Preparing for Pride and Performance in the Professoriate

September 30, 1997

It gives me great personal pleasure to deliver the Robert Trotter Lecture to this annual meeting of The College Music Society. You see, exactly 25 years ago this month, I was fortunate to have the first of what would become a series of informal, professional mentorings from the late Bob Trotter. I was in my first year as executive director of the National Association of Schools of Music, just beginning to learn about the ways of Washington, about the academic musical establishment across this country, and about accreditation as a uniquely American function in higher education. At that time Robert Trotter was dean of the School of Music at the University of Oregon, a stalwart—although often an iconoclastic one—among the leaders of NASM.

The year was 1972, a time of social upheaval in the United States. We were still embroiled in the Viet Nam War and it was the year of the Watergate burglary. Robert Trotter was very much in tune with the times—a “free spirit” in many respects and also a respected administrator; a very questioning, probing, professorial type; a fascinating intellectual, stimulating in conversation or in a meeting; and thoughtful, caring, and warm to a newcomer like myself. He was something of an administrative guru for me, because he had a way of putting administrative matters into perspective. I remember his telling me, at the hotel in Minneapolis where NASM was meeting that November, that he hoped I would like my new position, but that if I started thinking of “going to work” when I went to the office in the morning, it would be time to change jobs. He was effective and convincing in talking about balance in one’s life. I cannot recall his precise words, but I remember his impressing upon me how important it was as an administrator not to let the job become me. I’ve tried always to remember that good advice. I think it was Bob Trotter who also advised me, with a twinkle in his eye, that in administration, friends come and go…but enemies accumulate.

I am also very pleased to be here because I am a life member of the Society and I have fond memories of being on the CMS Council back in the seventies, of getting to know people like Harry Lincoln and the late Wally Collins. Some of you today may not realize it, but Professor Lincoln, of SUNY-Binghamton, was, as far as I know, the father of the CMS Directory. I think he was experimenting with computers and how they could be used in music and musicological research back in the days when those machines filled rooms and still had vacuum tubes, and he had this vision about how important a comprehensive directory of music faculties would be to the profession. How right he was! Other disciplines envy the advantages that music enjoys in higher education because of the CMS Directory.

And I must say that I am also honored to be here because I have long admired your president, Douglass Seaton. From my earliest acquaintance of him, his scholarship, and his teaching nearly twenty years ago, I knew that he would be a superstar in his discipline. I also knew that he would be a good university citizen, something that means a lot to me and that I will address later in this talk. It is a special, personal honor for me to have been invited to make this presentation by Douglass Seaton, a first-rate scholar and an outstanding teacher.

The comments I am about to make now come from one who is very proud to have a music background, but who can hardly claim still to be a musician. I have not been an active performer for many years and have not taught nor directly administered music programs now for six years. It is amazing how quickly one gets out of date, particularly in these times of rapid and dramatic change all around us. So, I speak to you as one who still cares deeply about your/our discipline but who is…how shall I say it?…unhampered by contemporary knowledge of the field.  In that regard, I will admit that there is some advantage in pondering one’s disciplinary love from a distance. Some of you will know what I mean when I say that it can be a great relief to go to concerts not feeling that you have to be a critic!

Just as names and faces change, so do the times. I will speak about three topics, all related, or at least so I intend. First, I’d like to speak a bit about the challenges and changes we face in higher education today; then some comments about the status of the professoriate in general and perhaps in music specifically; followed by some personal thoughts about music in higher education and how essential your work is, not just for all of you who are directly engaged but for the whole of our society.

Changes and Challenges in Higher Education Higher education—like government, medicine, business, and the media—has faced an increasingly discontented public in the decade of the '90s. Perhaps this is due to the end of the Cold War, giving us a chance to cast our critical eyes more inwardly, or perhaps the discontent is a product of the information age, because we have access to so much information. In any case, there are signals that the public is more aware and concerned with what it sees. There is, of course, what is called “the paradox of public esteem.” While people are critical of higher education in general, specific institutions are still held in high regard and enjoy a high level of confidence. This paradox is not unlike attitudes about public schooling. While there is criticism of the entity as a whole, people feel that their university (or their school) is doing just fine, thank you!

