The D.A.: An Alternative Doctoral Pattern for the Arts

  • PDF: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40373831

Major changes in the education of prospective college music faculty were advocated at the 1984 Dearborn Conference on Music in General Studies. The arguments were valid and well presented as a statement of the problem, but somewhat less so when it came to proposed solutions. Joel Stegall advocated a straightforward administrative application of suitable "warm fuzzies" or "cold pricklies" as the case warranted.1 Donald Funes, citing himself as a "living example of one trapped by one's own training,"2 urged us to loosen the blinders of traditional education in order to see affinities and relationships rather than polarities and differences. Not bad ideas at all, but ideas that did not address what was repeatedly designated as the heart of the issue.

The burden of that refrain was that new faculty, though well prepared for scholarship or performance, came into the field deficient as teachers. Discussion centered around ways in which that lack could be remedied by remodeling existing doctoral programs to include emphasis on the technique and psychology of teaching, supervised experience in the field, flexibility in dealing with social and curricular change, and the need for the greater breadth of the generalist. Existing programs, it was claimed, failed miserably in those areas, and all the postdoctoral on-the-job retraining was only a means of dealing with that perceived failure.

Proposed solutions included the creation of a "college teaching" track within the Ph.D. curriculum or revision of the Ed.D. to extend its content to post-secondary teaching skills. Others attacked the D.M.A. program for its emphasis on performance when it was clear to them that its graduates were not needed primarily as campus performers, but as teachers of general music classes, proselytizers for good music and culture (with the resulting well known by-arguments) and teachers of popular, student-credit-hour generating courses that would save departments from the woes of shrinking enrollment.

The chief counter-argument pointed to graduate education as a zero-sum game in which additional material could only displace present content, weakening existing programs. This was brushed aside by some with an impatient gesture reminiscent of the sixties, when uncomfortable facts were frequently ignored by students and faculty alike if they interfered with the abstract beauty of social or intellectual theory.

Adding to the confusion is a division among the music faculty itself about educational goals for non-major courses. Are we trying to educate listeners to the broadest spectrum of aural experiences, to cross-cultural understanding or, in the words of the recent Bennett Report, to "preserve our [Western] intellectual heritage?" To what extent should the bugaboo "Music Appreciation" course be affective, and to what extent cognitive? How does one grade an affective course, anyway? Are we locked into a pattern of each generation regurgitating the approaches of its mentors by a system in which college teachers are taught not to teach but to imitate their teachers?

This paper is a minority report rebutting two a priori assumptions of the debate outlined above. Those are that the problem must be solved in the terms by which it was defined, and that a uniform solution exists that is right for all cases. In refuting those, another path close at hand will be shown that, if we will only stop to look at it, leads out of this forest.

To address the first of those issues we must look at the statement of the problem. The terms in which a question is couched determine the answers that are possible. Any good lawyer knows that; it is where the famous "Are you still beating your wife?" question came from. In this case, the proposition appears to have been: "Doctoral graduates in music do not suit the perceived needs of today's colleges and universities." The hidden traps in that are many: the assumptions that the doctorate in music bears the same relationship to the discipline as it does in History or Mathematics, for example; that there is commonality among the various doctorates in the discipline; that it is the business of doctoral study to prepare students to meet such needs; that the perceived needs are, in fact, real; that today's needs are intrinsically different and require a different order of preparation; etc., etc., ad infinitum. There is still another important "given" in that proposition: namely, that the solution lies in some mutation of the programs producing the current crop of doctoral graduates, hence the attention given to "what is wrong" with the present Ed.D., D.M.A., or Ph.D.

The position taken here is that those perceived needs do indeed reflect a new reality, one that supplements but does not supplant the age-old functions of higher education, and that a little-known but well respected degree program, the Doctor of Arts (D.A.), already exists that precisely meets those needs. It does poor service to the future of American higher education to water down existing programs that fulfill traditional academic goals so admirably. Rather than reshaping philosophies to meet current needs, it is proposed to fully accept the Doctor of Arts program and its philosophy as beneficial to higher education in the arts and expand its occurrence on the national scene.

The traditional thrust of doctoral education, resulting in the Ph.D. degree, has been to gain great depth in an academic area and master the techniques and materials of scholarship in preparation for independently extending that specialty still further. Recognizing the limitations of that approach for music performance faculty, Howard Hanson eloquently championed the D.M.A. degree as a more appropriate route for the development of artist-teachers that would make the United States a world leader in the education of performing musicians. To a large extent his vision has now been realized and American postsecondary education has profited enormously from it. The Ed.D. degree has also experienced general acceptance, even with—or perhaps because of—the high degree of overlap between the needs of educational theory and expertise in the subject discipline.

