Hardin-Simmons University graduates react to orchestra cut


ABILENE, Texas - The Hardin-Simmons University campus will be a little quieter next year.

The university is cutting its orchestra program in the fall of 2017.

We caught up with Jacob Wright, a 2016 HSU graduate, in the very room where he practiced orchestra for the last five years.

"It's heartbreaking because this was one of the most terrifying and rewarding nights of my life," Wright said.

He watched a Hardin-Simmons University orchestra performance he played with on his phone not long after finding out the university would be discontinuing the orchestra program.

"I was livid," Wright said. "I was outraged that something so important to me at Hardin-Simmons was being tossed aside."

"Honestly just no warning, having it cut is honestly kind of embarrassing to say I'm an [alumnus] from here," said Stephen Jackson, a 2016 HSU graduate.

"Disbelief, I couldn't believe something I held so near and dear was being kind of tossed off," said Alex Reiff, a 2014 HSU graduate.

HSU President Lanny Hall sent out a statement to students Tuesday, saying in part, "Ultimately, the significant financial commitment necessary to maintain a university orchestra was found to be cost prohibitive."

Reiff is now the orchestra director at Clack Middle School in AISD. She doesn't believe it's just about money.

"[Orchestra was cut] because it's easy," Reiff said. "It's what they consider maybe extra."

Graduates have started a Facebook page and an online petition hoping to save program

"I'd love to see it reinstated, but it seems they've already made their decision," Jackson said.

We reached out to Hardin-Simmons to find out what the orchestra budget is and how big it is compared to other programs on campus.

A university spokesperson said she would get back to us.

You can read the full statement HSU released below.

Dear HSU Community,

I am writing to let you know that the Hardin-Simmons University Board of Trustees, in consultation with HSU's Administration, has made the difficult decision to discontinue the HSU Orchestra beginning in the Fall of 2017.

This difficult decision was made as a result of ongoing internal discussions related to revenues and expenses at HSU, and action was taken only after vigorous exploration of numerous alternative options. Ultimately, the significant financial commitment necessary to maintain a university orchestra was found to be cost prohibitive, and the action was taken to help prevent a more problematic financial situation from occurring.

HSU faculty and administration are actively working with prospective and incoming students with interests in related music degrees associated with orchestral involvement. Current HSU students impacted are being personally contacted to discuss options designed to help them realize completion of their degrees.

The HSU Orchestra is the only performance ensemble involved in this decision and neither the Cowboy Band nor the Concert Band will be impacted. Faculty members affected by this decision have been notified according to the university's policy.

Before reorganizing as a distinctive orchestral ensemble, HSU students participated as part of the Abilene Intercollegiate Orchestra until 2006. HSU's Orchestra is one of only two university-specific orchestras supported by Baptist-affiliated institutions in Texas (the other is at Baylor University). In recent years, the HSU Orchestra has participated in several especially memorable performances, including joint concerts with Kansas and Michael Martin Murphy.

My heart is heavy with the unfortunate reality that higher education today faces such extraordinary challenges demanding measures such as this. I am thankful for all who have worked hard to support HSU's Orchestra through the years.

Dr. Lanny Hall