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The Future of Ottawa University’s Fine Arts

By Ryan Ellis
On March 12, 2017

Photo by: Ashley Alonzo

At Ottawa University’s town hall meeting on March 2, President Eichner said that the theatre program has not been removed but “suspended” because of the lack of student interest.

This answer came from a question from OU student John Hawks, who questioned if there would be a focus to improve the arts program offered at Ottawa University.

Last year, Ottawa University Theatre Director Dr. Julie Noonan was terminated from her position. From that moment, the lone theatre major was required to finish her career at OU through independent courses. The OU theatre department also continued to put on the musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” directed by Professor John Hulzhuter.

While the athletics programs at Ottawa University continues to prosper, many of the fine arts programs have continued to witness a decline in student numbers. Since Dr. Steven McDonald’s resignation last year, the remaining orchestra students lie in single-digit numbers.

The Ottawa University Concert Choir, directed by Dr. Son, has also witnessed a decline in student involvement.

Many students, particularly those in the music and fine arts programs, are questioning the efforts to increase the student population in the music departments.

Dr. Terry Haines, the university’s provost, and Eichner both answered student questions regarding this issue by saying they are devoted to improving the fine arts programs at Ottawa University. Eichner also stated he has a deep-rooted personal interest in the university’s choir because of his participation in it when he was a student at OU.

The faculty members stated that they are replacing director Son, hiring a full-time music faculty member and continuing the tasks of the music recruiter that was hired in the fall of 2016.

Eichner and Haines also commented on the lack of facilities for theatre students. One OU student called into question the inadequate performance space allotted to the theatre majors.

The faculty members on the panel told the audience of their initial thoughts regarding new performances spaces: One highlighted the possibility of turning the former library into a “theater in the rounds.” There are no official plans set in motion.

“I guess I am curious about how they plan on reintroducing the theatre program to prospective students if the program is ‘suspended,’” said one anonymous OU student following the town hall meeting. 

Also mentioned in the town hall meeting were future educational advances and the introduction of the Surprise, Arizona, campus.

Although the faculty approached the issue of fine arts at Ottawa University with professionalism, there are still questions regarding how the overall program will be improved and what will happen to the choir after another director shift.

There has not been a theatre showcase since the “Fiddler on the Roof” performance in November of 2016. 

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