Much of the generic criticism about higher education is related to cost. Currently we even have a National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education, and as I was writing this I noted a news item reporting that a congressman had exhorted members of that commission to find specific ways that the government could help control the growing cost of attending college. I feel certain that the congressman is not suggesting additional federal aid to students! I also feel quite certain that this present national concern is partly a result of a greater and greater percentage of the populace who aspire to be our clients (or who aspire for their children to be our clients). After all, for those who want to get ahead in this information age, a college degree is no longer a luxury—it has become a minimal necessity. Therefore, those who are shopping for colleges represent a much broader spectrum of the population than was the case twenty or thirty years ago, and it includes many older persons who are returning to college and are therefore paying their own way. We should also recognize that the continuing outcry in the media about the cost of attending college is probably more effective in driving people's concerns than in reporting them. For one thing, most of the criticism in the press about college cost cites numbers that are derived from a few highly selective and prestigious private institutions. For all of the journalistic, and now congressional, fussing about $20,000+ tuition bills, I’ve read that only 2% of the nation’s students attend colleges with that kind of cost, and most of those students probably don’t pay the full sticker price. In fact, in congressional testimony this past summer, Stan Ikenberry, President of the American Council on Education, reported that in 1996, 56 percent of all full-time college students at four-year institutions—some 5 million students—attended institutions that charged less than $4,000 per year, and 75 percent went to colleges with tuition of less than $8,000. As Dr. Ikenberry stated, quoting now: “The Congressional Budget Office found that, when student aid is factored in, the average tuition payment in 1996 was estimated to be about $3,000, and only about one in seven students spent more than $5,000.” He also told the Senate Labor Relations Committee that institutionally provided financial aid reduces the actual price of tuition to well below $3,000, and only 12 percent of college students had tuition bills of more than $14,000. Stan Ikenberry has a succinct way of putting cost issues into perspective. He told that Senate committee—again, quoting—“At the University of Illinois at Urbana, for example, tuition and fees are $3,150 this year. At Ohio State University, tuition and fees cost $3,300. Taken together, these two schools alone enrolled 20,000 more undergraduate students than all the universities in the Ivy League combined.” (Citation taken from “Testimony to the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, United States Senate, June 17, 1997.)

Most people have exaggerated notions about college costs. As you may know, about two years ago several Washington-based higher education associations took a national poll to determine what the public knows about college costs, specifically, what people think it costs to pay tuition and fees and what they think would be a fair price. For public universities, their perceptions of tuition cost were more than double the actual cost, and in fact, their perceptions of what would be a fair price for college tuition exceeded the actual cost by more than 25%. (Terry W. Hartle, “InTuition Matters: The Bottom Line Counts,” Trusteeship, July/August 1996, 8.) So, to some extent, the issue of cost has been overblown in the press and we suffer from that.

Perhaps even more pertinent to us than the cost issue is that many people think about higher education only for its most utilitarian value. They do not give a great deal of thought to how important higher education is to the future of their state or the nation—to our economy in the wake of increased global competition, for example. Neither do they dwell on the enlightenment and cultural enrichment of a nation whose citizens feel threatened by incivility and social breakdown. Rather, they know that a college degree is important to their own economic future. So they are not only concerned about cost, but about relevance from their perspective. They want curricula and programs that will prepare them for jobs.

Lately, in thinking about the cost issue and about arguments for greater state support for our particular enterprise, I have been led to ponder anew the meaning of higher education in our society, or more accurately, the public's perception of the role of higher education in the society. As we’ve said, many parents and decision makers think of universities as places that should be primarily engaged in job training—preparing people for more productive and lucrative careers. Understanding that interest, how do we effectively convey to the public our concern about the general enlightenment of students, about their preparation for productive and responsible citizenship in addition to their vocational or professional preparation? How do we in the academy balance our responsibility for elevating the spirit, for advocating learning for its own sake, and for the general enlightenment of our charges…how do we balance that with our responsibility for preparing competent practitioners for business, the arts, and the professions?

