MGS: Possibilities for Phase 2

February 28, 2007

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the founding of CMS, we may want to learn from previous experience while preparing for the future. Such anniversaries can provide opportunities to assess and to reassess widely varied programs. In this context, I wish to discuss a few aspects of the CMS Music in General Studies program (MGS).

MGS has been a formal part of CMS since the 1981 Wingspread Conference on Music in General Studies. Essentially, MGS was established to examine and improve college and university course offerings for the "non-music" major in courses commonly known as music appreciation. Workshops, publications, and conference presentations helped formulate and communicate MGS strategies.

During the past twenty-five years, among the most important motivational factors for CMS were the changes in American culture, particularly the diverse characteristics, likes, and values among its various cultural groups. CMS recognized the wisdom of this multicultural phenomenon, especially acknowledging the validity of its being recognized and supported in our schools and communities.

One current question is: How should CMS change MGS in 2007 and beyond? Possible answers might be to close the program, continue as it is, or refine and perhaps expand the program. The May 2006 CMS Newsletter included a discussion of a variety of contexts related to Music in General Studies. To some degree, it was a summation of what has happened already yet also a discussion of future possibilities - an expansion of MGS beyond the traditional music appreciation course. Here are several suggestions derived mostly from the May 2006 Newsletter.

Recognize the need for a widely accepted MGS pedagogy. Prepare MGS specialists who are hired to teach MGS-type courses and perhaps supervise MGS programs. Perhaps it will become important that MGS teachers or at least MGS program supervisors will not be considered qualified unless they have earned one or more advanced degrees preparing them as MGS specialists. The need by that time would be to create a widely accepted MGS pedagogy. This, in effect, suggests that MGS become a specialization equivalent to other specializations within music units, such as performance, music history, music theory, or music education - thus conveying the image that MGS is as important to a music unit as the other well-established specializations. Graduate schools can prepare future college teachers for these expanded responsibilities by developing MGS pedagogy courses and offering MGS internships and performance ensembles.

Has the time come for college and university music departments to go beyond "the course" by recognizing the need to more significantly incorporate an "expanded repertoire." This means developing "appreciation" courses that are designed for non-music majors but that include music from a variety of cultures, such as music of Native Americans and music from Latin America or Southeast Asia - or courses in traditional American folk and religious music, music by women composers, Medieval and Renaissance music for non-majors, or gamelan music. We don't have to take on the whole world, but some expansion of repertoire certainly is warranted to acknowledge the various cultures in your geographical area and beyond. Anything new will likely benefit from the creation of new teaching materials and resources.

Develop MGS programs that reach out in significant ways to community constituencies? Although most music departments and schools have outreach activities and programs, such as student teaching, public concerts, and marching bands, this is only a small sampling of significant possibilities. The profession could benefit greatly from further exploration of community possibilities, whether known as outreach, engagement, or another word or slogan?

One possible step could be for CMS to maintain a bank of imaginative and successful outreach programs, whether or not originally designed as an extension of MGS. I urge readers to let the CMS office (c), the CMS Board Member for Music in General Studies (Barbara Bowker - b), or the CMS Newsletter Editor (Ann Sears - a) know your thoughts about the future of MGS. If you share descriptions of your innovative and successful expanded programs, please include a current contact person, the nature of the innovation and its degree of success, and what CMS can do to assist music departments and schools achieve success with similar expanded programs.

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