Cross-Fertilization of Conservatory and College on the American Campus
Published online: 1 October 1967
- PDF: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40373201
The speakers—Klaus Liepmann, Louis Krasner, Norman Lloydwere asked to discuss critically the present pattern of professional musical training in the USA, contrasting it with European patterns. The speakers were also asked to indicate which features of the American pattern might well be retained and which ones might well be modified in order that our schools meet the future needs of our culture for professionally trained musicians.
A POINT OF VIEW—#1
In Europe the professional musician's education takes place in a conservatory or an academy of music. Besides special training in voice, in his special instrument, in composition or in conducting, he receives an all around musical education in theory, history of music and in the general literature of music. In addition, there is an attempt to fill the gaps of general humanistic education so often neglected in the musically gifted individual. Courses in literature (non-musical) and history are required; yet frequently, just as here in America, they are spottily attended and not taken seriously by the students and their special teachers who are jealously guarding their practice time and even balk at playing in the conservatory orchestra or singing in the chorus.
Every conservatory has classes for children who thus from the very beginning are assured of the best possible instruction and stiff competition. A teacher training division is attached, and the diplomas given are the artist's or the teacher's certificate. No conservatory student would swap these diplomas for any number of Ph.D. degrees.
It is noteworthy that all conservatories in Germany are state controlled and have always been since long before Hitler. The state commission which supervises, inspects and hires and fires the staff of the conservatories consists of civil servants who are trained in music. They are not any better and certainly not worse than our boards of trustees, overseers, Ford Foundation officials, Lincoln Center administrators, etc. At best, they keep up a comparative standard within the various institutions, and they spread information of innovations and improvements by describing to, let us say, the faculty in Cologne a new way of teaching counterpoint which they observed in Hamburg.
M.A. and Ph.D. degrees are solely conferred by the universities in Europe whose departments limit themselves to the fields of musicology, Aufführungspraxis, style analysis. There are no courses in "applied music" and rarely any in composition, and the making of music is limited to a Collegium Musicum which serves as a teaching laboratory. There are no extra-curricular college glee clubs, orchestras and bands as we have them in such abundance in America.
Thus the music education in Europe is strangely divided between practical music and academic theories of music.
This dichotomy is somewhat alleviated by the flourishing musical life of the average community in Europe and especially in Germany. A municipal opera house is the rule rather than the exception—83 are in Germany, most of them staffed by American singers! There is commonly a municipal orchestra, a conservatory and a university—if not in the city itself at least within easy driving distance—and, of course, civic choral societies as we know them are everpresent.
Then there are—and this, I believe, is the greatest difference between Europe and America—regional radio and television stations with their own orchestras, choruses and chamber music ensembles. Rehearsing daily, they commission and play contemporary works—each regional network not imitating Berlin, but rather priding itself on its own individual and distinct program. Thus radio and television in Europe play the most important part for experimentation, progress, diversity and the employment of musicians.
I won't have to dwell on the musical situation in the United States with which we are all familiar. Let me just enumerate a few points which I consider unique and significant: The great quantity and frequently the high quality of the teaching and making of music in our schools is phenomenal. The training of teachers is vastly divergent and uneven because it takes place in teacher's colleges which are not really nationally co-ordinated, let alone federally controlled.
Conservatories, colleges and universities all train musicians as well as musicologists and teachers, and they issue B.A.'s, M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s of the most unlikely varieties.
However, let us not forget the incredibly active extracurricular life of our colleges and universities as we all know it.
When we come to the musical life of the average American community (even of the big cities), we find a rather sad picture: no permanent opera (with two or three exceptions), no independent "live music" radio station, usually no conservatory (a handful of exceptions) and only very lately the chance of a professional orchestra (usually employed for only a few months of the year). However, on the positive side: at least one excellent choral society and a valiant attempt by the local college or university to carry on a musical life of its own.
If I were to state my hopes for improvement of our music education, retaining and combining the features of Europe and the United States, they would be these:
A more standardized music education on all levels. This seems impossible to achieve due to the vastness of our country. Pump-priming, hopefully with federal and foundation help and competition, seems the only answer and possibly the College Music Society could serve as a clearing-house and provide much-needed stimulants.
It seems clear that all aspects of music should be taught—not strings in one place, woodwinds in another, theory in a third and music education in still another. Our music schools or departments (whatever we call them) must be as all-inclusive as medical schools, offering both the general background and teaching specialized skills to their students.
However, due to the expansion of our field of knowledge and the unextended time for study, we need new methods of music teaching just as we develop new methods for the teaching of science, e.g., the "New Math." After many years of struggle, chemistry is now taught at M.I.T. in half the time it used to take. We might well have to teach harmony and counterpoint within a single academic year!