It seems to me that over the past fifty years we as a society have come to consider higher education as a right. That is probably at the heart of the outcry about rising costs. But if higher education is a right, for what purpose? Is higher education a societal "right" because it functions for the public good, or can we in good conscience claim it a right for our private good? If our current thinking in this land of opportunity is that everyone has a right to college access—a wonderful concept, really—and that the public has some responsibility through various governmental mechanisms to help pay for it, then isn't it appropriate to ask in what ways the public good must be served?

How do we distinguish between what is public good and what is private good? Where does public responsibility end and private investment begin? Historically, the emphasis in universities was almost entirely on serving the public good. Our nation’s first universities were founded to prepare a literate and enlightened clergy and other leaders of society; there was little or no intent to prepare individuals for specific vocational pursuits. Over the years that has changed. American universities are well known and highly regarded internationally for the way in which we have combined liberal learning with practical preparation for careers. And now European universities are following our example. Do we consider professional or vocational preparation to be for the public good? Well, perhaps to some extent, but we could also say that such preparation is a private investment. Should the public pay for my vocational or career preparation? Or, more appropriately, shouldn't I be expected to make that investment myself in a land of opportunity whose principles are based on individual effort? A college education, after all, is an investment, not just a cost.

Individuals will benefit throughout their lives from two distinct aspects of a college education. Everyone understands the utilitarian element—preparation for the work place. The other aspect is clearly for the public good: enlightenment. This includes sensitivity to issues that advance the civilization. That aspect, which we call liberal or liberating education, must be protected, advocated, and advanced by those of us to whom the society has entrusted academic leadership. I submit to you that no one else will do that if we in the academy do not, and the extent to which we succeed in defending and explaining the value of a liberal education will be a critical indicator of our quality of education in the short term and of our quality of life over the long term. So, I conclude that serving the public good by a commitment to “liberating education” is our responsibility in institutions of higher learning.

Advocating liberal education becomes increasingly critical in a society that pushes its institutions more and more toward specific training for professions and vocations. The other great challenge is to recognize change and to take advantage of the technologies that are afforded us in this wondrous age of information technology. In talking with faculty and staff in my own institution about technology in the learning place, I state my belief that information technology affects eighty or ninety percent of what we do in colleges and universities. Why? Because we deal with knowledge, which starts with information, and anything we do in the storing or sorting or processing of information today is touched by electronic technology. The subject of technology surfaces in any discussion about the future of any discipline—no academic field is immune to it. The important thing to remember, of course, is that the emphasis must be on what electronic technology does in providing access to people and ideas, not on the technology itself. And therein lies the special challenge. How do we harness and utilize technology in teaching and learning without letting it overcome us, without succumbing to its tantalizing glitziness? It is so new—new almost daily—and it is so riveting in the way a neon sign is riveting—seemingly full of light, but not necessarily enlightenment. But technology is not the subject matter. We have to realize that our computer hardware and increasingly user-friendly software are merely tools—not ends in themselves.

Even as we identify computers as only tools, we cannot afford to bury our heads in the proverbial sand like techno-phobic ostriches because of the magnitude and pace of change upon us. In a recent article titled “Digital Degrees” in a commercial journal called Leadership, author Eleanor Foa Dienstag states, “As colleges grapple with the implications of the learning revolution, it may turn out that the changes wrought on campus will make corporate restructuring look like child’s play.” (Eleanor Foa Dienstag, “Digital Degrees,” Leadership 2/2, Fall 1997, 39.) Now, I must admit that this particular journal is published by IBM, so a dramatic statement to such effect is not too surprising. But listen to the comments of then-executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer of the California State University System and now President of the University of North Carolina System, Molly Corbett Broad. She commented, in the same article, “Five years from now you will see a different kind of institution. The digital revolution is going to change not only who learns, how and when they learn, but who is providing the instruction. The monopoly the universities have enjoyed because of our accreditation—we will begin to see all of that change. There will be a much richer array of organizations through which individuals can learn.” (Leadership 2/2, 41.) We cannot ignore such a prospect, lest we become blacksmiths in search of a horse!

