In June, the University of Oklahoma announced it would close its organ construction and maintenance program, the American Organ Institute. A program, supporters said, is the only one like it in the country.
The summer announcement led to support from alumni working in organ shops, churches, and performance venues around the world, and was met with assurance by the university that currently enrolled students would be able to follow the program to graduation.
Tuesday, OU issued a statement saying, "students currently enrolled in the organ technology concentration will be able to continue to completion."
However, two students, who said they were enrolled in the program before the cut, provided emails to News 9 from an academic advisor saying, “I’ve been awaiting a final decision from the university before replying to your email. As of fall 2019, the BMA secondary emphasis in Organ Technology is no longer available.”
The email urges the students to find another emphasis.
In June, the university cited budget constraints and low enrollment numbers as the reason for ending the program. The university said there are currently six graduate students studying organ technology.
Reilly said the total number when taking into account undergraduate students with organ technology emphasis is closer to 25.
“With six undergraduate students enrolled and nearly $400,000 a year in operating costs,” the June press release said, “the university’s financial position cannot infuse large funds into the program. Unfortunately, a permanent source of funds never was established when the program was created, and sustainable private sources are not available.”
Alumnus Nolan Reilly, director of music at St. Thomas More University Parish, said AOI Director John Schwandt went to work after the announcement, raising money and finding areas to trim back.
“The director of the institute began fundraising,” Reilly said. “He presented a new budget. He trimmed spending and within a month has $6.6 million pledged to the university. And the university has called those donors and told them ‘thank you but no thank you.’”
Tuesday, August 20 in a statement OU said, “The closure comes as part of the University's ongoing efforts to balance our academic mission and traditions with current economic realities and the financial impact of low enrollment programs. OU believes it has a responsibility to regularly review program costs, student enrollment trends and talent needs for employers."
Reilly said program has a 100 percent job placement rate and has 40 organ shops waiting to hire graduates.
Supporters of the program plan to hold a rally Thursday, August 22 at 2 p.m. in front of the Evans Hall administration building.