When a music college sacks your teacher

When a music college sacks your teacher


norman lebrecht

March 09, 2015

When Jinty McTavish went to Northwestern University at the start of the current academic year, it was to study viola with Roland Vamos. Barely had she settled in than Professor Vamos, an internationally renowned teacher, was sacked. NWU offered no explanation. What would you expect Jinty to do? Here’s her account of events. 


When I came to Northwestern University, I had every intention of getting my master’s degree. I was so incredibly excited to begin my studies at such a beautiful school that was located so close to downtown Chicago and offered so many inspiring things. However, as I began my studies, I began to realize that this place wasn’t all that I had expected it to be. While there were several things from the beginning of my studies here that I didn’t like, there was one main event that made me to decide to leave the school. When I came back from Christmas break this year, the Bienen school of music had unfortunately decided that they didn’t want to have the highly esteemed and amazing pedagogue, Roland Vamos, at their institution as a professor anymore. They had also decided that this would happen without first discussing it with all of Mr. Vamos’ students, many of whom had come to the school without much scholarship to specifically study with him. I was so incredibly shocked. How could such a wise and sweet man who had so much to offer be pushed out? And how could the school have neglected to have even let his students know that they were doing so? Students who wanted to study with him?




The entire month of January was spent banding together with students to organize a meeting with either the dean of Bienen or someone higher up to start an open conversation about what we had been hearing. When our first email was met with a snarky response, which told us that we shouldn’t be worrying because our teachers would be with us for this year (saying nothing about following years and nothing about organizing a meeting to make us as students feel better) I got angry and frustrated. What is the purpose of an administration other than to the students and their teachers? Aren’t we the ones paying their salary? What is a music school without those teachers? Especially teachers as highly regarded as the Vamos’?

Many of you might ask, “how did this situation affect you, since you weren’t a viola student?” Since the Vamos’ are married and teach together famously as a team, this affected both of them equally. How could Mrs. Vamos continue teaching at an institution that so highly disrespected her other half? Even if Mr. Vamos had been the only one to stop teaching, it would have affected me the same. It would have kept me from studying under the wonderful Vamos team!

After fighting with the students via letters to try to contact the President and Provost since we hadn’t received any indication that the dean wanted to organize a meeting with us, we finally received another letter from the dean of Bienen. This letter was only written to let us know that the Vamos’ had resigned from NU. The letter assured all of us that steps would be taken to secure a new teacher. No mention was made of taking the ballots from the students on this matter.

My decision was made final. I will be leaving NU after this quarter. I will be continuing my studies with the Vamos’ privately. This has been a very difficult quarter for me, but I am happy and I am doing well! I get to study with the teacher I came to study with. I also get more practice time and more opportunities to travel and hopefully begin participating in violin competitions.

If you’ve made it this far into my post. Thank you. I think this story needs to be shared so that people are able to see what really happened. I was one of the lucky people who wasn’t severely impacted by the administration’s poor handling of the situation. I have a plan. There are students in my studio who are under intense stress right now trying to scramble auditions together or figure out some way to finish their degree with the teachers they had wanted to study with. I am so thankful for the colleagues and new friends I have met during my time at Bienen, and I am excited to move forward on this new path.

If you want to share my story, that would be extremely welcome. Northwestern has neglected to tell auditioning students at this point that both Vamos’ will not be teaching next year. I think it only fair that everyone hears this story and gets a heads up on what has happened.


jinty mctavish

Slipped Disc would welcome a response from NWU and the Bienen school of music. If you have been subjected to a similar experience in ollege, please share it in Comments.


  • JB says:

    I remember when Mr. and Mrs. Vamos left Oberlin to teach at NW. A good number of their top students left to follow them.

    That was nearly 15 years ago. I would imagine both were tenured at NW and that Mr. Vamos could not have been simply sacked with “no explanation.” There is more to this story…

  • Tor Frømyhr says:

    There is not necessarily more to this story. Universities and Music schools have done far more than this for no discernible reason and time has not vindicated the actions.

  • Malcolm Kottler says:

    Two of world’s leading string teachers to join Roosevelt University

    Roland and Almita Vamos, a husband and wife team who are among the leading violin and viola teachers in the world, will join the artist faculty at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts in the fall of 2015.

    Read more at:

  • JR says:

    Yes, there is. He’s a lovely, generous man, and can still give a good coaching, but sadly, he’s increasingly senile. There have been complaints from many students going back more than 5 years. I would ask Ms. McTavish if she has even one violist colleague who can claim that Mr. Vamos knows their name, or knows what they played at their last lesson.

