Music students should be practicing for May auditions for their post-secondary schools of choice right now.
But many of them are back to the drawing board, following a sudden announcement that Kwantlen Polytechnique University (KPU) was cancelling all new student intakes for September 2019, as well as spring and summer 2020. It’s an announcement that’s put many Chilliwack students behind in applying for school, as the process was already well underway.
Students had already paid application fees and were given their audition times for the Langley campus programs. By the time KPU had announced their cuts, UBC had already closed auditions. The next day, the University of Victoria closed theirs. That leaves Capilano University and Douglas College, says GW Graham music director Shane Monkman. And while they offer “quality music education,” they don’t provide the same programs and ensembles that Kwantlen has in the past.
All three public high school music departments report that there are Grade 12 students who have been negatively affected by the cuts.
“For students looking to go on in the fall of 2019, their options are limited,” he said. Kwantlen has always been an “ideal” choice for students who wanted a smaller school, more affordable tuition, or to be closer to home, and even those who weren’t at the playing level needed for some of the bigger music programs.
“The program truly was one of a kind,” Monkman said. “Students had an opportunity to build the skills, knowledge and confidence while completing a degree or transferring to a UVic or UBC to complete and degree.
“By cutting intake the current students will not get the experience of playing in a proper wind ensemble, and I think for a lot of them they will be looking to transfer out of KPU in the near future. How could they be a part of a school where programs can be cut at moments notice with no thought or foresight?”
“It’s a travesty and will have a huge impact on music education in the Fraser Valley and all of B.C. for years to come,” Monkman added.
Chilliwack high schools have always been exceptionally proud of their music students’ achievements, and have pushed them to succeed in post-secondary studies. Each school has churned out successful musicians and music teachers over the years, and their bands and ensembles often travel to perform, earning accolades and awards along the way. They work at music stores, volunteer, play in local ensembles, teach, record and perform.
Victoria Parker-Poitras is a third year music major at KPU, who graduated from Chilliwack. She contacted The Progress to highlight the “unjust budget cuts being made to the program.”
“Recently, KPU Music faculty and students have found out that KPU has suspended all intake of applicants to the music foundations, diploma, and degree programs,” she wrote. “Essentially, KPU came to the conclusion that the Faculty of Arts, in order to help budget problems, has to cut sections/courses from the 2019-2020 course offerings.”
She said administration also fumbled communications with the student body and the faculty, causing confusion.
“Information has been vague and they have been very unprofessional,” she said. ” The suspension of intake happened after all the deadlines for any other university had passed, leaving many high school students in a bind.”
She said the school is now facing “total turmoil” as current students are looking at transferring to other schools in case more cuts are coming.
“Music is very vibrant in Chilliwack and a cut like this to a music program that is the only option for many students in the Valley is devastating to the music community.”
Samantha Sterkenburg is another Chilliwack graduate, in her fourth year at KPU. She says she is heartbroken to see the music program cut so deeply, especially after encouraging others to support the program financially over the years.
“My community believed in me,” she said. “My community believed in KPU’s music program. And they gave. Friends, I am just overwhelmed by the thousands and thousands of dollars that organizations and individuals have given to me so that I could be immersed and inspired by this wonderful thing called music. They gave so that I can give. “
Gary Raddysh, a music teacher at Chilliwack secondary for more than two decades, says he’s focused on KPU as the natural progression for his students. It’s a post-secondary plan that begins as early as Grade 10, as student choose their electives.
“I found that I could keep a larger group of motivated musicians in our program if I could show them a university that they could aspire to entering with the skills they had achieved in high school,” he said. “KPU very astutely provided and early entry program for those students, and many of our students have passed through their doors because of this opportunity.”
He said at their school alone, there are at least five students that had music auditions planned there.
“KPU is small, local, and familiar to our students. We attend a festival there every year just to build this connection. The loss of this music program will be a blow to our program,” he said.
A representative from KPU has contacted The Progress to underline that Kwantlen closed off the intake “to conduct a thorough review of the music degree and diploma programs to seek a more sustainable model for this programming.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect cutline attached to the photograph. It has now been corrected. The Progress apologizes for the error and any confusion it caused.