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CMS task-force Manifesto

The College Music Society (CMS) recently published on its website a task-force report entitled "Transforming Music Study from its Foundations: A Manifesto for Progressive Change in the Undergraduate Preparation for Music Majors"  The report includes many recommendations for revising undergraduate music programs and broadly hints that CMS should directly engage “Deans, Provosts, Chancellors, and Presidents” in the event that music faculties are reluctant to adopt these recommendations.

I briefly discuss this report on my blog. As I note in this blog post, the report was not endorsed or voted on by the CMS membership, Exectuive Board, or CMS Counciles, and thus it does not necessarily represent the views of the CMS membership. Indeed, there is no evidence that the report represents the views of anybody beyond the small group selected to write the report.

That the report has not been officially approved by the CMS by no means negates the possible value of its recommendations. But the suggestions of the report should be considered on their own merits: that this report is labeled as a report of a CMS task force does not give it any special validity or stamp of approval.

The report's stated intention is to serve “as an invitation to further dialogue and action.” Its language, however, arguably discourages dialogue, instead seeming simply to promote action on its recommendations. But that should not prevent us from discussing  in this forum the issues it raises.

Two matters are of particular interest: (1) Has anybody felt pressure from Administrators to adopt the recommendations of the report, based on the mistaken belief that it has been officially endorsed by CMS? (2) Do people have any reactions—positive, negative, or otherwise—to share regarding the recommendations in the report?

 

Poundie Burstein

CUNY

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  • 13 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Again, no mention of music technology or the physics of sound - kind of sad in my opinion that everyone else in the modern world is embracing inevitable technologies of the future except academic music facultes who for some strange reason think that the tools of the modern working musician are irrelevant.  'The bias seems to be that all music graduates are going to become traditional orchestral musicians, classical concert solo artists, choral singers, opera singers, or traditional jazz musicians (all areas of the music industry in decline [in record sales or banrupt organizations] and that employ very few professional musicians statistically).  I'm all for classical fine art training, but please give the next generation of musicians the tools they will need for the world we live in today and tommorrow.  A course in the business of music careers would also be beneficial to the next generations of musicians.  

  • The new director of the University of South Florida School of Music distributed this report to the faculty via email. She has also scheduled a special faculty meeting where the lead author will attend and discuss the findings of the report. I suspect this meeting is a prelude to a move to implement the findings of the report. I will report back after the meeting. Personally, I already follow some of the recomendations of the report, such as incorporating popular music. The aspect of the report I find most troubling is the implicit move/transformation of a higher education institution into essentially a musical vocational school, and not a particularly relevant vocational school (for example, a vocational school that teaches its students to repair tube TVs). Besides skill development, music can be studied critically the same way English departments studying literature. I think the best programs help musicians develp both ways of engaging music. I also agree with Carson that no music student should graduate without basic technological skills, such as using a Digital Audio Workstation to produce their own recordings. As Carson points out, these types of technological skills are nowhere to be found in the report. Finally, the report mentions that it simply does not want to replace one canon with another, but nowhere does the report make recommendation how the two canons could be combined. As it reads, it simply declares one approach antiquated and another approach as relevant. The ironic bit for me is the material the report cites as "relevant" outside the academy would have been relevant 30 years ago. My problem with the report is not its recommendation, but as Poundie states  "its language...arguably discourages dialogue, instead seeming simply to promote action on its recommendations." Moreover, as Poundie points out, the report broadly hints that CMS should directly engage upper administration which will foster a top down approach to curricular development and content.

  • The new director of the University of South Florida School of Music distributed this report to the faculty via email. She has also scheduled a special faculty meeting where the lead author will attend and discuss the findings of the report. I suspect this meeting is a prelude to a move to implement the findings of the report. I will report back after the meeting. Personally, I already follow some of the recomendations of the report, such as incorporating popular music. The aspect of the report I find most troubling is the implicit move/transformation of a higher education institution into essentially a musical vocational school, and not a particularly relevant vocational school (for example, a vocational school that teaches its students to repair tube TVs). Besides skill development, music can be studied critically the same way English departments studying literature. I think the best programs help musicians develp both ways of engaging music. I also agree with Carson that no music student should graduate without basic technological skills, such as using a Digital Audio Workstation to produce their own recordings. As Carson points out, these types of technological skills are nowhere to be found in the report. Finally, the report mentions that it simply does not want to replace one canon with another, but nowhere does the report make recommendation how the two canons could be combined. As it reads, it simply declares one approach antiquated and another approach as relevant. The ironic bit for me is the material the report cites as "relevant" outside the academy would have been relevant 30 years ago. My problem with the report is not its recommendation, but as Poundie states  "its language...arguably discourages dialogue, instead seeming simply to promote action on its recommendations." Moreover, as Poundie points out, the report broadly hints that CMS should directly engage upper administration which will foster a top down approach to curricular development and content.