    It would be irresponsible for the university to keep him on much longer, as it is impossible for him to guide an undergraduate through a 4-year course of study, what with no sense of a student’s progress over time. This is one of those sad but necessary steps that administrations must take from time to time. Too bad the communication with students was not better.

  • JR says:

    Yes, there is. He’s a lovely and generous man, and still can give a good coaching, but sadly he’s increasingly senile. There have been many student complaints going back 5+ years.

    I would ask Ms. McTavish if she has any violist colleagues who can claim that Mr. Vamos knows their name, much less what they played at their last lesson, or even what they played earlier in the same lesson.

    It would be irresponsible for the university not to make a change, as it is impossible for him to guide a college student through a 4-year course of study with any big-picture coherence. Sadly this is one of those decisions that administrations must make from time to time. It’s unfortunate that the communication with students was so poorly handled.

  • Jinty says:


    Mr and Mrs Vamos were under tenure, so the dean first took away all of his students and told him he could only teach chamber music, basically putting him in the corner. Things had not been good between the Vamos’ and the dean leading up to this point. They had not been shy to say when they weren’t happy with a decision that she had made. Because of this, she wanted them out of the school.

    Northwestern is an extremely small school and there is only one cello and viola teacher. Naturally, a few students didn’t connect to Mr Vamos’ style of teaching. Rather than talking with him about it, they just went straight to the dean who took this as the ammunition that she needed to take away all of the students and essentially put them in a position where they would want to leave the school. When we heard rumors about him not being allowed to teach the majority of the students in the studio who actually wanted to study with him. (Why couldn’t they finally add another teacher for both the cello and viola studios since both studios had a few complaining students in them?)

    Naturally the Vamos’ decided that if the school wasn’t going to let Mr Vamos teach the students who wanted to study with him (the majority of the studio), then they would negotiate a resignation. This came after years of having dealt with scholarship cuts offered to their studios among other things. They are getting older and getting tired. They didn’t want to deal with stuff like this any more. And why should they? I still can’t believe that they were treated like this. I know so many schools that are dying to have both of them on faculty.

    I would like to say that I do not blame the students who went to the dean in any way. She would have found another way to block them out even if this hadn’t happened. Also, it is extremely normal for there to be one or two students in a studio that don’t click with their teacher. As stated above, this has also been a known issue in the cello studio. There should be at least two teachers for each instrument in my opinion. Even if one is part time.

    Thanks so much to Norman Lebrecht for posting this! I hope that more people share, so Northwestern realizes what a mistake they have made.

    • Sid says:

      Interesting. There was a rather similar incident at Northwestern in 2004 with the dismissal of a voice faculty member. A number of students protested the decision and even drafted a petition supporting the faculty member. The music school’s administration declined to provide an explanation for the decision and in the following year, several students subsidized the cost of fly this instructor back to Chicago for monthly private lessons. Granted, the instructor in question was not tenured but it’s not the first time NU has handled it’s music faculty in this fashion.

      • S says:

        I am a current Vamos student at Northwestern and I, like Jinty, am livid with how the administration handled (or didn’t handle) the situation. When rumors were going around, a majority of both Mr. and Mrs. Vamos studios got together and wrote letters to our music school dean, Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery, our assistant deans, as well as Northwestern’s President and Provost. These letters included signatures of close to 25-30 students asking for both an open conversation as well as a formal explanation regarding our teachers’ status. All of which were ignored. Even to this day, we do not have any sort of appropriate explanation. Many students have either dropped their music major or are dropping out of Northwestern. Some are following the Vamoses to Roosevelt.

        Many of us came to Northwestern to study with the Vamoses. Personally, they have shaped my entire experience here and will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life. It is a huge loss for the Bienen School. Without the Vamoses presence here at the school and in light of all the recent mayhem, I really can not recommend Northwestern to any prospective music student. This school does not prioritize a student’s desire to learn and does not respect the legacy of renowned professors like Mr & Mrs Vamos.

      • Tony says:

        There have been cases where faculty were dismissed through back-stabbing instead of receiving fair and open treatment. When you have tenure and national visibility because of your skills as a teacher, death through a thousand cuts is the easiest way to get the resignation – for whichever reasons – you want as an administrator without getting your institution sued. It’s sad that it has to be this way.

