College of the Arts Faceoff: Is WCC’s identity threatened?

By Derrick Goff

YES: The introduction of the new Westminster College of the Arts (WCA) has been quite a controversial issue at Westminster Choir College (WCC). Since WCA’s conception, many students at Westminster have felt the identity of their education jeopardized by the idea of WCA. While it clearly has benefits for the students of WCC, the newly formed college also creates several disadvantages for choir college students.

Robert Annis, former dean of WCC and current dean and director of WCA, stated in a meeting of the Westminster student Senate that the biggest idea for Rider to capitalize on is the name “Westminster.” Hence, the administration founded WCA as a two-campus division of the university that encompassed WCC as a step in the direction that would benefit Rider. However, as a student in organ performance and sacred music, as well as an aspiring choral conductor, the most fruitful term for me to capitalize on for my education is “Choir College.” Frankly, there are several institutions carrying the name Westminster that do not pertain to WCC — thus I feel that WCA does not, by name, indicate any relation with the choir college.

Furthermore, throughout the creation process of WCA, Westminster students were continually promised that the name “Westminster Choir College” would never go away. Previously, WCC was branded as “Westminster Choir College of Rider University.” Now, it seems rare to see “Westminster Choir College” without “Westminster College of the Arts” prominently displayed.

Admittedly, the name of the choir college has not disappeared; however, if the name never appears alone, it loses its uniqueness and some of its identity. A good example of this is the programs for WCC performances. According to the Rider Web site, the Westminster Choir is considered to be the “standard of choral excellence” throughout the United States and is composed of only WCC undergraduate and graduate students. Nevertheless, their performances are branded on advertisements and event programs as WCA events. Whereas these students are part of WCA, they are all more intimately and exactly part of WCC — so why term them something they may not even feel a part of?

WCA does not always benefit the students of WCC. Take geometry: a rectangle is defined as a quadrilateral with four right angles and a square is defined as a rectangle with all sides of equal length. Therefore, a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not necessarily a square. In this case, the square — WCC — needs to retain its own distinctive identity in the midst of Rider’s oversight.

Derrick Goff is a sophomore at Westminster Choir College with a major in sacred music and organ performance.

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