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Performing Arts Department Faces Changes for 2017-18 Academic Year

Performing Arts bulletin board / Photo by Merisa Boyd.

For many years, Emmanuel College students wishing to major in Performing Arts have had to do so as an Individualized Major. This process will soon change as Administration looks to reorient the Performing Arts department into the English department. While this change could provide students will new opportunities, it could also mean the loss of a tenured faculty member.

Currently, if a student wishes to major in the Performing Arts, or any major not formally offered, they have to go through a lengthy process. This includes selecting at courses that they feel make up a major, completing paperwork, and writing a personal essay explaining why they think this would be a valuable course of study. Then they have it all approved by the Individualized Major Committee as well as Academic Affairs.

Students from a wide range of disciplines have been able to create programs of study not otherwise offered. These individualized plans give students the flexibility to focus on different areas. Students from the performing arts department, for example, have created Individualized Majors for a wide range of topics such as Performing Arts, Directing, and even Performing Arts Management.

“Some years ago a number of my students under my tutelage were successfully approved for majors under this program,” explained Chair of the Performing Arts Department Scott Gagnon. “That success has set a precedent, and it has become easier for students to prepare and submit these applications, however approval is never guaranteed.”

Some proposed changes to the Performing Arts department would allow students to skip this lengthy process, and declare a major in theater the same way they would with any other major. However, the organizational structure of the department would be within the English department.

“The focus will be on the theater part of the performing arts, with this proposed major or concentration going forward as opposed to those classes dealing with music theory composition,” said Gagnon.

In making this choice, Vice President of Academic Affairs Dean William Leonard explained that administration tried to find a way to offer students more opportunities in areas where there is already a lot of interest.

“When looking at the overall curriculum in the department, we determined that the curriculum in the individualized majors have been overwhelmingly in the theater arts,” said Leonard. “So we wanted to reorient the department in that direction to make it a more cohesive experience in some ways.”

While this new structure is a positive thing for the theater aspects of the program, the college would essentially be eliminating the Performing Arts Department.

By dismantling the department, tenured professor Dr. Tom Schnauber, Associate Professor of Performing Arts, would lose his position at Emmanuel.

“In his first notice to the Curriculum Committee on Jan 5th, VPAA Leonard did write, ‘eliminate the Performing Arts Department as it currently exists,'” stated Schnauber in an email. “Either way, the end result will be the same: the loss of courses as well as the minors and any possible IM’s involving music.  Not to mention a long-time, dedicated faculty member, as well as the trust of the faculty in general in the Administration, which has a direct effect on how and what we teach students.”

According to an email sent by the Performing Arts department to Dean Leonard, “all classroom music courses would be eliminated from the college’s curriculum.” This would eliminate  the Music and Music Theater minors, as well as the opportunity to create an Individualized Major in music.

If these changes are implemented, a number of other performing arts courses would not be offered because of Schnauber’s removal. Some of these courses include classes such as Creating and Producing Music Theater (HONOR3901), Music Theater Through the Ages (PERF1302), Creating Music-Theater: Defying the Ridiculous (PERF 2323), and History of American Musical Theater (PERF 1301), among others.

Reactions from both current students and recent alumni of the Performing Arts Department have been varied.

Joe Deauna, a Class of 2016 alumnus, graduated from Emmanuel with a double major in Biology and Performing Arts.

“While I understand the department has never been an academic focal point of the college, nor a particularly lucrative aspect of the college, the collective student interest and production quality has been growing over the past few years and it seems counter intuitive for the college to reconstruct a department that’s just finding it’s footing,” said Deauna.

Eimile Bowden ’18 hopes that these changes are the beginning of an expansion of the Performing Arts at Emmanuel.

“The loss of Dr. Schnauber and his courses is going to be a huge blow to the Emmanuel art’s community. My hope is that this change will give the theatre department more resources and, eventually, an adequate space,” Bowden wrote in an email. “I hope that by developing a more concrete theatre major that the administration will realize how important the performing arts are and will make plans to expand our facilities.”

Haley Werra ’17 is a Psychology major with a Music minor. Werra was upset when she heard about the effects that these changes would have on the music program.

“One of the reasons that I chose Emmanuel over other schools was because I would have the opportunity to minor in music,” she explained.

Leonard explained that this process will take time. He envisions the English department being more an administrative housing for the time being while the curriculum is finalized. Leonard’s goal is to have these changes in place for the start of the 2017-2018 school year in September.

On February 16, the Curriculum Committee voted against the decision to eliminate the Performing Arts Department.  They also voted to eliminate some, but not all, of the music courses. This action diminished the music offerings, however there are still enough courses for all the current faculty in the Department to carry full teaching loads.

While this decision reflects the feelings of both students and faculty on the Curriculum Committee, President Sister Janet has the ability to override the vote.

Despite the administrative changes, Leonard insists that very little is going to change for students currently involved in the department.

“We’re aiming to give coherence and a name to what students are already doing,” explains Leonard. “This will also help enhance how we market theater to perspective students and the community.”

Katie Drewry ’19 is a Staff Writer for the Hub. She can be contacted at drewryk@emmanuel.edu.

Posted by on February 23, 2017. Filed under Around Campus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.