IPFW music chair expresses confidence

IPFW musicians on stage for a curtain call after the annual holiday concert
IPFW musicians on stage for a curtain call after the annual holiday concert (IPFW photo)

“I am very confident that, if we can be successful in this current strange collaboration of IU and Purdue, we can be just as successful if we are managed by someone else.”

That’s the word this evening from Dr. Greg Jones, chair of the IPFW Music Department. It’s an excerpt from a message Jones emailed to his faculty.

Jones is referring to a state agency’s proposal to replace most Indiana University undergraduate programs in Fort Wayne with Purdue degree programs, including music, even though Purdue has never in its history offered a music degree.

He’s correct that if Purdue doesn’t change anything about the existing department, it can continue to produce the same quality of musicians and have the same impact on the Fort Wayne area’s culture that it has for the past several years.

One might wonder about the sustainability of music programs that grant Purdue degrees. Would fewer prospective music students enroll in a program that grants degrees from an institution that has no reputation in music, and if not, would falling enrollment eventually harm the local music programs?

It’s possible that music students enroll at IPFW for reasons other than the IU degree they’d receive. In addition to proximity to home, for example, they might prefer smaller classes, greater opportunities to perform with top ensembles, and the ability to learn from primary faculty (vs. teaching graduate students), all advantages over larger programs such as those in Bloomington.

In addition, there’s reason to believe that IU doesn’t fully support all of its undergraduate degree programs at IPFW. Notice, for example, this comment, posted publicly on Facebook Jan. 17 by IPFW English and Linguistics Professor Steve Amidon: “IU seems to want nothing to do with us. In fact, I’ve been told that, six months before the current governance document expires, IU has already stopped approving or considering course or program change requests.

The fact that Purdue has no music degree program (and therefore no curricula to prescribe) might be very good for the Fort Wayne campus, if Purdue therefore allows Fort Wayne faculty to determine what the curricula should look like. The local faculty could then design curricula that best meet the needs of students who come to the Fort Wayne campus.

That might mean using the existing, IU curricula, or the existing curricula with improvements that IU might not have permitted. Of course, a worst-case scenario would be a non-musical administrator in West Lafayette mandating what he or she believes is best for a music degree program. I hope that scenario is unlikely.

It appears Jones has no intention of giving up. It is important, he wrote, that the department “continue what we are doing to increase recruitment, raise the level of performance academically and musically and continue to be a vital cultural resource for northern Indiana.”

The official line from IPFW is that nothing about today’s recommendation is final.

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