Following the cut of the men’s tennis and soccer teams, there has been a growing wariness of more programs being cut at VU. Valpo’s Jazz Program was believed to be in danger of this, but has proven that it won’t go down without a fight.
In Nov. of 2019, Freshman Steven Mileusnich created a petition to try to “Save VU Jazz” and keep the head of the program, Jeffree C. Brown, from being let go. Since then, Mileusnich’s petition, which started on paper, has transferred online as a way to get better outreach.
“I have about 300 to 400 paper signatures and then on change.org, I think we're pretty close to 2100,” Mileusnich said. “There were people signing in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and California. There was one guy who signed it and left a comment, he was in Hong Kong.”
The change.org petition contains many comments from alumni and current students alike, all with fond memories of Professor Brown and the program.
Instead of letting Professor Brown go after the end of this semester, Valparaiso University has instead decided to give him an early retirement at the end of spring 2021, according to Mileusnich.
“I have a feeling that possibly the petition has had some impact on that,” Mileusnich said. “So now because he has taken early retirement, the focus is not so much trying to preserve him anymore . . . if they don't find anybody in the time that Professor Brown is still here, then who's gonna do jazz here?”
Brown politely declined an interview with The Torch at this time, redirecting press to the music department chair, who also declined comment.
Many students are still unsure of what will become of the jazz program. Because of this, the petition’s purpose has been revised to just trying to save the program.
For years, the jazz program has been an important part of the community, bringing together music lovers across the state to participate in the annual Jazz Fest. Before becoming a VU student, Mileusnich was a part of the Jazz Fest in high school, which led him to join the jazz program when he came to Valpo.
“Overall, I think that VU jazz is pretty well known in the area and that is because Jazz Fest is attended by various high schools throughout the region. So, it's much wider reaching than just Valpo,” Mileusnich said.
Jazz Fest has allowed high school students outside of Valpo to come together to not only share their passions, but also become introduced to VU, such as with Mileusnich’s story. However, just like with the jazz program, Jazz Fest’s future is uncertain.
“The administration and the music department are still working on the details. However, if there is no jazz program, then I would foresee events like this coming to an end,” Mileusnich said.
Currently, Mileusnich is trying to continue to rally for support and keep awareness from dying down. For more information and to support the jazz students and their cause, find the petition on change.org titled “Save VU Jazz.”