Longy axes its prep school

The Longy School of Music of Bard College stunned parents when it announced today that it is shutting down its youth and community education programs by the end of the summer.

Parents of kids enrolled in the prep program got the news in an email from director Karen Zorn this afternoon; apparently, the faculty had been informed via a similar email only hours before -- essentially getting fired over the Internet.

To some in the school's community, this may feel familiar. The Cambridge institution was sued by its union after an unexpected 2010 mass firing that laid off 20 percent of its staff, including the centenarian legend Roman Totenberg. "The school, founded by Boston Symphony Orchestra oboist Georges Longy in 1915, has balanced its conservatory training with a thriving community program that offers instruction to children and adults studying music nonprofessionally." Globe writer Geoff Edgers noted at the time, adding, "Those programs are not slated to change."

At the same time, Zorn announced that the school was in talks with Bard College, with which it merged last year. As a branch of the college, Longy serves about 224 undergraduate and graduate students -- a fraction compared to the 1000 students and adults who take part in the programs that have been cancelled. 

"Of course, they touted the merge as a win-win for everyone connected to Longy," said Karen Weintraub, whose daughter attend the prep program. "Now, they say that that merger made this inevitable, because there simply isn't room for both at the facility"

She added, "It's the disrespect they showed their staff and the people who pay ungodly sums of money to get their kids taught there that pissed me off the most."

(Full disclosure: this reporter's father, Victor Rosenbaum, served as director of Longy from 1985 until 2001).

Here's the complete email from current director Karen Zorn to students and parents:

Dear Longy Preparatory and Continuing Studies Students and Families,
The past several years at Longy have been characterized by record growth in the School''s conservatory. Our recent merger with Bard College and new partnerships with organizations like the Los Angeles Philharmonic have only contributed to our rising stature as a world-class institution for advanced musical study in the United States.
With this growth comes necessary consequences and difficult decisions about the best path forward for the School. We are writing to let you know that on Monday, March 4, in order to support the continuing growth of our conservatory and address our critical need for practice and teaching space, the Board of Governors of the Longy School of Music of Bard College voted to discontinue all Preparatory and Continuing Studies program offerings, effective August 31, 2013.
We understand that music lessons are a regular part of you and your family''s extracurricular life. To that end, we plan to work closely with you over the next six months to identify additional resources in Cambridge and greater Boston for music instruction. Within the next week, we will circulate a list of community music schools and other institutions that offer private lessons, classes and ensemble opportunities for students of all ages. Additionally, you can leave a message with additional questions for a member of the Longy staff at 617.876.0956 x1000. Staff will be monitoring the voicebox regularly and will return your call as soon as possible.
Finally, we anticipate that many current instructors will continue to offer lessons in their private studios or at other institutions with which they are affiliated, and we encourage you to speak with them directly about private lesson arrangements moving forward.
Again, we would like to reiterate what a difficult decision this was for Longy leadership. Many of us have our own, very personal connection to Preparatory and Continuing Studies. We are committed to easing the transition for you, your family, and our faculty in the weeks ahead, and will be in touch with more information as it becomes available.

Karen Zorn


UPDATE: Harvard Prof excoriates Longy's Zorn

UPDATE: Rally plans and Request for info

UPDATE: Protest draws over 50

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