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Breaking: Music school shuts down, fires staff by email

The Longy School of Music of Bard College is shutting down its youth and community education programs. The reason given –  - ‘in order to support continuing growth’ at conservatory level. Three years ago, Longy laid off one in five conservatory staff.

Longy, in Cambridge, Mass., was founded in 1915 by George Longy, oboist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It is short of funds and apparently no longer wants to deal with pre-college kids and parents.




Here’s the letter that went out:

Dear Longy Preparatory and Continuing Studies Students and Families,
The past several years at Longy have been characterized by record growth in the School”s conservatory. Our recent merger with Bard College and new partnerships with organizations like the Los Angeles Philharmonic have only contributed to our rising stature as a world-class institution for advanced musical study in the United States. 

With this growth comes necessary consequences and difficult decisions about the best path forward for the School. We are writing to let you know that on Monday, March 4, in order to support the continuing growth of our conservatory and address our critical need for practice and teaching space, the Board of Governors of the Longy School of Music of Bard College voted to discontinue all Preparatory and Continuing Studies program offerings, effective August 31, 2013. 
We understand that music lessons are a regular part of you and your family”s extracurricular life. To that end, we plan to work closely with you over the next six months to identify additional resources in Cambridge and greater Boston for music instruction. Within the next week, we will circulate a list of community music schools and other institutions that offer private lessons, classes and ensemble opportunities for students of all ages. Additionally, you can leave a message with additional questions for a member of the Longy staff at 617.876.0956 x1000. Staff will be monitoring the voicebox regularly and will return your call as soon as possible. 
Finally, we anticipate that many current instructors will continue to offer lessons in their private studios or at other institutions with which they are affiliated, and we encourage you to speak with them directly about private lesson arrangements moving forward. 
Again, we would like to reiterate what a difficult decision this was for Longy leadership. Many of us have our own, very personal connection to Preparatory and Continuing Studies. We are committed to easing the transition for you, your family, and our faculty in the weeks ahead, and will be in touch with more information as it becomes available.


Karen Zorn



Main source here.

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  1. This is really awful.

  2. Rob2222 says:

    How will this affect the students who are already studying at college or postgraduate level? They have a terrific conducting program and it would be sad that it dissapears.

  3. Mighty Vinyl says:

    Terrible news. Never a very good student there myself, I always marveled at the talent within the preparatory division. I’m certain the significance of so many–from near and sometimes very far–choosing to spend Saturdays (and weekdays as well) at Longy was not lost on anyone, even the youngest musicians.

  4. This is very sad news indeed and leaves many without regular and top quality instruction. I’m thankful that it is not being done immediately and that the faculty and staff will help transition students for the next six months. While Longy says it is due to focusing on their conservatory, I wonder if there is more behind the decision. In any case, May this not be a trend to other arts and music organizations. Sigh.

  5. I used to live right around the corner from Longy. Watching young students going in and out all day lugging instrument cases was a part of my daily routine. This is quite sad. I’m sure the decision was made with a great deal of deliberation.

  6. Skripach says:

    Longy board members of the past always said that the prep division was Longy’s moneymaker. I don’t have up-to-date information, but I can’t imagine that’s changed. My suspicion from the beginning has been that Bard acquired Longy not to run a music school, but as a real estate flip. It’s surrounded on all sides by Harvard buildings, and occupies what must be one of the most valuable sites in the Boston area. They acquired a school with a recently signed union contract, so it might not have been trivial to close it immediately. Closing the one profitable division paves the way for a future announcement that I suspect is inevitable, that the school will close for good. I give it a year. Maybe if Harvard buys it, they’ll at least have the decency to call it “Longy Hall”.

    • Longy_Supporter says:

      Longy needed a local partner…. I hope that Bard College would not just sell the property. Harvard owns too much of Cambridge already. If Longy is to be saved its board should find some way to buy out Bard College of their interests. I can’t see how this actually makes any sense for Bard College as they already have a conservatory in NY. Bard might be wise to cut ties themselves. If Bard does sell the property they should give faculty and students assistance in moving to the Bard College campus.

    • Max Ellsworth says:

      You are so correct!

  7. What a spineless and cowardly administration. They won’t sit down with the faculty and tell them to their faces. With New England Conservatory in the area might not the predatory program training kids, few of whim will try to make a living off music, be of more use than another conservatory churning out performers who can sight read Ligeti and Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes , but for whom the world has no use? The world that the American Idol mentality has generated has no use for music of thought and long-acquired skill. I don’t suggest that it is only “classical music” that requires skill and thought. Pop, other than the producer generated Pop. seems to be on rocks too.

