Campus Focus: University of Washington—Programs and Experiments

October 1, 1964

The School of Music of the University of Washington is a varied and somewhat unusual institution. We are a school of some two hundred students (with a full time faculty of 34) under the protection of a university of 21,000. We are under liberal arts jurisdiction, but insist firmly on the necessity of individual training in performance. We offer for academic credit and at no extra charge private instruction in voice and a gamut of instruments ranging from the slide trombone to the viola da gamba and the shakuhachi, or vertical bamboo flute. Our performing groups include a symphony orchestra, two opera troupes, a collegium musicum, two choruses and a madrigal group, a Gagaku ensemble, a concert band, a marching band. Last December the School of Music played host to the national meetings of the AMS and CMS. While the orchestra and collegium serenaded the delegates with dulcet scholarly fare, the marching band was on duty at the Rose Bowl. We accept responsibility for courses for the general student; for the liberal arts music major; for the performer, the composer, the high-school music teacher. On the graduate level, we offer programs up to the Ph.D. for the scholar and theorist, and the D.M.A. for the composer, teacher and performer. Our central instructional program, newly instituted, is a five-year curriculum leading to the degrees Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music concurrently. In addition, we will institute in the coming academic year a pilot program which may lead to a four-year curriculum for the student whose exceptional performance abilities may warrant exceptional consideration in admission and course of study.

The premise of our five-year B.A.-B.Mus. program is that adequate training in music needs the laboratory of performance, and that adequate time and credit must be given for this; that expansion of the literature both forwards and backwards in time imposes the need of increased historical and theoretical study; that today's musician serves today's (and tomorrow's) society best if he has, beyond his own professional skills, the general scope and background of liberal arts training. In credit hours, this program appears as: private instruction, 51 quarter credits; ensemble, 12-21 credits; history-literature-theory, 54 credits; general academic distribution, 110 credits; total minimum, 225 credits.

The premise of our "pilot project" is: That the exceptional young performer represents an artistic value, and is worth attention; that his early preoccupation with performance is necessary because of physiological factors; that this preoccupation may affect his academic preparation adversely, and may therefore require an exceptional admissions procedure and college curriculum.

The College of Arts and Sciences has authorized a two-year study of these premises in action. Our charge from the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences is to obtain "an informed estimate of how many such students exist in the Pacific Northwest and what academic capabilities they typically have," (for this we have enlisted the aid of the Seattle and Portland Junior Symphonies for lists of their personnel, and their respective school systems for transcripts and test data); "what elements of a program at the University would be of special importance to them: variant admission standards, reduced academic loads, the awarding of a Bachelor's degree, opportunities to perform with professional groups, scholarship assistance, or other elements which we cannot now foresee."

We will initiate this experiment in Autumn, 1964, admitting five to twenty students of outstanding performance potential, chosen by audition. If necessary, request may be made for individual variance from the pattern of preparation the University typically expects. During the first two years of the experiment the School of Music faculty "may develop any program they wish for these students, giving them special advising and setting aside the typical requirements of the College for students during their first two years."

The program we envisage is a course of study appropriate to the degree Bachelor of Music with Distinction: approximately one-third in performance and ensemble together with one-third in the historical and theoretical disciplines of music, maintaining an honors level throughout; approximately one-third in academic studies in two of the three areas represented by the Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences in accordance with the College and Special lists.

During this experimental period, our selection process, our students, our curriculum and grading procedures will be under intensive examination by an ad hoc committee of the College.

Assistance for this study may be requested from the University's Bureau of Testing and Office of Institutional Educational Research. By the end of the experimental period it will be determined whether or not this program is an appropriate one to the University of Washington. If so, the students participating may continue their studies toward an approved degree. If not, they will be offered these alternatives: to enter the combined Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music program for their remaining three years at the University; or to take an additional year of a special program structured by the School of Music Faculty with the expectation of transferring elsewhere at its conclusion.

