November 13, 2019

Calling on Princetonians to Wake Up: Support Keeping Westminster Here

To the Editor:

Princeton is the leading academic center in the state with Princeton University, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Westminster Choir College.

Westminster, one of the four jewels of Princeton, is being forced out of Princeton by Rider University.

For two years Rider attempted to sell Westminster to a Chinese commercial company for $40 million; the Chinese recently cancelled further negotiations. Then Rider announced that Westminster will be moved out of Princeton to Lawrenceville at the end of the 2019/2020 academic year, and that it is negotiating for the sale of the property but refusing to identify the new buyer.

Princetonians need to come to the rescue of this jewel of Princeton and raise their voices, “keep an independent Westminster in Princeton.”

Westminster is one of the best music colleges in the U.S.; the Westminster Symphonic Choir is probably the best in the world. Their repeated appearances with the top orchestras is legendry. Leonard Bernstein said “Westminster supplies a measure of beauty to a world that needs it badly.” His family invited the choir to sing Bach’s Mass at his memorial service.

Westminster is ranked fifth out of the 138 Best Music Schools in America, Rider’s Music School is ranked 50th.

Yes! The fifth ranked, world renowned Westminster is being swallowed up by a fiftyish ranking college. Since Rider’s attempt to sell it to the Chinese, Westminster’s enrollment dropped by 60 percent.

Westminster will die in Lawrenceville. Currently it has 150 practice rooms all acoustically designed for vocal and opera training. Rider has none and said that they will build only 16 new practice rooms.

In 2019/20 Westminster will perform more than 60 concerts on campus, mostly free and on weekends. Many Princetonians bring their children to these free concerts to absorb an early music appreciation. There will be no Westminster concerts in Princeton after 2019/20.

  Law suits against Rider will keep many buyers on the sidelines, and may force Rider to agree to leave an independent Westminster in Princeton. Any Princeton public or any private organization willing to buy the empty Westminster campus will only aid and abet in Rider’s destructive move of one of the jewels of Princeton.

Questions to the Princeton Board of Education regarding their interest in the 23 acre property  Rider wants to sell, are answered with “I can’t talk about it.”

Yes, the Princeton Public Schools need space to expand, but that should not come at the cost of letting Westminster die.

It is not a pipe dream to save Westminster. It can be done.

Citizens of Princeton wake up and become proactive:

1. Write letters to the newspapers in support of retaining Westminster in Princeton.

2. Call or email all elected officials, in Princeton, in Mercer County, and in Trenton, tell them to support retaining Westminster in Princeton.

Ralph Perry
Random Road