  8. this is terrible. I went to Longy as a kid and am now a professional cellist in the New York area. My time at Longy was a major stepping stone in my development as a musician. I feel sad for all the kids who will miss out on this top notch preparatory program.

  9. Skripach says:

    More information here:

    An instructive quote: “According to Jonathan Cohler, Longy Teachers’ Union spokesman, “This had nothing to do with salaries or allocating space, it’s just vindictive behavior on the part of Longy management. The National Labor Relations Board is investigating and has already found merit to 10 of our charges against Longy. The key to Longy’s actions has been its assertion that it’s making a strategic decision to change its direction because of space requirements. There have been no discussions with us on the issue and when Karen Zorn first came in 5 years ago, one of the first studies she commissioned about space and the allocation of overhead at the school. One of the conclusions that she announced to the entire staff and faculty was that the space crunch was a “myth.” Furthermore, since that study there has been no growth in the student population. The real story is that Longy wants to bust the union before NLRB can act. This action will result in 54 layoffs, including 39 individuals in our bargaining unit. I’m not sure that it’s a coincidence that these layoffs will include the majority of the union’s executive board and all of the remaining union founders.”

  10. Concerned Musician says:

    On March 17, 2009, Karen Zorn wrote to the staff and faculty, “Last semester our Concert Office and Operations Departments conducted a room use survey to help us understand how we use our space. After analyzing our data we discovered some interesting findings, the most important being: Longy does [in italics], in fact, have enough space. Currently, our buildings are only being used 66% of the time. Another way of saying this is: Longy is unoccupied 34% of the time.”

    Since that time, Prep enrollment has declined according to Longy’s press release from yesterday, and conservatory enrollment has not changed much in the last four years, hovering around 200 students as everyone here has noted.

    Clearly space allocation is NOT the real reason for suddenly closing down the Community Programs Division, so what is the real reason!!??

  11. Nadia Zielony says:

    Skripach, I fear you are right. Also, why is there no mention of the relationship between El Sistema programs in Boston and Longy School preparatory program? It seems that Longy would not only be losing their “cash cow” but also cease to play a vital role in music education outreach in this city. And so we have a bizarre paradox: this is the department that both made money AND contributed to surrounding communities. Perhaps when the inevitable real estate flip takes place and Harvard purchases the land and buildings from Bard University we can look forward to the establishment of a top notch Cambridge area conservatory with solid financials and a commitment to community music education.

  12. Max Ellsworth says:

    I take preparatory classes (music theory, orchestra, and chamber) at Longy. Karen Zorn has made a horrible mistake which everyone will come to regret. The Longy community is what inspires young kids to play an instrument, and the friends they make there motivate them to continue with their instrument. I know this from personal experience, because I have played the cello at Longy since I was seven. Discontinuing the Preparatory and Continuing Studies department will hurt everyone. This can not happen.

  13. Norman, were you going to correct your headline? The faculty was not fired by email. This email was just sent to the parents. No use in letting bad information linger on, is there?

    • No, read the other posts – and take my word for it. We have confirmation that some staff were emailed with notice that their jobs will no longer exist.

  14. What the world needs are more community arts programs – not more music conservatories! There are already way too many conservatories cranking out unemployed musicians!

    If our art is to florish, we need more amatures, more teaching at the grass roots level and appreciation of the art form from the public at large. That is what community music schools do.

    Closing such an important community program to build up another conservatory is so wrong on so many levels, I am surprised that Bard went along with this backward idea!

  15. I felt tears in my eyes when I read the news of closing community program in Longy, My six years old son is taking violin class there. He started when he was 4 years. I can see the experience at Longy made him enjoy and appreciate beautiful music… It is shocking to see that the board of the school is so near sighted. Community program at Longy is an important seeding practices for future great musicians, a place where everyone can explore and dream its music dream…..Music, especially classic music is something you have to cultivate when you are kids…the closing of Longy community school is a huge loss to everyone who loves music and a huge loss to Cambridge…

  16. This is very difficult for those who have already started the lessons. They could have told the parents and students earlier instead of leaving them abruptly like this. For sure, many will feel bad about this decision of theirs and will even spark a line of protests. Hope the students will be alright though.

  17. Hilltowner says:

    Boston, truly, does not need another conservatory. On the other hand, the Prep program and Continuing Studies program have been of very high quality and fill a very real need. Specifically the Continuing studies program provides a musical home for ‘grown ups’ who want to pursue music for the sheer joy of it, and need it to fit into an already full life.
    It’s a decision that is bad for the musical community of the greater Boston area. It’s very hard to make sense of it.

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