Southern board to seek restoration of music degree

Southern University, a school widely recognized for its musical traditions, has cleared the first hurdle necessary to reinstate its music degree program for undergraduates.

Southern’s Music Department has been nationally accredited since 1955, but its degree program has been defunct for nearly two years.

The Southern University Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Friday to move forward with restoring the degree program pending approval from the Louisiana Board of Regents, the state’s higher education policy body.

The Regents originally eliminated the program in May 2011 during a massive statewide purge in which it cut more than 100 programs for not graduating enough students.

At the same time, the Regents consolidated or reshaped nearly 200 more academic programs in a push to save money and make colleges leaner.

Southern took the biggest hit during the purge, losing 13 degree programs, including music, Spanish and French.

When announcing the terminations, Karen Denby, Regents associate commissioner for academic affairs, said the program cuts will make colleges more efficient with class sizes, faculty loads and, ultimately graduation rates.

Southern’s Baton Rouge Chancellor James Llorens said Friday’s vote clears a path for him to present a revamped music program to the regents for approval.

Before the program was cut, Southern may have erred in identifying to the Regents several students interested in pursuing a degree in music who hadn’t yet formally declared a major, he added.

Llorens said the Regents recommended Southern combine its visual arts and performing arts disciplines into one degree program but, “the Music Department had some reservations. I think we’ve designed a curriculum for music the regents will support,” he said.

The new program will incorporate music education, production and vocal and instrumental performance into the undergraduate curriculum, he said. Each student will be required to complete 120 credit hours in classes including music history, theory, composition and literature.

“Southern University really has a rich history of music” including the award-winning Choral choir and Jazz Institute, Llorens said.

But Southern’s music tradition is perhaps best encapsulated by the Southern University Marching Band, dubbed the “Human Jukebox.” The group garnered national acclaim and was recently tapped to perform at Superbowl XLVII Feb. 3 in New Orleans.

Llorens said he will petition the Regents to restore Southern’s music degree program at their next meeting in February.

“We have a number of students coming into our university, and they are definitely interested in our music degree,” Llorens said. “I think the numbers will be there.”