Voices of the "realigned"
These faculty profiles are a continuing series of articles honoring
the contributions of faculty members who have been affected by the
"realignment" that was announced in a faculty meeting on March 5
of this year. The announcement of this faculty restructuring —
which affected ninety-two faculty members, according to administration
count — came just weeks after the faculty voted by overwhelming
majority to form a union on January 20. The LFU has steadfastly
demanded that the administration rescind the letters that were sent
to individual faculty members shortly after the March 5 meeting.
The LFU welcomes comments here
from anyone who feels concerned by the faculty "realignments". Affected
faculty who would like to present their stories in future issues
of LFU News are encouraged to contact Deborah
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Profile: Sarah Mead
Having been a guest presenter in the Early Music Department for several years, I was hired by Frances Fitch in 2002 to teach a class in 16th century theory at Longy. Since then my course, “Practical Musick,” has been offered every other year and has been considered a core subject for all early music students; students from other departments also regularly took my course. In 2005, I developed a second course (on the theory & practice of ornamentation) to be offered in the alternate years. It's hard to imagine how we could offer a degree in early music without a course in pre-tonal theory. After all, you can't be an effective baroque soloist without understanding how the music of the period grew out of earlier ideas. My chapter on 16th century theory for A Performer's Guide to Renaissance Music has been used as a teaching tool in graduate programs around the country, and students at Longy have said they felt fortunate to be able to work with its author.
Besides teaching classes at Longy, I volunteered time to develop new curricula and help make plans with the Chair and other colleagues for the future of the Early Music Department. One special thing about our program was how closely students could work with the faculty and focus on ensemble music, rather than focusing only on solo music. Last year I was invited to be the International Tutor for the Australian Viola da Gamba Society, and there I met students who were thinking about doing graduate study in the States. They listed only three programs they were considering in this country, and said that Longy was a top choice because of the people teaching and the unique programs at the school.
I attended the faculty meeting in March in which the faculty "realignment" was announced, and a while later received a letter saying my services were no longer needed. It was especially disturbing because I'd put a lot of time into developing a curriculum for a new course I was slated to co-teach in the fall with EM faculty-member Dana Maiben. Students enrolled in the school were expecting to take the class.
The faculty who remain in the EM department are wonderful, but we have lost a number of people whose specialties made Longy’s program unique and attractive to prospective students. Although the news of the Union’s success is encouraging, I fear that the reputation of the Early Music program may continue to suffer if more of the program is not restored. Back to top^
— Sarah Mead
Profile: John Ziarko
I've been at Longy for the last twenty-five years, teaching viola and chamber music to Conservatory students and to both children and adults in Community Programs. I have been a busy freelancer, and was principal viola of the Opera Company of Boston for about fifteen years.
Over the years, I played solo recitals at Longy, and more than ten chamber music performances there with Longy colleagues. I also performed a double Concerto with the Longy orchestra, and played as soloist with the Wind Ensemble. I donated these services because I love music, and because I felt an obligation to help the school and to be part of it.
I generally had from four to six students in my studio during the last ten years. My goal was to continue teaching and developing musicians to get them to their full potential. Last year, though, through a series of coincidences, my studio level fell down to only one student. When, at the faculty meeting on March 5 of this year, we heard about "realignment," a colleague and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and said "that's that." Even though I was prepared for the letter from the school to arrive, I felt shocked to hold it in my hands and read that I would not be teaching at the school the next year. In April and May, it was sad to watch the feeling at Longy go downhill, and to listen to my colleagues for the first time complaining of stomach aches and headaches. Back to top^
Profile: Michael Collver
I have the odd distinction of being the only professional cornettist who also sings as a
countertenor, and I feel very fortunate to have made a living performing in both instrumental and
vocal music worlds. I joined the Longy Early Music Department faculty in the late 1980s and over
the years I have taught courses in both historical improvisation and vocal recitative, in addition
to coaching the early music ensembles. Though I occasionally gave private lessons in voice and
cornetto, mine are rather specialized disciplines and as such I never envisioned recruiting and
teaching a large studio of cornettists or male sopranos at Longy. My unique interdisciplinary skills,
knowledge and aesthetic perspective have, I feel, been my most valuable contribution to teaching
In recent years I have made more of my living by performing than by teaching. Although my
last cornetto student at Longy was two years ago, I have always been willing and able to teach
private students or courses as needed. I have been more than happy to continue my affiliation
with Longy, assuming that listing me as a teacher of early voice and cornetto helped to enrich the
department's image and course offerings, at no monetary cost to the school.
I was in and out of town with performances for most of winter season but had followed, via e-mail,
the "realignment" events taking place at Longy. When I got home from traveling in May, I did not
yet know that I had received a notice that I would not be on the Longy faculty next year. It had
been sent as a registered letter and had been sitting for over a month at the post office. Back to top^
Profile: Lois Shapiro
I have been at Longy since the early 1980s, teaching piano and chamber music to children and adults in the Preparatory and Continuing Studies divisions and in the Conservatory. Then, with no advance notice or warning given to me individually, I received a registered letter in March of this year, saying that I would not be teaching at the school for the next academic year.
