The fate of Westminster Choir College hangs in the balance

The fate of Westminster Choir College hangs in the balance


norman lebrecht

July 29, 2017

From the president of Rider University:


Dear Rider Community,
I’m writing today to provide you with an update on our ongoing process to find an
interested partner to operate Westminster Choir College programs and purchase the
campus in Princeton.
Rider’s Board of Trustees, management team and our external firm,
PricewaterhouseCoopers Corporate Finance (PwC CF), have been diligently pursuing this
important work for months. I am happy to report that since our initial announcement in
March, we have made great progress.
PwC CF has identified and communicated with approximately 280 potential partners. We
received multiple proposals in the following three categories:
1. A partner who is interested in purchasing the property and the Choir College with the
purpose of continuing to operate the Choir College in Princeton;
2. A partner who is interested in acquiring and relocating the Choir College programs to
another location; and
3. A partner interested in acquiring the property.
A careful and detailed review of all initial proposals has been completed and select parties
have been asked to refine their proposals as we move into the next phase of the process. To
allow sufficient time for the Board to fully consider each of these amended proposals, it is
likely that a final partner or partners will not ultimately be selected to move forward until
the fall.
We’ve been extremely encouraged by the tremendous interest we have received and are
confident that we will find a partner to take over this world-renowned program. As such,
we are pleased to announce that we will begin recruiting the Class of 2022 for the Choir
College very soon. Additionally, we have committed to each potential partner that we will
work hand-in-hand with them to ensure a successful transition.
This is an important process and I appreciate the interest that our entire University
community has in the future of the Choir College. As I have said before, I will continue to
share important updates with you as this process continues.
Until then, I hope you enjoy the remainder of your summer.
All the best,
President Gregory Dell’Omo



  • Olassus says:

    PricewaterhouseCoopers Corporate Finance resolving future of 90-year-old Westminster Choir College = everything that is wrong with (the arts in) America

    • John says:

      I’m not at all familiar with what got Westminster Choir College to this dire point, but very possibly its business acumen, or rather the lack of any, may have been a factor.

      Perhaps some people who understand the business end of things (because arts organizations are businesses after all) can actually help this beleaguered school sort through its options.

      Having worked for about twenty years in the arts AND for several years with one of the big three accounting firms (Ernst & Young), I can see where this could be just what’s needed at this point. I wish them well.

      • Anon says:

        “because arts organizations are businesses after all”

        No they are not. Because they are arts organizations, duh…

        • AMetFan says:

          With all due respect, that is only an argument for the artistic/curaturial side of a non-profit. However, somewhere in any organization, there needs to financial and legal expertise. I give credit to the president of Rider College for his timely, thoughtful, and respectful update. It’s more than US citizens get from our federal government.

        • John says:

          Sorry, but the arts organizations I headed or was involved with had budgets, directors, accountants, treasurers and lawyers. Kind of sounds like there was a business side to it to me. Do you know any arts organizations that don’t have a business infrastructure that keeps them running?

          • Olassus says:

            Budgets, directors, accountants, treasurers, lawyers — and a mission to lose money.

      • A Concerned Party says:

        In this case WCC is being sold because it sits on very expensive land. Rider claims it needs the money to fill an operating budget gap (not associated with WCC operations). Outside examination of Rider’s estimates of a budget shortfall revealed a mixing of cash and accrual accounting methods, putting the estimate in serious question. I smell graft in this deal. A good investigative reporter needs to follow the money in this deal. Any time local politicians, land developers, private college presidents and COAH are all mentioned in the same questionable deal, there’s probably more to the story than what’s in a press release.

        If Rider sells the land to Princeton, it will be yet another instance when a tax-advantaged private college will leave its students without a degree and a mountain of student loan dept.

      • MWnyc says:

        Further to A Concerned Party’s explanation, John, back in 1992 Westminster Choir College was in financial trouble and Rider University (a private university in a town nearby) purchased it and continued to operate it.

        Now Westminster is healthy – musically, pedagogically, and financially – and Rider is (it claims) in dire financial straits and says it needs the money from selling Westminster.

        And, unfortunately, Westminster is not SO financially healthy that it can afford to buy itself back – because the land it sits on in Princeton, NJ is indeed very valuable.

  • Phil B. says:

    There now appears to be very strong legal grounds that Rider University has no right to sell WCC to anyone. The Coalition has retained one of Princeton’s legal firms to begin litigation of this matter should it come to that.

  • YoYo Mama says:

    I’m surprised this hasn’t been updated yet with the judge’s decision to permit a sale. What hasn’t been revealed is that if the school is sold to Chinese interests, it will be converted into a music school for Chinese students. Chinese representatives are approaching schools, including the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, to make deals to accommodate thousands of their students in the schools. This will preserve jobs, but eliminate the education of American students in the school. And a school full of like-minded Chinese students will not learn the culture of classical music. China is seeking, politically, to use classical music to elevate their culture and world presence, but in a Chinese way, with Chinese values, not Western, not European, as in the cases of Lang Lang and Yuja Wang. They are subverting classical music and abducting it with their economic clout. This is a very deliberate campaign that will very possibly destroy classical music, which is already hanging onto its traditions by a very thin silver thread. Asian students from other countries were not bound by Communist thought police, and were thus able to participate more freely in classical music. But the Chinese values of technical, mechanical, superficial aspects of classical music, of using it to educate young women for the purposes of improving their marriage prospects only, are severely damaging. Their superbly able applicants are able to take up valuable spaces at top schools, excluding others who are developing more naturally, only to abandon the field after earning several degrees and getting married. It further means that any serious musical education is moving to universities and away from conservatories. Those of you who react to this as labeling it racist, bigoted, etc., are not thinking musically or culturally. If you ever took a class in cultural anthropology, then you certainly know that each culture is different, that people learn and think in different ways, and it doesn’t take much to know that the Chinese government has its own agenda. Those who say classical music is universal as a way to take ownership of it without understanding it or making the effort to become part of its cultures, to transform themselves at all, are its path of destruction. Universal appeal does NOT mean universal ownership. The music I have heard by Chinese classical composers reveals this truly, as they maintain the superficial, decorative values of Chinese culture in their composing. And superficiality, decoration, are not classical music traditions. Salon music, yes.