For roughly the last decade, according to President of the Union Jonathan Stack ’13 and Director of the Rensselaer Union Joe Cassidy, the Union has entirely funded and maintained almost all of the music groups and ensembles of RPI. About a decade ago, when the Institute withdrew funding for nearly all of its musical programs, the Union stepped forward and took over financial responsibility for the programs, according to Stack. Over the last decade, the Union has been replacing, repairing, and supplying the musical ensembles, using space in West Hall gifted to the Rensselaer Music Association by the Institute.
The space which would not have been otherwise used by musical groups has been populated, almost entirely, by students engaging in non-credit bearing musical activities. Recently the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences has stepped forward and decided to take in many ensembles and musical groups on campus to remake them into credit bearing classes provided for through the Institute.
According to Stack and Cassidy this is likely an opening move in what will be a long term plan towards the creation of a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program in music.
With the HASS department’s decision to move into the on campus music scene, a task force was formed of members of the HASS department and key members of both the Union and the concerned musical groups on campus. This nine-member committee released a report that is the first step in demarcating the line between what HASS is looking to accomplish and the continued role that the RMA is going to play on campus. According to the report of the task force, one of the key underlying goals has been to, “shift some of the institutional responsibilities of supporting and managing back to the school of HASS,” as well as “lightening the administrative burden that the RMA has taken responsibility for during the past two decades.”
The report states that currently all of the directors of both credit and non-credit bearing ensembles active on campus, only the orchestral director is being compensated by the Institute. All others are being provided for through funding from the Union. The task force has concluded that the HASS department must step forward and begin providing the funding for all directors of credit bearing activities, while the RMA will also continue to provide a strong musical presence on campus for all students not interested in enrolling in the academic programs being developed by HASS.
The report also covers the use of facilities and equipment for both parties in the short and long term. Currently, every music stand, chair, piece of sheet music, and instrument is owned by the RMA and through them, the students. Conversely, all of the buildings and facilities are owned by the Institute. For the future, the task force report states that comprehensive inventories will be held separately by both parties, with the RMA retaining ownership of all of its current resources, and the Institute purchasing its own versions of all of the resources held by the RMA. The sheet music archives held by the RMA and the Union will be the only exception to this, the report states the Institute will combine their resources with the archive, and it will be moved to the Folsom Library where, “ownership of all music library resources will be assumed by the Institute,” and the archives will be curated by the Folsom Library. The facilities in which the RMA has operated in the past, namely West Hall, will revert to institute usage, while new facilities for the RMA are currently undergoing construction in the first floor of the J-Building.
The first floor of the J-Building, which many have commented on as having been very poor before, is currently undergoing renovation so that they meet the needs of the RMA. According to Stack, members of the RMA have met with the Institute architect and had direct influence in the design of the space that they will be using.
According to Devin Glenn ’15, current co-president of the RMA, this move on the part of the Institute heralds a new era for the RMA. Glenn stated that they will soon have better facilities and support than ever before.
Some negotiations between the RMA and HASS about specifics of the entire operation still remain, but much has been finished and put into place, with everything set to be finalized in the fall of 2013.
Editor’s Note: The print version of this article incorrectly stated that the RMA will no longer be funded by the Rensselaer Union. The Poly apologizes for the mistake.