Music director announces departure


    José Healy
    News Editor

    ---------------------Photo by Danny Sauer---------------------- The chorus, played by members of the Collegium Cantorum, acted as a haunting presence throughout the performance of Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas.” Music Director Marilyn Walker and Jamie Bennett Nelson were instumental in the staging and production of the opera, which was sponsored by the University of Dallas music department. For a full review of the opera, see page 6.

    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.


    1. As a founding member of the Collegium Cantorum, I am deeply saddened by this news. Marilyn Walker is one of the people who makes UD unique and her contributions have never been adequately appreciated or recognized by the school.

    2. What a terrible shame that this brilliant musician and mentor for so many of us is being ousted on a technicality. I have sung in many choirs before and after the Collegium, which was so central to my UD experience, and I have never known another director with her genius for creating a unified heart-moving sound. No one can hear or sing in the Collegium without being drawn closer to our Lord, and that is, after all, the point of liturgical music, isn’t it?

      Carla Hanson
      Class of 1994

    3. This is absolutely stunning. Something about this story isn’t adding up. If there is no music major at UD, then why does it matter whether or not the head of the dept. has an advanced degree in music— unless the administration intends to offer a music major and get rid of a woman they have shown absolutely no appreciation for over the years, despite her excellence as a musician and her promotion of the the university all over the US and Europe through her superb direction of the Collegium Cantorum. Shame on UD. Again.

    4. Dear Mignon, what Povost William Berry said is that even if the University doesn’t start a music major, SACS will still require the director of the music department to have an advanced degree in music. I am not sure if that answers your question, but I just wanted to relate what the Provost told me in the interview. Thanks.

      • Jose,thank you for that clarification. It is not the case, however, that SACS requires the head of the music dept. to have an advanced degree. If you go to the SACS website and read the section in their handbook on faculty, you will see that what I am saying is correct. If what Berry says is correct, then Mrs. Walker would have had to step down a long time ago. I quote from SACS here:
        “The institution employs competent faculty members qualified to accomplish the mission and goals of the institution. When determining acceptable qualifications of its faculty, an institution gives primary consideration to the highest earned degree in the discipline. The institution also considers competence, effectiveness, and capacity, including, as appropriate, undergraduate and graduate degrees, related work experiences in the field, professional licensure and certifications, honors and awards, continuous documented excellence in teaching, or other demonstrated competencies and achievements that contribute to effective teaching and student learning outcomes. For all cases, the institution is responsible for justifying and documenting the qualifications of its faculty. (See Commission guidelines “Faculty Credentials.”) (Faculty competence) Section 3.7.1

        Therefore, it appears that, while primary consideration is given to having an advanced degree, there are many other factors taken into account “for justifying and documenting the qualifications of its faculty.” Since Marilyn Walker is highly qualified, experienced, and a highly effective choral director, I seriously doubt that SACS would sanction UD for having her as the head of the music dept. after 32 years of service to the university.

        • As independent thinkers we can make our own analysis and recognize that skills and the ability to teach them are not linked exclusively to education. However, as a new college professor as a SACS accredited school, I am quickly learning that where accredidation is concerned, when SACS says jump, schools ask “how high.”

          I had never read the SACS guidelines myself, but no school in the area will hire anyone with less than a masters, not even to adjunct, because of SACS. The fact that it sounds like UD attempted to request an exeption at all is impressive to me. I have also heard that when reaccredidation time rolls around, which team SACS sends to visit the school can make a big difference in what additional reccomendations they are likely to make. Maybe they just got a team that is more rigid about advanced degrees.

          I don’t approve of that kind of rigidity, but when they stand between you and accredidation, you don’t have much wiggle room.

    5. I am very saddened by this news. I was hoping UD would keep Mrs Walker despite the protests of the accreditation board, at least until a music major had actually been created.

      The 400+ Collegium Alumni will fondly remember her and the musical and liturgical education she provided all of us. And of course, we will continue to support here across the road.

    6. Mrs. Walker is in good company. According to SACS, neither Palestrina nor Bach would be qualified to head UD’s music department and Shakespeare wouldn’t be qualified to teach English.
      Another case of fake scholars-turned-bureaucrats hiding their mediocrity behind their advanced degrees.

      Cherie Peacock
      ’97, ’04

    7. On several occasions now I’ve heard Berry saying that “we” tried this and “we” tried that. Why doesn’t he say what he personally does and is responsible for?

    8. I am so sorry to hear this! Having just completed a DMA, I can say that advanced music degrees have nothing on Marilyn Walker’s decades of music making experience. Sorry to hear of her departure. Collegium and the Music dept in general were some of the high points of my UD career.

    9. From the coup against the Cowans in the early 80s, and the poor treatment of some of UD’s finest professors during that time, to this year’s ouster of UD’s longtime music department director, my alma mater has a long history of self-inflicted wounds to its soul and reputation. It is one reason why this alumnus, well into his income producing years, is hesitant to pull out his wallet in response to fundraising mailers. I do not think that I am alone in that conviction.

    10. Marilyn is one of the most dedicated professionals I have ever met. I completely agree with Mignon that something does not add up. This rule on the part of the SACS is not new and it’s not like there has been any deception about her education for the past 19 years.

      Collegium has shared the most beautiful sacred music ever created with hundreds of thousands of people the world over. Who knows how many converts to Christianity or Catholicism, not to mention students attending UD or direct financial contributions, have resulted from this incredible outreach.

      UD again shoots itself in the foot in order to kowtow to the arbitrary regulations of an out-dated educational system. I’ll taken Marilyn any day to some hot-off-the-press cookie-cutter “advanced” degree holder who has no knowledge or love of 600 year-old music.

    11. And why the hell did UD News use that picture of Collegium rather than the dozens of others showing them actually performing in some of the most beautiful basilicas and cathedrals the world has ever seen? Or, I don’t know, a picture of Marilyn herself, who is the subject of the article.

    12. There has always been tension between the administration and the music department. It’s always confused me, as I feel it’s very apparent how much of an impact the music department – specifically Mrs. Walker and Collegium, have had on the student body at large. Very sad news. Thanks for sharing.

    13. I, too, am saddened by hearing this news. The decision seems especially short-sighted since UD had never really had a “Music Department”…in that you can’t major in Music. My understanding is that music classes have always been electives, although perhaps that has changed in recent years. Since Music isn’t something you can major in, you’d think you could rename the department the “Music Association”, and keep doing the same things we’ve always done. After all, there are lots of employees at the university who don’t have advanced degrees. I cherished the few music electives I took during my four years at UD, and Marilyn’s caring introduction to music to this non-musical student.

    14. Any consideration for an honorary masters or PhD?
      We are saddened by this lost, an art, a leadership lost to politics.
      Wishing her an Ephesians 3:20 life, more than you can imagine…your steps are ordered by our Lord, His Plan is more than you can imagine…so dream big, dream bigger!

    15. UD creates a Master’s program in Music, awards her a degree, and then never admits anyone to the program again. Problem solved.


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