        Furthermore, I hear there was also professional jealousy or a feeling of being threatened involved in this case from one of the other teachers. I’m glad they found a new home at Roosevelt and don’t have to move to another city. Roosevelt will no doubt be a more welcoming place where they will get the respect that they are due as the great string instrument teachers they are.

      • anon says:

        Dean Montgomery has been making cuts since she got appointed dean. Back in 2004, she cut the historic and prestigious organ program at Northwestern causing quite a stir. The Tribune published three pieces on her decision and alumni were outraged.


        Recently, the head of the collaborative piano department, beloved Dr. Buccheri, retired as well. Students and faculty alike have been confused because of Dean Montgomery’s inability to find a sufficient replacement as soon as she promised. It’s taken over two years at this point and even when masterclasses are being held and students and faculty like a prospective candidate, there is no action. Students at NU are wondering if the Dean is simply waiting until the collaborative program dies on it’s own so that she can cut it for good.

        • anonl says:

          To Anon’s March 2015 comment …Recently, the head of the collaborative piano department, beloved Dr. Buccheri, retired as well. Students and faculty alike have been confused because of Dean Montgomery’s inability to find a sufficient replacement as soon as she promised. It’s taken over two years at this point and even when masterclasses are being held and students and faculty like a prospective candidate, there is no action. Students at NU are wondering if the Dean is simply waiting until the collaborative program dies on it’s own so that she can cut it for good….

          Northwestern’s website now shows **Applications are not being accepted for fall 2018 for MM or DMA in Performance & Collaborative Arts.

  • Davis says:


    I studied with Mr. Vamos at Northwestern and had a wonderful experience. When I started with him I needed serious work; Mr. Vamos was perfectly capable of monitoring my week to week progress. Sure it took him a few months to remember my name, but why does that matter compared to the infinitely important information he helped me to learn. It never bothered me because I was improving so quickly using his approach.

    Why does it even matter; there are countless stories about Dorothy Delay and Ivan Galamian not knowing their own students. To accuse Mr. Vamos of senility is nothing short of ageism (Mr. Vamos is in his mid 80s).

    Additionally, as Jinty stated, Mr. Vamos’ own studio banded together to fight to keep studying with him. Shouldn’t these students, paying tens of thousands of dollars, have the right to study with the teacher that they came excited to learn from?

    Mr. Vamos changed my life; he was there for me during times at Northwestern I felt absolutely alone. During many of those times I went to the administration hoping they could help and, unfortunately, was brushed off. Mr. Vamos cared. He gives his students the tools to succeed (proof of this can be found in top orchestras around the country where his students now play) and I wouldn’t be a fraction of the musician I am today without his skillful guidance.

  • Davis says:

    Let us also remember that Northwestern has seen a few high profile teachers leave over the past few years. Eminent trumpet teachers, Barbara Butler and Charles Geyer, left for Rice a couple years ago; world famous saxophonist Frederick Hemke also left. To see these as isolated occurrences is naive.

    • musician says:

      Hardly comparable. Despite NU’s rather illustrious brass tradition, any faculty member (not employed with the CSO, etc) would jump ship for Rice given the opportunity to do so. There is a difference between moving up a tier in the teaching world and being let go.

      • Henry says:

        Barbara Butler and Charles Geyer were hardly “moving up a tier” (in other terms than finances) by going to Rice, since their studio, regardless of location, is probably the most coveted among U.S. students.

    • Delbert Grady says:

      “Frederick Hemke also left” – Hemke (b. 1935) retired. He didn’t leave for another school. Different situation.

      • Davis says:

        He retired the same year as a few other senior members of faculty (an unprecedented amount for one year). Suspicious.

        • Davis says:

          Considering I was at Northwestern at the time, it seemed like older faculty members were being pushed out by the administration.

    • Music lover says:

      Many other teachers have left Northwestern voluntarily over the years. In the late ’90’s it was Bass guru Jeff Bratetich and viola teacher Peter Slowik. Things apparently don’t change much at NU.

    • anon says:

      Given that Rice has been poaching teachers from every top music school for at least the past ten years, leaving Northwestern for Rice says more about what Rice has to offer (lots of money, both in salary and in student scholarships) than anything about Northwestern.

