Wipeout: All teachers at top US choir college are laid off

Wipeout: All teachers at top US choir college are laid off


norman lebrecht

November 02, 2017

Rider University, home to Westminster Choir College, has delivered layoff notices to the entire teaching staff of the college, around 70 musicians. The lay-offs will take effect next August.

Rider’s president Gregory Dell’Omo has been trying to get rid of the college for a while. He claims to have found a buyer for Westminster College, which has been at the heart of American music for more than 90 years.

The university says the layoffs are designed to ‘secure the future’ of the College.

Believe that if you like.

Read more here.

UPDATE: China to buy America’s top choir college?



  • Olassus says:


  • Tom Moore says:

    This process of mortality has been going on for a long time. WCC was already in very bad shape ca. 1990, before it was absorbed by Rider.

    • Jacqueline Pierce says:

      The Choir College is the only part of Ryder that is in the black. Catch up!

    • WDS says:

      This is not a “process of mortality,” but rather a very shady narrative of institutional dishonesty – a parasitic relationship which may end up killing the host. Rider University merged with the school in the early 90s (when the school was in financial crisis) with an ulterior motive. The Westminster campus is situated on 20 acres of very high end Princeton, NJ real estate worth millions of dollars. So, from the get-go this was a disingenuous real estate acquisition, not a merger, and now Rider is trying to cash in their lottery ticket at the expense of a piece of American music history. From its inception, Westminster has enjoyed an international reputation singing with the finest orchestras in America, while Rider is relatively unknown, has a very mediocre academic reputation, declining enrollment, and a hazy future. It is interesting that in spite of Rider’s continuing litany of insincere actions, in just the past few months Westminster’s choirs are up for not one, but three Grammy nominations. It’s not over yet, because a Coalition to save the school has already filed legal proceedings against Rider, which has tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to totally destabilize the small choir college. Hopefully, the lawsuit will disconnect Westminster from Rider making it independent again whilst collecting damages from Rider.

      • Blake Cornish says:

        Is it possible Princton could absorb the Choir college? It’s basically already on campus, although like the graduate school it’s on the far edge of campus. It’s a beautiful building that fits well with the rest of the campus. Given all the a capella groups, they surely have more than enough students for expanding performing arts offerings! I assume Princeton is aware and is involved to the extent it wants, but maybe it should a get a nudge.

        • The Westminster campus is not adjacent to Princeton University’s campus, and they are very aware of the situation that has been going on from nearly a year. They have made it abundantly clear that they are not interested.

  • Jon H says:

    Well I encourage anyone to explore the recordings of the choir, especially from the 70s under Joseph Flummerfelt. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say the sound was “right.”

  • Jack Sartain says:

    A directive has come from the DeKalb County (Ga.)Board of Education to our public school music organizations that prohibits our choruses ( in our schools) from singing in churches. Churches by far offer the most seating, better acoustics, ample parking, etc. – but somebody seems to be offended by our children singing in churches. (By the way – churches can be held in schools!!!)
    Folks – our culture and traditions and the opportunities offered are being eroded on every side – RISE UP!

  • Alexander Platt says:


  • Don Hohoho says:

    I can speak on behalf of a colleague when I say that the community conservatory is badly run, his students being handed over to an unqualified pal of the secretary’s. This school is one of the best sources of singers for conservatories and careers. It is a huge, tragic loss for classical music if it is truly shut down. I can only hope the faculty can regroup, retake possession of its inadequate original campus, and resume operations. Or perhaps they will be absorbed by Temple University, but I doubt it. They would be an asset to Rutgers, certainly. Shameful behavior by a corrupt administrator.

  • Tom D says:

    This is fake news. The letter for the President clearly stated this was being done to meet a requirement of the collective bargaining agreement with the union and does not mean anyone is fired or laid off.

      • Tom D says:

        Yes, really. You posted a press release from the union. The letter from the University President clearly stated that no one was fired or laid off and that the notice was necessary to satisfy the collective bargaining agreement.

    • Steven says:

      Fake news = stuff I’d rather not think critically about.

      There is nothing fake about this. It’s part of a much larger series of events that have left faculty who have given their entire professional careers to this institution and students who’s professional careers depend on receiving a degree from Westminster completely in the dark and without a voice.

      The whole situation has been handled disgracefully by the Rider administration. They do not care about the future of Westminster or its faculty or students. Otherwise their whole process would be run much differently.

  • H. Clyde says:

    Those trying to save WCC should legally attempt to disassociate WCC from Rider, while allowing WCC to retain the Princeton real estate. Then the real estate should be sold to establish an endowment to primarily help keep WCC operating permanently on a new campus where it can be appropriately affiliated with an educational or religious institution. It may all depend on the original written agreement between WCC and Rider.

    • Tom D says:

      Oh, is that all you want? Just disassociate with the legal owner while retaining the right to real estate? Are you going to take Rider out for dinner first?

      How about this: Rider sells the property to the highest bidder and the school is closed. Because we all know Rider won’t get the full value of the property by selling the school as a whole. Rider has made selling the school to a buyer who wants to continue to operate the school at the same location their top priority. What more do you want?

  • Linda Dowd says:

    The best choral teacher I ever had did graduate work there. Middle school training from Mr Leemhuis has stuck with me as a singer through college and beyond.

  • John Porter says:

    I am sorry to say it, but Westminster is likely toast. Rider is not going to let it go independent and take the property with it. The likelihood that the Chinese K-12 buyer will actually take over this school, paying $25 or so million for it, while having to re-establish many of the operations the Rider provided, is highly unlikely. As for suing Rider, that is unlikely to be success as well, since Rider cannot be expected to continue Westminster forever.

    Rider shopped Westminster to just about every conservatory on the planet and not much interest has been expressed anywhere. As for Princeton, forget it, why would they want Rider. If they had wanted a conservatory, they could have created one or bought one anytime they wanted.

    Is is quite sad.