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Chicago Jazz Ensemble, Center for Black Music Research face budget cuts

Howard Reich

1:13 PM EDT, May 23, 2012

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The Chicago Jazz Ensemble and the Center for Black Music Research, both based at Columbia College Chicago, will face reduced budgets and redefined missions, according to a plan issued by Columbia President Warrick Carter and obtained by the Tribune. The “Blueprint for Action” plan is subject to adoption by the college's board of trustees in late June.

Both the CJE and CBMR have been under threat of elimination, in the wake of an earlier “Blueprint: Prioritization” report suggesting ways that Columbia College could reduce expenses amid declining enrollment.

According to Carter's “Blueprint for Action,” the Chicago Jazz Ensemble “will go on hiatus during the academic year 2012-2013. During that time the college will hire a new artistic director,” replacing Dana Hall, who recently resigned. In addition, “the CJE staff and advisory board will plan for a 2013 performance season within the college's new budget guidelines. The CJE's budget for the planning year is $200,000. The 2012-2013 season may proceed if the ensemble raises sufficient funds in advance to fully cover the season's costs. … Beginning in fiscal year 2013, the college will support the ensemble up to $200,000 per year.” Currently, the school underwrites $300,000 of the ensemble's $600,000 in expenses.

The ensemble's new artistic director “will be hired as a full-time faculty member with teaching responsibilities, and the members of the ensemble should be chosen both to perform in the ensemble and to teach as adjunct faculty members.” The organization will be renamed the Chicago Jazz Ensemble at Columbia College Chicago.

The Center for Black Music Research will continue “at a reduced budget and with a tighter focus on key activities,” Carter's plan says. “Going forward, the college will continue to support the center at the fiscal year 2012 level with the expectation that the center must raise at least $200,000 annually to augment the college's support. The CBMR staff will focus its work on three activities, the Black Music Journal, the biannual conference and the archives. The center will discontinue all other activities, unless these activities are sponsored 100 percent by outside funding.”

Management of the CBMR archives “will be combined with the college archives and the overall staffing of the two archives will be reduced.”

In addition, the college will “discontinue the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media as a stand-alone entity and incorporate elements of its original mission into the undergraduate minor in Women's and Gender Studies.”

The overall goal, according to a statement from Columbia in response to a Tribune inquiry, is to tie Columbia's centers, institutes and ensembles more closely to the school's instructional program.

“Our centers are an incredibly important part of Columbia — their work is vital to who we are and how we support our community,” the Columbia statement reads. “As a result, the president's plan suggests embedding the centers in the college's academic structure, which is the best way to bring the centers and their important work into the curriculum. Some recommendations include restructuring responsibilities to consolidate similar functions under one department or program, while others set responsible financial support parameters to support individual center fundraising efforts."