Abrutal blow has been dealt to the Twin Cities Arts scene with the announcement of the closing of St. Paul’s McNally Smith College of Music which has been nestled in downtown St. Paul for almost 20 years. The shocking news was delivered to students and staff in an email shortly before winter break. Unable to make payroll, the college was forced to close its doors.
An excerpt from said email published in the “Star Tribune” read: “Dear students, it is with deep regret that we are writing to you to inform you that McNally Smith College of Music must discontinue all course offerings at the end of this fall semester, 2017…We sincerely wish you all the best and are deeply sorry for this highly disappointing situation for all of us.” The sender was college President Harry Chalmiers.
According to MPR News, the school was in a financial situation too dire to even finish the year. From 2012– 2016, enrollment dropped more than 30%. To make up for the lack of students, the college promoted higher scholarships in order to attract newcomers. The added strain was simply too much to bear. McNally Smith was also attempting to convert from a for-profit to a non-profit, but the cost of that process was an expense the college couldn’t ultimately afford. Students and staff were outraged by the lastminute nature of the announcement. The school closed only a week after the notice.
“The timing, of course, seems like it couldn’t be worse, and the reason is that as recently as last week we thought we had a plan in place that would keep us moving forward,” said Chalmiers.
This is little comfort to the many students who were immersed in the unique educational experience of McNally Smith. A contemporary music program, offering degrees in subjects such as Music Business, Hip-Hop Studies and Audio Engineering provided credits that are hard to transfer to other colleges or universities. Many students, especially those who were just a few credits short of a diploma, are at a loss as to what comes next.
“You’d think it was a funeral. All the halls were filled with people just crying, teachers, students, everybody,” said McNally Smith Senior Megan Freitas in a statement for Twin Cities “Pioneer Press.”
Although there weren’t funds to pay faculty and staff for the remaining week of the term, the administration did their best to finish courses appropriately and to issue grades. Hopefully this provided some sense of closure in the midst of such sudden and impactful measures.
This article first appeared in the Friday, January 19, 2018, Edition of The Echo.