      • opus131 says:

        As I understand it, Northwestern does not offer scholarships except for need. The cream of the crop kids can get scholarships at schools like Rice even if their parents are reasonably well off. They can’t at Northwestern. It is not hard to guess where they choose to go to college. I am given to understand that this is a source of frustration with Northwestern faculty, and I would not be surprised if this was a factor in the defection to Rice of Butler and Geyer.

  • Former student says:

    JR is correct. Mr. Vamos didn’t know any of our names and sadly didn’t remember what we’d played even 15 minutes in the past. I knew another student, X, who thought Mr. Vamos knew their name, until one week they came at another student’s, Y’s, lesson time and were greeted as Y when they walked in the door.

    • Henry says:

      Former Student,
      I don’t have access to all details, nor do I want to share everything I do know, but losing four world-renown teachers (out of a faculty with few stars) within a few years is not a great track record.

  • CE says:

    As a recent graduate of NU and one who worked closely with a number of viola students and with Mr. Vamos himself, I can corroborate JR’s comments that Mr. Vamos, who is a wonderful pedagogue and has a wonderful legacy, has been suffering from increasing senility, particularly in his short-term memory, which greatly affected his ability to recall students’ long-term progress and needs. I know several violists who have felt that, while they got great things out of Mr. Vamos’ pedagogical experience in terms of basic building blocks, the overall trajectory of each student’s time was not really addressed because he couldn’t remember their individual needs from week to week or month to month. This created great difficulty in progressing in chronic issues and creating a sense of direction in studying. One student told me it was more like a weekly master class with a new teacher than a lesson with your own teacher, which is great for some things but ultimately defeats the purpose of having a studio teacher. There have been incidents of forgetting who is playing for him as they are in the lesson and what rep is being played, sometimes right after it is over. There’s no ageism here, only a sad and unfortunate decline of a beloved figure who has left a wonderful legacy. It can be hard to see clearly when the subject of this situation is so beloved. It seems that NU should have handled the departure differently, but it was the right thing to do to begin to fix a situation that has really affected the time of many students who went in with high hopes based on the reputation of the studio.

  • CE says:

    I was also at NU at the time, and the retirement of the older faculty members was a result of an incentive package partly aimed at allowing this very situation to have been resolved gracefully, avoiding this kind of public airing of dirty laundry.

  • Pieter Viljoen says:


    I knew about these problems when I was Mrs. Vamos’ graduate assistant at Northwestern in 2010, and this result has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re describing.

    Mr. Vamos is as lucid and sharp as a person could possibly be, so citing senility as just cause is ignorant and libelous. I know the man well, and spent a lot of time outside of lessons with him. I’m 29 years old and I can scarcely remember anyone’s name. He immediately knows if you’ve played a wrong note in any of the dozens of etude books he uses, no matter how obscure. He has an almost terrifying recall of the most minute details in the enormous volume of material he teaches from. His mental acuity and conversational facility are better than some people half his age, and as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Consider how many hundreds of people owe well paying and rewarding careers to him, including very recent successes who won great jobs from his studio, during this period which you would characterize him in the way you did.

    I’m sure that you have no ill will toward the man, but I hope that out of respect for him, his profound effect on the arts, and the many people who probably know him better than you do, that you consider your words more carefully as I’m guessing that you aren’t a psychiatrist nor medically credentialed to make such a diagnosis. If you were, you’d never do it in the way you did.

    • musician says:

      last I checked it was 2015… a lot can change for a person of that age over the course of 5 years….

  • Violasam says:

    The more things change at Northwestern, the more they stay the same. In the late 90’s they lost two string teachers at the very top of their fields – Jeff Bradetich, bass, and Peter Slowik, viola. Both left voluntarily. There’s a culture at NU that prevents most great teachers from thriving there.

  • Anon says:

    this is a story? This is a common pattern of behavior among administrators at large universities in the United States. I’ve known several cases of gifts a professor is being pushed out because of illness, eggs etc. the real reason behind all theremovals from positions was simply the desire to put someone younger in who is cheaper and doesn’t necessarily need tenure. No shocks here.

  • Jack says:

    Come on. This piling on on the dean is absurd. People retire. People move on to other jobs. It happens in the music school and in other schools. Conpiracy theorists need to get a life. The music school has really done well under its dean. She has made difficult decisions — I think that’s what deans are paid to do. Some great new faculty have been hired by her. And the university administration must respect her and have confidence in her. Has anyone seen the new building going up on the lakefront? It’s hard to miss, and it’s a huge vote of confidence by the university in the music school and its leader.

