At the center of what it means to be human is a desire for hope, and that same word resides at the center of our college. In the fall semester of this academic year, the hope of music students faltered. Lately, though, their beloved department has continued to progress in a tentatively positive direction. Provost Cady Short-Thompson and Dean for the Arts and Humanities Sandra Visser considered their roles in making the future brighter as they lead the charge for high-quality education. “In a certain respect, my vision for the music department is exactly the same as my vision for all my departments. What we do is let the faculty members in the department [decide]. They’ll be coming up with a vision and then we’ll discuss it,” Visser said.
When Visser started in the fall semester of 2017, the music department was doing an overhaul of their curriculum, which now molds the future of which courses will be offered and what new hires will be needed to help accomplish the faculty’s goals. The removal of professors last semester cause students to be uncertain about the department’s goals, but the administration plans to keep the students’ concerns at the core of the department’s future
“The faculty are all really excited and they’re optimistic to move ahead,” Visser said. “They all believe in having lots of different types of music. Even if they teach classical they want their students to take something like jazz piano. I’m looking forward to what sorts of areas the faculty are going to want to add to diversify the musical offerings at the same time as our student body continues to diversify.” Short-Thompson added that though she and Visser take cues from the faculty and their curricular goals, they also pay attention to the students. They look for the areas that students put their enthusiasm and energy into and take that into consideration when it comes to the classes that are offered.
“It’s important for us to build upon areas of strength and find a way to offer diverse offerings for our students,” Short-Thompson said. “Music is one of those sorts of subjective areas where people love certain types, and yet it’s great to be pushed into other types and to expose our students to great experiences. Both a depth of experience and a variety makes for a great education not just in music, but in everything.” While an optimistic future is worth aspiring toward, the consequences of the past are to be taken into consideration too. One student has officially transferred to another school, according to Visser; another has had to quit athletics because they were unable to meet the credit requirements and many others have expressed questions about feeling at home in the music department after all of the changes. Visser offered words of encouragement for those who have been unsure:
“I think the music department is great, the people that we have in the positions right now are really terrific people and I think that some of the students who thought they were going to transfer have found that they really like some of these new faculty and have decided to maybe hold off a little bit. But if students have decided to leave, of course I wish them the best. I’d like for them to consider the department and to look at it now with the great people we have in all the areas that they’re studying. But if a student says that this isn’t a good fit, I would never say stay anyway.”
Short-Thompson echoed those sentiments as she talked about being a transfer student herself. She went to a school that was lauded by her parents, discovered that it wasn’t the right fit within weeks of starting and transferred after her first year.“Sometimes you realize that this isn’t what you thought it was going to be for countless different reasons,” she sympathized.While it’s a slow process to mend the department, there have still been some key areas of growth, especially in the choirs. Visser also mentioned the new theory professor, who has taken Dr. Robert Hodson’s place.
“With the new professor who’s teaching theory, we’ve seen some growth in the composition lessons. With students who are composing, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of students working with the theory professor and taking individualized composing classes. The new composition structure has a pretty broad purview. Some of our students in jazz are studying with him along with some of our students who really love classical music.”Though students still feel the voids in companionship that Hodson and Dr. Brad Richmond left behind, the department is taking action to fill the educational gaps. Trust may take a while to grow between administrators and music students, but the new professors have brought a sense of positivity and a willingness to fill the students’ needs at this time.