Solar panels on top of the Music A building. | File photo by Walter Hackett

HSU music department breaks national accreditation standards

Students majoring in music suffer from education standards
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Students majoring in music suffer from education standards

According to the National Association of Schools of Music, the Humboldt State University music department is acting out of line with national accreditation standards.

Section 8B of the NASM handbook requires that students are provided sufficient time on tasks. HSU music buildings are closed half of the week, leaving students without access to their instruments during allotted class-time.

Cindy Moyer, music department chair, advocated for her students to have access to the building’s practice rooms.

“I was able to assign every student to their own room that no one else would enter,” Moyer said. “Now more people are in a building at a given time and students are sharing rooms which isn’t nearly as safe.”

Without access to the music buildings, percussion students can’t practice, which was a huge problem last spring. Buildings were simply shut down and students have no way to play.

“When you stop learning, it’s not like you stop, you actually get worse,” Moyer said. “No matter how hard I begged or cried, they wouldn’t give percussion students access to the buildings.”

Students should have access to practice spaces at least 110 days in a semester, though they get more if they stick around over breaks. This semester students get only 28 days.

“Definitely not getting the education [music students] are paying for,” Moyer said.

Eugene Novotney, a music professor at HSU, sees the closed facilities as an enormous obstacle for his students. HSU students rely on university instruments to practice because they can’t afford to purchase their own.

“No student owns instruments like Timpani, Xylophones, Marimbas, Vibraphones, Steelpans, Grand Pianos,” Novotny said. “Very few own their own drum sets.”

Seth Mattingly is a fourth-year student in the music program. A percussion student, Mattingly finds that it is challenging for him to improve his performance using his professor’s feedback.

“Normally I would be trying to get three to four hours every day of the week,” Mattingly said.

Mattingly pre-records his musical pieces and performance with the limited instruments at his home. He doesn’t feel like he has enough time to act or improve on the feedback his professor gives him.

“I am not learning nearly as much as in a traditional semester,” Mattingly said.

Music students need facility access for the final eight weeks of the semester in order to continue practicing and improving as musicians. During finals week, every student who is taking lessons has a jury, which is essentially a final exam.

Each student performs the music they have been working on this semester for five to 15 minutes in front of a jury of faculty. This semester, juries will be done over Zoom or through recordings.

At the end of the semester auditions are held for students who wish to move into the performance or music education tracks. Students must be able to practice consistently to prepare for the auditions.

Heather Madar is a representative on the Fall Instructional Transition Team (FITT) which is in charge of operationalizing the campus. FITT runs logistics to see if a request can be made given the COVID-19 circumstances. Any information or requests get processed through Madar, it’s sort of a hierarchical type of communication.

“Because of the pandemic environment, simple decisions have ramifications for safety and trigger different things,” Madar said.

Logistics that need to be weighed may have to consider listening to guidelines imposed by the county, the chancellor’s office, sustaining academics for students, listening to safety people on campus and custodial and facilities on cleaning and sanitization. To make matters more complex, guidance standards have been changing along this.

Jenn Capps is provost and vice president for academic affairs, the highest level of academic administrator at HSU. Capps is aware of the problem that the music department is facing with facility accessibility.

“Unless we are supporting our custodial and facilities working 24/7, there comes a barrier with the number of folks to support and operate under the cleaning protocols,” Capp said.

HSU doesn’t have the capacity or resources to bring enough custodians on campus and can be a difficult position to hire.

“Word is getting out, folks are frustrated,” said Capp, “We are applauding the people that are making the stuff happen.”

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