A few weeks ago, President Pistole announced changes to many programs across AU. One of the departments that was heavily impacted by these changes was the music department, which lost four programs, combined two programs into one and is losing a handful of staff members at the end of the school year.
The four programs being lost are church music, instrumental performance, voice performance and jazz studies. The Music Business, and Entertainment and Music Business majors are being combined into one program. Pistole stated that a worship arts program is slated to take the place of church music because there are currently no students enrolled in the church music program.
There are also very few students enrolled in the instrumental and voice performance majors. However, current music students feel that these majors help draw in prospective students.
Music education major Ashley Rouse said that not having those majors in the program “affects the perceptions of students.” Any students currently enrolled in these programs will be able to graduate with those majors, and students can still minor in voice or instrumental performance.
One of the largest changes for the school of music was the alleged cancellation of the jazz ensemble. The members of the ensemble were notified by an email sent out along with the original announcement email that the ensemble would not be returning in the 2017-2018 school year.
The email sent to the jazz ensemble members stated “as you know, we’re eliminating the jazz studies minor. In addition, this will be the last year for the jazz ensemble.” The email was brief, and there was no more explanation beyond that as to why the group was being cancelled. Pistole did make sure to reassure the students that “the decision to end the jazz ensemble has nothing to do with the quality of performance.”
Days after the email was sent to the jazz ensemble, the word was spread through the School of Music faculty and staff that the email was a mistake. Professor John Huntoon, the director of the jazz and wind ensembles, said that nothing official has been sent out to students yet but he is certain the ensemble will be returning next year. There was apparently a confusion between the jazz studies minor and the jazz ensemble.
While the jazz ensemble may be returning next year, many changes have still made an impact on it—the largest of those being staffing changes. Huntoon has said that “after 15 years of successful full-time low brass and education class teaching, along with ensemble directing” he will not be returning to AU next year. Huntoon has been very open to his students about this change.
In the spring, the jazz ensemble was scheduled to headline at a county jazz festival for high school and middle school jazz bands. However, with the news of the jazz ensemble cancellation, they were not invited back. Even though the jazz ensemble will potentially be returning, as of now the group will not be playing at the festival.
In the midst of all the struggles and changes, the jazz ensemble will be performing at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis next semester with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir on Sunday, March 12 at 7 p.m. The band will be playing swing and big band music for the choirs.
While these changes seem to be negative for the School of Music, Pistole has reassured the school that “AU continues to have a strong arts program with robust programs in dance, music, music business, music education, songwriting, and choral and instrumental ensembles.”