  • M says:

    Northwestern also made the mistake of canceling their viola auditions after pushing Vamos out, mere weeks before scheduled auditions were to take place. What they’re going to do about the needs of the music school when it comes to orchestra and chamber groups is up in the air now. I’m sure that they have many candidates to fill the position with the CSO and Lyric Opera just next door, not to mention the nearby Milwaukee Symphony and the financial ability to hire a full-time viola professor outside of this sphere entirely, so why handle the situation so poorly?

    • Becca says:

      I auditioned at Northwestern after it had been announced that Mr. Vamos was leaving. I am a violist. I don’t believe what you’re saying is right. Auditions continued, and were video taped so that string faculty could go over it.

  • AD says:

    To say an older teacher can’t teach- means that Curtis and Juilliard among the other great schools that actually respect a teacher’s lineage, experience and life should also fire their great teachers who are in their 80’s. NU offered a generous retirement package a few years ago where Fred Hemke, Walfrid Kujala and other notable legends from NU retired. The Vamoses chose not to- because they weren’t done teaching. Our recent undergraduate alumni in the last five years have won jobs in the CSO and titled positions in other orchestras. How can the greatness of Dr. Vamos be questioned? He’s also the only string faculty member with a DMA.

    Northwestern will never respond and their announcement to their faculty and viola students was callous. But as fifty years of students that celebrate the teaching of Mr and Mrs Vamos will attest to- what they do- isn’t broken. There will always be complainers in every studio- and not every teacher is right for the same students. But- Mr Vamos’ teaching has not changed at all… and he’s every bit as sharp as he’s ever been. What matters is his teaching. Yet all Vamos students know: once you’re family, you’re in a privileged place in their family and history.

  • Barbara Chasson says:

    What a waste of a truly talented viola teacher!! Hope he finds another place that really appreciates him. Shame on you, NWU.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    If a teacher can’t remember a student’s name what happens at the end of the semester when they have to assign a grade to a name?

    If a teacher can’t remember a student’s name from one week to the next, what else doesn’t he remember from one week to the next that would be essential in guiding that student over a larger time frame than the present hour?

    • JJ says:

      Sorry to break this to you, but music students don’t give a flying fuck about grades. They’re usually entirely based on a jury performance anyways, so there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be able to grade them. Administrative positions have too much power in conservatories, and they don’t give a shit about students. The administration thinks of students as numbers, not the teachers.

  • Jack says:

    It is a little spooky to see people talking about joining the Vamos “family.” Is this a cult, where admission is granted by drinking the Kool-Aid? If so, the slavish comments of some posters can be more easily understood. I do not know Mr. Vamos or his mental competence, memory, etc. But I do know that if he was a tenured faculty member, he would only have been dismissed after an elaborate faculty hearing. Since no one has said there was such a hearing, he must have simply resigned. Perhaps he was offered some payment to resign. As one of the posters said, this is not unusual and there was a program a few years ago at northwestern that provided incentives for order faculty to retire if they wanted to. In any case, it is silly to think that the administration or the dean will make statements or have meetings with students regarding the background to such matters. These matters are confidential by law and tradition. Maybe it is time to move on.

  • S says:

    I had a lesson with Dr. V yesterday. He remembered every fingering to every scale for memory and every note that I missed in my étude without looking at the music.

    Just last week, he was noting out the bowing and fingering differences between the original manuscript and edited versions of the Paganini caprices. I could go on & on. Nothing has changed. My lesson was superb.

  • Henry says:

    A student who has had a great experience studying for a teacher, will usually speak highly of that teacher. For example, Perlman mentions his teacher DeLay in every interview he gives.

  • Booker says:

    I am really bothered by the information that a teacher in a studio would not be able to remember my name. That has never happened to me at any school.

  • ;) says:

    northwestern’s dean, Toni-Marie Montgomery, seemed to have halted their jazz studies program from 2005 – 2008 including terminating the degree for the 2007 school year too


  • ES says:

