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Home > About > News and Events > News > Field News > Longy’s Decision to Discontinue Preparatory and Continuing Studies Raises Questions for the Field

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Longy’s Decision to Discontinue Preparatory and Continuing Studies Raises Questions for the Field

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Apr 26, 2013
New York, NY

Following a vote on March 4 by the school’s Board of Governors, the Long School of Music of Bard College (Cambridge, MA) announced last month that it would discontinue Longy’s Preparatory and Continuing Studies effective Aug. 31, 2013. At that time, the school will no longer offer part-time private lessons, classes, and ensembles to area residents. Longy —founded in 1915 as Longy School of Music by renowned oboist Georges Longy—is both a degree-granting Conservatory and a community school.

In response to Longy’s announcement, the Guild contacted Longy President Karen Zorn to discuss reasons for the closing and possible implications for the field. We also talked with Clayton Hoener, President of the Longy Faculty Union; and representatives from a group of over 200 parents, students and community members who have expressed serious concerns over the decision.

Longy cites two main reasons for its decision:

  1. The Conservatory best serves Longy’s mission to prepare musicians to make a difference in the world; all other programs should be in service to it. The past several years have been characterized by record enrollment growth in Longy’s conservatory, which Zorn calls a kind of “Peace Corps for musicians.” Its graduate students are trained with a social imperative in mind and given scholarships to provide free music instruction to underserved communities throughout the Boston Metro area in partnership with public schools, homeless shelters, community centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other institutions. “The school’s 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,” says Zorn. The school also recently launched a new Master of Arts in Teaching in Music degree program—the only degree program in the world to offer training in the principles of El Sistema, the social-justice-through-music program—and is pursuing plans for additional Cambridge-based graduate programs for aspiring teaching artists from across the country. Zorn states, “As we build toward an even more robust and talented conservatory student body, we must remain focused on meeting the most essential educational expectations of our full-time students.” And therein lies the problem. As enrollment in the Conservatory has grown, availability of practice and teaching space has become increasingly limited— despite efforts to create new spaces, renovate, and acquire nearby buildings. Zorn explains that the private lessons, classes and ensembles offered through Longy’s Preparatory and Continuing Studies program consume nearly half of the reserved practice and teaching space on its campus, putting undergraduate and graduate conservatory students at a competitive disadvantage with their peers at other area institutions. Longy students live off campus, which increases the need to have dedicated and flexible spaces available for practice, instruction and creativity, says Zorn. By closing the Prep and Continuing Studies program, Longy hopes to significantly increase practice and teaching space and better support its Conservatory students.
  2. The Preparatory and Continuing Studies program is not a sustainable business model. In its press release, Longy states that it currently has 215 full-time conservatory students in its degree programs, and that its enrollment has almost tripled between 1998 through 2011. Conversely, the Preparatory and Continuing Studies program has seen a 27 percent decline over the same period. The contributions of the two programs to Longy's bottom line are similarly disproportionate. Longy states that while the Preparatory and Continuing Studies uses about half of Longy's occupied space, it produces only one-quarter of its net revenue. Zorn explained that high teacher salaries created a situation where there was little profit being generated from lessons in the Prep program.

54 part-time instructors work exclusively in Preparatory and Continuing Studies, with a majority of the teachers in the program working less than five hours a week.

Miriam Eckelhoefer, who directs the Preparatory and Continuing Studies program, said that she is confident that the demand for private music lessons, classes or ensembles will continue to be met. “We anticipate that many current instructors will be able to keep their students, continuing to offer lessons in their private studios or at other institutions with which they are affiliated. There are numerous resources for private lessons, classes, and ensembles available throughout Cambridge and greater Boston in institutional, community and residential settings.”

Community Concerns
Not everyone is convinced that Longy’s decision is in the best interest of the community and Longy’s mission. The Longy Faculty Union (LFU) along with many concerned parents and community members are actively fighting for the survival of Longy’s Preparatory and Continuing Studies. To date, 1,579 people have signed a petition to “Keep Longy Open to the Community.”

In an April 12 editorial in support of these efforts, the Boston Globe wrote: “[Zorn] insists that Cambridge’s high real estate costs make finding space to accommodate such classes economically unfeasible. But did Longy’s board consider raising tuition for part-time students first? Or scaling back the number of participants to free up space? Could the program have been spun off into a separate entity?”

Victor Rosenbaum—former director and president of Longy School of Music from 1985-2001, also spoke out against the decision in a recent letter available on LFU’s website. He writes: "That the Board and administration of Longy (now part of Bard College) would cut off a component of the school that has been so central to its identity is, frankly, unfathomable. Institutions, in my view, must evolve within certain parameters, based on their history and character. Just as shutting down Harvard College to focus on graduate education would not be an option, so is this recent Longy decision an abandonment of institutional history and character."  

Possible Implications for the Field
Longy’s decision is an important development in light of the large number of divisional programs that are part of the National Guild for Community Arts Education and the multiple ways these programs support our mission of providing access to arts learning opportunities for all. Currently, 54% of Guild members are divisions of a parent institution; 18% are divisions of colleges, universities, and conservatories. Higher education plays an important role in advancing community arts education by training faculty and teaching artists, partnering with arts education providers to increase access to arts education, guiding research, and developing new methods and models. In many cases, divisional programs can be an asset to higher education by providing an additional source of income, creating teaching opportunities for their graduate students, and attracting high quality students. But the financial relationships between a divisional program and its parent institution can become strained, as experienced in Longy’s case. Divisional programs within universities have limited opportunity to fundraise or build endowments, and have restricted access to university tuition or tuition remission for divisional classes. They must navigate through large university financial systems with little control over policies that are decided by their parent institutions.

The National Guild’s collegiate-divisional interest group is actively working to research ways of addresses these challenges and strengthening our field’s relationship with higher education. At the Guild’s 2012 Conference for Community Arts Education, the group addressed three key topics: 1) partnering with your parent institution; 2) recruiting and retaining strong faculty; and 3) raising the financial and human resources to succeed. The group has also produced two collegiate divisional survey reports (in 2011 and 2010) that examine the financial relationships of divisional schools to their parent institutions. For more information on these reports and the Guild's collegiate-divisional group, please contact Ariana Schrier at (212) 268-3337 ext. 13.

Help us continue this discussion by sharing your ideas and questions on the Guild’s Member Forum.

Photo: Longy School of Music, Cambridge, MA

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