  • I sense a significant and growing consensus for broad changes to the curriculum of music schools. The three core emphases, creativity, diversity, and integration, are needed. The problem is, of course, how to implement the changes. First, one must understand the need for them, and then begin to ask pointed questions about what we're presently doing and how it's working. If the language sounds too strong for some people, well just consider that to be the enthusiasm of a positive vision for the future. The music school is not impervious to the changes going on outside it. Are we preparing our students for, as Carson says, "the world we live in today and tomorrow?" Ready or not, here it comes.

    P.S., there is mention of music technology in the document. Do a search on "technology."

  • Well I apologize if my response was a little strong.  I am a classical musician and appreciate my fine art training.  That said, there was zero technology or mention of it at the music school/university I attended.  I was the only one even using notation software (and several professors were delighted!) and one of the few doing any computer music composition.  I do believe some composition students were using Finale.  But the department had no music technology to speak of (in the 1990s) and everything felt old and antiquated to me.  There was never any technology in class room instruction either.  I'm sure things have changed by now?  I certainly didn't mean to attack classical music, musicians, or any art form relative to it's popularity or market value.  That being said I did just read an article in Scientific American (September 2014) about technology replacing real musicians in opera productions, on Broadway and other professional venues.  The article also mentioned several prominent opera companies including Santa Fe Opera and NY Opera companies out of business and bankrupt.  And everyone is probably aware of difficulty for American Orchestras and declining attendance and classical record sales.  I also saw a recent segment on the PBS Newshour about Juilliard music graduates and their average income post graduation - 30K per year.  And a majority seeking orchestral positions were working in Europe, where there is more work than in America. I don't think that music education should be tethered to the commercial markets and fine art training will never go out of fashion and still provide the heft of musical knowledge for most musicians regardless of what area of music they enter.  But as far as the commercial markets of music are concerned (an area of future employment for many musicians) all one has to do is listen to an evening of television to hear how much music technology is being used for multimedia and I would think that is an important direction for the contemporary musician and should be addressed in education and training.   I believe there are programs for film scoring and technology at the Berklee School of Music and others like the Art Institute offers courses in recording technology so I suppose it's the student's responsibility to obtain the training appropriate for their specific interest.  I do sincerely believe that university music programs should modernize however.      

  • One of our Associate Deans handed this report to the department chairs just before the end of the semester. I note that the lead author is Ed Sarath, who is (was?) at U Michigan, and who has developed his own methods for improvisation. I don't believe this is a serious document. Although I suspect that our Dean's office will ask the department chairs' opinions, I don't see Temple adopting in part or whole what ammounts to (IMHO) an attempt by someone in the field to impose his view of music education on an entire system of education.

  • It's hard not to have strong feelings about this proposal, both positive and negative, and to that extent I suppose the authors have succeeded. But it seems to me one very important piece is missing. If this kind of change is to happen (or any such wide-ranging change), it will happen through a lot of effort by faculty. I know firsthand that it can be difficult to thoroughly overhaul individual courses in support of innovative teaching goals even with a "traditional" tenure-track job, while also trying to balance research and personal life--much less overhauling whole curricula or doing these transformations from a position as a term/contract/adjunct employee. This is all the more true when the goal seems constantly changing: one year we are going for integrated musicianship, the next for flipped classrooms, the next to support improviser-composer-performer musicians. All of these are important. But it's hard to keep up with constant change, and there's a case to be made for the utility of (once one's highest pedagogical priorities are met) sticking with modest change for a while.

    Here's another idea. Though I had to miss the discussion at the SMT Pedagogy Interest Group's meeting in 2014, I heard after the fact that the College Board feels they have little reason to revise the music theory AP test because music theory curricula are so uniform. Perhaps this uniformity is a bigger problem than the ones the authors identify?