    More jackassery from the NU music department – anyone surprised? I was a student there in the ’80’s and the music administration was a catastrophe at best. At the start of my first year, students were abruptly informed that, since the school had just invested in hiring Yampolsky and wanted to impress the donors, school orchestra concerts were switched to Friday nights (from Tuesdays) and a passing grade was contingent on participation. I was a self-supporting student attending on scholarship, with my only income being as performing musician (what Northwestern was allegedly training me for). The other self-supporting performer in my studio, a master’s student with a family, was similarly horrified by this loss of a badly-needed work night each month. Seating auditions were a joke – the section was arranged with the tallest males in front, females in the back, regardless of performance on the ‘audition’. The orchestra and rehearsals were a joke – overprogrammed with literature the least-accomplished in the group couldn’t handle (on asking why we were all put in a group together, I was told admission standards had just been broadened to allow some freshmen who were paying full tution), resulting in the majority of rehearsal time being spent browbeating them for their inability to keep up. I was told I would not be permitted to test out of piano proficiency class, although I had several years of piano already and had been studying with a concert pianist. The dean would not even give me an audience about the issue, but finally, the assistant dean agreed to hear me play, and then brought the dean and the piano lab teacher to the piano classroom to hear me sightread (they would not allow a prepared piece!), whereon they grudgingly agreed to make a concession. Really – no non-piano-major at NU ever had prior piano experience? At one point, I was called in to the assistant band director’s office and told that I clearly had a drug problem and he couldn’t help me unless I admitted it. REALLY? I was a penniless 19-year-old who literally could not afford regular meals (which was the reason I weighed 106 lbs and had no energy). I couldn’t have afforded drugs or alcohol if I’d wanted them, which I didn’t. It was a completely unprecedented confrontation by a faculty member who wasn’t even one of my teachers, and he refused to accept my explanation. Feeling somehow a need to redeem myself from doing nothing wrong, I went to the campus clinic and was told I was probably hypoglycemic, and the test to confirm it would cost $100. That was as good as being told it would cost $10,000, but I reported the information to the assistant band director, who took it as my REFUSAL to get a confirmation it was a medical issue, and he did not speak to me the rest of the time I was at school. If the only issues were with music faculty who didn’t have the clearest grasp of adolescent psychology, I could take the experience as a consequence of being a brash, immature kid. But the major issue with Northwestern was their blatant abuse of scholarship status. I transferred in as a junior. I would have transferred in as a sophomore, but on applying, was told no scholarship was available. Since I had an entire year to go through admissions and financial aid in great detail, and was told they wanted me as a student and was awarded a talent scholarship, my financial aid package was thoroughly worked out. At the end of my junior year, I was required to re-apply, and the financial aid office had me sit down in person and fill out a loan application for my senior year, although I was very vocal about my inability to repay any loan. They told me it was just part of the application and I would be given the opportunity to decide on whether or not to accept any loan when I received their offer/decision. The financial aid came back as full talent scholarship for my senior year, and based on that I had no support from my parents and the only way I COULD have attended was on a full scholarship, reading the textbooks over the shoulders of my classmates as I couldn’t afford to buy them, I proceeded to enroll for my senior year. About six weeks in, I started receiving bills for full tuition, visited the financial aid office, and was told this was an administrative issue and scholarship disbursement was just delayed, and was emphatically advised not to miss any classes, as absences would affect my grade. A few weeks later, I received notice I was barred from classes for non-payment of tuition, and would not be allowed to register for the subsequent quarter or receive my grades or transcripts. The financial aid office coolly told me they had ‘failed to fund’ my scholarship and I was responsible for retroactive tuition. I’m supposed to believe Northwestern University RAN OUT of money? Sometime later, I started receiving collection notices for a federal loan – with a copy of the loan app Northwestern had me fill in. It didn’t show the loan was to have applied to my senior year, WHICH WOULD HAVE MADE IT POSSIBLE TO STAY IN SCHOOL. It showed the loan was to have applied to my JUNIOR year, long over with and which I had been told was covered by my scholarship. To date, more than 30 years later, Northwestern has steadfastly refused to provide me with a statement of my financial aid transactions – they can not demonstrate they actually received the federal $$ and where they applied it. Or not. They tell me the records don’t go back that far – yet, the Feds are still chasing me for the loan, which I refuse to pay on the basis that Northwestern either fraudulently ejected me or fraudulently applied both the loan money and scholarship money to my junior year. By the time I was able to earn enough to start considering completing my degree, my credits at Northwestern were considered ‘unmatriculatable’, and I would be required to take my last two years of undergrad over again. I had completed ALL my coursework, mostly before transferring in. All I had to do to graduate was attend orchestra and lessons and give my senior recital. Think I’m the only one who’s had Northwestern hold a diploma hostage for retroactive tuition? Nope – I have met a cellist whose story was an EXACT parallel, and I have heard from former faculty and students there are many other nightmare stories about them jacking around with musicians’ scholarships. I have contacted the financial aid office countless times, written to the president of the university asking for an intervention so I can at least use the WEIGHT of having attended through my senior year as experience credit to help me get a degree somewhere, and to the current dean of the music school I have offered to pay the retroactive tuition and to FLY THERE AND GIVE MY SENIOR RECITAL. Guess what? THEY ALL BLEW ME OFF. I’m 50 and get to sit by and watch kids right out of school get salaried teaching jobs, and their students pay the price of their inexperience, while I patch together a freelance living! I’m ineligible to teach at the community college right across the street, though I have great pedagogy training that I paid for through superb, independent programs abroad, I love teaching and my students do extremely well! I could have been an asset to Northwestern’s music school, since they obviously thought enough of my potential to offer me a full talent scholarship, but they have turned the potential asset into yet another stain on their name by holding a piece of paper hostage for what, to them, is an inconsequential sum. $5500. That Northwestern has committed yet another demonstration of its lack of understanding of the academic music world doesn’t surprise me, or any of the others who’ve dealt with their music administration.

