Parents, students protest Longy School of Music decision to cut all youth programs

Protest outside Longy School of Music this morning.Protest outside Longy School of Music this morning.

The venerable Longy School of Music, which merged with Bard College in New York last year, told parents this week that programs for children - and adults not seeking degrees - no longer fit its new mission of becoming a world-class "institution for advanced musical study." So, school President Karen Zorn wrote parents, they'll have to find new places to send their kids for the sort of programs the school has long offered.

In a letter to parents, Zorn said the school would work with them to find alternate programs.

Parents, who say the decision came as a complete surprise to them, protested outside the Harvard Square conservatory this morning. One Jamaica Plain mother tells UHub:

What they offer simply can't be replicated by private instruction or at other local institutions - otherwise we might be studying elsewhere. For example we live in JP but take our 12 year old daughter there for a chorus ensemble every weekend, because the hassle is worth the great experience she is having.

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Or look into New England

Or look into New England Conservatory's Extension School program. Which prompts the question: how does curtailing these programs support Longy's mission, exactly, when many other conservatories offer community programs? I wish they'd just state that they can't afford it anymore (the most likely reason). People would understand that.

Mission schmission

Full-time students are more profitable. They can afford the prep just fine, but just because it's a non-profit doesn't mean they don't like to make money.

Their mission is to do whatever Botstein tells them to. The decisions are made in Red Hook now.

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Leon Botstein

With respect to Bard President Leon Botstein - my experience with Bard College at Simon's Rock was that Botstein was pretty hands-off with the colleges that Bard acquired/merged with. I would want to see some evidence for the claim that decisions are made in Annandale. (By the way, Bard people refer to their location as Annandale, or, more properly, Annandale-on-Hudson, not Red Hook).

Botstein is a pretty amazing man. He's a world-class conductor and was a college president at the age of 23. He's also the most unapologetically pompous individual I've ever met.

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Agreed

Awesome place, and welcoming of kids and adults who are super-serious about music as well as those who are just doing it as a hobby. And they have music therapy and adaptive lessons.

Reducing options means reducing applicant pools

Conservatory programs generally ONLY accept students who have participated in either youth philharmonic programs or private training programs in addition to and outside of their regular high school curriculum.

Many of these programs for youth are conservatory sponsored programs.

If they are cutting down the options for local students to get that additional training that they need to study at program such as those that they offer, they are apriori reducing the potential pool of qualified applicants.

This is also known as being shortsighted, foolish, etc. It is also a form of freeloading to cancel these programs and expect other programs to supply the trained students.

I have a friend who's a musician

He said that unless you're particularly gifted, or play an unusual instrument you have to start in a serious musical program very young to go to music school.

It's actually really sad, because I'm sure there are plenty of prospective musicians out there who've lost out on the chance to try at being a professional because their parents would rather have a well-rounded preschooler than a prodigy.

Glutted

At least I use and apply logic, LOL. Let's see: school x drops youth programs as unprofitable, yet requires youth program participation for entry. That forces school y to pick up the slack at a loss. Sounds like freeloading to me. As do the tax benefits they get without having to be responsible to the community.

Care to supply some evidence of this purported musician glut? Some unempoyment or socioeconomic status statistics for conservatory graduates? Even a few tales unemployed folks sleeping on their cellos, busking for handouts to pay their loans?

Meanwhile, aspects of music education do transfer to other areas of learning and thinking: http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/th...
I know a couple of rather eminent physician/researchers who have music degrees as their bachelors degrees, BTW. The discipline and thinking aspects ... oh never mind. You clearly haven't had enough life/world/reality experience to be able to grasp these things.

There is a glut, though

I think it's a shame that the Longy is closing these programs, but certainly can understand the focus on paying students. Music - especially classical music - is a losing proposition right now.

I'm not the poster above and I don't have statistics, but I work in the orchestra world now and I can tell you that in my mid-sized, poorly-paying orchestra (we pay about 67% of the median compared to our "class" of six similar orchestras) we have an average of 25 live auditions for each open chair. That is whittled down from in some cases more than 200 applicants who go through a rigorous application before they are invited to travel - at their own cost - for a live spot. The vast majority of these applicants are conservatory grads and many have masters degrees.

I can also tell you that orchestras in general are in big trouble. The Minnesota Orchestra has been in a lockout for months and has canceled performances through the end of April. The Philadelphia orchestra filed for Chapter 11 in 2011. Honolulu and Miami have folded within the last five years. Other biggies like Chicago and Atlanta have also experienced recent lockouts.

So while I can't speak for all musicians, my experience is that there is a worsening glut of conservatory-trained musicians who want to play in orchestras at the same time that many orchestras are folding because of shrinking audiences and poor management. That in no way takes away from the benefits of a musical education - but professional musicians like those turned out by Longy are in a shrinking business even as their numbers rise. It sucks for the musicians and for music fans all over the world.

Business is business

Longy isn't in the business of providing job training services; it's in the business of making money. Turning out more conservatory grads is much more profitable than teaching kids and neighbors.

The bet made by a school like Longy/Bard is that when the inevitable implosion (of grad schools, liberal arts colleges, and conservatories) happens, they'll be the last one standing. It's not about the students.

+1 Informative

This is a much better explanation. However, I suspect that these people lining up for auditions have other plans for their lives if they don't make the cut. Most of the younger people I know who are pursuing music, possibly professionally, are planning to be teachers - not a bad bet given the massive wave of baby boomer teacher retirements building over the horizon. Sure, some want to work as performers, but they have to be realistic.

I know a couple of people from high school who were stars of the youth philharmonic. They got scholarships through the master's degree level, and bounced around from orchestra to orchestra for over a decade, eventually getting the experience needed to land permanent seats in places like Pittsburgh where the symphony is relatively healthy and subscriptions are affordable. Even for the best, it isn't an easy life.

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It's a lousy bet

The census revealed that people are having fewer kids, the school age population will shrink. Those retirements won't open up many new jobs. If they were thinking about a degree in Nursing, then maybe that's a growth field when the boomers get old and sick.

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Economics -- do you speak it?

Logic, swirlykins? The only form of argument you seem to have mastered is the non sequitur.

If there really is such a huge demand for what Longy is providing, then when Longy gets out of the business of providing these lessons, the remaining providers can raise their prices, increasing the profitability of the services that remain. There's no reason to believe that Longy's move would make other providers *more* unprofitable.

The administration over at Longy isn't swimming around in a Scrooge McDuck pool of gold coins, thinking up new ways to fleece the community. They're in a tough financial position and doing what they think has to be done for their institution to survive. If you think what Longy (or one of their many non-profit competitors) does is that important, nobody's stopping you from writing them a check and taking the tax deduction.

Maybe if enough of the community had cared enough to do that long ago, Longy wouldn't have been forced to merge with Bard and trim services. The fact that the community is rallying to attack Longy rather than save it seems to say a all that needs to be said about the quality of Longy's services and the community's priorities.

Wow

As a Cambridge kid, I had chorus, voice, and piano lessons at Longy, and I sure wasn't getting that level of instruction from the public schools. It's definitely what has kept me semi-musically active as an adult. This is a really lame change.

That's unfortunate,

because Longy School of Music is an excellent school, which is why this horrific incident is so shameful. What Longy is doing by cutting out their Youth Music Programs is nothing short of disgraceful, imho. I wish the parents protesting against this all the best of luck.

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