We can all agree that Westminster Choir College is a special place, but the most sacred place on campus is the square patch of grass between Williamson Hall and Bristol Chapel. Its vibrant color and freshly mowed appearance can tempt even the most distinguished visitors to take off their shoes and do cartwheels. It is home to our four beautiful Linden trees, the kind of trees that encourage you to pick up a book and read a few chapters under its leaves. This patch of grass is simply known as the quad.
One summer morning after a vicious storm, I woke up and walked to the quad only to witness the aftermath of a true disaster. The quad was now home to only three Linden trees, putting an end to the decades of beauty and tradition, ruining our sacred space.
Through the following months, the quad seemed to lose its special glow. The grass was now patchy and had lost its vibrant green color. Eventually, the fallen tree had been removed and the gaping hole in the ground served as a reminder that the quad’s symmetrical beauty was no more than a fond memory confined to stories and photographs.
Over a year later, the once powerful tree was replaced by a tiny, young Linden, a painful reminder of what the quad had once looked like.
Around this same time, our school had just been informed of its imminent threat. President Gregory Dell’Omo informed us of a very likely reality of selling Rider’s Princeton campus. For the next few months, I walked around Westminster feeling like I did that morning after the devastating storm. Losing our home had no silver lining. There was no saving our delicate institution from a move this immense. After months of picketing, news reporters and coalition, our voices were heard and Rider promised to take our best interests into consideration.
After the Board of Trustees’ decision, I drove back to Westminster and took a walk around the home I had been fighting for. I reached the quad and took a good look at that baby Linden tree. It had grown a bit, and a bird had nested in a low branch. Walking closer, I noticed how large it already seemed to be. Surely, within a couple of years, the difference would be less obvious.
I couldn’t forget the majestic beauty of the four matching Linden trees, but there was something exciting about seeing this new tree grow. I imagined returning to this campus for my 10-year reunion and noting that the once miniscule tree had grown to be one of the most beautiful pieces of nature in Princeton.
It was increasingly similar to the way I was feeling about Westminster. A big change is happening to us whether we like it or not. It may conflict with our memories of elegance and charm, but WCC is still as beautiful as ever. We will still strive to provide future generations with the best music education. We will never stop growing and sharing our art with the world. Our tree is different now, and although it may look small at this moment, we will grow and show the world that our beauty can never be stifled.
Those three magnificent Linden trees once started out no more than young saplings, as did our small choir in Dayton, Ohio. Seeing what we’ve accomplished — seeing how large our trees have grown, the sky’s the limit.
— Shelden Mendes
Junior music education major
Printed in the 9/06/17 issue.