As Anthony Cornicello reported on Saturday, William Paterson University of New Jersey is letting Peter Jarvis go from their faculty. Sequenza 21 last reported about Jarvis just weeks ago, announcing a concert on which he was premiering pieces by several faculty composers at TCNJ, another small institution in the New Jersey state college system. This type of activity, supporting the work of area composers through dedicated, well-prepared performances, is just one of the many ways Pete has contributed to the musical vitality of a number of institutions of higher education in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. He’s also commissioned a number of pieces for solo percussion and worked to get them published.

As Director of the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble at WPUNJ (check out their ’09 schedule here), Jarvis has not only been a mainstay on the local scene, but has been a powerful advocate for new music as a performer, conductor, and concert organizer.

Times are tough all over, but retrenching Jarvis’s position is a mistake on WPUNJ’s part. That’s why I’d urge Sequenza 21 readers to write letters in support of retaining Jarvis on the faculty at WPUNJ. Let’s aim for supportive letters on Peter’s behalf, not angry messages to the school.

The address:

Arnold Speert, President
William Paterson University of New Jersey
300 Pompton Road,
Wayne, New Jersey 07470

Peter Jarvis

7 thoughts on “NJPE Loses its Pulse”
  1. As a recent graduate of WPUNJ, I am very much in debt to Pete Jarvis for all the fantastic opportunities he has given me- the chance to work with Rolv Yttrehus, to play in NJPE, to develop relationship with many composers, etc. etc. It is largely due to Pete that I was accepted to Grad. School, due to my New Music Credentials, and able to study with Ursula Oppens, one of the finest and most well known pianists of our time. I have also been able to use my experiences with Pete to further advance my professional career with upcoming recordings and performances.

    Working with him on solo new music rept. also opened up my ears, and if WPUNJ wants to have graduates of its classical program perhaps do more than teach Hot Cross Buns to 4th graders or conduct Robert W. Smith for the next 30 years, they would be best to retain Pete, as he can help start and produce successful musicians and performers, so that WPUNJ can be proud of its graduates.

    With every good wish,

    Carl Bolleia

  2. I sympathize with the many part-timers who are losing the positions. But that’s not the issue here. As Anthony pointed out, Peter embodies a longstanding institution, a tradition of advocacy for new music, commissioning and professional performances that dates back to the NJPE founding in the 1960s. Peter and the NJPE are one of the few bright spots on the new music landscape in New Jersey. I can’t think of another that I can consider of equal value. Can we afford to lose that? It is a shame that anyone has to be laid off, I agree. It’s a crime. But in this case the loss to the new music community is huge. I have a feeling the college, while I’m certain they were trying to keep Peter on for the good that he does on campus, wasn’t considering the broader impact. It will be interesting to see how Peter’s career goes from here. I’ve long felt that his allegiance to WPU (he has been there since he was an undergraduate) has in many ways stifled what could be a brilliant performing and conducting career. Will be interesting to see if he takes the opportunity to push for that now.

  3. As a WPUNJ alumnus, I have seen first hand Peter’s efforts at the school. He is unmatched by any faculty member in his dedication to the school and it’s music program, and the professional standards he keeps for all his students. This is what makes him a valuable faculty member.

    I suppose if you weren’t there to see it you couldn’t know how much work he does, and if you did, you might not believe it. But he does a tremendous amount of work for that music department and it’s students.

    The Monday night concert series have always been performed at a professional level, and have always been a place where local composers can have their music played. Students get a chance to perform with the world renown New Jersey Percussion Ensemble which is in residence at WPUNJ, and there are countless premiers and even repeat performances every year. In fact to have a concert without a world or US premier is rare.

    Losing Peter from the faculty would mean losing all of this.

    Also, to clarify, there are 4 percussion faculty – including Peter – and there are 20 percussion students, as well as jazz drummers who take classical lessons, and all the non-percussionists who are in the 20th Century Music ensemble which Peter directs.

  4. Seth,

    I was on faculty at WPUNJ from 2001-’03. I now work at a small university in New Jersey. I’m well aware of the budgetary woes in higher ed here.

    I’m also aware of the extraordinary contribution Peter’s made to the state’s musical life and to the program at WPUNJ.

    A lot of folks who read this website have had their works performed by Peter or worked with him in some capacity. Their support would be meaningful.

    I am, however, kind of surprised that the only people who have seen fit to comment on the post have been so negative.


  5. It’s very easy to armchair-quarterback and say “etrenching Jarvis’s position is a mistake on WPUNJ’s part” – really? Have you seen their budget projections for FY2009? Very easy to second-guess staffing decisions when you don’t know anything about what those decisions are based on.

    For example, did you know that enrollment has gone down about 7% in the last four years at WPUNJ? Betcha didn’t! At give or take $9000 a student, that’s give or take $6 million gone from the budget.

    That’s just the red ink already on paper, mind you. Projections are for downward enrollments in all higher academia to continue for at least two more years.

    Costs go up. Revenues go down. Do the math.

    Universities, like most businesses, are feeling the crunch right now. It is not Jarvis personally that is being cut, I’m sure, but the position itself. It’s not as if they’re hiring a replacement at a lower rate. That’s an issue much larger than him. If you want to save his job, you might consider not writing the President of WPUNJ about him personally, but explain why they need five percussion teachers – one full-time and four adjuncts – on staff. Do you know, exactly, how many students are studying percussion at WPUNJ? Perhaps five of them are not warranted. Are any others being let go?

    As someone in academia who had to let staff go myself due to economic woes, believe me, these decisions aren’t taken lightly. And when they are made, for the record, no amount of support from well-wishers outside the system is going to make one jot of difference. A letter from someone who has never worked for nor attended the school – while it may tug a heartstring or two – is going into the waste bin, I can assure you.

    Jarvis, according to his bio, has two other jobs – he’s on the faculty of Connecticut College and SUNY Westchester. Unlike many others who are being laid off from their only sources of income, it’s not like he’s suddenly destitute. The fact that WPUNJ was not his only means of support possibly factored into the decision in some way. When I had to let people go, I certainly took such things into account.

    While he’s a great musician, certainly, and any university music program would consider itself lucky to have him on their faculty, there are many other factors at play here.

  6. Evan,

    I wrote about Peter because I’m familiar with his work with NJPE, not to promote “his cause at the expense of any other adjunct faculty.”

    As a contingent faculty member myself, I’m only too aware of the vulnerability of many music faculty members’ positions, including my own.

  7. Adjuncts and non-tenure-track faculty are being laid off in droves at universities everywhere. With all due respect to Peter Jarvis and the good work he is doing, his is anything but a unique case — even among music faculty — and I must say I am a bit uncomfortable with the promotion of his cause at the expense of so many others’.

    That having been said, I do hope Mr. Jarvis is able to continue to make a living doing what he loves and promoting contemporary percussion music in New Jersey and beyond…

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