Mar 282012
Authors: Kate Simmons

On the third floor of the University Center for the Arts, where opera singing can be heard behind closed doors and students can be seen writing out their own musical scores in the hallway, Jason Rosenholtz-Witt sits in his office deciding which YouTube video to play for his afternoon music appreciation class.

“I enjoy exposing my students to classical music and jazz,” Rosenholtz-Witt said. “I almost feel like it’s my duty as a musician to help create the next audience because the audience, for classical music especially, is aging and I feel like with these classes we can help build a future audience.”

With funding of middle-school and high-school music programs on the chopping block in many states –– including Colorado –– Rosenholtz-Witt said he was one of the lucky ones who got to experience a solid music program.

“I was lucky at the time when I went to school here. The district wasn’t faced with such large budget cuts,” Rosenholtz-Witt said of his middle and high school years in the Poudre School District.

At the time, there was a program that allowed students to observe musicians and then sign up for free music lessons.

“The music program in the Poudre School District was really impactful,” Rosenholtz-Witt said. “I probably wouldn’t have picked up an instrument if it weren’t for that.”

“If I was going to school now I wonder if I’d have the same opportunities.”

But, while these days may be dark for some struggling middle and high school music programs, Adam Torres, an adjunct faculty member and administrative assistant in the music department, said the CSU Music Department has been flourishing.

“There has been a period of growth (in applicants) over the last five to 10 years in large part to the artistic quality of our program,” Torres said, adding that the program has propelled CSU into the national spotlight as a premier music institution.

“More people are auditioning; it’s competitive,” he added. “Despite budget cuts in middle and high schools, we’ve seen increased enrollment.”

Rosenholtz-Witt, who started teaching after completing his graduate studies at CSU, spoke highly of the music program’s resources, including the University Center for the Arts, which he said is an ample facility with its own organ recital hall.

“As a performer who has played in many different spaces, playing in a good hall makes such a huge difference,” he said.

And while having such an incredible building to facilitate the creation of music is beneficial, Rosenholtz-Witt said what really made his experience at CSU a positive one was the faculty.

“The facility is great, but without that faculty it would be a waste,” he said. “We have a faculty here that work really hard. They work way longer hours than they should, and they really care about their students.”

While Rosenholtz-Witt said he’s become more interested in the academic side of music, CSU also offers different programs for those interested in getting involved, including the award-winning CSU marching band.

On its long list of achievements, the marching band won the first annual Mountain West Conference High Five Award last year, and has been invited to the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin, Ireland.

Band section leader Jeff Houghton, a junior biology major who plays the mellophone, said he is looking forward to the trip to Ireland.

“I like how we represent the university,” he said.

Collegian writer Kate Simmons can be reached at

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