Throughout these many years, I have actively donated my time to Longy — performing in many chamber music and solo recitals, volunteering to create a story about Béla Bartok, and serving as narrator for three of the Dalcroze Department's hugely popular family series concerts.
What made my relationship with Longy special? The vibrant and joyful music-making at all levels of experience and the possibility for truly creative exploration and collaborative "cross-fertilization" with my many wonderful colleagues. One example: I was able to invite a Persian sitar player to join me in improvising for a Dalcroze class and for a piano seminar.
I had also been hoping some day to bring the Triple Helix Trio, of which I am founding pianist, for an interdisciplinary program at Longy. The Trio was cited by the Boston Globe as one of the top chamber ensembles of Boston, and chosen as "Musicians of the Year in 2000".
I actively recruited students to Longy because I believed in the unique quality of the education and in the kind of nurturing that went on there. Three students were planning to apply to the graduate program to study with me next year. They changed their plans, though, when they found out I had been fired. Back to top^
Profile: Holly Barnes
I taught at Longy for twenty-two years. I taught violin, viola and chamber music in the Preparatory and Continuing Studies divisions and conducted one of the junior chamber orchestras. I also play in the Boston Ballet Orchestra; in the past I played with the New England String Quartet. I am currently head of Chamber Music at Phillips Academy in Andover.
At Longy, I volunteered my services for Generations Concerts several times and helped out in the Suzuki classes sometimes when my daughter was studying at the school. I liked the feeling of community at the school. There was a lot of collaboration in teaching and I really liked that aspect of the school. It was very much of a neighborhood place. It was intimate. That's what made it special.
I have brought quite a few private students to Longy over the years so they could take advantage of the Performance Hour and play in the orchestra. My recent class was not as big as it had been in years past — I kept my class down to about five or six students — but I had communicated to one of my superiors that when my own kids were in college in about two years, I would expand my class more.
I received a form letter in March saying I'm not getting another contract at the school. My students decided to leave with me. Two of them have been at the school since kindergarten or first grade and would have completed their senior year at Longy with me next year. Back to top^
Profile: Dianne Pettipaw
I have taught at Longy for about thirty-four years, giving lessons in private violin and viola to both Preparatory and Continuing Studies students, and coaching ensembles. Since 1980, I have
taught exclusively at Longy.
I am principal second violin of, and on occasion soloist with, the Boston Ballet Orchestra. I also perform with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, Emmanuel Music, Cantata Singers, Handel
& Haydn Society, and Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra.
I have consistently promoted Longy courses to my students and prospective students, and have brought more than thirty new students into the school over the years. My Preparatory students have regularly played in Longy orchestras and chamber music ensembles, and have sometimes played in the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra for additional experience. My Continuing Studies students have played in many of the community orchestras in the area. One of my current students now plays as concertmaster in the Arlington Symphony, and I am still teaching other Continuing Studies students who are working toward important auditions next year. In 2008, a grateful student's family gave a donation to the school in appreciation of my work.
In March, 2010, I received a registered letter from the school stating that "Longy is in the midst of a period of tremendous change" and that my employment at Longy would end on August 31 of
this year. I will miss teaching at Longy very deeply, and miss the collaboration with my wonderful and congenial faculty colleagues. Back to top^
Profile: Ronald Lowry
I have served on the Longy faculty for twenty-two years in both the Prep and Conservatory divisions, teaching private cello lessons and chamber music at the school.
As a professional cellist I also perform regularly with the Boston Symphony, and I am principal cellist of the Boston Esplanade Pops and the Boston Ballet Orchestra. Over the years—at least eight times, always at the administration's request—I have played on radio WGBH to promote Longy's Septemberfest concerts, and I have performed in more than twenty-three concerts at Longy. I donated these services because I enjoyed collaborating with my colleagues. Several students came to study with me at Longy after hearing me perform in those concerts.
I have never turned down a student that Longy has sent to me. In the past year I gave sample lessons to four students who had applied to Longy and requested me as a teacher.
On March 5, I went to a faculty meeting in which it was announced that things were changed and that there would be no dialogue about those changes. Ten days later I received a letter saying that I would not be renewed at Longy next year. And that was it.
I wish I had received clearer communication about the administration's expectations about me as a faculty member, and that I could have had the opportunity to try to meet those expectations. The whole process felt a little bit cut-and-dried after all these years. Back to top^
— Ronald Lowry
Profile: Alice Wilkinson
I have taught piano and brought in students at Longy for forty-seven years, through many ups and downs at the school; for a time I also chaired the Piano Department. What has remained constant is my love of the students and my respect for my colleagues. I have publicized Longy through many recitals, in the Boston area and afar.
