Professor wins Cleveland Arts Prize


There is no doubt that the Baldwin Wallace music theatre program is booming, and the woman behind it is making waves in Cleveland and beyond.

Victoria Bussert, director of the music theatre, was named the 2019 Cleveland Arts Prize Mid-Career Artist Award. The Cleveland Arts Prize is the oldest municipal arts award in the country.

“It was a surprise,” laughed Bussert during a phone interview. She got the call early in the morning this past July, “I literally said ‘Are you sure?’ I hadn’t expected it, honestly.”

“The Cleveland Arts Prize finally caught up to her! At this point in her career, she has become an icon,” exclaimed Susan Van Vorst.

She said that this honor means more to her than a national award because this was given by her Cleveland peers.

“To be recognized by my arts community in this way is incredibly meaningful,” she said.

Her career in Cleveland started in the 1980s when she joined Great Lakes Theater and continued when she joined the Baldwin Wallace faculty. She has spent her professional time directing and cultivating the talents and careers of Broadway stars, teachers and even Broadway conductors.

“Vicky goes boldly and takes audiences to places of chilling vulnerability and exquisite tenderness; her work demands maximum emotional engagement,” said Dean Van Vorst on Bussert’s directorial work.

Her students mention what working with Bussert is like.

“I feel like working with her is very reassuring,” said sophomore Rodrigo Torrejón.

“She’s crazy genius… good vibes, unit, powerhouse,” said sophomore Andrew Faria

She loves her students and says she will go to bat for them. A self-described football coach, Bussert said that she wants what her students want and will push them to achieve great results. The performing business is tough, and she is preparing them with the mental agility to keep going because “as soon as you stop auditioning, you’re guaranteed not to get the role.”

This award is a mid-career award, meaning Bussert is far from being done with her work in the Cleveland area and internationally. She was honored at a reception on Sep. 25 and won a $10,000 prize in recognition of her continued work.