USF Plans to Suspend PASJ Music Concentration

ASUSF Voices performed their music showcase at the Presentation Theater on Apr. 20, to celebrate 35 years of the ASUSF Voices choral program. Photo courtesy of Rick Roberts.

Performing Arts and Social Justice (PASJ) music faculty and students were informed via email on Apr. 19 that USF intends to suspend the music concentration of the PASJ major in the upcoming academic year. 

In his email, PASJ Department Chair Roberto Gutiérrez Varea, stated that the administration proposed the change following the departure of two full-time music professors and “the university’s need to make substantial budgetary cuts.” Varea wrote that these two factors have left the administration to “consider additional measures such as beginning to charge for music lessons, among other adjustments.” 

Currently, all PASJ students are required to choose a concentration in music, theater or dance. The cancellation of the music concentration would leave students with only theater and dance as options, and limits music to a minor. 

Varea’s email states that all current music students, within the PASJ major, will be able to graduate with their music concentration, despite the cancellation of their program. 

Jeffrey Paris, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences stated to the Foghorn, “Changes to academic programs are always difficult, as we strive to support our existing degree programs and offer new programs and opportunities to meet student needs.”

Nia Bossier, junior media studies major and music minor said, “So many people are missing out because they never knew about the music options available… I [initially] didn’t even bring my violin to USF.” 

Starting in the spring of 2025, private music lessons in voice and instrument will now require an additional fee from students — currently and historically they have been included in the cost of tuition. Private lessons are two unit courses. The proposed additional cost is $375 per unit, totalling an extra $750 per semester for music students. Historically, private lessons have been required for PASJ music students and offered as electives for minors. 

Paris stated,“All currently enrolled [PASJ] Majors with a concentration in Music will have the opportunity to complete any required Music Lessons courses in Fall 2024 with no fees attached to their registration… We deferred instituting these fees for as long as we were able,” he continued. When asked if students will be financially supported in the extra fee, Paris did not provide comment.

Dom Brooks, senior PASJ major with a music concentration, said, “Putting an extra financial stress on musicians is entirely antithetical to the social justice portion of our major.” They noted that the attention from the faculty, in these lessons, often extends beyond traditional training. Brooks’ voice instructor at USF sought out special voice training, in order to better teach them through their transition process as a transmasculine singer.

“There is such a deep level of care and support I feel from every person in PASJ,” Brooks said. 

Daria D’Andrea, adjunct professor of violin and viola and director of chamber ensembles said,  “Many times I have worked with students who… [have] never had the benefit of individual attention.”

In a PASJ town hall meeting on May 2, held in the Presentation Theater and open to the USF community, faculty and students shared feelings on this news. Speakers shared their concern that the administration did not consult music students and faculty before presenting changes, and many asked why the University is unable to promote a current PASJ faculty to full time status so that the music concentration can continue. 

Additionally at the town hall, students and faculty discussed how the cancellation coincided with the recent renovation of the Presentation Theater, a project which is still awaiting completion. Renovations were funded by a recent $15 million donation from USF alumnus and musician Gordon Getty.

The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts has donated nearly $30 million to USF, much of which was set to elevate various arts programs at USF, according to President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J. In an article from USF’s Office of Development Communications, published in May 2022, he said, “This significant support of USF continues to ensure that our students have the opportunity to engage in world-class arts programs. This gift ensures we will continue to evolve and elevate the arts education in San Francisco for the next generation.”

When asked why the music concentration was being cut despite Getty’s gifts, Paris stated, “Along with renovation of the historical Presentation Theater… the gift will support arts facilities and operations, create the Ann Getty Endowed Chair, and provide additional scholarships for students.”

Brooks said, “I think the university is showing the lack of dedication and support they have for our department when they propose changes like this. I hope that the university will communicate with us so we can keep working together on strategies to keep this program alive and thriving for all who come after us.”

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, News Editor: Niki Sedaghat, Scene Editor: Inés Ventura

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