After 32 years at the University of Dallas, Music Director Marilyn Walker announced her resignation due to a requirement of UD’s accrediting agency that the music director have an advanced degree in music, which Walker lacks, according to Executive Vice President and Provost J. William Berry.
Berry said that the administration is open to the possibility of retaining Walker in the music department as the director of the a capella liturgical choir Collegium Cantorum, even if she does not continue as the head of the department.
“I can’t really discuss the details of a personnel discussion, but I’d be open to a discussion of Ms. Walker’s continuing as an important role in the music program,” he said.
Walker declined to comment as to the possibility of staying at the university and running Collegium within UD.
Collegium member senior Joe Swope said that Walker will take the choir to its new official base at the Cistercian Abbey next academic year after having been at UD since 1993, the year she founded the choir.
Collegium will continue to sing at liturgical celebrations at Cistercian but will now consist only of current members and alumni and will not recruit new students from UD, said Swope and four-year Collegium member, senior Angela Redford.
Walker declined to comment about these claims regarding her return as director of Collegium.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits UD, raised objections about Walker’s credentials beginning last academic year, according to Berry.
Despite the administration’s efforts to ask for exemption, SACS persisted to require that the music director at least have a master’s degree in music, Berry explained.
“We tried to submit an argument that in fact the level of musicianship necessary is here and that we ought to ‘grandfather’ this, but they didn’t buy it,” Berry said referring to SACS officials.
Walker founded Collegium with the “express purpose of performing Latin sacred music of the Renaissance in its original and proper context of the Catholic Mass,” according to a Collegium travel booklet.
Walker holds rehearsals three times a week and individual voice lessons in order to prepare the choir for the monthly First Friday Mass at Cistercian, weddings of Collegium alumni, as well as the choir’s two largest annual events: the All Soul’s Requiem Mass and Holy Week services at Cistercian.
Since its inception in 1993, Collegium has travelled to Germany, Italy, Hungary, Austria, France, Spain, Canada and to many cities in the United States to sing for the most part in liturgical settings. Students of all class levels have participated in the choir throughout its history.
Redford said that Walker began making references to her departure from UD starting in the fall of 2010, but it wasn’t until last month that she announced to the choir that she had submitted her resignation.
“I cried,” Redford said. “And I wasn’t the only one who cried. It was a very sad thing.”
Redford said that she initially thought twice about re-joining the choir after her first semester of freshman year because Walker was “very demanding” – requiring weekly personal voice lessons and multiple rehearsals.
However, she realized that the rigor of the program helped her and the other members to come to “love this and to realize our full potential” by singing sacred music for the Mass and other liturgical celebrations.
“Whenever people hear Collegium sing, they recognize something special,” Redford said. “We sing from the heart.”
She said that Walker has always emphasized to the choir the sacredness of liturgical music and the importance of making their singing “a very personal form of prayer” that they offer “for the glory of God.”
Redford and Swope said that Collegium will cease to recruit members next year because Walker “won’t have the time to train new students.”
Walker also declined to comment about the direction that the choir will take next year once she ceases to be the director of the music department.
The music department will continue to offer its music concentration and the university is currently in the process of forming a committee to explore the possibility of offering a bachelor’s degree in music, Berry said.
He said that the committee will likely make a recommendation as to the feasibility of a music major by the end of the current academic year.
In terms of the new music director, the administration is currently “in discussion with someone who has been affiliated with the music program and would meet SACS expectation” of an advanced degree in music, Berry said.