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Golden Gate trustees alter decision to end music school

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Trustees of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary have altered their April 8 decision to close the seminary’s Dixon School of Church Music and opted instead to restructure the music school to make it a “financially viable” part of the seminary program.

The new action was prompted by the voluntary resignations of church music faculty members Craig and Beth Singleton in hopes of keeping the school of church music open. Both the Singletons, whose resignations from active employment at the seminary are effective July 31, did not wish to make a public statement about their actions.

“Such a turn of events has obvious impact on the long-term financial concerns of the music school and warranted reconsideration of the matter by our board,” said seminary President William O. “Bill” Crews. “We want to honor the steps initiated by our faculty as they seek the best interest of the seminary and the benefit of the churches.”

Trustees approved the new action by telephone poll over the April 18 weekend. “Their agreement was unanimous and a substitute motion was also unanimously adopted directing the president to restructure the church music program of the seminary in a way to make it financially viable,” Crews said.

At their spring meeting April 8, trustees had declared a “financial emergency” in the school of church music and directed Crews to begin the process for closing the music school by July 31.

A financial analysis presented to trustees showed rising costs combined with falling revenue from years of declining enrollment led to the music program operating with deficits ranging from $35,820 in 1994-95 to $70,959 expected this fiscal year, without including overhead costs. With overhead costs, those deficits ranged from $181,036 in 1994-95 to $187,468 expected this fiscal year. The analysis also projected deficits in the music school annually through the 2001-02 fiscal year, even with budgets trimmed and enrollment increased slightly.

Seminary music faculty and about a dozen music students had urged trustees at their meeting on the Mill Valley, Calif., campus to delay the decision for further study or to turn down the action entirely.

Currently, 25 students are enrolled in the seminary’s two church music degree programs. Since 1985, 60 degrees in church music programs have been granted by Golden Gate, according to seminary records.

“This new decision allows the music school to proceed with curricular and program changes that have been in the making prior to the decision to close the music school,” said Gary McCoy, director of the music school.

“There’s been significant work related to revenue development and in recruitment this past year that has the promise of showing dividends for the future,” McCoy noted. The music school has more active student inquiries than any other time in recent history, he said. Also, “We are seeking to be as creative as we can in course scheduling and FTE production related to the teaching loads of faculty.”

FTEs, or full-time equivalents, are the basic unit upon which funding from the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program to the six SBC seminaries is allocated. The 25 students currently enrolled in the music program are generating 17 FTEs.

“It was never the desire of anyone connected with Golden Gate Seminary that the church music program be stopped,” Crews said. “Rather, it was the desire of all persons involved in this decision that the music program be both helpful to the churches and financially viable. We believe the future of shaping effective leaders for music and worship in the churches will be enhanced by these actions.”

In addition to the Singletons and McCoy, the school of music employs one other trustee-elected faculty member, Max Lyall, professor of church music, elected 1974. Several adjunct faculty also are used to teach music courses. Patsy Yang, an adjunct instructor, also serves as the school’s office administrator.

Crews said McCoy will work with these and others to develop “new ways in which men and women can be prepared for ministry in local churches, primarily of the West.”

“The music school’s advisory council — made up of local ministers of music and convention-wide music leaders — has been active in helping us search out new possibilities in program and curricular matters as well as in recruitment and promotion of the music school,” McCoy added. “This group can play an important part during the restructuring phase in the music school.”

Terry York, associate pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, chairs the advisory group.

“I deeply regret the personal hurt and misunderstandings that these measures have brought about,” York said. “But even working through the pain of these difficult days … we have to personally hold onto the hope that Golden Gate will continue to be a viable and vibrant force for training ministers of the gospel, whether they be musicians, pastors or education ministers. If the advisory council can play some part in that, that’s good and I want to be a part of it.”

McCoy also praised the activities of music school students throughout the process: “Our students during this time have shown leadership and competence in relating to the demands being placed upon them at a time of extreme difficulty. They have really proven themselves as capable and dedicated in their calling, to the school and to their studies.”

Citing confidentiality in personnel matters, seminary officials said they did not want to announce details of the severance package being provided to assist the Singletons with their transition from the seminary.

“The Singletons will be greatly missed for the quality of their of their service, their expertise and their friendship,” McCoy said.

Craig Singleton, former director of the music school, has taught at Golden Gate 17 years. His wife, Beth, was elected to the faculty in 1984, after serving as instructor in church music since 1980. In addition to their seminary duties, the Singletons are co-ministers of music at Tiburon (Calif.) Baptist Church.

Craig Singleton earned a bachelor of arts degree with majors in religion and music from Samford. He also holds master of church music and doctor of musical arts degrees from Southern Seminary and the master of music education degree from Holy Names College, Oakland, Calif.

He has served the National Association of Schools of Music as chairman of the ethics committee. In addition, he has served as vice president of the education division of the Southern Baptist Church Music Conference.

Beth Singleton holds a bachelor of music degree from Samford University, Birmingham, Ala., and a master of church music degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky. She has done additional study at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.

“We are grateful to Craig and Beth Singleton for their deep devotion and tireless efforts in laying the groundwork for the future of the Dixon School of Church Music at Golden Gate Seminary,” Crews said. “We wish them the very best of God’s blessings in the future as he leads them to ministries where their talents will continue to bless others and bring glory to God.”

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  • Cameron Crabtree