Approaching the Millennium

October 31, 1997

The College Music Society's Committee on Professional Development exists to help members acquire information and skills necessary for survival in music in higher education as the field approaches the twenty-first century. Traditionally, the Committee has focused its efforts on the broad category of music in general studies. This seems likely to be a continuing need in the new millennium, but the emphases may change as members' needs and concerns change.

In recent years, the Committee has helped make technology training available to Society members. This is likely also to be a continuing need, but it is important to ask where this volatile field might be going and how the Society can best address members' requirements. Other areas of concern for members, and hence for the Committee, in recent years have included cultural diversity, women's issues, and teaching music theory. These and other topics (in performance, musicology, music education, and perhaps other areas) will continue to be of interest as the Committee looks toward the future.

The Past: Prologue to the Present

It is important to know where the Society has been before assessing its present state and discussing its future. CMS Past-President Chappell White, in the Spring 1980 College Music Symposium, noted from Henry Woodward's six-part history of the Society that CMS has "picked its way rather carefully between the American Musicological Society (AMS) and the Music Educators National Conference (MENC)." White observed that the Society has its roots in two beliefs: (1) that music is a legitimate and essential element in liberal education and therefore must have a strong place in American institutions of higher learning, and (2) that music is one field, and thus all those concerned with any aspect of music in higher education have inevitably common basic goals.

Two years later (in 1981), CMS sponsored the Wingspread Conference on Music in General Studies. As one of the results, the CMS leadership converted the enthusiasm of Wingspread into a seven-year program of summer institutes for music in general studies. The first such summer institute took place in Boulder, Colorado, in 1982. Similar institutes followed from 1983 to 1988, adding world music and music theory pedagogy to its roster of summer institutes and, in 1990, the first of many successful institutes on music technology. Since 1991, the Committee has sponsored twenty-one projects on a variety of topics, all of which began as concerns expressed by the Society's members.

In June 1995, Gerald Farmer organized an international conference in Berlin with the advice and consent of the Committee on Special Projects. The success of this conference inspired President Nohema Fernández to appoint an International Meetings Committee to take over this project. The first conference under the aegis of the new committee was a very successful meeting in Vienna in July 1997.

The Present: Once the Future, Soon the Past

Presently, the Committee on Special Projects and Continuing Professional Development is soliciting concerns from members about their needs. In the 1980s, it appeared that members wanted and needed training in teaching elective music courses to non-majors. In the 1990s, members became concerned about technology, women's studies, and multicultural concerns. Concerns about modernizing music theory pedagogy have been apparent in both decades. Members' interests in music technology training seem to be strong and continuing, if not increasing. Interests in women's studies and music theory pedagogy seem to be continuing, but perhaps at a slower pace. Concern about multicultural issues may have peaked, but it is probably too early to make a definitive statement.

It is not the purpose of either the Committee or the Society to initiate the development of workshops and other activities. The task is rather one of probing the membership to identify what they want, what they care about, and how the Society might provide appropriate and effective training, re-training, exploration, stimulation, and other forms of professional development. This is difficult, because information proliferation and increasingly sophisticated communication technologies make dissemination of information faster and easier. Thus not only the content of music teaching in higher education changes (as more and more research results become available more and more quickly), but also the format for teaching that content changes as delivery systems in the classroom and beyond become more varied and complex. Attitudes, values, content, and methods learned in the 1960s may no longer function well in the new millennium. Research progresses, dissemination speeds up, people sometimes feel overwhelmed by the hurly-burly that all too often accompanies rapid change.

The Future: Quo Vadis?

According to William Strauss and Neil Howe, in their 1991 book, Generations: The History of America's Future, every twenty to twenty-five years a major change occurs in people's character. If this is true, The College Music Society has completed its second generation and is beginning its third. People who study generations label them, and the most famous one is the so-called Baby Boom Generation consisting of people born between 1943 and 1960. Today those people are between the ages of thirty-seven and fifty four. They comprise most of the college and university faculty. After the Boom Generation came the Thirteenth or X Generation. These people, many of whom are in college and university classrooms, were born between 1961 and 1981 and are now ages sixteen to thirty six. Not one of them was alive when The College Music Society began in 1958. Some older faculty members belong to the Silent Generation (born 1925-42; now between the ages of fifty-five and seventy-two). Their names show up on retirement lists or in obituary notices with increasing frequency. Virtually all the G. I. Generation (born 1901-24, now seventy three to ninety-six) have retired or died.

It is appropriate to ask what needs and concerns Boom Generation music faculty have in teaching Thirteenth Generation students. What gaps do growing up and getting a college education from G. I. and Silent Generation studio teachers, theory professors, music history lecturers, and music education faculty members in the 1960s leave for those who must teach Thirteenth and Millennial (born after 1982) Generation students in the new millennium? It seems obvious that the first task is to try to understand what is going on when members of different generations meet as teachers and students and what their needs and concerns might be, especially what the college, conservatory, and university music faculty need and what they care about.

Xerox machines came into common use in higher education around 1970. Many older faculty members will remember, perhaps even with some fondness, cranking the old purple ditto machines or running the more cumbersome electrically powered mimeograph machines that spew paper all over the faculty work room floor. It is possible some people still teach who once typed their dissertations and made copies using carbon paper and onion skin. Personal computers have been around campuses since the early to mid-1980s, and the 1990s have brought the World Wide Web and the Internet into common use, at least among the younger faculty. Around 1980 the number of women on campuses, both students and faculty, have increased to the point of becoming a majority (as a whole, though not yet in percentage of faculty). These and other less prominent changes require teachers with new awareness and sensitivities, as well as new skills and knowledge.

The College Music Society now provides an array of services in communications of various sorts; regional, national, and now even international professional meetings; special projects and continuing professional development activities; and much, much more. Those activities that best serve the members' needs and concerns will continue to do well and will continue to define the Society as they have for the past thirty-nine years. Members who have needs and concerns must step forward and let them be known. Members who have special skills, knowledge, experience, values, and attitudes that might be helpful also need to step forward.

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