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OU plans to close American Organ Institute

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College of Fine Arts (copy)

The Weitzenhoffer College of Fine Arts Sept. 13.

OU is planning to shut down the American Organ Institute at the University of Oklahoma, according to current students and a program alumnus.

Nolan Reilly, an AOI alumnus and director of music at the St. Thomas More University Parish, said in an email to AOI students and alumni OU’s current plan is to cut all but two positions at the institute and permanently close its doors. This would eliminate the organ technology degree, the only degree of its kind in the U.S., which is focused on maintaining and building pipe organs. According to the email, the program had a 100 percent job placement rate.

The AOI currently has approximately 26 students participating in its programs, Reilly said.

Reilly said he was uncertain if any AOI faculty or staff would be willing to speak currently, but told The Daily the information was revealed at a Fine Arts faculty and staff meeting June 14.

In the email, Reilly said the AOI can afford to keep its doors open independently for two more years thanks to $5 million brought in through fundraising, with additional funding from gifts left to the institute through estate planning.

“It makes no sense to shut it down now, especially with our rate of giving,” Reilly said. “I don’t see how this is a financial issue for the university.”

AOI Director John Schwandt presented a counteroffer to the university to use the AOI’s independent funds to remain open, but the university “indicated that they are not interested in” the offer, Reilly said in the email.

Solena Rizzato, a fifth-year senior in the program, said the elimination of the AOI will close the last remaining pipe organ shop in Oklahoma, and leave over 100 clients across the state without a place to receive maintenance for their instruments.

Reilly said “no one understands the impact” that AOI has not only on music and art, but the whole state, since the institute has alumni working in some of the largest churches in Oklahoma and helps maintain almost all of the organs in Oklahoma.

In the email, Reilly said supporters of the program will meet at 10 a.m. June 17 at Catlett Music Center’s Gothic Hall before walking to Evans Hall to ask for a meeting with interim OU President Joseph Harroz.

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