Grant gap hinders students’ choir trip

Amye Buckley

Choir students hoping to travel abroad were disappointed when they discovered there would only be 10 grants available for their group.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Gavin Gardner, sophomore vocal performance major.

Gardner says their concerts are always full and people stop them on the street and ask them to perform.

“We are the number one PR for the school when we travel internationally,” he said.

Due to the increased number of trips, Southern officials have to cut back on the amount of funds offered to groups. While in 1999 each choir member received $1,500 in funding, this year there will be only $1,000 for 10 of the choir members.

Of the roughly 200 grants distributed by the International Grants Committee, choir members believe they received a disproportionately small number.

“The problem with the choir was the number of grants requested,” said Dr. Chad Stebbins, director of the Institute of International Studies.

Stebbins said the choir requested 25 to 40 grants.

“Funding the choir at the number of students that they sought would be too big of a hit on available funding,” Stebbins said.

Bud Clark, head of the department of music and director of choral activities, said the smaller group is not acoustically possible with the music program they had lined out. While he plans to change the arrangements to match the size of the group, he says they still need at least three to a part. Choir members agree.

“It is a lot harder for the choir to perform with just 10 people than it would be for anyone else,” said Megan Armstrong, sophomore vocal education major. Although she did not plan to go, she feels for those who did.

“It’s excellent this year,” Armstrong said of the choir. “And it’s kind of a shame that they cannot share it with other people because we do not have the funds to go.”

Clark planned to take the group to Dublin, Wexford, Cardiff and London but to keep things affordable he may have to cut part of the trip or cancel some of the venues where they planned to appear.

To reduce costs, the choir already planned to stay with local families but, now that the size of the group is shrinking, costs for the remaining students may rise. The group rate they planned on will change.

“I’m waiting right now to see what the final cost is,” Gardner said.

He hopes to qualify for one of the scholarships but is waiting for the audition process. Gardner believes it is unfair for Clark to have to make such difficult decisions.

“He should not have to tell people no,” Gardner said.

Autumn Shurley, sophomore music education major, is concerned about the cost.

“I’m just gonna have to pay a little bit, well, a lot more than expected,” she said.

She plans to save for the trip by not moving out. Her parents plan to help, but Shurley says that means no Christmas gifts and no birthday gifts this year, it will all go toward the trip.

While students debate the means and methods of distribution there simply is not any more money. The fund for student scholarships is $200,000, the same amount that it was in 1999, but the number of trips is increasing.

Last year 15 groups received funding, this year there are 18. And unless there is a funding increase the number of trips competing for the same money may mean a decrease in funding for other trips as well.

“If the pot is basically the same it still has to be spread among the recipients,” said Betty Harris, assistant professor of accounting.

The Italy trip received 10 of the 15 grants they requested. They plan to raise funds through alumni and have the student group involved in fundraising.

Clark understands funding limitations but believes it is a shame that less than half the students who planned on the trip will go. He had hoped for significant funding – 32 students had already put in deposits for the trip. Clark now estimates that only 12 will be able to go.

“We hope word gets around of our needs,” Clark said, hoping that donors who have supported the music department in the past will aid students now.

He hopes music students will be able to make a worldwide connection and observe different performance styles used abroad. Clark thinks the choir is a great representation of Missouri Southern.

“When we come,” Clark said, “they all know we’re there.”