My View

Student task force looks into school music offerings

On behalf of the Rensselaer Music Association, and with the encouragement of Dr. Mary Simoni, Dean of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, I am happy to announce the potential for upcoming changes regarding musical offerings here at RPI.

Simoni and I met last Friday, February 3, as co-chairs of the Rensselaer Music Association Task Force, a group commissioned by the Office of the Provost in order to determine the role of the RMA with regard to many aspects of credit-bearing music ensembles currently offered by the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

The primary focus of this group is to sort out where responsibility lies in terms of faculty appointments for credit-bearing ensembles, purchase and maintenance of instruments and equipment, upkeep of an extensive library of sheet music, scheduling of space in the West Hall Music Suite, use of the Rensselaer brand, and intellectual property.

Since its establishment in 1994, the RMA stepped in to support and expand the music program at RPI at a time when budget constraints may have spelled its demise. Currently, the RMA holds the task of providing compensation for a number of RPI’s ensemble directors, cross-scheduling rooms in the West Hall Music Suite with the Arts Department, coordinating shared use of our instruments amongst RPI students, as well as organizing and funding concerts throughout the year, many of which carry academic weight for students enrolled in credit-bearing ensembles.

Our hope as a task force is that shifting some of these responsibilities back to the School of HASS will allow for the growth of a more rigorous music curriculum here at RPI, as well as lightening the administrative burden that the RMA has taken responsibility for during the past two decades.

The task force consists of student group managers of both credit-bearing as well as extracurricular ensembles, along with Joe Cassidy, director of the Rensselaer Union, Erika Rau Lawson, the RMA’s student activities resource person, and Dan Hakimi ’12, the executive board representative for all musical groups funded by the Rensselaer Union.

Although no decisions will be made until the task force has completed its work, we plan to submit a report of our recommendations to the Provost by the end of this semester. At that point, the Provost will decide how to implement our recommendations, and will determine what resources can be allocated in order to do so. We hope to see the result of these changes take effect beginning in fall 2013.

Regardless of the outcome, the Rensselaer Music Association and the Union will continue to support RPI’s extracurricular ensembles, many of which are student-led.

As with any change, it is possible that the decisions made by the task force may raise some concerns. However, we hope that the importance of our goal, the diverse perspectives included in our group, and the welcome we extend to comments and responses will ultimately result in an improved situation for all.

Simoni and I will be meeting with the Student Senate on Monday, February 13 at 6 pm in the Shelnutt Gallery to discuss the work of the task force. If you are interested in hearing about our progress, or if you would like to offer your point of view, I strongly urge you to attend. Otherwise, feel free to contact me at with any questions or concerns.

Julia Alsarraf

EART ’12