My students have played solo recitals and performed as soloists with local orchestras, including the Greater Boston Youth Symphony, Northeastern Orchestra, Boston University Symphony, Wellesley College Symphony, Longy Chamber Orchestra, Salem Orchestra, North Shore Philharmonic, Merrimack Valley Philharmonic and Reading Orchestra. They have won numerous scholarships and awards, including scholarships from the New England Piano Teachers Association and the Michael Packer Award from Longy. One current Longy student, a graduate candidate at MIT, was expecting to present a solo recital at Longy next year with my guidance.
Wanting to increase the number of my Longy students to more than the five I had, I spoke with a member of the administration to ask about being assigned more students. I even asked whether I should retire, and the response was "Don't go anywhere, Alice." Thereupon I renewed my recruitment efforts, persuading one former student to resume lessons, and a current student to add lessons. (One new student, whose schedule I was unable to accomodate, I referred to another Longy teacher.) I suggested to parents of two students whom I've raised from elementary to early advanced level that they register their children at Longy next year.
I was puzzled and dismayed to be dismissed so suddenly. Back to top^
Profile: Faina Bryanskya
I was hired by Victor Rosenbaum after a national search for a piano pedagogy teacher, and I have taught piano pedagogy and private piano at Longy for the past twenty-three years. I have taught lessons at the Preparatory level and in the Conservatory, and I have brought most of my private students to the school. At masterclasses, lectures, and teaching and coaching demonstrations that I have given at conferences and conventions in Canada, Europe, Russia and all over the United States, I have always advocated for Longy and acted as an ambassador for the school.
I developed the Longy Summer Piano Pedagogy Institute by myself and have successfully conducted it for many years. People have come from all over the United States and from other countries to participate in the Institute, which allows them to obtain Piano Pedagogy Training Certificates from Longy. I have students who are still in touch with me after twenty-three years, including some who have gone on to teach successfully at Longy and other prestigious schools in New York and Boston. One of my best piano pedagogy students was this year's recipient of the Mary Ellis Smith Prize for outstanding achievement in Piano Pedagogy at Longy.
The Longy website still offers a brochure for the June 2010 Piano Pedagogy Institute with a bio referring to my skill as a "teacher of teachers". In March, though, Longy sent me a formal letter telling me that my faculty agreement is not going to be renewed next year. I cannot see any reason for this controversial action. Back to top^
Profile: Frances Conover Fitch
I joined Longy's faculty in 1982, after studies in Europe with the distinguished harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt. Decades of increasingly dedicated teaching followed along with performing, recording, writing about and conducting music. My work at Longy grew as I taught hundreds of students in Conservatory and Community Programs courses and lessons. The practical applications I teach in lessons and the theoretical understanding I teach in classes have informed each other over the years.
In addition to teaching at Longy, I have been committed to building its Early Music Department. From 1999 to 2010, I served as Chair of this department, recruiting faculty and students and working with faculty and students on a wide range of projects, including public performances of fully staged operas. For one year, I filled in as Acting Dean.
My commitment to Longy was based on my belief in the school's unique history and teaching philosophy, and I wanted to help make it the best school it could be. The gracious, humane atmosphere of the community appealed to me and I loved carrying on the tradition of Nadia Boulanger, who sang Bach and Monteverdi with her Longy students. It has been as exciting to assist a retiree to play the harpsichord beautifully at home or with other amateur musicians as it has been to mentor Masters degree students who now bring joy to thousands of people worldwide.
This past March, I learned, to my dismay, that I would not be allowed to continue teaching private organ or harpsichord students at Longy next year, and that my present students would be reassigned. Back to top^
—Frances Conover Fitch
Profile: Sophie Vilker
I have taught in the Longy String Department for thirty-two years. During my time on the faculty, I have taught private violin lessons and chamber music in the Conservatory and in Prep and Continuing Studies. I also conducted the Longy Chamber Orchestra, which I founded. As Chair of the String Department for eight years, I initiated the "Generations" concerts sponsored by the String Department. These concerts featured students from all the divisions of the school as well as alumni and were later copied by other departments in the school.
Over the years, I have volunteered many hours of extra time to the school in various capacities, including rehearsing and coaching performers for the "Generations" concerts, playing in at least thirty chamber recitals at the school, and serving on different committees. For example, I played an important role in the committees that helped establish the Masters degree at the school. I was also instrumental in starting the Masters degree with emphasis on string pedagogy.
Longy became my second home. I dedicated my life to the school because it was very special. One of the things that made it special was the warm relationship between the faculty and administration.
In March, without any prior explanation directed to me as an individual, I received a letter from the administration stating that my contract would not be renewed to teach next year. According to the letter, a "...merger with another institution, as well as the economic realities we continue to face, have made it necessary for us to make some difficult decisions in order to meet these challenges and prepare for the future." Students who came specifically to study with me, and whom I have been teaching for several years, will now have to find another teacher. I had been hoping and expecting to be able to guide them through their studies to finish their degrees. Back to top^