    • ES says:

      Feeling badly about ranting on about my own experience with Northwestern when the story is about Dr. and Mrs. Vamos. I knew them when I was a young student, and took coachings with them. They even stayed in my family’s home when they came to town to do a workshop. Dr. Vamos was a great help to my sister in getting into a good program as a viola major. Extremely gracious people and marvelous teachers. There are elegant, thoughtful ways to support students who are already enrolled in the studio of a teacher who may be retiring, and evidently they were not employed in this case. These esteemed teachers deserve to be treated with utmost respect, but though Northwestern’s display is disgraceful, it’s neither surprising or new.

  • John Porter says:

    I give Dean Montgomery a lot of credit for having the guts to make changes. At these sorts of schools, everything is sacrosanct and any cut to any program is held to be a betrayal. So, she’s cut the jazz program and may have some doubts about the role of collaborative piano at the school. Faculty have gone elsewhere, and she’s making some change to two string teachers who have been considered irreplaceable.

    No dean at a school like Northwestern can make major changes to tenured faculty positions unless there is cause. You cannot simply fire or easily remove any tenured professor from their classes without good cause. Whatever might not be said publicly, might have a very good reason attached. To simply label this as a “sacking,” as if it is a matter of pique, is pathetic. Northwestern has a very good school of music and among other things, Montgomery has upgraded the facilities in truly significant ways. A strong school making changes is not the disaster some will make it out to be.

    • MSR says:

      On the contrary, Dean Toni – Marie Montgomery has demonstrated repeatedly that she has no concern for the welfare of the faculty or students of the Bienen School of Music. She has dismantled the jazz and organ degrees, lost two preeminent brass faculty and now the two of the most esteemed violin and viola professors in the world. Who’s next?
      As a student at NU I can testify that she rarely if ever attends musical performances at NU. Further evidence of her lack of concern for her school and it’s students. Dean Montgomery’s only ambitions seem to be to get rid of faculty to balance her budget for her pride and joy, the new music building. But without a faculty and students, all she will be left with is an empty façade.

    • MSR says:

      On the contrary, Dean Toni – Marie Montgomery has demonstrated repeatedly that she has no concern for the welfare of the faculty or students of the Bienen School of Music. She has dismantled the jazz and organ degrees, lost two preeminent brass faculty and now the two of the most esteemed violin and viola professors in the world. Who’s next?

      As a student at NU I can testify that she rarely if ever attends musical performances at NU. Further evidence of her lack of concern for her school and it’s students. Dean Montgomery’s only ambitions seem to be to get rid of faculty to balance her budget for her pride and joy, the new music building. But without a faculty and students, all she will be left with is an empty façade.

  • Former Student says:

    Dr. Vamos will be 93 in January 2017. It’s amazing he still can do what he loves, teaching students.

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  • John says:

    Just catching up on my old teacher Roland Vamos, when he and Almita were at EKU for a couple of years. He was a good teacher, and had lots of stories about Shumsky. Almita had lots of stories about Galamian, and not very good ones. Amazing what a 9 year old kid can remember. Seems from the comments that the school didn’t handle whatever happened very well. I studied with Irving Ilmer a few years later, who was also pushed out of music school at IU in a nasty takeover scene. Irving, and no doubt all those involved, are dead. Sad. We are next 🙁 Just practice, play, and have a good time.