December 7th, 2012
The first public meeting of the N.C. Conservatory Committee was held on 6 December 1962 in Raleigh. As word of the proposed state conservatory spread in North Carolina and beyond, opposition was growing among liberal arts institutions in the state already offering training in the arts (recall Edward Cone's letter to Sidney Cone of Greensboro included in Time Capsule 7).
Invitations to participate in the December meeting went out to eighteen of the state's most prominent arts authorities and educators. Ford Foundation director, McNeil Lowry, met privately with NCCC members on 5 December to encourage the North Carolina project.
John Ehle, acutely aware of the opposition to his plan, tried to "stack the deck because I was one of the dealers" (PP, 56) with arts professionals who could speak in favor of the professional training of young artists in the arts. The list of speakers is contained in the minutes of the meeting and included, once again, the proposal's most outspoken opponent, Dean Lee Rigsby, of Woman's College, Greensboro.
Reaction to the meeting was summed up perceptively by Harriet Doar of the Charlotte Observer: "Roughly, they [the speakers] split along professional lines. Educators favored expanding existing facilities, preferably the ones they were connected with, while the directors of musical and other organizations were more concerned with establishing a separate school or center…all present agreed that the Southeast was 'an arts wasteland'; the argument lay in determining what should be done about it." (PP, 57)
On a positive and local note, a letter from Mrs. T. Winfield Blackwell, president of the Winston Salem Arts Council, announced that the council had passed a resolution on the 28th of November expressing its interest in having the proposed conservatory in Winston Salem.
Ironically, given that NCSA is a present day member of the public UNC system, Leslie Banner's observation in A Passionate Preference on the opposition has a familiar ring to it : "the fine arts departments of most colleges and universities are traditionally underfunded…and to those who devoted their lives to the struggle of the arts in academia, the proposal to pour hundreds of thousands of already inadequately apportioned state dollars into a new arts school…must have seemed a bitter draft indeed." (PP, 56-57)
That the unique nature and value of the School of the Arts persists after all these years of changing times and economic hardships is a testament to its endurance and the power of a dream, Giannini's dream, and that of a Governor, Terry Sanford, and his amazing assisting staff officer, John Ehle, willing to build that dream.