Share this article

print logo


Feelings are running high over the University at Buffalo's plan to phase out undergraduate music education and cut a number of part-time music instructors, including at least three members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mark Jones, president of the Buffalo Musicians Association Local 92, is calling for the resignation of UB President William R. Greiner from the executive board of the Buffalo Philharmonic.

"We really do not need an executive board member who basically has no regard for the employment of the Philharmonic's musicians," he said.

Joseph A. Casimino, president of the Erie County Music Educators Association, is planning a members' phone and letter-writing campaign to Erie County legislators and UB administrators, protesting the plan to make music education a Graduate School of Education option only.

"We're going to fight this," Casimino said. "Students who are not going to be accepted into music education as undergraduates aren't going to go to UB. The university says they are going to have a five-year graduate program -- we don't think it's going to fly at all."

At issue is the future of undergraduate music education at UB and the teaching positions of some orchestra members and other part-time music instructors whose term contracts with the university have not been renewed.

Marlene P. Witnauer, a flutist and adjunct instructor in UB's music department for the past 17 years, is among them.

Her two-sentence letter of non-renewal came "from out of the blue," in mid-June, when students and faculty had gone home for the summer, she said.

"I was able to contact a few of my students. They were quite upset. I wondered if they were being thought of at all in this. I wanted them to know I just didn't walk away from them."

Ms. Witnauer, who has played full-time and part-time with the Buffalo Philharmonic for 20 years, also is an adjunct instructor at Canisius College.

Since receiving her notice from UB, she has accepted an adjunct faculty position with the highly regarded School of Music at Fredonia State College.

"Students get a much broader education at the undergraduate level when doing student teaching," she said.

"When they are out in the schools getting experience, they are honing their skills and learning to teach the instrument they are studying to someone else. They will snap up the jobs faster than someone with a master's certificate with the minimal state requirements to teach."

Jean Dickson, president of the Buffalo Center Chapter of United University Professions, said the union's contract "doesn't provide a great deal of protection for people with one-year contracts."

"Unfortunately, the university can get rid of them for no reason at all. The people who have not been renewed were very vulnerable people."

Kerry S. Grant, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters at UB, said he regretted that "the public is being invited to step into private decisions."

He said UB "is continuing to employ a good number of orchestra members, is committed to supporting the orchestra -- and is not abandoning music education. We are refocusing one program out of five or six in the music department."

"We plan to offer certification to music students who want to teach through the Graduate School of Education," he said. "We have retained that local option. If a student wants a fully integrated undergraduate experience, Fredonia (State College) is the regional resource."

Paul Zarembka, a UB professor of economics and a past president of the Buffalo Center Chapter of United University Professions, said:

"UB has the ability to connect with outstanding Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra musicians -- and a lot of universities cannot do that because they do not have outstanding orchestras close to them.

"Instead of moving to theory, composition and history and away from music education, the university should be emphasizing the strengths of (its location), not moving against those strengths."

Zarembka also faulted the university's plan to offer music-education certification through the Graduate School of Education, saying that, as it is proposed, it is "just the minimal state program of 12 credit hours, plus teacher training," and is not a program registered with the state."

Zarembka said the "certification would not be accepted by almost any school district as a basis for employment -- the minimal credit units just cannot come close to getting the job done."

Gary Stith, Williamsville Central Schools' instructional specialist for the fine and performing arts, said: "This raises a real concern that some kids who want to be music teachers will not be allowed to follow their dreams."

According to Grant, the music education change originated with the UB music faculty.

"It affects only a few faculty members," he said.

There are no comments - be the first to comment