Only rain could momentarily delay the 24-hour protest concert, part of the student-initiated #SaveTheArtsGW campaign’s most recent attempt to fight a slew of budget cuts directed at GW’s music department.
More than a dozen student music groups including the GW Troubadours and the GW Jazz Orchestra gathered in Veteran’s Memorial Park and performed live music for 24 hours to raise awareness of the budget cuts. The free concert lasted from Thursday, April 16 at 4:30 pm to Friday, April 17 at 4:30 pm, with the exception of a break due to bad weather.
The protest was originally scheduled to take place in Kogan Plaza but students were asked by administration to relocate to Veteran’s Memorial Park less than an hour into the protest. The impromptu venue change did not deter the crowd, which was upwards of fifty people at times.
Despite the upbeat vibe, the audience was reminded of the frustration that prompted the event.
“Many of us came to GW specifically so we could continue our music,” said freshman Zach Sanders, a member of Colonial Brass and one of the many students who helped organize the 24-hour protest concert and the #SaveTheArts campaign. “The way that these budget cuts are affecting us, in a disproportionate and crippling way is just contrary to all the reasons we came here.”
Sanders’ anger is shared with other countless students who are being affected by the budget reductions.
“I was angry that we just built a $275 million engineering building, yet for whatever reason we can’t afford to properly fund a music department,” said sophomore Julian Berkowitz, a member of the GW Jazz Orchestra.
Music Department Chair Douglas Boyce announced the cuts to faculty in early April. Departments across the university are being asked to decrease their budgets in response to significantly lower graduate school enrollment this past year. But the music department is experiencing the most drastic reductions and is expected to be slashed by 40 percent in the coming year. The first programs to be eliminated will be one-on-one lessons between faculty and students.
“There’s not really much transparency, and it’s not like it was an announcement,” said Allie Geoca, a freshman and member of GW Jazz Orchestra. “We just kind of found out through our teachers.”
Berkowitz lamented that music department faculty are feeling the effects of the cuts most acutely.
“This will affect about 40 to 50 percent of the Music Department’s offerings. Many of the professors I consider friends and mentors have been either asked to leave, or have had their hours cut by absurd amounts,” he said.
In spite of this, students say that the music department staff have been encouraging of students’ initiative to protest the budget cuts.
“They’re supporting us. They’ve provided us with instruments, music, and advice,” Geoca affirmed.
Additionally, students involved with the #SaveTheArtsGW campaign say they have received positive feedback and encouragement from the greater GW community. Geoca was in charge of media relations for the 24 Hour Concert Protest, and says the event gained a large following on their Facebook page and Twitter account.
“I felt overwhelming support from my GW community,” agreed Berkowitz. “People cared enough to sit out in Veteran’s Park for hours.”
Whether directly involved in the music department or not, students are rallying behind #SaveTheArtsGW.
“I don’t play music in college. But the arts are so important to GW. It’s the fact that we can be political science majors but also minor in jazz,” said freshman audience member Hannah Hickman. “And most people don’t have the opportunity to listen to free jazz at night in Washington, D.C.”