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Shut-down music school: the neighbors come calling

Boston is reeling from our news that the Longy School of Music is shutting down its pre-college teaching section. Slipped Disc has been criticised for reporting that teachers were fired by email, although we know for certain that this is how some of them received the  news.

Of greater concern are the friendly intentions expressed by the New England Conservatory of Music – so quick and so friendly that one has to wonder if there has not been some deal done between the institutions, over the heads of teachers, pupils and staff. The Longy faculty, meanwhile, are enraged. Here are two sample quotes from the ultra-cautious Boston Musical Intelligencer:

longy1

New England Conservatory seems particularly hospitable to the displaced of Longy. Ellen Pfeifer, NEC’s Senior Communications Specialist, told BMInt, “New England Conservatory has the friendliest possible relationship with the Longy School of Music and we support the difficult decision they have made as they work to fulfill their long-term aspirations. NEC, will, of course, welcome any students from Longy’s Community Music program. We have a wealth of ensembles, classes, and private teachers for all levels and offer a warm nurturing center of learning for musicians wherever they are on their musical path.  Of course, some of the instructors at Longy already teach at NEC, and several of them have already invited their Longy students to study with them at NEC.”

Hmmmm…. and

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.

Hmmm, again.

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Comments

  1. Steve Wogaman says:

    Longy has critical space problems and a longstanding hunger for prominence among the world’s major conservatories. Put those things together and you get this.

    Sadly, the last thing Boston – or the world – needs is more under-employed music graduates.

    • Concerned Musician says:

      Except that’s not true. Longy has no more space problems than every other conservatory in the world. Zorn herself said so. She wrote in an email to faculty in 2009 that the school “does” have enough space. In fact, the utilization she reported after an extensive study was only 66%! Since that time prep enrollment has declined about 20% (about 200 students) while conservatory enrollment has not changed much (maybe 10 or 20 students). So there is LESS of a space problem than in 2009, when she declared there was NOT a space problem.

      Space has nothing to do with it.

  2. Can’t speak to the difficulties at Longy, which has long been in the shadow of more established large music schools in Boston, but NEC has had an extensive outreach and extension program for years. For NEC to step in seems quite natural and logical. At least the students have a contingency opportunity.

  3. Teachers were absolutely fired via email. My partner is one of the dedicated teachers there. Speaking as someone who has met both of them, the dean and president are incompetent and vindictive.

    • Please post the email. We have been accused of misleading readers.

      • From: “Zorn, Karen”
        Subject: An Important Message from the President
        Date: March 6, 2013 10:18:01 AM EST
        To:

        March 6, 2013

        Dear Faculty,

        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. I am 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.

        As many of you know, the need for more practice and instructional space has been identified as a mission-critical challenge for years by faculty, students, and independent accrediting bodies. Over the past decade we have taken a number of steps to expand space within the constraints of our facilities at 27 and 33 Garden Street, including multiple renovation and relocation projects, and the recent purchase of 29 Chauncy Street, which may not be available for use by the School for some time. We have now reached the point where the intense competition between divisions for our limited space is occurring at the expense of our full-time students.

        I want to reiterate that this was a very difficult decision for Longy leadership. Many of us have our own, personal relationship with Preparatory and Continuing Studies. But as we continue to build a more robust and talented conservatory student body, we must do so with a mind toward meeting the most essential educational expectations of our full-time students.

        Preparatory and Continuing Studies students and families will be notified of this decision today. More information will certainly follow, but I wanted to let you know about this decision as soon as possible. In the meantime, we will be working closely with the Longy Faculty Union to discuss the effects of the decision to discontinue Preparatory and Continuing Studies program offerings and to help ease the transition for our affected students, families, and colleagues in the weeks ahead.

        Sincerely,

        Karen Zorn
        President, Longy School of Music of Bard College
        Vice President, Bard College
        27 Garden Street
        Cambridge, MA 02138
        Tel: (617) 876-0956
        Fax: (617) 354-8841
        Email: karen.zorn@longy.edu

      • Concerned Musician says:

        From: “Zorn, Karen”
        Subject: An Important Message from the President
        Date: March 6, 2013 10:18:01 AM EST
        To:

        March 6, 2013

        Dear Faculty,

        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. I am 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.

        As many of you know, the need for more practice and instructional space has been identified as a mission-critical challenge for years by faculty, students, and independent accrediting bodies. Over the past decade we have taken a number of steps to expand space within the constraints of our facilities at 27 and 33 Garden Street, including multiple renovation and relocation projects, and the recent purchase of 29 Chauncy Street, which may not be available for use by the School for some time. We have now reached the point where the intense competition between divisions for our limited space is occurring at the expense of our full-time students.

        I want to reiterate that this was a very difficult decision for Longy leadership. Many of us have our own, personal relationship with Preparatory and Continuing Studies. But as we continue to build a more robust and talented conservatory student body, we must do so with a mind toward meeting the most essential educational expectations of our full-time students.

        Preparatory and Continuing Studies students and families will be notified of this decision today. More information will certainly follow, but I wanted to let you know about this decision as soon as possible. In the meantime, we will be working closely with the Longy Faculty Union to discuss the effects of the decision to discontinue Preparatory and Continuing Studies program offerings and to help ease the transition for our affected students, families, and colleagues in the weeks ahead.

        Sincerely,

        Karen Zorn
        President, Longy School of Music of Bard College
        Vice President, Bard College
        27 Garden Street
        Cambridge, MA 02138
        Tel: (617) 876-0956
        Fax: (617) 354-8841
        Email: karen.zorn@longy.edu

    • Being told your division is closing by a certain future date is not the same as being fired. I am not defending the administrators because I don’t know them and I don’t know nearly enough about the situation. If someone actually got an email saying “as of X date, you are no longer employed here” I will stand corrected. I don’t think this is a small semantic difference, because the claim that “I was fired by email” is rightly inflammatory so I’d prefer to know if it’s true.

  4. Skripach says:

    The union’s story here: http://www.longyfacultyunion.org

    It includes the claim of e-mail notification.

  5. Concerned Musician says:

    There is a protest organized by parents of Longy Community Programs students TODAY at 10am in front of the school at 27 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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