Picking Up the Pieces after the Coronavirus Disruption and Black Lives Matter

September 20, 2020

The Symposium issue 60.2 emerges eight months after the Spring 2020 Covid-19 outbreak, that is, after the initial global lockdown and the subsequent budget shortfalls in higher education that had ramifications too often targeted at the musical arts. In the past half year, rapid unfortunate changes in music programs have weighed heavily on the minds of faculty, students, and professionals. To increase revenue, many institutions enlarged the enrollments of Fall music classes (usually taught remotely), some overextended the load of full-time faculty and did not renew adjuncts, or other institutions went so far as to diminish or completely terminate entire music units. For instance, in one fell swoop, Kean University in New Jersey completely eliminated its music program, firing all tenured professors; and the famed Center for Theatre and Performance at Australia’s Monash University will close within a few months due to budget cuts. Moreover, Monash classes in Musicology and Ethnomusicology are also disturbingly being “disestablished,” regardless of the fact that these academic offerings tend to fare better via remote teaching than applied ones. So, faculty are awaking each day knowing that the situation for music in higher academe is presently unstable, and many are compelled to readily think of practical survival strategies. Our authors are beginning to help provide solutions, and hopefully will continue to do so in coming journal issues.

Combined with Covid-19 economic consequences, faculty have simultaneously been faced with ethical and structural issues concerning race and diversity, bias, and systemic inequality. In the summer of 2020 numerous protests erupted in the USA and around the globe in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. This put a spotlight on racism in many areas of society, and within the academic music milieu, the issue has been taken quite seriously—for instance, many music societies engaged in intense self-reflection and some rethought their administration. The College Music Society has been actively encouraging dialogue and resolution and recently hosted a Leadership Mini Summit featuring the pedagogical theorist Gloria Ladson-Billings. She reminded us that “Music has the opportunity to be the most democratic/anti-racist human endeavor,” that following the Covid-19 crisis, we should not go back to “normal,” but rather usher in a new start and arguably reconstruct our professional environments (CMS Leadership, 2020). It is of note that an equitable refashioning is not just morally sound, but economically pragmatic. To be relevant, our music programs, course offerings, faculty hires, must better align with community populations, which are increasingly racially and culturally mixed in the global world. Our students need to be prepared to artistically interact with, guide, or serve a multifarious populace.

Several of the authors of issue 60.2 Symposium have begun to touch upon specific solutions that might help us face the many challenges ahead. How can quality learning be achieved remotely?  How can we survive financially and enrollments be maintained or increased in the present climate? How can we be more inclusive, and consequently, more relevant? We hope that forthcoming submissions continue to address these important topics as we seek paths forward into the dynamic future.

In the present issue 60.2 Jonathan Kladder’s article “Songwriting in Modern Band?” points us in the right direction as it elucidates aspects that would permit for greater racial and cultural inclusion via a learner-led pedagogical approach. Using the “Modern Band” school music program in association with songwriting, students can “ideally interact with their world [whatever that may be] as they create original material.” And in our Forums section Teresa Nakra, in her essay “Maximizing Student Outcomes During a Period of Disruption,” directly addresses timely topics such as improving remote teaching effectiveness while engaging students. Sunny Knable’s essay, “A Composer’s Life Not Lived” does not provide solutions, but rather shares a touching reflection on the impact of the virus. Knable expresses the sentiments of many musical artists, “I feel at a total loss, with no direction to turn. There are very few outlets for my work and little to look forward to this coming year.”

Our Tech Reviews suggest practical options that especially might assist during remote learning, as Brown reviews the Singscope app which helps improve singing intonation; Kersten evaluates Flat, a Cloud-based music notation software with the flexibility of being usable immediately through a web browser; and Menoche continues with the second part of his review of  ROLI Lightpad Block M Studio, a touch-surface MIDI controller with software.

Other reviews and articles, though not directly tied to recent disruptions, are of interest to a variety of music professionals. Stan Renard interestingly shows how business practices can be applied to a music-related group creation in “From Incubation to Delivery: An Application of Project Management for the Music Industry.” Since business processes and terminology play such an important role in the popular music industry, this case study detailing “project management” and “incubators” while building a music-cassette-shaped coffee table is highly insightful. Even if creatives are averse to such formulaic practices, it is ever so useful to have an understanding of the mindset of industry colleagues as presented in this case study.

Jeffrey Izzo in his article “Space, Time, and Memory” shares his musings on the rejection of contemporary art music with its unfamiliar sounds that are not stored in collective memory,  versus contemporary visual art, which audiences more easily embrace as relationships are made via immediate visual connections. Jane Hatter in “Early Music Matters: Revitalizing the Survey through a Contextual Approach” encourages a tactic to teaching music of different epochs through contextualizing and humanizing the arts, so students from a sundry of backgrounds can appreciate a culture that is different from their own.

Rumbley’s book review of Wai-Chung Ho’s Culture, Music Education, and the Chinese Dream in Mainland China interestingly shows how a government can support various types of music as propaganda tools to promote traditional values and love of country. Two biographies are also reviewed in the current issue: Caleb Boyd looks at Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music by Richard Crawford, which focuses on Gershwin’s cultural impact, and Clark evaluates Beethoven: The Relentless Revolutionary by John Clubbe, with its political history perspective, including important figures like Napoleon.

Audio Performance Reviews cover the gamut of styles, from Sanchez-Behar review of John Adam’s piano concert Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?; Wells reviews In Mulieribus, Cycles of Eternity, where unaccompanied female voices sing works of living composers; Younan looks at the singer Romina Di Gasbarro’s album Risorgimento, which through a variety of styles features stories and experiences of the Italian people; Paul Sanchez reviews Pola Baytelman, Isaac Albéniz’s Iberia: A Musical Journey Through Spain, and Hutchins assesses Tom Weeks, Alto Saxophone Improvisations.

Our Performance, Lectures, Lecture-Recital Reviews feature two videos with violin works of the contemporary composer Howard Bashaw (b. 1957) with performances by Guillaume Tardif and Roger Admiral. The performance reviews were written by Dan Auerbach and Luis Fernandez.


“CMS Leadership Mini Summit (Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings) August 7, 2020.” YouTube video, 45:42. Sept 2, 2020. https://youtu.be/pEkp9iJefwI

1119 Last modified on August 18, 2021