  • GETTING STRAIGHT REDUX

     

    Timothy Chenette wrote:

    ... it can be difficult to thoroughly overhaul individual courses in support of innovative teaching goals even with a "traditional" tenure-track job, while also trying to balance research and personal life--much less overhauling whole curricula or doing these transformations from a position as a term/contract/adjunct employee.

    Looking at it from the outside, I've been wondering for some time when & how push would come to shove on this. First there was the new business model with its brilliant "adjunct solution" which had no discernable goal other than to increase a school's profit margin - never mind the damage done to the adjunct and the student. But ideas like this have a way of biting back.

    So now we finally come to the down side of that brilliant solution for the system itself: Intelligent, innovative, transformative, new ideas aren't generally proposed by those whose primary concern is obtaining a contract or extending their current contract. And as far as voicing constructive criticism of the system paying their salary? -- Forget it. Just teach what you're paid to teach, keep your head down & try to get some sleep.

    The inevitable result of this implied threat in contract employment (which eventually affects all levels) is self-censorship of just those ideas the system needs in order to thrive and grow from a generation that is still young enough to remember its calling.

    One thing has become painfully evident to me over the years since SMT first started a list serv. In the beginning there was a large and varied participation. Everyone chimed in -- some cautiously, others not so much. And even the silverbacks growled now and then. It wasn't always pretty, but it was for the most part exciting and, I can only speak for myself, educational. Also it was a sort of barometer testing the pressures and changes within the community at large. And today? -- I've tested a couple times by poking  the nest with a stick -- but either all the hornets have left, or they're all asleep, or they're afraid of something out here much more threatening than my little twigs. My guess is the latter. One of the greatest threats to free speech in a neoliberal economy is the fear of saying something that will damage one's career. You never know who will read your application or be on the selection committee.

    I have my own opinions (again, only as an outsider) of this "manifesto" -- both pro and con. But I'm not going to give them in this forum. The report is all about what nearly all of you do out there every day -- your job, to be blunt -- and only your reactions count here on behalf of your own careers and, more importantly, on behalf of your students.

    I'll be interested to read any comments here (if there are any comments) from those potentially affected by the "suggestions" of this task force. To be honest, if I were in your shoes in the current atmosphere, I don't know if I'd say anything or not. And that gives me a chill.

     

  • Many thanks for posting this Poundie.  I am a firm believer in discussion and hope this dialogue will continue, whether that be in our own institutions or on the national level in terms of response publications, presentations, etc.  I especially appreciate the clarification that this document does NOT represent the thoughts of the CMS board or the membership of CMS as a whole.  As the current national Vice President of CMS and an active theorist, I am hopeful that we, as a theory community, can work together to create several responses to the manifesto, citing both the pros and cons, as mentioned in a previous response.  I know I look forward to serving in that capacity.

    In my own personal opinion, there are several assumptions made in the document that simply do not line up with the theory teaching I am observing in institutions across this country. (That's a wonderful thing!)  Also, and again my opinion, there are suggestions in this document that simply will not "work" until the student has a strong grasp on the fundamentals of music theory.  (Discussion of fundamental skill is missing in the document)  For example, I teach both in the traditional theory core and have designed a theory class for music industry majors.  In both courses, it is essential the students understand the fundamentals of music and study scores and songs from all genres, including classical.  However, in regards to the task force document, there is always room for self-reflection, even if the final answer is "I don't agree" or "This does not interest me or apply to my student population."

    At Appalachian State, our dean did in fact bring the document to select members of the faculty for discussion. Over the holidays a small group of us met to determine what elements of the document pertained to us and what elements we felt were not applicable to our mission.  Based on these discussions, we felt that the three pillars of the document (diversity, integration, and creativity) were a great starting point in order to better understand what we are doing and if we even wanted to do more.  I created a survey that I sent out to all faculty asking some basic questions, such as:


    • What do you think are some ways that we can better integrate the core curriculum? (music theory, aural skills, music history, lessons, ensembles)

    • If you could change one thing to improve the core curriculum (theory, aural skills, music history) what would that be?

    • In what ways do you currently integrate core material into your classroom/studio/ensembles?

    • Do you incorporate any improvisation in your applied lessons, ensemble or classroom teaching?

    • How often do you involve students in selection of repertoire performed (performance faculty) or studied (classroom faculty)?