To me, the important advantage of electronic information technology is what it can do for us in transforming the teaching-learning process from teacher-centered to student-centered—from an emphasis on teaching to an emphasis on learning. Each summer I speak to as many of our pre-college student orientation sessions as possible, and I always make it a point to tell the assembled parents and wide-eyed new students that it is not the faculty’s job to teach them; it is the faculty’s job to help them learn. The point, of course, that I am trying to impress on the students is that they have responsibility for this process; that learning must be an active, not merely a passive, pursuit; and that we do not have time to spoon feed them. But that lesson could just as well be presented to faculty as to the students. While it can be challenging to stimulate some students to be eager, enthusiastic learners, it can be just as challenging to convince some professors that a 50-minute lecture, unless presented by a rare master lecturer, often doesn’t do the job today! Our students have grown up in a visual world and we, of all people, know that their listening skills are minimal and their attention span limited when asked to stay put and assimilate with no visual references of any kind. We can lament this all we wish and that won’t change a thing because, unlike most of us, these youngsters were reared in the cable TV era and are products of media bombardment; it's simply how they process information. But the burden is still upon teachers, as it has been in other eras of social and technological change. We must entice students to learn; we must interest them by engaging them; and we must give them an opportunity to be proud of their learning by challenging them. Technology can help us do all of that, but we must know how to use it, and how to use it both efficiently and effectively. And using technology for more efficient learning will require more than simply putting our syllabi on the web. Law and Management Professor Steve Nickles of Wake Forest University, an institution that has responded positively and aggressively to the “digital revolution,” predicts that “The ability of technology to connect content and people will allow us to redefine courses, and that means redefining the subject, and that means redefining the way we think about entire disciplines.” (Leadership 2/2, 42.) Will music be one of those disciplines? Will the way we think about music as a discipline be redefined? I don’t know, but I am quite certain that the possibility is there. It is frightening to think that music itself might be redefined in our minds, but it is just as promising to think that the ways in which we learn about music might be redefined. We cannot change the probability that our thought processes will be transformed in some way by technology, so we must strive to understand what that means in terms of teaching and learning our discipline. That is a special challenge for the professoriate, and it brings me to the next section of this lecture: some comments about the preparation of the next generation of professors.

Preparing our Successors

As we start thinking about professors and the nobility of our lot, I’d like to share a story about a university party traveling in a university airplane to a national conference. The plane hits a patch of fog, stalls, and is going down. There are five people on board but, because of budget cuts, only four parachutes. Now they have a typical university problem: how to distribute the resources? ... in this case, the parachutes!

The pilot says that he must take one of the parachutes because someone has to explain the accident and file an official report with the FAA. He takes the first parachute and jumps!

The university's news director leaps to his feet and takes a parachute. "This will be a scoop," he exclaims, "and for once I'll be the first to file it." He takes a parachute and jumps!

The next person, the president, explains that he is the not only the most important person in the plane, but probably the wisest as well. In fact, he considers himself to be a brilliant academician, perhaps the world's greatest genius. Announcing that it is critical that he be saved for the good of the order, he jumps!

Now there are two people left: a music professor and a student. The professor turns to the student and says, "Look, I have had a very rich and satisfying life. As a musician I have had the opportunity to experience first hand some of the world’s greatest masterpieces, and as a teacher I have experienced enormous satisfaction from the achievements of my students. You are young and obviously have a bright future, with much to look forward to; so why don't you take the last parachute and save yourself?"

The student replies: "Professor, we have nothing to worry about. We each have a parachute. The world's greatest genius just jumped out of this airplane with my back pack!"

Now, of course, I don’t know any presidents like that, but I’m sure you know many professors who are equally noble and equally appreciative of the joys of professorship in a discipline like music. I do have some concerns, however, about the status of the professoriate, or to be more precise, my concerns are about professors’ own perception of their status in our society. The discontent of the public about which I spoke earlier is not directed at institutions alone; rightly or wrongly, it is also directed at the professoriate. We all recognize the stereotype that has been promulgated of professors as members of an elite group with incredible freedom, lifetime job security, and time to mow their lawns during weekday afternoons. And we are all aware of some of the publications and castings of doubt in the media that precipitated these stereotypes, so I do not wish to belabor the point. Some of these misperceptions derive from an anti-intellectual vein in our society—a cynicism about the purposes and value of scholarship in general, a lack of understanding that tenure is still important to assure academic freedom, and for some, the belief that only blue collar workers really work. Whatever the source, it is unfortunate that a skeptical public attitude has taken its toll on our collective professorial morale. I think we undervalue ourselves, not for our contributions to our own discipline but in how we think about ourselves in the larger context. It concerns me that professors themselves are not as connected with the greater society as would be healthy, both for them and for the society. I once gave an address to our Phi Beta Kappa chapter with the theme that in this information age, our scholars must be leaders and our leaders must be scholars. I believe that! We in the professoriate seem all too willing to relegate leadership in our society to business people and journalists and politicians; as a group we are too reticent about our role in shaping public thought and policy.

