About a dozen students sat on the steps of Derham Hall at St. Catherine University in St. Paul midday Thursday singing and holding signs protesting the school’s decision to slash music and theater programs.

The group was part of a daylong “sing-in,” with performances from the choir, soloists, musicians and actors.

The Catholic liberal arts school announced a few weeks ago that it was eliminating majors and minors in music and music theater. In recent days, the school notified students that all music ensembles, lessons and productions would also be cut, according to protest organizers.

More than 1,200 have signed an online petition supporting the programs. The petition calls the music and theater department a valuable asset to the university and “the local community as a whole.”

The protesters intend to present the petition to administrators.

Assistant Vice President Alan Silva said the departments weren’t being eliminated and full-time professors would remain, as will the most popular classes. But with only nine students seeking the majors, including three graduating seniors, the programs were too costly to maintain. Theater productions are expensive for universities, he said.

The university is exploring ways to keep theater and music ensembles a part of the community, he said.

Historically a women’s school, St. Kate’s was founded in 1905 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. St. Kate’s now lists total enrollment at 4,700 students. Located in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood, the school is part of a handful of liberal arts schools in the Twin Cities.

St. Kate’s students who want to pursue the eliminated majors would have the option of pursuing them through coursework at nearby universities. Augsburg, Macalester and Hamline universities offer music and theater majors. St. Thomas offers music majors.

At 34 percent, nursing is by far the school’s most popular major. Public health and social work, at about 6 percent each, are next.

@rochelleolson