Potash Hill

View from the Hill

Making Music Together
By President Kevin F. F. Quigley

Management guru Jim Collins said that successful partnerships require “getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats.”

At separate May board meetings, Marlboro College and Marlboro Music School and Festival approved a major change in our longstanding affiliation, shifting from a landlord-tenant relationship to a partnership that looks forward to a flourishing future together. The new partnership reflects both institutions’ decades-long connection to this special place on Potash Hill, as well as a shared pedagogy based on the essential fact that we are all learners together.

This partnership would not have happened without having the right passengers on the bus, individuals with deep ties to both institutions. These include Christopher Serkin, grandson of festival co-founder Rudolph Serkin and chair of Marlboro Music’s board, whose mother, Lucy Gratwick, is a former college staff member. Dick Saudek, Marlboro board chair and the son of Robert Saudek, a longtime member of the festival’s board, is another essential passenger who is in the right seat to build this new relationship.

In these pages, I have written about the challenges facing liberal arts colleges, especially small ones like Marlboro College. These are by now very familiar: concerns about high costs and the debt families incur, growing skepticism that college will lead to meaningful work, changing demographic and technological trends. Commentators are predicting a massive consolidation in higher education through mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies. To address these challenging circumstances, colleges and universities are being encouraged to develop partnerships.

Marlboro already has a number of existing partnerships that help us achieve our mission and amplify our reach. We are part of the Windham Higher Education Cooperative, which involves six colleges and offers cross-registration for students and paid internships in Windham County. Another important partnership is through the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges.

The new partnership with Marlboro Music is profoundly different. For the first destination, the festival will build and donate two buildings: a residence hall and a classroom/rehearsal building. Other potential destinations could include reengaging the festival in the college’s music program as when Blanche and Louis Moyse were on the college’s music faculty, a level of engagement that hasn’t occurred since music professor Luis Batlle’s retirement. Partnership opportunities may even include some joint marketing, internships for students, and potentially some joint fundraising to support shared activities.

In these challenging times, we must try new things and be open to new approaches, particularly in developing relationships that help advance the college’s mission and reflect our history and values. Please join us on this bus to a deeper relationship between the college and Marlboro Music that promises to be mutually beneficial in many ways, perhaps some unimagined as yet.