Each of those educational plans produces a specialist, a post-hole digger whose vertical samples indicate the composition of the intellectual soil surrounding the cores they explore in detail. Our need for such people continues, but the number of core samples, increasing exponentially, has also generated a need for a new kind of specialist, one whose expertise is in cataloguing, categorizing, generalizing, and explaining relationships among the individual findings. "We are moving from the specialist who is soon obsolete to the generalist who is adept,"3 writes John Naisbitt in Megatrends.

"Generalist," though, with its connotation of superficiality, is not quite the right term, nor does it imply the right kind of skill. Rather, I like to think of such a person as a "synthesist," one whose specialty is in perceiving and explaining broad-spectrum relationships. One need only think of some of the most influential books of the past decade to realize that the most significant of them were written by such authors. Douglas Hofstadter's brilliant Gödel, Escher, Bach comes to mind, or Howard Gardner's Frames of Mind. On a more popular level, but still having enormous impact, have been Joel Garreau's The Nine Nations of North America, Alvin Tomer's Future Shock and The Third Wave, and John Naisbitt's Megatrends. On the other hand, it is worth noting that without the pioneering work of specialists in fields as disparate as statistical theory, aesthetics, and communications, those books would not have been possible.

It is a fact of academic life that most of us feel that the way we were educated is the way for academics to be brought up. Performance specialists have little patience with their academic counterparts, researchers are hesitant to value the work of creative artists, theoreticians find work on practical applications demeaning, etc. As a result, centrifugal forces in academe are building to what must soon be an explosion, unless some way is found to ameliorate the growing fractionalization of disciplines and subdisciplines. Chances are better of finding a good teacher for electronic composition, Byzantine hymnody, or viola da gamba these days than laying hands on satisfactory teachers of introductory theory or music appreciation.

It should not be forgotten, though, that one stands a better chance of having a powerful aesthetic experience hearing a performance by a highly specialized violinist, say, than by a generic string pedagogue, which leads precisely to my point: the need is not for one kind of person at the expense of the other, but for both. We must have specialists to continue the tradition of great depth of vision and skill that we require for higher education and synthesists to unite those "core samples" into a holistic perception. Are those two kinds of people mutually exclusive? Much as I would wish that they were not, experience has shown that only a tiny fraction of the academic profession has been able to unite those two visions of reality. Such professors are unquestionably to be treasured as the great jewels of academe, but their statistical occurrence is not sufficient to populate our faculties.

This problem has been a concern of American higher education at least since the end of the Second World War. In 1948, amid grave concerns about "the 50 to 100 percent increase in enrollment in institutions of higher [education],"4 proposals were made to improve the teaching competency of new college instructors. Virtually all of the recommendations reported out of "Committee P" of the Third Annual National Conference on Higher Education were echoed by one or another speaker at the Dearborn Conference thirty-six years later.

The impetus of the boom years of the fifties began to take concrete form in the sixties with stringent calls to teach training for prospective college faculty, such as W. Max Wise's perceptive article, "Who Teaches the Teachers?", published as a background paper for the 1966 meeting of the American Council on Education.5 The soil had thus been prepared for a radical approach to this matter and all the pieces were in place to implement it. At the Wingspread Conference on the Doctor of Arts Degree (October 25-27, 1970) the teaching internship as a central concept of the program was lauded by one speaker after another. "I seriously doubt that in those [courses about teaching] we will find the answer to what might be termed truly good teaching," said Philip M. Rice of the Claremont University Center. He went on to say, "This may mean that we can't create good teachers through the normal academic process and there may be something to that. There is, I think, an organic growth involved that we have not yet delved. The real teacher is something akin to the banker's definition of a baby: a nine months' investment on a small deposit."6

The first introduction of the Doctor of Arts degree was at Carnegie-Mellon University in 1967, with major areas in English, Mathematics, History, and the Fine Arts. In 1970 the Council for Graduate Schools in the U.S. recommended the establishment of graduate programs leading to the D.A. "to prepare graduate students for a lifetime of effective teaching at the college level."7 The Carnegie Corporation supported the development of the degree with grant funds. In 1970 Robert Koenker reported that three universities were offering the degree and that twenty-five to thirty others were planning it. By 1971 fifteen universities were offering the degree, and in the Dressel and Thompson report of 1974 twenty-one institutions were offering the degree across a spectrum of forty-four departments. By 1980 Hunt and Wheeler reported twenty-six institutions offering the D.A., with some nine hundred individual degrees offered between 1970 and 1980.

