joined orchestra was so he could “get to lunch on time” with his middle school friends, he admits with a smile. Soon, however, his passion for music started to blossom.

Throughout high school, Lamb played cello and bassoon, and later earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in fields related to music — all because he swapped gym for orchestra.

He says he chose to focus on the cello because of “the great sonatas and concerti out there” for the instrument.

“I think people like cello because it sounds like the human voice,” he adds.

Over the years, music continued to shape Lamb’s career. He served as a professor and orchestra conductor for several universities in the southern United States. As chair of the Department of Performing and Fine Arts at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, Lamb gained a more comprehensive knowledge about art forms beyond music.

His extensive experience, passion for the arts and desire for a new adventure led Lamb to his current position as the Dean of the College of Arts, Media and Communication at MSUM.

“I’ve spent most of my life in the south, so it’s good to be in another part of the country and learn about how people (here) communicate and see the world,” Lamb says.

Now that he’s been in the area for a year (and has survived one cold, snowy winter), Lamb looks forward to expanding arts programming, marketing and recruiting efforts for the college in the upcoming academic year while performing cello along the way.

“Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve managed to still play (cello),” he says. “I think it’s important for the faculty and students to see that I’m not just an administrator, but I still play and participate.”

‘Where are the jobs?’

When he started in July 2017, Lamb worked with his faculty to think of fresh ways to promote the department and engage more community members through art events at MSUM.

One of Lamb’s first initiatives was launching “Bravo” magazine, a university publication highlighting what’s happening in MSUM’s art scene from film to theater to visual art. Lamb and his faculty also created a membership program called Friends of the Arts that offers ticket discounts, invitations to member appreciation parties, backstage passes and more to students, faculty and other art supporters.

“I really want to generate a new, diverse audience and get more people engaged not only in the community, but on campus as well,” he says. “We focus on students, but we also should focus on faculty because I think that’s where student engagement begins. If (faculty members) are coming to events and see the value in it, hopefully it will trickle down to the students.”

Lamb’s major goal in the upcoming academic year is to introduce curriculum that combines art and entrepreneurship — or “art-repreneurship” — to educate artistic students on how to find employment in creative fields and forge their own career pathways.

Lamb says the idea for the program came from a question he often receives from students and parents: “Where are the jobs?”

“(Artists) are so used to ‘produce and present.’ That’s great, but you have to think about who to present to and how to monetize that,” Lamb says. “Part of my recruiting efforts here is to show people from the front end the jobs that are available (for creative fields). They may be jobs that aren’t identified yet. It’s jobs of the future that you have to create.”

Overall, Lamb looks forward to getting more involved in the Fargo-Moorhead community and “spreading the word” about the importance of the arts.

“I want to create future audiences, but also future leaders and advocates in the arts,” he says. “To me, that’s part of education.”

To learn more about the College of Arts, Media and Communication at MSUM, visit

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit