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Toki Wright on why McNally Smith closing is a loss for students, staff and MN community

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Minneapolis hip-hop artist Toki Wright
Minneapolis hip-hop artist Toki Wright addressed scores of racial-justice advocates in St. Paul on Feb. 18, 2015.
Laura Yuen | MPR News 2015

The abrupt announcement of the pending closure of McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul last night has students and staff left wondering where they will go next.

"It's pretty devastating for a lot of reasons," said local MC and The Current DJ Toki Wright. "There are all these students that have come from all over the world that have come here to focus on something that maybe they were an outcast for in other places."

And in the case of international students, the closure could complicate the process of renewing their visas, Wright said.

Wright helped found the first-of-its-kind hip-hop program at McNally Smith 9 years ago and served as the department head.

Staff members like him face a different set of challenges.

"They're being told the day before payday that 'you're not getting paid before Christmas,'" he said.

The state as a whole is at a loss as well, Wright said.

"There's so much that the school provided as a platform for up and coming artists and people in the music business to actually know what they're talking about, know what they're doing," he said. "That really fed into why Minnesota is great."

Wright plans to make the curriculum he developed while at McNally Smith available to other organizations in the future.