Butler School

Music production senior Kelsey Harper records a trombone track for her recording class. The Butler School of Music cut the music recording technology and business programs because of budget cuts.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

The Butler School of Music is discontinuing its music recording technology and music business programs because of University-mandated budget cuts to the school and a deficit in the school’s budget.

Butler School director Mary Poole could not disclose the exact amount of the budget cut or deficit, but called the financial circumstances of the Butler School “dire” in an email sent to students in the programs on Nov. 21. According to Poole’s email, faculty members were not involved in the decision to stop admission to the programs.

“It was a painful decision indeed to suspend admission to the music business and recording technology emphases within the music [bachelor of arts degree], and I am acutely aware that it must seem ironic,” Poole said. “I very much hope that one day soon, UT will be able to support programs exploring all aspects of the music industry with the facilities and resources our brilliant students deserve.”  

The programs, which Poole said have about 60 students enrolled in them, instruct students in the production and business aspects of the music industry and focus on areas outside of classical music.

“I think that ours holds a lot of merit, in that it’s extremely useful in mainstream jobs that are related to music, because it’s not solely focused on classical music or preforming it,” music production senior Kelsey Harper said. “It’s more of the industrial side of things.”

The programs will continue as normal, until students currently enrolled in the programs have graduated, according to Ed Fair, music business adjunct professor and music attorney.

“In the short-term, those who are in the program will certainly be fine,” Fair said.  

Music production senior Andrew Schindler said he wishes the decision had been discussed with students prior to it being made.

“There’s never been any sort of connection between the administration at the Butler School and the students,” Schindler said.  “As far as who to blame, there’s not anyone to blame. It’s more of a situation where students are pretty apathetic about the school because they’re just there to study their instrument.”

Fair said he is disappointed to see the program go.

“I’m especially sad for students who are in the program and have recently gotten out of the program,” Fair said. “Because it’s a little uncomfortable that the program you’ve just completed no longer exists.”

Harper shared this concern and said she and her classmates are worried the degree will decrease in merit and be less marketable for jobs now that it is being discontinued.

Schindler said he thinks the Butler School of Music is trying to be more like a traditional music conservatory.

“To be a prosperous musician, you have to understand business and how to record music,” Schindler said. “The fact that they are closing those two programs, I feel you’re disenfranchising a lot of students.”

In an email, music production senior lecturer Gary Powell said he would like to see the Butler School look at areas like music business and production again in the future.

“The Butler School has made a decision in line with its academic pursuits,” Powell said. “My hope is that, in time, in a different economy, and even with the same leadership, we will see these pursuits broaden.”

When the Cordova Quartet was asked to play at the Butler School of Music’s 100th Anniversary concert, they knew that it would be the perfect opportunity for their first performance in Austin. 

The Cordova Quartet, composed of violinist Andy Liang, violinist Niccoló Muti, violist Blake Turner and cellist Matthew Kufchak, all graduate students at the Butler School, will perform Friday at the “Centennial Concert: A Taste of Texas,” a concert featuring several ensembles from the Butler School of Music to mark the school’s 100 years of operation. 

While obtaining graduate degrees at Rice University, the four played together for a couple of years before deciding to officially form the Cordova Quartet in fall 2013.

“[Rice] is where we all met, where we became friends and really formed a passion for playing chamber music together,” Turner said. “Really, just last fall … we decided that this is something that we’d like to pursue professionally.”

After auditions with three different programs, the quartet decided to attend the Butler School of Music for the opportunity to study under the Miró Quartet, the quartet-in-residence at the school.    

“They are one of the top string quartets in the world, so the opportunity to study with them was a big draw to come here,” Turner said. “Also, the Butler School of Music is a program that is really on the rise, so that was one of the several factors that influenced our decision.”

Liang, Muti and Kufchak are working on artist diplomas, or post-masters degrees focused on performance, while Turner is obtaining his masters in viola performance. The four are the graduate quartet-in-residence at the school, performing regularly in competitions and concerts for the school while studying under the Miró Quartet. The quartet was invited to perform at the Centennial Concert shortly after arriving at UT.

