In the September issue of Princeton Magazine Bob Hillier writes that Princeton is “the leading academic center in the State with Princeton University, the Princeton Theological Seminary, Westminster Choir College (WCC), and the Institute for Advanced Study.”
Westminster Choir College, one of the four jewels of Princeton, is being forced out of Princeton by Rider University. In the last two years Rider attempted to sell it to a Chinese commercial company for $40 million. The Chinese recently cancelled further negotiations. Then Rider announced that Westminster will be moved out of Princeton at the end of the 2019-’20 academic year.
The citizens of Princeton need to come to the rescue of this jewel of Princeton and raise their voice, “keep an independent Westminster in Princeton.”
WCC is one of the best in the U.S., its Westminster Symphonic Choir is probably the best in the world. Its repeated appearances with the top orchestras in the world is legendry. Leonard Bernstein said “Westminster supplies a measure of beauty to a world that needs it badly.” His family invited the choir to sing Bach’s Mass at his memorial service.
WCC is ranked No. 5 out of the 138 Best Music Schools in America. Rider’s Music School is ranked No. 50. Yes! The fifth-ranked WCC is being swallowed up by a fifty-ish ranking college, and it eventually will disappear. Since Rider’s attempt to sell it to the Chinese, WCC’s enrollment has dropped by 60 percent.
In 2019-’20 WCC will perform more than 60 concerts on campus most on weekends afternoons. Many Princetonians bring their children to these free concerts to absorb an early music appreciation. There will be no WCC concerts in Princeton after 2019-’20.
The lawsuits against Rider will keep many buyers on the sidelines, a situation that may bring Rider to agree to leave WCC in Princeton as an independent entity for $15 to $20 million.
It can be done, but rumors are circling in town. A deal is brewing between the Town of Princeton (TOP) and the Board of Education (BOE) to buy the WCC property. Questions about these deals are answered with “I can’t talk about it.”
What are the rumors that no one admits or denies?
1. Princeton will buy WCC’s campus, without the students for $30 to $40 million.
2. Princeton will trade that property to the Princeton Public School (PPS) for the Valley Road property, the one that Princeton Township sold 10 years ago to PPS/BOE for $1. Yes, one dollar. What a deal, spend $40 million to get back one dollar.
3. TOP will build an extension to town hall on the Valley Road property, move its people out from Monument Hall, and sell it to a hotel builder. What happens to the Senior Center and TV30 is unknown. Who will pay for it?
4. PPS will demolish many of the buildings on the WCC property and maybe resurrect the plans to build the $40 million 5-6 school without having made a proper engineering feasibility study to convert the four K-5 schools to K-6 schools. PPS may use it to park school busses, or keep it for possible use in the next 50 years. The taxes will go up.
Yes, PPS needs space to expand, but it cannot and shouldn’t come at the cost of letting Westminster die.
There are other ways to solve the space problem.
It is not a pipe dream to save Westminster. It can be done.
Citizens of Princeton wake up and become proactive: 1. Write letters in support of retaining WCC to all local newspapers. 2. Call or email all elected officials, ask them to support retaining WCC in Princeton. 3. Remember to vote on November 5, but first ask the contenders to clarify, in public, their position on retaining WCC. If they don’t give a clear yes answer, do not vote for them.
Random Road, Princeton