Why should this be so? Why should professors not be more involved? How many professors have really gotten involved, for example, in controversies about and funding problems of the National Endowment for the Arts or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? Or with other non-arts issues that affect us, like affirmative action? How many have written op-ed pieces for their newspaper, have sent their opinions to their congressional representatives, or even spoken out publicly in any forum? (Please…this is not an indictment—I too have done too little.) The point is that professors still believe in social causes—our scholarly work reflects that powerfully—but we seem hesitant to participate in the public debate. Perhaps we do not feel empowered to influence such matters. If so, that is regrettable. As professors we represent a major segment of our society, in one of the biggest businesses in our society. We are learned people who should influence the course of our future. We are educated to think critically, and we should suggest solutions to problems even if they are not in our own area of specialization. Yet, too many professors tend to feel disenfranchised even in the affairs of their own institutions.

As we look to the future we must recharge the professoriate with the importance of being leaders in the mainstream society. We must overcome the notion that we are valuable only in our particular, often narrow, area of expertise. I believe that part of the reason for our disciplinary myopia is that, because of our educational preparation and our reward system, many of us—perhaps most of us—have greater allegiance to our disciplines than to our institutions. Our professional citizenship, as it were, in this room is more connected with the discipline of music than with the colleges and universities who employ us or the communities where we live. For professors in disciplines throughout our institutions, the specialized training that we have found necessary to meet the demands of good and thorough scholarship has led us to such narrowness that we lack the confidence to speak out on issues beyond the parameters of our specializations. Often we do not speak up because we are afraid our own colleagues will shoot us down. So we remain quiet on broad issues and bury ourselves deeper and deeper in the specialty that we know best. We look to our colleagues across the country for support and professional enrichment rather than to colleagues across the hall or down the street. And with the immediacy and ease of communication through electronic technology, the trend toward disciplinary citizenship over institutional citizenship will intensify. Yet if we are to face the institutional challenges I mentioned above—the tremendous challenge of dealing with technology and change in who learns, who teaches, and how they connect and where the learning takes place—we will have to develop a better sense of college/university citizenship. These are not challenges that can be met satisfactorily by individuals alone, or by professional societies such as CMS, because the challenges are not to our disciplines; they are to the very existence of many of the institutions that we represent. Meeting these challenges satisfactorily will require individual creativity, to be sure, but also a great deal more community spirit.

What will be expected of tomorrow’s college professors? What will they have to know and how will they prepare themselves to succeed in advancing knowledge and learning in their respective areas of expertise? How will they best serve their students? What will they be preparing their students for? With regard to the following comments, let me note that I am speaking here as much about our mentoring of beginning faculty members as I am about those still in preparation.

First, I believe we must go beyond disciplinary specialization in the preparation of future generations of professors. We can do a better job of preparing advanced graduate students and beginning instructors and assistant professors—those who will succeed us—for institutional citizenship in addition to disciplinary citizenship. That means knowing more about the environment in which higher education functions; it means gaining a larger and broader understanding of what higher education represents in America today and what it means for America tomorrow. As one who talks with some 50 or 60 beginning faculty members each year, in myriad disciplines, I know that our successors need to gain a sense of the bigger picture. It is important, of course, to have a solid grasp of one’s discipline, but it is not enough to have only that because the world is increasingly interactive and global—it crosses boundaries of space, time, culture, and hemisphere in addition to discipline! We are all a part of something greater than ourselves. I think that is one of the lessons I learned from Bob Trotter. Professors do not have to be students of higher education in the professional sense, but they surely do have to understand the context in which they are serving the society.

