Fragmentation and Change

August 31, 2001

This article was stimulated by the provocative thoughts expressed in the article by Robert Weirich, which appeared in the March 2001 Newsletter.

Are music specialists isolating themselves within their respective branches of the discipline, thus heightening fragmentation within the music unit? I'd like to suggest essential integration -- integration by circumstanceas another point of view for examining the landscape in music degree programs. Two familiar examples are teaching in secondary areas and program assessment.

Most college faculty in small departments teach in two or more areas in any given year, areas such as performance studies, ensemble direction, music education, history, and theory. I am a faculty member whose primary area is classical piano performance. In our BA-granting program, with fewer than 60 majors for all performance areas combined, my colleagues and I also teach in a variety of secondary areas. In a sense, "the walls have come down"by necessity. Probably this is true at many of the 1,266 four-year colleges listed in the latest CMS directory, although it is perhaps less pronounced at the 385 schools that have graduate programs.

Another sign of integration at our institution comes from program assessment, in response to the report by Ernest Boyer: Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (1990). Thanks to the Boyer report and a campus-wide mandate from the provost, every school and department at UALR has gone through compelling in-depth analyses. We have been asked to detail, explain, and improve assessment procedures throughout the curriculum. This process started productive dialogue not only within the music department, but university-wide across disciplines. Program assessment is occurring nationally, having been embraced by accreditation organizations, such as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Along with these trends towards integration, types of fragmentation persist. An examination of the Statistical Compendium from the 2000-2001 CMS Directory of Music Faculties reveals that the 36,383 music faculty members that are listed fall into two broad categories:

  • Tenured and tenure-track faculty: professors, associate professors, assistant professors

  • Non-tenure-track faculty: full-time instructors/lecturers, part-time faculty (instructors, lecturers, and adjuncts), visiting faculty

The total tenured and tenure-track faculty is 13,665an army of dedicated professionals enlisted in the service of music education. But when the listings for non-tenure-track faculty are added, the total is 18,208, an even larger army.

In addition to the fragmentation revealed by job categories, non-tenure-track faculty must often split themselves among several jobs. Why? According to a report by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, part-time faculty are paid, on average, less than $3000 per course.1 Probably the rate of pay for music lessons is less than the rate for classroom courses. Non-tenure-track, part-time teachers, who frequently commute to multiple jobs, often have less institutional access to office space, computers, e-mail, telephones, and grant support. Yet these individuals may fill the roles of private teacher, music appreciation instructors, a musical theatre director, church musician, soloist, chamber musician, freelance performer, festival and competition coordinator, and officer in a state or local music teachers organizationall in the same year. Immersed in the art of music, their contributions to the local community are manifold.

I agree with Weirich's example of J.S. Bach as the epitome of a well-integrated musician. Bach's resumé suggests that his life was similar in some ways to the lives of today's non-tenure track faculty and independent music teachers. They share with Bach the widely varied duties and imaginative energy necessary for making a living as a musician.

Fragmentation begets integration? Regardless of the lens through which one views it, the college music teaching community has changed. Since the 1995-96 edition of the CMS Directory, the number of institutions listed has decreased by 29. However the number of faculty listed has increased. Which teaching category shows the greatest increase? The growth at the rank of full-time instructor/lecturer, a non-tenure-track slot, has been explosive. In 1995-96, there were 3,010 faculty listed in that category. In 2000-2001 there are 9,139. The category has tripled in size in only six years. When tenured faculty in performance studies retire, are they always replaced with tenure-track lines? Consider the area of piano. Of the 4,575 faculty who list "37a" as a specialty, only 1,913 are tenured or tenure-track. The remaining faculty, non-tenure-track, account for more than half the listing.

Another important segment of the academic community, although not listed in the CMS Directory, is graduate teaching assistants. They typically teach class piano and lessons for non-majors and secondaries, and accompany lessons, juries, and student recitals. They also teach sections of lower-level theory and aural skills, and serve as assistants to professors for large sections of lower-level history and music appreciation. They are a significant part of the learning experience for thousands of undergraduates across the country. It was the Modern Language Association's graduate-student caucus, at its 1998 annual meeting, that successfully introduced a motion to require the MLA to collect and publish data on salaries and working conditions of part-time faculty, which led to the report from the Coalition on the Academic Workforce.2

We are at a fascinating juncture in music and higher education. The pace of change during the past fifteen years has been brisk. The make-up of our workforce has changed. The physical structure of campus buildings has changed, wired for Internet access from dorms and faculty offices to libraries and technology labs. Textbooks and reference books now include more examples of contemporary composers, women composers, and non-Western composers than ever before. CD-ROMs and interactive web sites often supplement textbooks. MIDI and software notation programs are commonplace. The music industry has changed, Napster and Gnutella being two examples. Changing demographics are also evident. For some campuses, this means an increase in the number of non-traditional age, minority, or foreign students enrolled.

College music programs are responding to new developments in the field and in society as quickly as they can analyze needs and draft functional proposals. I look forward to hearing about pilot projects, such as curriculum revision in progress at Eastman, career counseling at the New England Conservatory, and master classes via Internet at the University of Oklahomato name a few of many initiatives. At several workshops on music technology by Peter Webster and David Williams, I have found myself in a room crowded with faculty from multiple branches of music. Windows, not walls. Candid discussion fuels our growth, and the CMS Newsletter is one of these forums. I appreciate the opportunity to contribute.

1 Ana Marie Cox, "Study Shows Colleges' Dependence on Their Part-Time Instructors," The Chronicle of Higher Education Vol. XLVII (December 1, 2000): A12.
2 The full text of the report is available at

2765 Last modified on May 1, 2013
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