June 28, 2011

Top 10 Most Viewed: #9 Northland International University’s Music Department to be Dissolved

A major change has been announced at Northland International University (NIU). In his Open Letter to Friends in the Ministry Dr. Matt Olson wrote, “Our Music Philosophy: Philosophically, it is unchanged. Let me say it again... unchanged.” He went on to note that,
Our Director of Fine Arts, Kevin Suiter, has recently informed us he does not believe he can take us forward in this way and thus has announced his plans to move on. We wish Kevin and Grace the best and thank them for the investments they have made here.”
We are now learning that news of the Suiter’s departure was merely a precursor to what has just taken place at NIU. On Monday, January 31 NIU informed the faculty, staff and students that the Music Department will be disbanded and reorganized. Music will no longer be offered as a major at NIU.

To break the news about changes to the music program a meeting was called for the music majors and minors on Monday. According to NIU faculty who were there this meeting was conducted by VP for Academic Affairs Antone Goyak. Students were assured that they could finish their degrees if they wanted, but he did not offer a plan for how that would happen. Presently it is uncertain whether any qualified music faculty will stay on to finish those needing to complete degrees.

Some NIU staff and faculty leaving NIU have signed the intent not to return. Kevin and Grace Suiter, as well as voice teacher, Shelli Beeman left of their own volition. Other music faculty members have been notified they will not be retained for the 2011-2012 school year. It appears nearly the entire music faculty is departing, one way or another, over the new way of doing music at NIU. To date, I have not ascertained whether faculty/staff departures are with immediate effect or with closure of the current academic semester.

The change at NIU calls for the Music program to be offered through the Bible Department, converting it to a minor and/or an emphasis on philosophy and song writing, rather than a degree program. Dr. Olson’s intention is to implement this change with the Fall 2011 semester.

Music is one of the highest cost majors for small Christian colleges to provide. Its remote location is one of NIU’s biggest challenges to a music program. Largely because of NIU’s remote location it would never be able to offset the cost. No real adjunct or part-time teacher base exists such as can be found and utilized in a city. The ratio of 1 to 1 for lessons is cost prohibitive. There is little opportunity for concert revenue. Larger schools like BJU and PCC located in more densely populated regions are able to infuse funds into their music department by selling tickets to big events like concerts and artist series.

Others indicate there are additional reasons, beyond cost cutting, for the change in the Music Department. It may be that NIU wants to make music instruction accessible to all students. The change in Fine Arts at NIU has not touched the Speech program.

There are colleges where students once were taught a conservative philosophy of music that focused on uplifting the Lord and not the performer or the personal listening tastes of the hearers. Today they have become an environment where music has no moral quality, style is supposedly unaddressed in the New Testament, and institutional standards are a hindrance. Is it possible NIU is on that track?

John MacArthur (Calvinism, Lordship Salvation), Rick Holland (LS, CCM, Resolved), Bruce Ware (compromised SBC theologian), Wayne Simien (CCM and dance), Broadway’s WICKED song and dance routines in chapel, disbanding and realigning the Music Department to accommodate differing cultures. Are these the signs of a Baptist, separatist Christian college committed to its roots, or of changes in philosophy, trajectory and practice to what evangelicalism has to offer to impressionable undergraduates; your young people? (See, Is NIU “Unchanged?”)

Significant changes are being made and put into affect at NIU. There are important questions that every parent and pastor of a current or perspective student might consider asking the NIU administration. You might contact NIU Music Department faculty to ask questions you may have.

Parents and pastors sending their young people to NIU is a sacred stewardship. Imagine the shock and disappointment to find those same young people, in as little as one semester, were changed from the views their parents and pastor spent years cultivating.


On Feb. 4th Dr. Antone Goyak e-mailed to all students a copy of NIU’s new music program, which is known as, Emphasis in Church Music. I have been forwarded a copy of NIU’s Statement of Vision: Enriching Christ’s Church with His Word through Music, which you may download from the link provided. In a cover e-mail Dr. Goyak wrote, “This brief communication relays a summary of what has already been communicated to those involved in our Music programs.”

For additional documentation verifying the changes at NIU see, Northland Int’l. University’s Convergence with Evangelicalism: What Does it Mean for Impressionable Students?

Originally appeared Feb. 2011- Northland International University’s Music Department to be Dissolved

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