Music program transforms

Clarion, Pa.- Two years ago, Clarion University officially eliminated the music education degree and French language education degree programs, along with removing several faculty positions in order to cut costs.

This “Workforce Plan,” which came to be due to sweeping cuts in overall public education funding from the state legislature, was not well-received, particularly for those interested in pursuing either of the degree programs that were discontinued in Clarion. 

While the students currently enrolled in those programs can still finish out the remainder of their degree requirements, no new or prospective students are able to select these majors. Student reactions to this new dynamic has been both palpable and mixed. Those closely associated with the music department, either through coursework or extracurricular involvement, have been particularly passionate regarding the issue in the two years since the implementation of the Workforce Plan.

With these cuts and program eliminations in the past, it may seem uncertain to some regarding where music at Clarion University is going and where it plans to go. Dr. Todd Pfannestiel, dean of the College of Arts, Education and Sciences, said the university has big plans for the marching band, various choir groups and music courses still available at Clarion despite the perception drawn as a result of the elimination of the music education degree.

Dr. Pfannestiel said the rationale behind the elimination of the program involved “incredibly low enrollment totals” along with the issue of “few prospective students interested in pursuing the degree.” As a result of this dilemma in conjunction with budgetary measures at the time, the decision was made to eliminate the music education degree entirely.

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The music program is welcoming more students interested in extracurriculars like band.

Since then, the university has focused on the growth and development of extracurricular activities for musically inclined or interested students. Dr. Pfannestiel discussed the renewed focus on the marching band, which aims to have 150 members by the 2017-2018 school year in honor of Clarion’s 150th anniversary.

Currently, the band has 62 active members, an increase of 18 from last year’s total. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the marching band has brand new uniforms: one example of the university’s commitment to the welfare of the program.  Additionally, Dr. Pfannestiel is determined to keep the marching band relevant and a key piece of attracting prospective students. To this end, the university plans to offer a $250 scholarship through a third-party foundation to incoming students who participate in the marching band for their entire first academic year.

The recent renovations in the Marwick-Boyd auditorium have also provided refurbished and more aesthetically impressive locations for the various choir groups to perform. Dr. Pfannestiel notes the growth and development of these groups as “crucial in keeping music relevant at Clarion University.”

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Clarion’s music program emphasizes more extracurricular opportunities for students.

Furthermore, Dr. Pfannestiel revealed a new degree program currently in the formative stages as the proposal works its way through Harrisburg. This new program would represent a partnership of the business and music departments in order to provide lucrative, fulfilling educational opportunities for prospective and current students.

The potential program, called “Entertainment Management,” is geared toward students who have an interest in music, art or theater, but in a managerial, business-oriented fashion rather than through performance or involvement. The university plans to offer this program as a concentration starting in January 2016.

Despite the elimination of the music education program and the subsequent reaction from both faculty and staff, Clarion University aims to continue offering worthwhile opportunities in the music department through the growth of extracurricular activities like marching band and choir, along with developing brand new degree opportunities for prospective and current students.

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