Wingspread's Continuing Challenge for Faculty and Administrators

As we look back at the Wingspread Conference it becomes apparent that this was a significant attempt to address an area of responsibility that is essential to the place of music in higher education and our culture. It should be noted that to do so requires the cooperative efforts of both faculty and administrators. This is a theme that has appeared as a leitmotif for many meetings and conferences between the two over many years.

As far back as 1963, Robert Trotter was invited to address the annual meeting of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) in his capacity as both the President of CMS and a Dean. He took the occasion to put forth his belief that; "Professional schools of music connected with institutions of higher learning do not have a right to abdicate responsibility to provide opportunities for musically educating students not interested in music as a career." He also suggested that many kinds of music such as folk and popular, as well as art-music, should be appropriate for study and that "We can be too genteel and Parnassian in concentrating only on art-music." Trotter concludes that these "continuing thoughts I carry with me in my attempts to carry out teaching and administrative responsibilities in a professional school."

During the ensuing years, CMS and NASM have addressed this concern in many ways. In 1972, at the first concurrent meeting of the two organizations, Trotter again spoke to a joint session in which he acknowledged that "Some cultural re-orientations have occurred on a huge scale during the last ten years." He further observed that; "When we pelt students unidirectionally with value propaganda, prestructured conclusions and predictions, abstract information, and admonitions, can we blame them for talking about school versus life?I believe school needs to be a metaphor for life, and that professional meetings need to be a metaphor for school."

A few years later, in 1977, when the CMS Board established a new board position to represent Music in General Education (later changed to General Studies) they had the good fortune to persuade Robert Trotter to become the first Member-at-Large for this important and expanding area. This then continued the dialogue within both organizations, as the desire to explore the quality of music offerings for the general college student became more and more challenging. Just two years later NASM added to its standards a strong statement in regard to the importance of Music in General Education saying; "NASM expects member institutions to make significant commitments to these efforts in both human and material resources."

The decade of the seventies saw several national seminars and conferences that brought attention to the teaching of music at all levels. The first major effort by CMS to bring a national focus to this topic came with the Wingspread Conference in 1981. This was in keeping with the Society's commitment to "gather, consider, and disseminate ideas on the philosophy and practice of music in higher education." It was observed, in the charge to the conference made up of both faculty and administrators, that "the challenge will be shaped by the ideals and vision of those entrusted with the responsibility for this area of the curriculum through the training and retraining of the professionals so charged." When one reviews the report of this conference, which was sent to every NASM institution as well as the entire CMS membership, it becomes apparent that it remains as relevant today as it was then.

As a result, the following year CMS began an ongoing series of summer Institutes on Music in General Studies that attracted many college professors responsible for this area of the curriculum. Then in 1983 CMS and NASM held a concurrent meeting on the topic in Dearborn, Michigan. As stated at the time this conference was intended to "underscore the importance of this topic by uniting in discussion, and hopefully action, administrators and their faculty." It underscored a significant theme from Wingspread which held that it is important to involve students with music so that they can develop the ability to make their own value judgments about a wide range of music as a major benefit of their college education. It was recognized that in the future these former students will be the next generation of parents, school board members, university administrators, boards of trustees, and other policy makers that will determine the future of music teaching at all levels.

The discussions throughout the conference kept coming back to two major issues. First, how to develop curricular approaches that would be both practical and able to capture the imagination of the profession while providing the teachers with the security to reevaluate present practices and implement new. The other concern, often expressed, was concerning the need to address the training of the future professoriate who will be entrusted with teaching these general students. As one person put it: "All of our strategies simply have to involve better teaching for the general student." Thus, from Wingspread to Dearborn and through out the ensuing years it has become increasingly apparent that the graduate education of musicians, especially those who aspire to college teaching, should provide more effective preparation for teaching the non-music major.

Today these concerns are just as valid as they were more than twenty years ago. They have been approached in many different contexts and yet in most cases the situation has not been addressed as successfully as was anticipated. The NASM Handbook on standards includes a serious consideration of this subject in Appendix II: "Guidelines Concerning Music in General Education." It recognized that: "All too often cultivation of musical understanding in the public has been of secondary concern." It goes on: "It is appropriate, therefore, that professional musicians in these institutions assume a larger responsibility for improved educational results on behalf of music. NASM believes that the success of the music community in these endeavors is essential to the quality of cultural life in the United States."

Some believe that NASM should require that graduate programs, particularly at the doctoral level, prepare the next generation of professors and provide opportunities for supervised teaching especially of non-majors. However, as an examination of the NASM Handbook will show, both the Association's standards and guidelines call for just that. It is now up to the faculties and administrators to take responsibility for successfully implementing them.

The current review of undergraduate and graduate standards being undertaken by NASM offers all music faculty an opportunity to comment on these standards and all other criteria. Members of CMS should take advantage of the Association's invitation to participate individually, through CMS or their institution's NASM representative. There will be several opportunities for comment before they are presented to the NASM members for a vote to make them the standard for institutional review.

The commitment to provide a more effective education in music for the non-major has now grown to include the college music unit's responsibility for reaching out to engage the larger "community." It should be noted that CMS has declared as a high priority the necessity for musicians in higher education to become more engaged with communities both within our institutions and outside. To emphasize this position, the Society has begun a dialogue on the proposal that an education in music is the responsibility of ALL music faculty.

The numerous presentations, seminars, and discussions that have taken place over the years since Wingspread certainly underscores the need for faculty and administrators to work together to more effectively address this continuing challenge if our profession is to remain viable in the future for the general public - our students of today. It is perhaps time for an another comprehensive review of this topic that would once again do as the Wingspread Conference did: "Define the issues, seek appropriate solutions and establish a renewed emphasis on music in general studies." It would appear that, for both faculty and administrators, this has an even greater urgency now than it had twenty five years ago.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 07/05/2013

Robert J. Werner

Robert J. Werner is Dean Emeritus of the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, having served as Dean of the institution from 1985 to 2000.  He served as Director of the School of Music of the University of Arizona 1973-1985, Director of the Contemporary Music Project from 1968 to 1973, and as Associate Professor of Music at SUNY-Binghamton from 1966 to 1969.  He has served as President of the International Society for Music Education (1984-1986), the National Association of Schools of Music (1989-1991), and The College Music Society (1977-1978).  He is author of numerous textbooks, scholarly publications, and articles; has served as a conductor, clinician, and speaker at numerous state, national, and international conferences; and has served as a consultant and accreditation reviewer for over 100 institutions in the United States and internationally.

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