Local Current Blog

McNally Smith students shocked, saddened by sudden news of the music college closing

McNally Smith College of Music on Dec. 15, 2017. (Jay Gabler/MPR)

This morning at McNally Smith College of Music, students shuffled hurriedly into the building, some taking the long way around in order to avoid the reporters filming newscasts out front. Inside, the lobby was filled with chatter and lingering students sharing sympathetic smiles and group hugs, many carrying the weight of their broken hearts in their eyes. A few faculty members filtered through, and recent graduates came back to visit old friends.

In an e-mail to students and staff last night, board chair Jack McNally announced that the college will be permanently closing its doors next Wednesday, Dec. 20th. Faculty were told today that they would not get paid, but were asked to finish out the semester so that students set to graduate on Saturday could do so. Many are upset by how the situation was handled, leaving everyone scrambling to figure out a next move.

“Shocking … would be the only word I have, I guess,” said Hannah Lee, a senior majoring in live sound who was supposed to graduate this spring. Lee went on to explain that the college’s last-minute announcement has put her in a tough spot financially; she used her financial aid to pay rent and also worked at the school, so now she’ll be losing both sources of income. “It just puts a lot of people in a really awful position, and they did it in the worst way possible. Just an e-mail to all these people like, ‘Hey, your life’s over. Goodbye.'”

Students on campus today said the news of McNally closing came as a total surprise. Prospective students were still being accepted as recently as Wednesday, and Lee says she got her schedule for spring semester printed off yesterday morning. “I just spoke with someone in the office yesterday and they just wanted to make sure I was on track to graduate next semester and I was, so, see ya next semester! Nobody knew.”

Students are worrying about what they’ll do for spring semester, considering the deadline to apply to most schools for the spring 2018 semester is already past. Another senior, Jessica Saltz, who is majoring in composition, said, “I have already contacted about 20 to 25 colleges this morning trying to get my credits transferred. Most of it is not going to be transferable, so I will probably have to start all the way back over. They say they’re going to have partnerships, they’re talking to other schools, so it’s just a matter of what I can do.”

Saltz says she had lunch with one of her teachers today who wanted to check in with students, and Lee said one of her teachers texted their class last night letting them know that class was going to be optional, but that the teacher would be there to talk if students needed. Students I spoke with said that every one of their instructors showed up to class and were more than willing to be of help. “A lot of teachers are reaching out to students about projects, like, ‘Hey, I have this project you could help me with if you need money,'” said Saltz.

An overwhelming sense of community was apparent. Josh Holtz, a freshman in music business, said, “Last night I was first really sad, and then just really mad because of the timing, and I’m worried about getting into another college now. This school has been my family.”

Some students said they were still optimistic. “After I got through my mad part last night, I got rid of that because being mad isn’t going to do a darn thing,” said Holtz. “You have to move on and focus and do your best to pick up. I don’t blame anybody at McNally, and this has been a great experience that I wouldn’t trade.”

“At least we have all these people that we’re going to know for the rest of our lives, and seeing how much they love us right now is just awesome,” said Lee.

Some members of the community are using the hashtag #saveMcNally, in an attempt to save the school by tagging big names in the music industry: Chance the Rapper, J. Cole, Ice Cube, Matisyahu, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé. Springboard for the Arts, a community development organization for artists, has offered resources to those affected by the school closing; and the Minnesota Music Coalition has offered free memberships to McNally students. Maria Vejdani, a McNally instructor, is organizing support for students who are losing food and housing.

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