The Wingspread Conference on Music In General Studies was held at the Johnson Foundation Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin, in 1981. The purpose here is to discuss the background, goals, and outcomes of this Conference, particularly the workshops and conferences that followed.

From the earliest days of CMS, its governing Board included representation that reflected six distinct academic specializations: Theory, Musicology, Composition, Music Education, Ethnomusicology, and Performance. In 1977, a seventh position on the CMS Board was added, a position representing Music in General Education. The first person to represent "MGE" was Bob Trotter (third president of CMS). This position focused attention on teaching courses for college students who were not majoring in music.

Bob Trotter often spoke with great passion about two distinct aspects of Music in General Studies: (1) the general education of music majors, and (2) music in the general education of all college students (sometimes referred to as "non-majors"). Early in my involvement with CMS, I learned of Bob Trotter's refusal to describe or define any human being a "non-something" (as in such common 20th-century phrases as non-white, non-American, non-European, non-male, non-Ivy League, non-Christian, non-resident, non-urban, or non-music major). With practice over many years, Bob developed a delightful ease in referring to "Non-Music Majors" as "StudentsWhoAreMajoringInSomethingOtherThanMusic." When Bob took a big breath and then quickly spewed that string of nine words, as he exhaled he made the longer phrase sound as compact and uncomplicated as any one-syllable adjective.

Beginning in 1994, as a memorial to Robert Trotter (1922-1994), each annual CMS National Conference has featured a plenary session by an invited speaker who presented a significant lecture addressed to those who teach music in higher education. For more than a decade, The Robert M. Trotter Lectures have provided CMS members with insightful messages from musician/teachers who, in the tradition of Bob Trotter, challenge our self-imposed limitations and expand our views of what could happen in our chosen field. These annual lectures (or summaries of the speeches) also have been made available to all CMS members through Symposium, the CMS Newsletter, or the CMS website.

The Next Phase: CMS and Music in General Studies (MGS)

In 1980, when David Willoughby joined the CMS Board, the position of Member-at-Large for Music in General Education (MGE) was renamed Music in General Studies (MGS). This shift of terminology reflected an emphasis on music as a part of all college students' general studies in higher education. It was during Chappell White's presidency (1979 and 1980), that CMS's elected leaders decided to focus more attention on MGS and the many challenges related to providing effective teaching of music courses for college students who were majoring in subjects other than music.

In response to the above concerns, CMS submitted a proposal to the Johnson Foundation requesting its support of a conference focusing on Music in General Studies, to be held at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine (WI). Quoting from a report of the foundation's activities during the early 1980s, "The goal for each Wingspread conference is to define a problem with precision and clarity required for useful consideration and to bring together the appropriate group of men and women to work for its solution or amelioration." The CMS Wingspread Conference on Music in General Studies was envisioned as an invitational conference that asked participants to identify serious professional concerns and also to recommend specific projects or actions that CMS might undertake on behalf of college students who were not majoring in music. Since that pool included nearly all college students, it represented a significant population that would have an inordinate influence on music in American society - no matter what jobs and professions they pursued.

The Wingspread Conference Planning Committee consisted of Chappell White (CMS President in 1979 and 1980), David Willoughby (Board Member for Music in General Studies in 1980-1982), and Barbara English Maris (CMS President in 1981 and 1982. In planning the Conference, CMS members were invited to nominate outstanding teachers who were involved in and committed to presenting effective music courses for "CollegeStudentsWhoMajorInSomethingOtherThanMusic." Self-nominations were invited as well as nominations of colleagues. Nominees did not have to be members of CMS. From more than one hundred nominations, thirty teachers of MGS (only one of whom was a CMS officer) were invited to attend the Wingspread Conference.

The thirty invited participants taught at colleges and universities that included institutions representing a wide variety of types, sizes, and geographic settings. In addition, six CMS representatives functioned as facilitators or reporters of the discussion groups. Selected officers of the National Association of School of Music (NASM) also attended the conference and were involved in planning activities that would occur "Beyond Wingspread."

After the presentation of three position papers by Robert Trotter (University of Oregon), Vada Butcher (Spelman College), and Elaine Brodsky (New York University), observations were shared by Thomas Miller (Northwestern University, then President of NASM). Then conference participants were divided into four discussion groups and challenged to develop specific recommendations for "next steps" that CMS would consider implementing.

Recommendations from the Wingspread Conference

Growing out of discussions at Wingspread, six specific actions were identified and recommended to the CMS Board as significant goals for the society to pursue:

  • A national workshop for curriculum development, tentatively set for summer 1982
  • A conference for music executives, addressed specifically to the issues of administration in relation to music in general studies and to the question of the status of the general studies teacher
  • Data collection, designed to assess the state of the art, to find out what is taking place nationally through profiles of teachers, students, and curricula
  • Programs relating to music in general studies at CMS national and regional chapter meetings
  • Cooperation with the National Association of Schools of Music and other national educational organizations
  • Funding from corporate and private foundation sources to support activities developing emphasis on music in general studies

Beyond Wingspread

Following the Wingspread Conference, many of the society's subsequent MGS activities can be traced back to that innovative conference, including the following:

  • CMS published an extensive and attractive report of the Conference.
  • A series of Summer Institutes for Music in General Studies were held at the University of Colorado in Boulder (1982-1985). These were followed by a series of MGS workshops focusing on world music (1986-1989).
  • The Dearborn (Michigan) Conference on Music in General Studies (1983) brought together NASM administrators of music programs in higher education and CMS teachers. Together they grappled with issues that affect music education in higher education. These complete papers presented at the Dearborn Conference were printed in a conference report of the conference that was widely disbursed. The papers are easily accessible on the CMS website.
  • Following the Wingspread Conference, issues related to teaching music in general studies have been included regularly on the programs of CMS regional and national meetings.

For almost five decades, CMS members have established a reputation for addressing difficult questions and not settling for simplistic answers. Now, perhaps it is time for CMS to sponsor a 21st-century MGS conference that re-visits some of the current issues related to Music in General Studies.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 07/05/2013

Barbara English Maris

Barbara English Maris has been actively involved with The College Music Society throughout her professional career as a musician in higher education. She first joined CMS in 1973, as a student member of CMS.  After completing doctoral work (DMA in piano performance) at Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, she taught at several very different types of institutions: Federal City College (Washington, DC); Smith College (Northfield, MA); and University of Wisconsin-Parkside (Kenosha, WI). Her final twenty years of teaching before retirement were at The Catholic University of America (CUA - Washington, DC), where she directed the graduate degree programs in piano pedagogy and worked with students from six continents. After retiring from CUA as a Professor Emerita, she has remained active as a musician, author, teacher, and mentor of teachers. Her book, Making Music at the Piano: Learning Strategies for Adult Students, was published by Oxford University Press (2000). Dr. Maris was the first woman to be elected President of CMS, serving in that role in 1981 and 1982. She and her husband, David Willoughby (CMS President in 1987 and 1988), now live in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, where the vista from their back yard includes wide expanses of Lancaster County's preserved farmland.

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