Part of “institutional citizenship,” surely, is appreciating civility! That means respecting others; it also means respecting others' points of view. Civility appreciates an open mind; it values information and insight over hyperbole and mean-spiritedness. It prizes vigorous intellectual debate and it means learning to disagree agreeably. That, in an academic community, is an essential value. In sum, civility means we understand that our common interests are greater than our individual differences. One would like to think that teaching or coaching principles of civility to new faculty colleagues would be unnecessary, but I’m afraid that is not the case because of the climate in many of the institutions from which they come. Civility is too important to the learning environment in our colleges and universities to be taken for granted.

Some degree of mentoring is also desirable on the tired but still real dilemma of “teaching versus research.” Essentially that means balancing one’s zeal for subject matter with a zeal for students—balancing the ambition to advance knowledge in one’s field with an ambition for one’s students to “catch the flame” of the learning habit. In my institution we have tried to reduce the tension created by the tenure and promotion processes by emphasizing that teaching, research, scholarship, and creative activity are all about learning and advancing knowledge. We do not assume that every individual faculty member in the university is engaged equally in teaching and research, but we expect everyone to accept the notion that both are critical for a university to fulfill its role in the society. And, while we do not assume that each individual professor should put equal emphasis on teaching and research, we have to assume that the university as a whole does...because teaching and research are worthy of equal respect under the rubric of learning.

And finally, during the current information explosion—a genuine term in as much as by some accounts the global knowledge base doubles every twenty months—it is essential that our professorial successors develop the habit of studying and questioning the curriculum…in any discipline. What studies will best prepare our students for the intensely dynamic world they will enter? What in the curriculum is fundamental and what is optional? What needs innovation and what is innovative? Unfortunately, just because the knowledge base expands, the time for study—the time in school—does not. So, we are required to cut out some old things in order to admit the new—either that or learn to be incredibly more efficient with the teaching-learning process. That is very difficult in music because music exists in time and in much of what we do there are no shortcuts! We cannot shortchange skills development; neither do we want to give up the rigor, standards, and comprehensiveness of the historical and theoretical studies in which we all have engaged as students. Those curricular decisions, however, will be critically important as we approach a new millennium and changing learning patterns. And we must remember that most of today’s baccalaureate students will change careers at least four or five times during their lives. How do we uphold standards while preparing them for that?

Perhaps an even more fundamental question for the members of The College Music Society and the nation’s music schools and departments is, who should be our students? Can we afford to continue to focus 95% of our attention on those who would be music professionals? Much as I have loved dealing with aspiring professional performers during the majority of my career in higher education, and much as we seem always to have been worried that there would be no future concert audiences, today I am sincerely concerned, as I think we all should be, about the future of concert music in our society. My concern stems not from the observation that such large portions of the audiences are from the blue rinse set and that these same people will not be around to populate the concert halls of the future. That has been our longstanding fear, but there seems always to have been another generation of rising blue rinsers. Perhaps not forever, though. My concern today stems from the fact that throughout this nation, music in the schools is suffering. Where it still exists it is in serious decline. Young people are not learning the tunes! Children are not learning to sing! Many fewer kids are studying keyboard! These young people may not have the musical experience to bring them to concerts when their hair turns blue!

Concert audiences are not the only measure of our musical culture, however, and perhaps they are not even the best measure of it. Support, both moral and financial, for musical activities that have any intellectual substance whatsoever is critical also. I fear that we cannot, or rather, will not, in the new millennium support financially the musical infrastructure that we have in place today. And here my worry is not about jobs for trained musicians. I am worrying about the future of our musical culture. Music with intellectual substance is, after all, an acquired taste, and we lose something precious and invaluable in our quality of life if music of substance gives way entirely to the pulp of popular culture.

