Winchester, VA – Building on a unanimous faculty vote in June of 2016 to pursue an exit from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University recently finalized its withdrawal from the association.
The conservatory has enjoyed a long membership with NASM, beginning with its initial review in 1940, through its last accreditation in 2009. And while the conservatory has received support and repeated accreditation from NASM, it has become increasingly clear to faculty and program leaders that the conservatory requires increased flexibility to pursue innovative curricular pathways and provide students with cutting-edge industry preparation; preparation that can fall outside of traditional program models. Additionally, given the presence of extensive accreditation and reporting requirements already in place related to regional and disciplinary accrediting bodies, the ongoing redundancy and cost of accreditation related to NASM makes ongoing membership difficult to justify.
Shenandoah Conservatory’s departure from NASM is not unique, and accreditation from NASM is not necessary for music programs or units. The Juilliard School has not been a member since the 1950s. Among schools which have withdrawn from NASM membership are Oberlin Conservatory, Yale School of Music, New England Conservatory, University of Southern California, Mannes College of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.
Shenandoah Conservatory continues to be accredited/approved by Southern Association for Colleges and Schools and by professional organizations such as American Music Therapy Association and Council for Accreditation for Educator Preparation.
Beyond being an industry leader in multiple program areas, Shenandoah Conservatory continues to give special space to innovative initiatives. Last semester, it became the first performing arts school in the country to cancel courses and instruction across all its degree programs and areas for an extended period to give privileged space to collaborative student-led performances and projects.
Reflecting on the faculty’s commitment to continually strengthening curriculum and instruction, Shenandoah Conservatory Dean and Professor of Music Michael Stepniak, Ed.D. shared: “Whether boldly reimagining our undergraduate curricula – as they are currently doing – or supporting innovative initiatives, our faculty are exceptionally committed to continually strengthening our community; one that is rigorous, nurturing, and innovative, and focuses with great purpose on helping our talented students prepare for successful careers in multiple areas of the performing arts.”