“This is going to be our first public performance in Austin, so it’s exciting to introduce ourselves to the people here,” Kufchak said. “We’re really proud that they asked us to represent what the school is doing here.”

The Cordova Quartet is one of the many groups that will be performing, with ensembles ranging from the Jazz Orchestra to the UT choirs. In addition to their main performance, the quartet will also be a part of some of the other ensembles, such as opera and chorus performances.

“The whole concert is a smattering of all of these different pieces,” Turner said. “We’ll also be playing in the orchestra as well.”

The concert will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Bates Recital Hall, with a pre-concert reception starting at 6 p.m. The hour-long performance will feature one piece from each ensemble.

“It’s the best of the Butler School,” Kufchak said. “They’re really just trying to showcase what the school is doing and what they’ve accomplished in the last 100 years.”

The quartet hopes that the concert will allow students and faculty to recognize the music school’s level of skill and importance on the campus.

“I’m not sure that the UT community realizes what a hidden gem it is,” Turner said. “I feel like that what the audience can look forward to is seeing the high level of musicianship that’s here on the UT campus.”

Photo Credit: Cody Bubenik | Daily Texan Staff

Most classical music concerts are fairly similar: Audience members go to a large music hall and listen to a full orchestra perform. But the Austin Cultural Campus Concert Crawl is making the experience more intimate. 

For the third year, Austin Cultural Campus is working with UT’s Butler School of Music to feature small ensembles of student musicians at museums on and around campus. 

A piano trio will be stationed this Sunday at the Blanton Museum of Art, a trombone quartet at Landmarks’ “Clock Knot,” a string quartet at the Harry Ransom Center and a wind ensemble at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Guests will be able to walk from concert to concert free of charge. 

Austin Cultural Campus was formed in 2009 as a way to connect the museums surrounding campus, creating a museum district in Austin. The Butler School of Music began collaborating with the organization as a way to showcase student musicians to new audiences and allow the musicians to perform in venues other than concert halls. 

“One thing we really like is the collaboration of different art organizations on campus,” said Dan Seriff, community outreach coordinator for the music school. “We work pretty closely with the other academic units in the College of Fine Arts to put on a show or two a year of collaborative work, and to get the opportunity to do that with some of the more professional, rather than education or cultural organizations, on campus — we really enjoy that.”  

The musicians who will be featured are pulled from various chamber groups in the Butler School. Each semester, members of the small ensembles are required to do a community outreach project, which can be fulfilled by the campus crawl. 

Each ensemble is able to pick its music for the event. Seriff and the students tried to match each piece of music to an exhibition at the given venue, but it posed a challenge. 

“We tried as best as we could, based on what the students were playing, to put them in appropriate venues,” Seriff said. “Unfortunately there was only one group this year that the music really lined up well with what was going on at that particular venue.”

The most successfully matched group in the event is the piano trio set to perform at the Blanton Museum of Art. To relate to Blanton’s Latin American exhibit, the ensemble will perform “Primavera Portena” from Four Seasons, an Argentinian tango by Astor Piazzolla.

“We typically don’t get to play different styles of music as music majors,” said Diana Burgess, cellist for the Blanton’s piano trio and music performance senior. “It’s usually Western classical music, so like Beethoven, Mozart, that kind of typical classical music. We just wanted something alternative. It’s a very different style of music to play, so that makes it interesting for us.”

The piece has more of a swinging rhythm and requires the trio to play with a different character than it normally would.     

“Our teacher actually wanted us to play it like old, Argentinean men because that’s usually who you’d see the music played by,” Burgess said. “These old guys, who have been playing it forever, and just come to life when they play tango music.”

The tour will give students an experience that’s usually hard to come by: viewing examples of art and music simultaneously on campus. 

“It offers visitors an opportunity to see all that we offer at each of the respective institutions in terms of their exhibitions and programing,” said Kathleen Stimpert, co-founder of Austin Cultural Campus and director of public relations and marketing at the Blanton Museum. “But it also offers an opportunity to hear some of the finest musicians from the Butler school within these unique settings.”