    • In your direct instruction of students, how much exposure do students get to the following styles/genres of music? (followed by a list of various musical genres)

    I received 40 responses within a week!  The results of the survey were presented at a retreat we had on Thursday.  We spent the better part of 2 hours sharing how we integrate, incorporate diversity, and engage our students through creative instruction in our classrooms.  I believe we left with a greater understanding on some ways we can better integrate or become more diversified in what we are teaching.    

    The next step is to give a similar survey to our student population (about 450 music students in all areas, including performance, education, therapy, and music industry).  Many of the questions are similar, but I'm looking forward to the results from our student's perspective.  Are we really teaching how we think we are teaching?  

    My pedagogy class is reading this document in two weeks. (Looking forward to this!!) I would hope that faculty encourage a conversation with graduate students about the "manifesto." Let's keep this discussion going!

     

  • Thank you Jenny for taking action on this. From the way you describe it, I'm guessing that you distributed the survey to your music colleagues at app. There's no reason why we couldn't send it out to SMT/CMS members and AP readers. In doing so, I think we could mitigate what I think is one of the most problematic issues in the Manifesto: namely, a lack of supporting data. 

    Why not find out what folks are already doing in the classroom, and use that information as a starting point? 

    Happy new semester, all!

     

  • Nice article by John Covach in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which cites the CMS study:

    http://chronicle.com/article/Rock-Me-Maestro/151423/?cid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en

    It's behind a paywall - you need to subscribe to the Chronicle to see it. Perhaps John can post a PDF version.

  • If you are friends with John on Facebook, he has a link to the article. You can read it via the link. John's article is very good, and it addresses may of the concerns I raised earlier, particulary how to integrate both canons. I hope John won't mind, but I will quote two paragraphs from the article addressing integration:

    "Rather than existing at the margins of the standard musical education, pop should be at the heart of it. But it shouldn’t dominate, as classical music has for so many years. The ideal solution is not to create a series of parallel majors (one for pop, one for jazz, yet another for classical), but rather to create a major that has music at its core and specialties as its features. Students who study various styles should sit side by side in the same classrooms as much as possible. In today’s world, musicians need to adapt quickly to professional and artistic opportunities, and it is crucial that they be versatile and flexible.

    Students studying rock, for instance, need significant exposure to classical music and musicians. Classical musicians need to know about jazz and recording technology. Jazz musicians need to know more about musical theater and world music. All students need to understand the business of music and to develop entrepreneurial skills. Keeping those aspects of music-making and creative activity in separate boxes and segregating students by program hurts them both artistically and practically."

    I will also note John's mention of technology. A dream course I would love to develop is using Digital Audio Workstations as analytical tools.

     

    Nice article by John Covach in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which cites the CMS study:

    http://chronicle.com/article/Rock-Me-Maestro/151423/?cid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en

    It's behind a paywall - you need to subscribe to the Chronicle to see it. Perhaps John can post a PDF version.

     

  • Nice article by John Covach in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which cites the CMS study:

    http://chronicle.com/article/Rock-Me-Maestro/151423/?cid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en

    It's behind a paywall - you need to subscribe to the Chronicle to see it. Perhaps John can post a PDF version.

    Thanks for sharing this Bob. I'm a bit late to the discussion, but I think that John Covach summarizes the impending crisis that many music programs will be facing in the near future...and that is of relevancy. The majority of us who will end up teaching music theory will most likely be teaching students who are not going to be professional classical musicians as recording soloists or members of a major symphony orchestra. Thus, while there are many reasons why I'd love to advocate for the CMS proposal for more improvisation/composition in the music program, is it really that practical in the larger scheme of things?

    I don't mean to suggest these skills aren't useful. They certainly are. But when departments will be tasked to explain why the music program matters at their institution, I think relying on practical relevancy is a slippery slope.

    Although I took 10 years of piano lessons before I entered college, I really didn't know any rep. Granted, it was a lot harder to get access to classical music (both recordings and scores) than it is today. But I suspect that a lot of current students were just like me...someone who experienced a limited amount of rep through their lessons, exposure to "modern" music through bands/choir, and but mostly consume popular styles in their free time. It was college that made me become a classical musician and lover (and for that, I am thankful) but at the same time, I feel saddened that I didn't have exposure to popular music studies in any of my coursework (BM, MM, and PhD). 

    Devin Chaloux

    Indiana University