Rider Board to Vote on Westminster Choir College Fate Tuesday

Mar 27, 2017

Supporters of preserving Westminster Choir College’s Princeton, NJ home are making a final push to prevent Rider University from moving the college to its Lawrenceville campus in advance of a vote that might put the Princeton land up for sale.

The Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College will hold a rally Tuesday morning on the Rider campus, together with members of the faculty union, opposing any move to relocate or close the choir college.  Rider’s Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the choir college's future after reviewing a study, launched last Fall, examining options for the Princeton campus.  Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo has said that Rider, which has owned Westminster since 1992, faces a projected deficit of more than $13 million.

"Right now we see their options as either closing the campus or selling it, because there is no room on the Lawrenceville campus for the Choir College at all," said Matthew Koller, vice-president of the Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College, and a 1995 Westminster graduate.  The rally, he added, is designed to show that Westminster "is alive, is thriving, and they need to listen."

Spokeswoman Kristine Brown confirmed the Board will meet at 9 am on the Rider campus.  Dell'Omo is expected to address the press following the meeting, and then meet with Westminster students on the Westminster campus in the late afternoon.

Word that Rider might move Westminster’s operations to its main campus in order to sell the Princeton property has shaken up the musical institution, which moved to Princeton from Ithaca College in 1932.  The Westminster Choir was first founded in Dayton, Ohio, by John Finley Williamson in 1920, who created the choir college six years later.  The Westminster Symphonic Choir has performed with major orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra.

Financial difficulties of its own prompted Westminster to seek a new owner in the early 1990s, and it merged with Rider in 1992.

In addition to the choir college, which is part of Rider’s Westminster College of the Arts, Westminster also operates the Westminster Conservatory, which provides community music programs including private music lessons, group lessons for children, and the Westminster Community Orchestra.

(Note: By way of full disclosure, WWFM has agreements with Westminster to broadcast several of its concerts, and A Tempo host Rachel Katz is a member of the Westminster Community Orchestra.)