Students and faculty call out to ‘save the music’

The music department held a forum to discuss the cancellation of certain classes. (Tim Lee/Photo Editor)
The music department held a forum to discuss the cancellation of certain classes. (Tim Lee/Photo Editor)

Calls to “Save TCNJ Music” surround the recent cancellation of several classes in the music department. In response to the uproar of opposition from both students and faculty members, music department chair Gary Fienberg and the new dean of Arts and Communication, John Laughton, held a discussion forum in the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall last Wednesday Jan. 20.

According to Fienberg, the primary impetus for the change in classes offered this semester is insufficient enrollment. The Lyric Theatre and Collegium were cancelled, however, in an effort “to facilitate an evaluation of how they may be improved and to further strengthen the curriculum” Fienberg said in an email. Though both Fienberg and Laughton stressed the changes aren’t strictly budgetary, Laughton said that changes were part of an effort to “curtail how we’re allocating resources” and restructure the curriculum.

Small ensembles, including the Collegium Musicum, Lyric Theatre, Clarinet choir, Flute Choir and horn ensemble, as well as yoga for musicians were canceled this semester, flooding campus with mixed reactions of outrage and confusion.

Associate music professor Roger McKinney, also the director of the Clarinet Choir, voiced his anger over the lack of communication to the faculty regarding the planned changes to the curriculum, as well as his fear for the future of the department.

“We’re being laughed at by our sister colleges because our enrollment is down,” he said. “I’m cheated. Nobody told me about this. We have a right to know. I’m ashamed of what has happened.”

According to Fienberg, these cancellations are not permanent and also reflect Laughton’s introduction to the school and the College’s pending reaccreditation with the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), which “requires the faculty and administration to identify strengths and weaknesses and to formulate a plan to address them,” Fienberg said.

Fienberg also identified the College’s chamber program as a weakness that necessitates revision.

Students, such as senior music education major Jessica Esrig, didn’t discover the cancellations until two weeks prior to the beginning of this semester when they no longer were registered for the canceled classes. According to Esrig, she is still currently considered a part-time student on PAWS due to the lack of notification.

“The fact that the faculty had no involvement ahead of time makes me feel worried as a student,” Esrig said.

In order to address the delay in communication, Laughton suggested forming a student advisory committee consisting of two students from each department to advocate for students on future issues in a forum more substantial than Facebook pages such as “Save TCNJ Music!” Many students, however, left the forum without feeling that the issue had been resolved.

“As a performance major, small ensembles are our lifeblood,” Ian Highcock, junior music performance major, said. “I’m concerned about the future of the performance major.”