The essence of the upcoming transformation of Westminster Choir College in Princeton to an independent music institution is to preserve and grow its legacy.
First and foremost, it provides the best chance that this vital, venerable, but financially struggling music education institution will survive and thrive.
The school will still be called Westminster Choir College and it won’t move from the leafy campus in Princeton, home since 1934. It’s nonprofit status and — more significant — WCC’s legacy and reputation will continue intact.
Despite unfounded allegations to the contrary, the school’s endowment fund will continue to be used solely to support the vision of sustaining and growing Westminster Choir College’s reputation as a world-class music school and maintaining it as an artistically preeminent, academically rigorous, and fiscally sound institution.
Since being named interim president of the Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corporation, a New Jersey non-profit corporation, my time on the Westminster campus has been eye-opening. I’ve met so many committed faculty and students who readily share their high hopes for the future of their institution.
Many of them, understandably, ask about Kaiwen Education, who the Rider University board of trustees in 2017 selected to help sustain Westminster Choir College. Kaiwen operates two prominent K-12 international schools in Beijing, China, for serious and talented youth. It is planning several more international school campuses to carry out the mission of educating young people to become open-minded, inquiring, courageous, reflective, principled, and caring citizens, through educational focus on an international curriculum of humanities, science, arts, and sports.
To these ends, and in anticipation of the planned June 30, 2019 transfer, the process of breathing new life into WCC has already begun. A talented team with experience in higher education, music, and business is being formed to develop ways by which WCC can become both financially sound and globally prestigious.
I’m very aware of the challenges that lie ahead. I am also committed to working collaboratively with everyone who has a stake in WCC’s future to preserve and enhance the renowned reputation of an esteemed institution by guiding it to a viable academic, artistic, and financial future.
I wouldn’t have accepted the challenge if I didn’t see Kaiwen Education as an outstanding partner capable of preserving what’s best about WCC and committed to its mission.
I bring relevant experience to the task, having served as vice president and music director of the New England Conservatory of Music, dean of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, and, most recently, dean of the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.
Over my 25-year career as a music school administrator I raised more than $200 million, including a naming gift for the Thornton School, hired hundreds of faculty, helped create and launch myriad new curricula, and led major facilities expansions.
Among the many things I’ve learned is that there is no magic potion for success. Each institution I headed had unique assets and still faced formidable challenges.
Through careful analysis, extensive dialogue with everyone involved, and no small amount of good luck, all three schools are now flourishing. Though the solutions to challenges were different for each school, the common thread was that success would have been impossible without constant input from faculty, staff, alumni, and students.
I was hired to help steer WCC from unsustainable dependence on a parent institution to sustainable independence. Through strong academics, unparalleled music education, and positive engagement with the broader Westminster community, I am confident that sustainable growth for this jewel of an institution can become a reality.
Larry Livingston is a conductor, educator, and administrator. A graduate of the University of Michigan, he served as vice president and music director of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston; dean of the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University; and dean of the Flora L. Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California.