MRU Conservatory students fight to keep world renowned teachers

The elimination of two positions held by world renowned musicians at Mount Royal University’s Conservatory is putting the school’s reputation at risk, some critics say.

Administration blames the termination of 2 positions on tough economic times

Charlie Webber, the MRU Conservatory's dean of continuing education, says the school has had to tighten its belt in tough economic times. (Erin Collins/CBC)

The elimination of two positions held by world renowned musicians at Mount Royal University's Conservatory is putting the school's reputation at risk, some critics say.

The contract for cellist John Kadz, who has been with the school for about 40 years, was not renewed.

And violinist Bill van der Sloot, who managed the Academy for Gifted Youth, has been offered a teaching contract instead.

"You're talking two of the most highly recognized music teachers in the country," says Paul Dornian, president of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

"So these are rock stars in the classical music world and students literally have come from all over the world to study with them."

Esther Cynn, who came from San Francisco to study with Kadz, isn't sure what she will do now.

"It affects my entire life, this was supposed to be my last year of cello study. I was planning on applying to summer festivals, orchestral programs, under the guidance of these specific teachers at this specific program, " says Cynn.

"It affects my visa situation, I don't know if not enrolling will affect that at all."

Cynn and other music students have launched a petition for Kadz and van der Sloot to have their jobs reinstated.

It's already garnered lots of support from alumni, other conservatories, and orchestra leaders from around the world.

"I have seen both John Kadz and Bill van der Sloot teach. They are masters of their craft. It is pedagogues like them that make the conservatory what it is," said Noah Bendix-Balgley, first concertmaster with the Berlin Philharmonic, in a written statement.

Charlie Webber, the conservatory's dean of continuing education, says the school has had to tighten its belt in tough economic times.

Adjusting to downturn 

He says the school does not receive funding from Alberta Advanced Education, relying instead on donors, plus tuition and ticket revenue from the adjacent Bella concert hall, which opened last year. 

"So in terms of our overall fiscal situation it is important to note that we do have to adjust with the downturn that we're all faced with right now, but we're doing that responsibly, we're doing that professionally, and it's really important to note any changes are not just financially driven, they're programmatically driven, so that we can continue to make this conservatory a destination for the elite students from around this country," he said.

Dornian says he's mystified by that rationale. 

"I can't see how they would save any money with either of these moves, certainly in the case of John Kadz, he made money for the conservatory," he said.