That initial burst of widespread adoption soon tapered off, though, and today many of those who know about this program find its apparent lack of success a suspicious indication. I am reminded of my days teaching junior high school when, after hearing a lesson intertwining the tragic story of Mozart's life with the glory of his music, one little girl put up her hand and asked, "If he was so good, why wasn't he rich?" There were many reasons for the stagnation of the D.A. degree after it was launched with such promise in 1967. They are so illuminating that it is worth while to pause to examine them.

Instituting the D.M.A. had a problematic side effect that had been gloomily predicted by many of its opponents: the proliferation of specialized degree titles that, by 1970, appeared to debase the concept of the doctorate as a symbol of the highest level of academic preparation and achievement. In reaction to that situation prestigious schools and national organizations such as the National Association of Schools of Music began to pull back from a position advocating specialization. A broad sentiment grew for restricting doctoral degrees in music to those that had already demonstrated academic, fiscal, and political viability: the Ph.D., D.M.A., and Ed.D. That undoubtedly healthy reaction encouraged the strengthening of existing programs; however, it also created a climate in which experimentation was not well received.

The growth years of the D.A. coincided with that unreceptive climate, which was in turn reinforced by the first stages of the fiscal/demographic crisis with which we are now all too familiar. The seven fat years gave way to the lean, and even some of the most adventurous advocates of the D.A. degree were faced with the harsh realities of falling registration, budget cuts, staff reductions, and failing public confidence in the magic of higher education as a palliative for every democratic ill. If 1967 was the optimum time for the introduction of a new degree program, 1977 found the academic community too beleaguered to be hospitable to innovation.

People are funny. If a restaurant happens to be uncrowded we assume that it is because something is wrong with it. In the same fashion many schools that might now be excellently equipped to offer the Doctor of Arts hang back from consideration of the degree because it is, for the moment, in bad odor. That does not mean that everyone should now race home and propose a D.A. degree to his administration, but it does mean there are probably many schools that could profit themselves, their students, and the profession by studying that possibility. There are a number of hard questions to be asked before launching that ship, but strengthening the D.A. makes more sense than carving up strong Ph.D.'s or D.M.A.'s now being offered.

The Doctor of Arts in Music at Ball State University can provide a model to be examined. The particular strengths of this degree will be explored here not only through the published documentation of the curriculum, but even more importantly, through those real-world measures of job placement and professional advancement. Admission to the D.A. at Ball State is based on successful completion of a master's program in music, submission of evidence of scholarship (normally in the form of previous undergraduate and graduate GPAs) and a well-articulated goal of going into college teaching. Teaching experience is highly valued and can give a prospective student an admissions advantage, but it is not required. Candidates for admission to the program are required to come to campus for a personal interview and audition and are evaluated by separate faculty committees on the basis of their musical and intellectual qualifications for entering the profession.

The nature of the final document in such a program has been an area of heated debate even among its partisans. Ball State has opted for an original scholarly document that is usually expected to be related to the candidate's major area. The carefully worded statement on the dissertation reads:

While there is no intent to deny the validity of the traditional research project—perhaps on problems identified in one's teaching area, it is assumed that the candidate for the DA degree may well concern him or herself with the production of innovative materials and the development of techniques for their successful use in teaching. . . . The synthesis of scattered material potentially relevant to the subject matter may in some cases provide opportunity for the exercise of significant research techniques in the discipline.

A student in one of my seminars conducted a survey of the forty-nine Ball State D.A. graduates to 1983 and came up with the following impressive statistics.8 Forty-four are currently employed in their chosen fields and one is deceased. Numbered among those are four Instructors, thirteen Assistant Professors, and seven Associate Professors. Three are now departmental administrators and one is a Dean of Fine Arts. Two are Directors of Choral Activities and one a Director of Orchestras. These people are professionally active as well and have published articles ranging from an exploration of music and pain in the Virginia Dental Journal to biographical studies of saxophone virtuoso Cecil Leeson. A recent graduate has been commended by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico for an outstanding historical/analytic dissertation on music of the island, and several have received commissions and awards for original compositions or have been appointed to head electronic music studios in well-equipped schools. Recently two outstanding dissertations were accepted: "A System for Interactive Music Composition Through Computer Graphics," by Fred Malouf, who won the Rockefeller Prize as Composer-in-Residence at Stanford University for 1984-85, and "The Effects of Graded Exercise at the Piano on . . . Cardiac Output, Forearm Blood Flow, Heart Rate, and Blood Pressure," a series of noninvasive studies of those factors conducted by Sharon Parr using the facilities of Methodist General Hospital in Indianapolis.

