Everywhere I go, people ask me about the status of my beloved school, Westminster Choir College (WCC). When the news of Rider’s “sale” of Westminster broke last year, I couldn’t believe that the administration was ready to jeopardize the musical and cultural traditions that WCC holds, as if it was not a big loss at all. This news was insulting and was proof of how much music is needed in a world that isn’t doing much to keep it around.
To imagine destroying a community that made a name for itself in the mid-20th century and has been so important and unique to musical and cultural traditions is heartbreaking. I remember my colleagues, professors and me feeling like we lost a bit of our identity this time last year during Symphonic Choir rehearsal.
What has made this process worse is that the administration and committees working on finding “suitable potential partners” for WCC have not been in touch with us as a community. We have not been properly informed of any solid or reliable information. We are being expected to put our trust in a committee that hardly respects us for who we are and what our mission is. This has been one of the most frustrating aspects of the entire situation.
My close friends and I often talk about what might happen to Westminster’s legacy in a new partnership. Since Rider has insisted on staying tight-lipped about who these potential buyers might be, there isn’t a day that we aren’t anxious and afraid for the future of our school. For all we know, the legacy of Westminster might not make it through the transition solely because of the decision the Rider administrators have made to “pass us over” to a group of people who know nothing about higher education, let alone have any artistic background.
What is even more anxiety-inducing is that whoever becomes our partner might not have a clue about what Westminster’s mission is — what WCC has spent almost a century developing in the musical world. I fear that this professional climate shift is not going to provide the resources, understanding or cooperation we need to have a seamless transition.
Westminster is one of a kind, unlike any other major music school in the country, or even around the world. People specifically come to Westminster for the community and family environment that is established through choral activities every day. If WCC’s identity is lost as a result of a faulty business practice, then this could severely impact the kind of people that go into the music industry as educators, performers, scholars and conductors.
However, we can only hope that this is not the case. Anyone who dedicates any aspect of their life to music is making a decision to serve others and leave a positive impact on the world. It is my hope that the act of service through music is a driving force for all of us at Westminster. We cannot lose sight of the very innate act of music, it is something we share, it is something we bring out of ourselves and present to another. I believe that this might be the only action we can take amid everything else that is going on.
— Abigail Merk
Senior voice performance major
Printed in the 11/08/17 issue.