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Westminster Choir College Seeks to Settle in at Rider University While Preserving Past Legacy

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Photographs - some autographed - of some of the leading conductors of the 20th century who led choirs from Westminster Choir College in concert line the hallway across from new practice rooms at Rider University.

A Tempo this Saturday (9/24) begins a two-week update on Westminster Choir College, which was relocated from its long-time Princeton home to Rider University's campus in Lawrenceville, NJ, amid alumni and student concerns over maintaining Westminster's unique environment and music traditions.

As you walk down the corridor along the practice rooms on the bottom floor at Gill Chapel at Rider University, the faces of some of the most iconic orchestral and choral conductors peer out from photos – some autographed – hung on the wall. The conductors, including Leonard Bernstein and Arturo Toscanini, all led choirs of Westminster Choir College in concert, together with top U.S. orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra, reflecting the illustrious legacy that the choir college has developed over the course of its nearly 100 years of history. The practice rooms, however, are brand new – outfitted with some of the most modern audio and acoustic technology, and located miles from Westminster’s longtime home near downtown Princeton. For two years, Westminster’s programs have been run from Rider’s campus in Lawrenceville, NJ, a process Rider began after controversial efforts to sell the school and its campus in order to deal with its own growing university deficit fell through in 2019.

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The hallway reflects a delicate balance that Rider is now seeking to create between fitting Westminster and its tradition of sacred music and choral education onto its campus alongside and science, communication, business and other liberal arts programs, and preserving Westminster’s unique history, specialized curriculum, and student experience. In the first of two parts, A Tempo host Rachel Katz speaks with Kelly Bidle, Dean of Rider's College of Arts and Sciences, and Associate Dean Jason Vodicka, a Westminster alumnus and faculty member, about how Rider has sought to weigh this balance. The second part will air next Saturday and feature the rest of that conversation, as well as an update from the Westminster Foundation Princeton, an independent organization founded in opposition to Rider's plans to move the choir college and sell the Princeton property and has a legal challenge pending.

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Gill Chapel at Rider University, renovated in the past two years, serves as a rehearsal and performance space for Westminster Choir College.