It’s Thinking Out Loud Thursday with Penny’s Passion and I’m thinking about something weighing heavy on my heart. I learned within the last couple of days that they will be eliminating the music and theatre department at the college I attended after the 2017-18 academic year. From my understanding they feel it is necessary from a budgetary standpoint. I can understand if they don’t have the enrollment numbers to support continuing to fund a program why this would be a logical decision, but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear or even accept. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.
The music department meant a great deal to me. I started my college career as a music major. I was even granted a scholarship that included full payment of vocal lessons. I was a member of two of the college choirs – Women’s Choir and the Choral Society. And this was the place besides my sorority that I made some of my greatest friends. One dear friend I still have to this day even though many miles separate us. Another sadly passed away about ten years ago. The memories I made with both of these women I carry in my heart forever and I have the music department to thank for bringing us together.
I didn’t remain a music major, I found some of the technical aspects weren’t going to work for me (I never learned piano – did you know you really can’t go teach music without being able to play piano? Ha!) but I took enough courses to receive a music minor. I also was able to stay in vocal lessons and continued performing with various ensembles off and on throughout the rest of my college career. I always had my foot in some part of the music department. Walking in the doors of the music building always felt like home. Even years later as I returned for various alumnae events, walking in that space has always felt familiar. And it’s funny, the building is dark, cold, and not that aesthetically pleasing. But it still embodies a feeling of home.
A very specific memory I have from my college days is from the day of the September 11th attacks. My last course of the day was Women’s Choir rehearsal. We still met and decided to rehearse like normal after we talked a little bit about what had happened that day. We all agreed that singing would feel good, help us feel better and even forget a little bit that our world had just changed forever that day. We finished our rehearsal with the song Dona Nobis Pacem, which translates to Grant Us Peace. I remember hugging each other and just how good it felt to be with other people. We were a community. We were a family. In that space and on a scary day that would lead to uncertain times, we felt safe.
My heart breaks for future students who will not be able to experience that type of community and sense of belonging. The choir was open to all majors, you didn’t have to be a music major. It gave women in all majors a chance to do something they enjoyed and maybe even was a stress reliever from their intense studies. My heart also hurts for the staff members who will likely be out of a job. They were intelligent, hard working, caring individuals who pushed us hard, challenged us, even pissed us off at times, but they helped shape us into well rounded women who could think critically, work well in a team, but can also stand up on our own. My time there has helped me in life not only as a singer, but in my professional career. I hope the staff members are able to land somewhere where their talents will not be wasted.
It is my understanding that a protest has been organized to try to get some of the higher ups in the college to take notice and maybe change their minds. Alumnae are also encouraged to write letters. I hope that these efforts will maybe reverse this decision, but my fear is that it may be too late. I also find it just a tad interesting that this is all happening the first year that a new president has taken office at the college as well. I don’t think the old president would have let this happen.
It worries me when I think of how the arts are hardly able to survive in the public school system. What hope is there for the public schools if a liberal arts college cannot support arts?
Linking up with Penny’s Passion