Choir members sing sour note over funds

Six concerned students gathered inside Lee Hall Tuesday afternoon to ask Florida A&M University president James Ammons why they and 24 other Concert Choir members were still waiting for their financial aid.

They did not hear from Ammons, but their wait might be over soon.

During several visits to administrative offices on campus, Trenton Kirksey, an 18 year-old, music education student, said he discovered that 178 members of the Marching 100 band had received $1.1 million in scholarship funding, although a Concert Choir scholarship recipient list was submitted to the Office of Financial Aid before the list for marching band members.

According to Kirksey, the Concert Choir was supposed to receive $49,000 in scholarships. Thus far, the funds have not been posted into any of the scholarship recipients accounts, she said.

“We, in the long run, have yet to receive our scholarships,” Kirksey said. He and the five other concert choir members explained their frustration with visiting and contacting several offices since early September,hearing contradictory information and not seeing any progress.

Some of the paperwork issues involve director of bands, Julian White, who is responsible for authorizing all scholarships for the music department.

“I spoke with Ms. (Marcia) Boyd personally, she said that ‘Dr. White has not sent me authorization’,” Kirksey said. He explained that he contacted White, and was informed that the paperwork had been signed and submitted to the Office of Financial Aid.

“We (the Concert Choir) turned our list in two weeks before the band (originally) on Sept. 16 and here we are in the end of October and we still haven’t gotten our funds,” Kirksey said.

Brittany Tanksley, 19, Sebring, called Lanita Jones, a secretary in the Vocal Music Department, to clarify the confusion. “Jones told me ‘I have already sent over paperwork once’,” Tanksley said.

Jones confirmed that she resent the list to the Office of Financial Aid during the third week of September. On Tuesday, upon speaking with Sylvia Pettis, executive assistant to vice president of student affairs Roland Gaines, Kirksey was told that no concert choir members were on the scholarship recipient list that had been sent over to the financial aid office.

This list was sent to financial aid counselor, Carita Evans, who, according to Kirksey, had originally said there was nothing sent over from the music department. This list approved scholarship funding for 178 band members and no concert choir members.

“We may not be as large, and we may not be as amazing to the naked eye, but we are just as good,” Kirksey said. “We are still musicians (and) we represent the university to the best of our ability.”

Added Tanksley, “If we devote our time and voices, why aren’t people giving us the answers that we need when we come to ask our questions.”

She said choir members cannot work at other jobs because of their demanding practice schedule. Kirksey said the concert choir is scheduled to perform Thursday in Lee hall at 7 p.m.

Although President Ammons was unavailable due to traveling, the six students were able to take their concerns to provost & vice president, Cindy Hughes-Harris, Gaines, as well as White, who is also chairman of the music department, and Danielle Kennedy-Lamar, vice president of student enrollment.

Hughes-Harris told the students she and other administration officials need to gather information before addressing them.

“There’s no quick and easy answer to this conflict issue,” Hughes said.

Students told Hughes they felt that officials were not being honest with them.

“There probably isn’t a one (a reason) that is too relevant to your situation,” said Hughes-Harris, who added that the goal was to find out where the money was and when the students will get the financial aid.

Hughes-Harris assured students that the scholarship funds are scheduled to be post no later than Thursday.

“It should have been posted, and it will be,” Hughes said. “It’s not just the music department, it’s not just financial aid. As a whole, the university has a communication problem.”

Band director White said he contacted financial aid director Boyd to find out how the decisions were made to award the recipients and he has not gotten any answers.

“I did have a conversation with Ms. Boyd and whoever is a part of the office and did ask questions as to how the decisions and to who was awarded what (and) when and I haven’t gotten any answers,” White said. All the money for scholarships has not been obtained thus far.

“The fact that the music department does not have any money is true,” said White, who added that he is asking the university for the funds. “There is going to be a restructuring and revamping of the scholarship award process.”

White also said choir members on the music’s entire department were on the list to receive scholarships and both lists were submitted at the same time.

“I would certainly say that there is no attempt to slight the concert choir,” he said.