Emma Rubinstein, the group's first violinist, left the group last year when she married, and her chair remains vacant. Citing budget constraints and declining enrollment for classical music, university officials chose not to create a tenured position for a faculty violinist to replace her.
The Oxford String Quartet celebrates its 60th anniversary this March. It was founded in 1946 and was one of the first quartet-in-residences in the country. Other schools, such as Indiana University and Northwestern University, followed its model. The group has commissioned and premiered new music and toured Japan and Korea last May.
Eighty-five-year-old violinist Elizabeth Lane, a founding member of the ensemble, told the Enquirer she felt "heartsick" when she heard the news.
Jose Antonio Bowen, dean of MU's School of Fine Arts, pointed out that this year's music program had a drop from 69 to 40 incoming freshmen. The school may shift its focus away from traditional Western music. "It's conceivable that the number of students wanting to study the violin goes down, and the number wanting steel drum and gamelan goes up," he said.
Local fans are campaigning to "save the quartet."