Marianne Kent-Stoll has been in education for decades, melding together academics and the arts as she teaches young minds. Kent-Stoll has had a passion for the arts ever since she was a child. 

Marianne Kent-Stoll, the new head of school at Idyllwild Arts Academy Photo courtesy of Idyllwild Arts Academy

“I came from a family with three other siblings and a single mom, but she always made sure we were exposed to the arts early,” Kent-Stoll said. “I wrote a lot of poetry when I was growing up and took piano and music lessons. She was a great lover of opera and classical music.”

Kent-Stoll received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1981, 

then went to Penn State University in 1986 for her master’s in English with an emphasis in poetry writing. 

She moved to Idyllwild in 2012 to take a job at Idyllwild Arts Academy (IAA).

“I came to Idyllwild in 2012 as the dean of academics, and I always felt as much as I like it, I was very interested in the integration of the arts and academics,” Kent-Stoll said.

When Pamela Jordan took over as president and head of school at IAA in 2016, she needed an assistant head of school, a role Kent-Stoll happily accepted. 

“That’s when I got to expand my role in building and implementing the programs that integrated the arts and academics,” she said.

One of the programs IAA started since Kent-Stoll has been there is Art in Society, which educates the citizen artist using art as a vehicle for change and thinking about how art can make a difference.

Out of the Art in Society program, IAA has been able to create relationships with outside artist groups like Voices of Our City Choir based in San Diego, which help the homeless individuals get back on their feet.

“They have influenced our student population and our students have gone down and have rehearsal with them,” Kent-Stoll said.

I asked Kent-Stoll what her plans are as head of school given the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. With a chuckle she said, “I’ve been head of school for all of a week, so I don’t have a grand vision,” adding, “What’s really important as we enter this age of online learning is to understand that it’s not going to go away. I want to build more online opportunities for students who can’t reach Idyllwild.” 

Everybody should have access to an arts education. It’s part of your being and a passion that should be nurtured and honored. Kent-Stoll wants to help students achieve this whether they are in-person on campus or online. 

“The faculty are creating an individualized learning experience while using Zoom and other online platforms,” Kent-Stoll explained. “I’m really amazed at how our faculty have adapted their curriculum to the online learning.” 

Kent-Stoll also wants to expand and continue developing its community partnerships outside of campus. Last year, Kent-Stoll received a grant on learning how to recruit and retain Native American students. 

“We’ve always had a commitment to support Native American students, but we hadn’t done a complete study on how to integrate students of diverse communities and how to learn and grow from them,” she said. “How could their voices be heard? This is what that grant provided. I want to continue and strengthen dialogues with communities because we become stronger by that and less isolated.”

Kent-Stoll wants to create a community where everybody feels included, where the community comes before self. 

“If we could do that, I do think anything is possible and it increases the imagination,” she explained.

 “I remember when I was really young, I would think I would make my own school,” she admitted. “My sister and I would talk of having our own homeschool where arts and creativity would be in the center of it. I think that art is basically our soul.”

In essence, our artistic expression gives us freedom. Providing IAA students, staff and faculty the platform for artistic expression enriching everyone’s lives is what Kent-Stoll wants to support as the head of school.