Fallout continues over decision to close American Organ Institute at OU

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NORMAN, Okla. – It seems there is more fallout following the decision to close the American Organ Institute at the University of Oklahoma.

Founded in 2006, AOI at OU is considered a one-of-a-kind organ music program with an emphasis on pipe organ construction and improvisation, along with organ performance.

In June, supporters told News 4 that they were concerned that the university may decide to close the institute due to budget cuts.

“At this point, it seems imminent,” OU alumnus Nolan Reilly said in June. “There were seven positions that were eliminated. Four were given 60 days, and three were given a year, which effectively cuts everybody at the American Organ Institute except two organ professors.”

Reilly said that supporters sent the university more than 200 letters to push for the institute to stay open.

“The fact is the University of Oklahoma is the only institution in the world right now that is producing students that… if you’re in the middle of a church service or a recital and the organ malfunctions, instead of calling a tech, you’re going to get your butt up there, get the wrench out and you’re going to fix it yourself,” Reilly said. “The American Organ Institute has a 100 percent job placement rate for its graduates. There are 40 pipe organ shops that are waiting to hire our students right now.”

OU officials confirmed to News 4 that they would be closing the American Organ Institute by the end of this academic year.

“With six undergraduate students currently enrolled and nearly $400,000 a year in operation costs, the university’s financial position cannot infuse large funds into the program. Unfortunately, a permanent source of funds never was established when the program was created, and sustainable private sources are not available,” a statement by the university read.

Recently, alumni told the OU Daily that they were able to raise $6.6 million to keep the institute open. However, university officials tell News 4 that the funds were not a long-term solution for keeping the institute open.

Currently, there are 12 students, undergraduate and graduate, who have remaining courses in the program. Students who are currently enrolled will be able to complete courses that are being finalized for the spring semester.

OU officials say the degree-earning programs for organ, bachelor, master and doctorate of music, will continue as offerings in the School of Music.

They also add that OU took steps to reconsider the closure after multiple meetings with concerned constituents at the dean, provost and presidential levels.

Supporters say they took to social media to raise awareness about the impending closure.

Alumni told the OU Daily that they have since been banned from the university’s Facebook page. An OU spokesperson said some of the critics were spamming pages that were taking away from current student accomplishments, citing community guidelines.

OU released a statement on Thursday saying:

“The decision to close the organ technology and repair program was a difficult, but necessary one. The closure comes out of an extensive evaluation of the program’s sustainability, as well as a high-level, comprehensive financial review of the entire University in an effort to achieve fiscal responsibility. OU took steps to reconsider the closure after multiple meetings at all levels with concerned supporters, students and employees; however, a long-term plan did not develop. Despite generous offers from supporters, there is still not a viable plan to maintain the program and avoid the same challenges in the future that we face today. The University appreciates the input received from supporters of the program. The review process has been an inclusive one from the start; however, it cannot be a continual one. Our students will continue to be supported, and the long tradition of organ music education at the OU College of Fine Arts will endure.”

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