As a senior who cares deeply about the future of the Conservatory, I would like to draw attention to the state of the Conservatory for 2016-2017. Many studios are expecting very few new students in the 2016 matriculating class. The Strings department—comprised of the Violin, Viola, Cello, and Bass studios—is, all told, expecting nine total new students this fall, with violin and viola expecting a paltry one student each. A few other studios that were already struggling to cover parts in large ensembles, particularly in the Brass department, are also expecting as few as one new student per studio.
These low matriculation numbers are a disastrous failure of recruitment and miscalculation of admitted student yield, and their effects will ripple for years. Many people are involved in recruiting new students or deciding how many to accept: Admissions staff, Conservatory administration, studio professors, student workers and hosts, and others. I am unsure of what exactly went wrong, but I hope that those parties carefully reexamine their recruitment and admissions practices—Lawrence cannot afford another year like this.
We should take this opportunity to consider what may have swayed prospective students’ decisions, particularly in the departments with low numbers. Students in one brass studio met and auditioned for a professor who is retiring, not their future teacher. Any string player majoring in performance must play in Lawrence Symphony Orchestra (LSO) every term, yet we have not had a tenure-track conductor since 2014. LSO was once seen as the most “prestigious” instrumental ensemble for wind players like me; in my own experience rehearsing and performing with LSO this year, it was a monumental disappointment and waste of students’ time, talents and collective potential.
The Conservatory is an integral part of Lawrence’s identity, and the Orchestra—which joins strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion and occasionally voice and keyboard—should be at the heart of the Conservatory. I am cautiously optimistic about LSO’s future leadership, but clearly more work needs to be done to ensure that we even have an orchestra in the coming years.