College Music and the Engaged Campus: A Statement by The College Music Society

October 1, 2002

College Music and the Engaged Campus




The College Music Society (CMS) is a professional organization of college music teachers. Members of the CMS Board of Directors represent the diversity and breadth of music in higher education. The specific music disciplines represented include composition, musicology, ethnomusicology, music education, music theory, and performance. Additionally, since 1977, one Board member has been elected to represent Music in General Studies. This structure underscores the SocietyÕs recognition of the importance of and its commitment to the general education of all post-secondary students.

Since the 1980s, CMS has initiated and developed specific programs to encourage college and university music departments to reach out in new and innovative ways, at first to the larger campus and then to the community in which it resides. The first program was Music in General Studies program (MGS); this was followed by College Music and the Community (CMC).

The Music in General Studies program advocated assessment and improvement in college music courses designed for general university studentsÑthat is, for students who are not majoring in music and who take such courses as a source of enrichment rather than as a component of their professional preparation. Typically, these are introductory music listening courses, frequently called "music appreciation."

In 1986, CMS developed the structure for a second phase of the Music in General Studies program. It was centered around an extension of the philosophy of MGS, considering issues related to College Music and the Community (CMC). Although this effort did not evolve into a formal program, it's articulated philosophy has had far-reaching impact on many CMS initiatives that have since been presented and discussed in its publications, conference programs, workshops, and other forums.

Whereas CMS's Music in General Studies program drew attention to ways of improving the outreach by music units to the university campus community, The College Music and the Community program was designed to (1) reach out in new and innovative ways beyond the confines of the campus; (2) explore the role of the college music unit in the cultural and artistic life of the community; and (3) develop new and expanded relationships with the communities and regions that music units serve.

The Concept of an Engaged Music Department (In response to AAHE questions)

1. Defining the "engaged" music department

An engaged music unit will connect faculty members and students with members of the larger community by strengthening how it serves its constituencies and how these constituencies can benefit the music unit. A music unit will develop and market its skills and strengthen exchange relationships with community constituencies. It will encourage communities to take advantage of resources they offer and will encourage music faculty and executives to develop initiatives to reach out to the communities.

An engaged music unit will prepare students with the knowledge and skills needed to become involved in its community by stimulating music teaching through television, distance learning, the Internet, and other non-traditional modes of presentation. Such a music unit will collaborate in efforts to promote and develop audiences, and it will improve the music education of persons not of traditional college age and of persons not in traditional college situationsÑas examples: pre-school music, musical experiences for the elderly, and non-professional community performance.

An engaged music unit will participate in community-based problem solving and collaborative learning. It will explore and develop issues of artistic and cultural leadership in various community constituencies and will make substantial connections for the development of collaborative learning within the cultural and artistic life of community colleges and other community music programs. This music unit will encourage the development of and coordination with existing preparatory departments and community music schools.

An engaged music unit will help music students link school and workplace experiences by exploring coordinated performance activities with church, synagogue, civic, and other community organizations. It will provide faculty leadership and expertise to community endeavors in church music and public or private school performances and clinics. It will establish internships and short term field experiences that require music expertise and wherein music students work for civic organizations and businesses in music or related fieldsÑexperiences that may include pre-professional experiences related to alternative career programs in music business and industry, audio technology, music or arts management, and music therapy.

A music unit can provide music experiences in schools having no music programs and at community centers in disadvantaged neighborhoods. As part of their degree programs, composition students can compose pieces for performance by elementary and middle school students and can engage them in collaboratively composing pieces for school events. Music units can establish agreements with local presenting venues or agencies to produce or help produce public music or music theatre performances in their communities.

2. Strengthening engagement by cross-discipline collaboration

To facilitate the interaction of music students and faculty with people from non-music disciplines or professions, an engaged music unit will develop programs and collaborations with continuing education programs and will find ways to strengthen relationships with Chambers of Commerce, city and county governments, arts councils, and private and corporate funding agencies.

3. Emerging issues in music

An engaged music unit will continually strive to identify new issues, explore new possibilities, and respond to identified problems in developing exchange relationships and partnerships with community constituencies. Envisioned opportunities include:

  • Increase interdisciplinary cooperation designed to stimulate the development of community activities. Business, civic, and educational leaders, together, can create a momentum by building on successful activities and creating new possibilities.
  • Incorporate culturally diverse topics by encouraging multicultural and multiethnic communities -- on and off college campuses -- to challenge us to respond and present truly engaged musical and educational opportunities.
  • While addressing new paradigms and new issuesÑsuch as gender, diversity, or advocacy for various community segments, maintain the ÒcanonÓ of our discipline through the reinterpretation and restructuring of the learning process. The effect of engagement should broaden student and community understanding of an already deep and rich musical and cultural heritage. The concern is to maintain the strength of oneÕs own musical heritage through explorations of heritages outside our experience.
  • Maintain a position at the frontier of developing music technology in order to train practitioners and to make new ways of experiencing music available to the community.
  • As the demand for the performing virtuoso declines in the culture, creating and encouraging more informal ways of making music, both communally and individually (improvisation).
  • Create a mechanism to share the vast archival sound resources in academic music departments with the general public, not only for educational purposes, but as a celebration of the richness and diversity of American music.


The College Music Society makes no inference that many of these issues and collaborative activities are not being dealt with successfully by some music units now. It does assume, with declining enrollments, reduced funding levels, curricular reform and the resulting imposed requirements, and shifts in demographic and job market patterns, that a renewed commitment to outreach seems imperative. To improve programs by stimulating a national dialog and by identifying and sharing model strategies and programs seems appropriate and essential at this time.

2372 Last modified on May 10, 2013
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