I have become aware of the Sewanee Music Festival only in recent years and I am sure it is a magnificent event. I am writing to you in regards to this issue that has been brought to my attention from both the faculty and students attending the event. One of two issues at hand is "religious freedom".
From what I have learned second-hand from faculty and students attending the music festival is that they only seem to have one day off a week to relax. You are aware that most people only work a five-day work week correct? Are you also aware that a majority of your faculty and students are not atheists nor agnostics and are, in fact, very religious and attend church or worship regularly where they come from?
It is my understanding that on Sundays which is the most common day for exercise of religious freedoms, church and worship, that they are being required to attend practices starting early in the morning and going on throughout the day and thus ending with an afternoon or evening concert.
I would like to point out that even the symphonies of large cities do not require that from their paid musicians.
Being a university I would assume that much of the funding comes from federal and state funds and, that being said, that the university like any other university in the U.S. is bound by no uncertain terms, rules and regulations which also include the Bill of Rights and Constitutional guarantees.
Having said that, I ask if you as a university, very well situated in the "Bible Belt", will continue on in this manner and in violation of the civil rights of those participating in the Sewanee Music Festival?
On another note, I would like to point out that this seems to be a money racket. Is it nothing more than a university or program using their faculty and students to raise funds for this little town and university nestled in the mountains of Tennessee? Is it a gimmick to improve tourism and help the Sewanee economy? Those in attendance are not your slaves or indentured servants whether on scholarship or not. It is a shame that you charge such outrageous fees for this and cannot even provide a small convenience such as air conditioning in the dorms nor even maintain the air conditioning in the main campus buildings. I've heard that even some of the staff are rude to members of the orchestras. These members of the orchestra are lending their years of talent to play for you all. In fact, the truth is that the Sewanne Music Festival is a "Pay to Play" event with the proceeds of the concerts benefiting the university or the festival. Even if you quickly jump to say that some of the proceeds go back to pay for scholarships for students to attend, it is only to pay their way so that these children and adults can come and play and give you the grand orchestra you need to put on this event for the community and thus complete the never-ending cycle of raising money for the university or the festival or its organizers.
It has been said many times over that one should never pay to go to work. If it is legitimate work, then the employer should and will pay you to work for them.
The Sewanee Music Festival appears to be charging students to attend and to essentially work for them. The students are not getting any exceptional chance of a lifetime training per se. Yes, it might be daily, intensified training with a professor of music, but other than that the students are just working and working and working. The professors might even be very well talented in their areas of expertise, but are any really well acclaimed? That can be argued, of course, but it's not the issue. The issue is that these students and faculty are working six days a week with only
one day off a week and not only are they not getting to attend to their religious traditions and desires; they are also not being paid to perform.
I would like to see the university or those in charge of the Sewanee Music Festival, or both, come to improve upon these issues.
It would only take some adjusting of the schedules and giving two days off a week or at least Sunday and maybe another weekday or some other type of break. It would also be nice to see prices/fees come down and the AC be made available for the comfort of the students in the midst of every hot summer they attend. This isn't a labor camp right? Can you not even afford the students a good night's sleep? This event costs more than summer tuition at a regular college or university for a summer session, and, regarding room and board, well, though meals are included, the price still cannot be justified. A person can rent a room somewhere for just a couple hundred bucks a month in a house and that's with AC.
Yes, I have made some serious comments and even accusations regarding the university and the Sewanee Music Festival, but not without due cause. It just really seems that someone, somewhere along the way has lost focus of things and in trying to provide a music festival for the community, the focus has turned to money and it is no longer focused on the heartbeat of the whole event which is the human factor that plays into this event coming together. These are human beings you are dealing with and talented ones at that. You work from daylight til dark and see how you like it for six days a week.
If you wonder why you don't have a big participation nor a return of students year after year, perhaps this will clue you in to what the new focus should be for the remainder of this month and for the coming years if the Sewanee Music Festival is to continue.
A preacher's son and musician.... on behalf of previous and current participants, the musical and religious communities