What can we do about that? The wringing of hands will not help. But what are we to do? Well, we could begin by recognizing that if we don’t do anything to address this problem, probably no one else will. So, let’s begin by accepting responsibility. For one thing, we can be stronger advocates for music in schools in our communities. If the National Endowment for the Arts had taken that seriously thirty years ago, or even twenty or ten years ago, perhaps their influence could have helped. But, like the teaching of writing and mathematics, if music is not being taught and learned satisfactorily in the elementary and secondary schools, let’s take on the challenge in higher education. Let’s stand up and be counted in the curriculum councils of our institutions. Let’s be sure that students have ample opportunities to learn music and about music during their undergraduate years. Let’s advocate graduation requirements that include credits for the study of music as well as about music. Too few students in college today are studying anything about music and therefore too few can realize the archetypal truths that music conveys. We understand how music ennobles the human spirit, and we know that future generations deserve the opportunity for that understanding and enrichment. I am not sure we can count on their having that opportunity if we are not effective advocates now.

Let us also be sure that we have professors who are prepared to teach effectively the great numbers of students who come to us with little or no musical background. I’ve spoken about new technologies and the opportunities they present for teaching and learning. Music is certainly no exception, and I’m sure there are people in this room who have developed and are developing creative materials and software programs for bringing the joy of music to the multitudes. After all, in the teaching of music literature to those with little musical experience, one of the great problems has always been connecting sound with sight. Now, in this digital world we can do that and enhance the learning and creative processes! We can provide professional development opportunities for people to learn how to take advantage of the electronic marvels that surround us. That, too, is up to us. The techies may be able to show us how to maneuver in a digital environment, but they don’t know what to maneuver.

And then let’s reward those who do the teaching of music to engineers and scientists and future lawyers and physicians and professors of English or history. We can encourage scholarship in the teaching of the literature and history and theory of music. We ought to do some serious soul searching about what is important to know and understand. What musical skills are essential? What kind of musical analysis best serves the general listener? What will increase the attention span so that today’s novice listeners can grasp a Monteverdi opera or a Mahler symphony? What techniques will help a non-reader learn how music works? Please make no mistake about it, changing the reward system for college faculty—recognizing the scholarship that will advance teaching as well as knowledge in the discipline itself and recognizing the teaching of non-major students—is a responsibility of the professoriate; it is not in the hands of administrators. Only the faculty can really effect change in the faculty reward system. Deans and provosts and presidents may give final approval for tenure and promotion, but the important voice in these matters belongs to the faculty colleagues. Administrators have to be on board, of course, but they cannot change the reward system without concurrence and encouragement from the faculty.

We do not have to abandon our music major programs to expand our attention and our offerings to general college students. We simply need to readjust our priorities, not for the narrow and vested interest of providing support for music professionals in the future, but indeed, to preserve and advance the musical culture itself. Isn’t that a worthy cause for The College Music Society? I was invigorated by New England Conservatory President Robert Freeman’s lead article in the September 1997 issue of the CMS Newsletter regarding the mission of CMS. Bob posed a host of worthwhile questions and he proposed “that The College Music Society urgently consider making the future of music in America a central focus of our activities, intellectual and political, in the new century that lies ahead.” I second that motion, and I challenge you, the members of The College Music Society, to consider it seriously and become activists in doing something about it. This, indeed, is a cause for which and through which we can recharge the music professoriate to become involved, to influence policy and programs in their institutions and in the nation.


To summarize, I have advanced the thought that we as college music professors must advocate liberal learning. I have suggested that while we in American higher education have accepted responsibility for professional training, we must also wave high the flag of liberal education in the long-term interest of our students and our culture. I have urged that only at our peril can we ignore the dramatic changes in teaching and learning that are taking place as a result of technology in this information age. And, I have suggested some areas that may be important for us to consider in helping to prepare the next generation of the professoriate. I believe those things are all related. And they relate also to my final suggestion, which is that we in music must give more attention to teaching the great number of students who come to colleges and universities today with very little musical background, too little musical sensibility, and almost no knowledge of the literature of music. At risk is our very musical culture. But if we embrace the challenge, we can resurrect music's ennobling social status.

The College Music Society can be a major player in all of these arenas, and I hope you will be. This is an organization that has grown in membership and in stature over the years, and you have the visibility and the influence to meet our current challenges and respond to our future opportunities. Music makers make a difference.

Finally, I thank you for the honor of addressing you and I thank you for listening. I believe I’ve said not one thing that Robert Trotter himself wouldn’t have said, although of course I know he would have said it more eloquently. In some celestial alcove, I hope he was listening!

2084 Last modified on October 18, 2013
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