Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Gregory Jones, music department chair, says students come to IPFW for the high quality of professors.
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Tony Beuchel, a senior in music therapy at IPFW, practices the marimba.
Sunday, February 21, 2016 5:17 am
Music department in limbo at IPFW
Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette
In the days to come, rivals Indiana University and Purdue University may have more to dispute than the Old Oaken Bucket: IPFW’s music department could be up for grabs.
As part of a proposal released last month that would divvy up IPFW programs between the two mother universities, the future management of the music school was left open.
IPFW’s music department has always been a sister unit to the IU Jacobs School of Music. While Purdue does not offer a music degree, IU’s music department in Bloomington is often considered one of the finest in the country. According to Music Central Inc., a source for college music majors, IU music is ranked No. 1, beating the likes of Julliard, Yale and Berklee College of Music in Boston.
In recent years, the IPFW music department has expanded.
In 2007, IPFW unveiled the John and Ruth Rhinehart Music Center, a facility with an acoustically perfect 1,500-seat auditorium, a 250-seat recital hall, 25 music practice rooms, 24 faculty studios beside two general classrooms, a music education classroom simulating an elementary school music classroom, a music technology lab, rehearsal halls and an office suite for independent community arts organizations.
Students and professors revel in the facility while students come to study specifically with highly regarded professors, said Gregory Jones, music department chair, who was lured last year from a leadership position with Truman State University in Missouri.
Many of IPFW’s music professors are professionals with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra.
Last year, all of the music-therapy majors found jobs within months of graduating and all of the music education majors passed their state certification test, Jones said.
But the proposal to alter the decades-old agreement that IU and Purdue work under to manage IPFW raises questions about the music department’s direction.
Under the proposal, Indiana University would maintain control of the School of Medicine and enhance its health science and medical education offerings. In those areas, IU would have sole operating and management responsibility.
Purdue would provide and control all other programs and course offerings with an expanded focus on biomedical engineering and advanced manufacturing.
The proposal came from a working group of 10 university and community representatives and mandated by the General Assembly. Two IPFW representatives in the group, including the school’s chancellor, voted against the recommendations.
After the proposal’s release, donors and educators were surprised that it was unclear which university would maintain the music school.
For students, "part of the draw is that IU has such a well-established reputation in music. I’d hate to lose that," said Howard Chapman, founder of Chapman Scholars and the donor of the choral music rehearsal hall at the Rhinehart Music Center with his wife, Betsy Waterfield Chapman.
Chapman has a lot of questions. He wants to know what the committee thinks is not working at IPFW and what the fix would be.
"One of the things that puzzles me is that IUPUI in Indiana is run by both Purdue and Indiana, and I don’t hear any talk about breaking it up. I’d like to ask what’s being done down there that is being done differently," Chapman said.
The Auer Foundation, another IPFW donor, is also perplexed.
"Although I’m sure the Indiana General Assembly, IU and Purdue have put plenty of thought into the proposal, it doesn’t make much sense for the music department to be transferred to Purdue," said Katherine Moenter, the grants director and foundation spokesman. "The Auer Foundation would like to see students continue to receive music degrees from IU."
The Auer Foundation donated the state-of-the-art Auer Auditorium named for Edward and Ione Auer at the Rhinehart Music Center. John and Ruth Rhinehart, both deceased, gave $5 million toward the $25 million music center that opened in 2007, according to the IPFW website.
"We’re in the process of creating and adding to an Auer Endowment that goes toward scholarships with an emphasis on fine arts and music," Moenter said. The Auer Hall at Indiana University was named for Ione Auer, who donated $1 million for it, according to the Indiana University website.
IPFW music has more than $100,000 to give in annual scholarships, said John O’Connell, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, which oversees the music department. The theater department is under Purdue.
For music students, the first reaction to the proposal was panic, said Shelby Fallis, a junior music-therapy student from Seymour. Students feared the music program might be dropped.
Students were reassured that not only would music continue at IPFW, but current students are grandfathered and will get an IU degree, Fallis said.
Still, senior Tony Beuchel of Fort Wayne, majoring in music therapy, is afraid the department might disappear.
The decision on the department’s destiny is years into the future, Jones said. A trumpeter who plays all over the world, Jones oversees a department with 54 full- and part-time professors and about 200 students. IPFW undergraduate spring 2016 full-time enrollment is 6,763, according to online IPFW data.
"The most important thing is we’re going to have a music department here, the same professors, the same wonderful facility," Jones said.
Purdue is the only university in the Big Ten that does not have a music degree program, Jones said. IPFW’s music department recruits based on its reputation and IU’s.
Although Purdue doesn’t offer a music degree, it still has music programs, said Brian Zink, a Purdue spokesman in West Lafayette.
"We do have outstanding programs in university bands and orchestras and Purdue musical organizations that involve many of our students from multiple majors and degree programs," Zink wrote in an email.
Zink said the legislative agency was to study and make recommendations on the role and governance of IPFW, but not to make recommendations on every program offered at the school.
That would be left up to task forces that have not yet been formed.
"There’s been a frustration at the campus for many years over this management agreement, and it’s complicated specifically because of the 50-50 arrangement between IU and Purdue," according to John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. Sampson was one of 10 members of the working group. There are "many administrative difficulties that affect the cost of managing the campus," Sampson said.
The reason for the state’s involvement was the metropolitan campus designation given in early 2015 and a desire to get more degree programs at IPFW in line with regional employers.
"I don’t think anybody could see that the music program was going away," Sampson said. "We didn’t talk about those programs at those levels. The music program has a great reputation (and there are) faculty, students and donors who have supported that at our campus."
Madelyn Rohrbach, an IPFW music major from Auburn, said she would rather have a degree from IU because Purdue doesn’t have a music reputation.
"They’re not music," she said. "When I think of Purdue, I think of agricultural, but it doesn’t really make a big difference. Purdue is a really excellent school."
She chose IPFW because it is close to home and she likes the Rhinehart facility. There was also one other incentive. "... Oh my goodness, hallelujah," Rohrbach said, "it’s so affordable."