What is advocated here seems neither radical nor difficult. The discipline has in place several types of doctoral programs aimed at producing a particular kind of education—specialty-based, research- or performance-oriented, and dedicated to the production of new art and new knowledge. To weaken those thrusts would undercut areas of strength that we must maintain for the sake of our intellectual honesty and that of our students. On the other hand it would be shortsighted in the extreme not to recognize the much-proclaimed need for faculty with greater breadth of vision, even (though not necessarily) in lieu of a certain amount of depth, and with more background in teaching when they first come into the college classroom. There is a significant demand for new faculty who can, as they say, "hit the ground running."

The answer that lies before us is to encourage the study and growth of the D.A. degree, specifically conceived as a program to develop the kind of faculty called for in the 1984 Dearborn Conference. To do so is not simply to proliferate degree titles, as some would have it, but to extend the concept of expertise beyond its current definition to include the synthesis of existing knowledge as a legitimate academic concern.

Higher education can walk and chew gum at the same time. The very word "university" implies that the universe of the mind is embraced by the concept, or, as Jacques Barzun called it twenty-six years ago, "The House of Intellect." It is artificially limiting and potentially destructive not to allow that house to expand as new needs are recognized.

Nor should championing the cause of the D.A. degree be seen as avoidance of the real need to incorporate substantive exposure to college faculty responsibilities, including the need to be a good teacher, within the specialty doctorates. It is practical, I believe, and not pollyannaish, to anticipate that there will be a healthy interchange of ideas between neighboring specialist and synthesist programs, either within the same institution or in neighboring institutions. The natural cross-fertilization that takes place through the exchange of faculty in teaching positions, at conferences, and in the pages of our journals will soon begin a feedback loop of ideas that will be transmuted into forms appropriate to each of those programs and institutions, just as the existence of the D.M.A. has already had impact on the shaping of Ph.D. programs.

Sufficient vision is called for to see postsecondary teaching as a legitimate field of its own and not simply a way for the scholar, composer, or performer to earn a living. If the university is to serve its purpose at the more advanced levels of the disciplines, there will be need for increased specialization in the "traditional" degrees. At the same time, though, if the university is to become an effective force in shaping the cultural and intellectual life of our country there must be more of the kind of people I call "synthesists" on our faculties. That this is already recognized in many places is attested by the extraordinarily high placement and success rate of the D.A. graduates now in the field: better than ninety percent of the Ball State graduates have found jobs in their fields, which compares favorably to and even exceeds the rate of some better-known schools with traditional programs. The opportunity is here; it is ours to take or ignore.


1Joel R. Stegall, "Managing the Faculty Reward System to Support the Development of Music Curricula for the Non-Major," in Papers from the 1984 Dearborn Conference (Boulder, Colo.: College Music Society and National Association of Schools of Music, 1984), 38-45.

2Donald Funes, "Zen and the Art of Music Listening," in Papers from the 1984 Dearborn Conference, 27.

3John Naisbitt, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives (New York: Warner, 1982), 37.

4P.C. Weaver, "Evaluation and Improvement of Teaching in Service: Report of Conference Group P," in Current Trends in Higher Education: Official Group Reports of the Third Annual National Conference of Education Held at Chicago, Illinois, March 22-25, 1948, ed. Ralph W. McDonald and James L. McCaskill (Washington: National Educational Association, 1948), 124.

5W. Max Wise, "Who Teaches the Teachers?," in Improving College Teaching: Aids and Impediments (Washington: American Council on Education, 1966), 86-98.

6Philip M. Rice, "The D.A. and the Teaching Internship," in Proceedings of the Wingspread Conference on the Doctor of Arts Degree, ed. Arthur M. Eastman (Washington: Council of Graduate Schools of the U.S., 1970), 98.

7Quoted by Paul L. Dressel in his College Teaching as a Profession: The Doctor of Arts Degree (New York: Carnegie Corporation. 1982), 2.

8Amanda Villaret, "A Review of the Doctor of Arts Degree in Music at Ball State University (unpublished seminar paper, 1984). Other data were taken from studies conducted by Dr. Kirby Koriath of the Ball State University School of Music.

Read 1308 times

Last modified on Wednesday, 24/10/2018

Go to top