The Western Michigan University Board of Trustees met virtually and addressed scheduled action items from community members, students, and alumni on March 18.
Sarah Zegree, a School of Music alumna and current high school choir teacher, spoke to the board about her concerns with the curriculum taught in the School of Music.
“During my time as a student the music ed curriculum was already decades behind,” Zegree said.
Zegree explained how after speaking to recent graduates and former students of hers, she learned nothing had changed. Referring to her colleagues, Zegree said schools who have normally taken student teachers from the School of Music are no longer accepting them because students have been so underprepared for the field.
Director of the School of Music Keith Kothman gave a response to Zegree’s concerns about the quality of curriculum, and the preparedness of students.
“The program has a long standing reputation for quality, in the last three years for example, one hundred percent of the graduates have either been hired right out of school, or they have gone on to graduate school,” Kothman said.
Kothman told Western Herald about one practice they have implemented to make the curriculum more up to date.
“We’ve really expanded how we deal with diversity for choral education,” Kothman explained. “We make sure that we talk more about differences in teaching at a rural school, versus an urban school, versus a suburban school, those are going to be different experiences.”
The School of Music has also expanded its diversity in different teaching environments by expanding on gender inclusivity.
“We don’t have a men's chorus and a women’s chorus, we focus on your voice range rather than your gender,” Kothman said. “We have a choir for sopranos and altos, and a choir for bass and tenors, and it’s not gender based.”
During Zegrees’ enrollment in the college, she attempted to make change but was unable to make any improvement.
“Myself and my classmates attempted to address these issues while we were students,” Zegree said, “We observed and experienced wrongs happening across music departments, and concerns were usually dismissed.”
Kothman gave some examples of ways students can speak to current faculty if they feel change is needed.
“They can share things through course evaluations, they can meet with administration, they can contact us through concern forms set up for students to report issues,” Kothman said. “We aren’t hostile to students voicing their concerns, it makes us want to look at that, and talk to them, and if they had a different experience, ‘how does that factor in?’”