The number of students who should be encouraged to enter the experimental program is very small, but the College is convinced that the future contribution of such persons is of great importance to society, and the University must continue to explore the ways in which its resources can be used in their development.

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At December's AMS-CMS panel discussion of variant possibilities in the teaching of theory to specialized students, the subject arose of a "core curriculum" common to all students. Those present will remember that I suffered visibly from the strain of keeping silent on a subject which was under active study by our Faculty, lest my remarks have untoward effect on that study.

We now have a core curriculum, and I am happy to present it in the words of John Verrall, who chaired the committee:

"The question of whether or not there is a basic body of knowledge and skill in the area of theory-history-literature without which the musician, regardless of his specialty, cannot function adequately, but with which he is in a position to expand meaningfully into areas of special interest, is a vexatious one. Our faculty, after months of deliberations, answered this question in the affirmative and proceeded to explore specifically what the nature and content of this core sequence might be. The following basic Theory-History-Literature undergraduate course of study to be required of all music students seems to be a practical solution, maintaining elements of flexibility within the framework of a unified curriculum.

"The first-year course of study in the core program includes Music 101, 102, 103 (Basic Theory) and Music 114, 115, 116 (Sight Singing) largely coordinated as a single discipline. This course seeks to present the common basis of our musical language, i.e., scales and tonality, modes, intervals, chord building, notation, elements in musical form, rhythm, and terminology. Most of the material presented in the first year will involve the student in listening, analysis, keyboard practice, singing, and discussion so that a broad familiarity with concepts of music can be gained rather than a more limited writing skill. Listening and score analysis will be integrated on the basis of a list of 'masterpieces every music student should know,' to include representative works of the most important composers, periods, styles, and media. Rather than a fixed rigid list, a changing list is planned to include works being featured in performances on campus and by civic organizations, so that study and the habit of concert-going can be combined.

"In the second year, Music 201, 202, 203 (Theory) and Music 207, 208, 209 (survey of History from the Baroque era to the turn of the 20th-century) are taught concurrently. This is the year in which the student learns, now with emphasis on writing skills, the language of classical harmony including the cadence, its approach chords, modulation, the problem of establishing and controlling tonality, chromatic harmony, and a study of the extension and strain on tonality which occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Concurrently with this, the student would study the historic background of our Western musical language along with a beginning of stylistic analysis and an extensive survey of music literature. This is the year in which the tools of analysis and writing of music will be sharpened.

"The third year is taken up with an intensive study of counterpoint in the Renaissance (Music 321), the Baroque era (Music 322), and the Contemporary era (Music 323), each of these courses being coupled with a specialized History-Literature survey course, Music 307 (Medieval and Renaissance), 308 (17th and 18th Centuries), and 309 (1920 to the present).

"Beyond these three years of unified presentation of the basic knowledge of theory-history-literature which constitutes the core program, all music majors are expected to take further more specialized courses in the same areas, and there are even some courses such as advanced counterpoint (Music 422) and harmonic analysis (Music 481) which most or all majors are expected to take. But these are not a part of the core sequence proper, for that has certain characteristics which must be preserved. Among these are, first, that it be a continuous, unified, and orderly unfolding of the materials of the entire sequence; second, that the theoretical, historic, and musical aspects be highly coordinated as three views of one subject; third, that the subject matter proceed in an orderly manner from broad, generalized musical concepts to more specialized techniques and skills over a three-year span of time. This arrangement of the course content enables the student to acquire, through analysis and the study of scores, an understanding of aspects of harmony and counterpoint which will be in advance of the more slowly developing writing skills of the beginner.

"Fortunately the core sequence is not rigidly conceived, and in actual practice it will undoubtedly be purified and extended. Also fortunately, it is designed to enforce naturally wide areas of cooperation among faculty members, breaking down rigid barriers between disciplines. These characteristics promise results which are on the one hand practical and substantial, but on the other hand serve as the entry into more specialized areas. Thus, the student should have a sufficient body of general knowledge and skill to enter meaningfully into those studies which are more particularly connected with his special interests."

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