School of Music students raise concerns with school director


Travis Fannon

The College of Fine Arts on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Natalia Garcia, Reporter

The University of Kentucky’s School of Music held a forum on March 28, addressing growing concerns among students who have been dissatisfied with the operation of the school.

Stanley Pelkey, the director of the School of Music, said he held the forum “in response to a need for greater community dialogue.” The school has hosted three forums since Nov. 2022. 

According to Jasmine Sturgeon, a junior in the School of Music who attended the forum, Pelkey told students a majority of the hiring issues the School of Music is facing is due to the $1.5 million budget cut UK recently levied on the College of Fine Arts. 

Sturgeon, who is part of the percussion studio within the school, said there are many different positions that need to be filled, ranging from percussion and other studio faculty to theory professors. 

When asked about this concern, Pelkey said there were no staffing issues within the School of Music. 

“There were some concerns among students that there might be staffing issues related to some studios in fall 2023 … but it was never going to be the case that any of those studios would be left without faculty,” Pelkey said. “Indeed, each of those anticipated vacancies that will occur as the current academic year ends will be filled by fall 2023.”

While the positions may be filled by fall 2023, students are just as concerned about who will be filling the positions as they are about whether the positions will be filled. 

“Largely, most students come in for their professor. That’s why when professors leave it’s so hard on the students,” Robby Pratt, a junior music education major, said. “There’s kind of that typical being upset about losing your teacher but also worry that you may not receive a teacher to the standard that you lost.”

Along with concerns about staffing, there is also concern about the state of the facilities within the College of Fine Arts. 

According to Pratt, the practice rooms within the Fine Arts building have missing stands and broken instruments, and the sound proofing equipment lining the walls of the school are growing mold. 

“We want our chool of music to be on par with the standard set by the rest of our school. We all love UK, just as much as anybody does, however what we see on a daily basis is not the standard of the school,” he said. “We also want to be on the same standard as the entire SEC.” 

According to the directories of all the schools of music in the SEC, UK is the only school to have only two directors, while every other school has at least three. 

Another concern among students is the lack of communication from leaders in the school.

“There’s just a lack of communication between students and administration and a lack of recognition on a university level,” Sturgeon said. 

One example of lack of communication came on March 3, when students showed up to perform at a concert that was canceled due to severe weather, according to Pratt. 

Sturgeon, who is also the social media chair for UK Percussion Society, said the lack of promotion and publicity from UK makes School of Music students feel like they are “always the ones that get kicked to the side.”

“We’re never promoted on UK social media and … we feel very disconnected from the university. And we’re just getting lack and lack and lack of support from the university financially, as well as just recognition wise,” Sturgeon said. “We’ve had so many great things happening this past year, like Carnegie Hall performances, world premieres, and it just doesn’t feel like anyone knows what’s going on and the great things and musicians that we have here.”

When asked about the lack of communication, Pelkey said the School of Music would “establish a schedule of more frequent gatherings for students and (School of Music) leadership.”

Another forum will be held Thursday, April 13 at 7:15 in room 107 of the Fine Arts Building. 

“We just wish we had a voice and we wish that we were being heard by the administration  — School of Music as well as university  — but you gotta start somewhere,” Sturgeon said.