With the time won we should update and intensify our teaching. There is a need, for example, for a) modern eartraining methods and exercises which pertain to contemporary music and go beyond conventional scales and intervals; b) facility in improvisation, so as to escape the strait jacket of notation—at least temporarily; c) knowledge of mathematics, acoustics, electronics, computer techniques for purposes of analysis as well as synthesis; d) modern library techniques; e) experiments with novel tone colors, notation, reproduction of music; f) style analysis with the help of computers; g) inscribing music directly on tape.
The cleavage between mens et manus—between academic music subjects and applied music—ought to be bridged once and for all. Make extracurricular music serve as a laboratory for the music courses and consider the latter in turn as a means of supplementing and elucidating the active music-making. Demand of every future composer, musicologist and music teacher extensive and skillful participation in singing and in the playing of musical instruments. And let the "points" and "credits" fall where they may.
In order to improve the music making, the laboratory work, we need to introduce string quartets and other "artists in residence." They inspire our students and raise the standard of performance immeasurably. Above all, the professional musician conveys the all-important imponderables of a sensitive musical performance, which cannot be communicated otherwise—either by textbooks or by lectures, or even by records.
Today we hear everywhere that basic science for everybody is as important as Latin and Greek used to be hundreds of years ago. Granted—and I repeat that I am firmly convinced that the musician of tomorrow will need a thorough training in electronics, computer techniques, as well as in traditional harmony and serial techniques. On the other hand, it needs stressing that we are sadly in need of "Basic Music" for our future audiences and managers. We music educators are not doing our job in "selling our product" (a term I dislike intensely, but which I will use nevertheless for its shock value). We ought to add intensive music courses for our architects, performing arts center administrators, music critics, foundation directors, radio and television directors, State Department advisors, university presidents, acousticians, music publishers, record hucksters, trustees of orchestra and opera societies. I purposely leave out of this Rabelaisian list the politicians who are not nearly as delinquent as the rest of our society. Seriously, it needs stressing that the ignorance and lack of initiative and pioneering spirit of our general public in matters of music is scandalous. Our musical education and the life of our musicians will not improve until we attack successfully and continuously the antiquated laissez-faire attitude of our so-called cultural leaders who determine the fate of our colleges, conservatories, universities, opera houses, orchestras, choruses, performing arts centers, cultural imports and exports. We are still laboring under the system of Barnum and Bailey: import from Europe the very best, don't bother with growing artists, certainly not with local soloists or orchestras; import ready-made "package deals" and ask a stiff price for it. That is the reason why we have frequently stuffy old music museums where we should and could have active and lively experimentation and studies in the making of music in our schools, colleges, universities, communities and on our air waves.
Our discussion takes place under the heading: Cross Fertilization of Conservatories and Music Departments. I could summarize my stand by saying: I am in favor of marriage and I like to have children around, and I would like to hear music and make it at least as much as talk about it. The ideal seems to me a combination of conservatory and college or university. A children's division should be included—similar to the experimental practice school for faculty children which serves frequently as a teaching tool for teacher trainees. An active center of the performing arts should be a part of this complex. In other words, it is my firm belief that the role of the college and university in America must be, as far as music, theatre and art are concerned, a combination of the American spirit of pioneering and independence with the merits and functions of the European municipal or state opera, orchestra, conservatory, university and the regional radio and television networks.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
A POINT OF VIEW—#2
There is perhaps still some disagreement among scholars and educators concerning the responsibility of universities and colleges in the training of professional performing musicians. Actually, the question has become rhetorical and the debaters have been outflanked. Like conservatories, most universities and colleges bid very strongly for students who seek professional music training. And conservatories, in their turn, try desperately to look like academic institutions, determined to meet the challenge of the stronger competitor on campus. Outside either the conservatory or the campus, instrumental instruction at an advanced level and of professional quality is practically non-existent. Where, in rare instances it may be found, the cost is generally prohibitive. Thus, our academic institutions carry the major share of responsibility for specialized training in the performing arts. It also follows reasonably that the future of music in this country depends largely on the quality of our undergraduate college students and on the excellence of their musical and artistic training. This applies in equal measure to all students aspiring to become professionals in music, whether soloists, orchestra and ensemble players, or teachers in public and private schools.
If now our music school curricula are subjected to critical scrutiny and reevaluation, may not this be occasioned by the limited success of our training? It seems to me that numerous problems arise because our schools feel obligated to do everything for everyone—to achieve a gray consensus in order to satisfy larger enrollments. The degree course programs are designed to be educational in a general sort of way, functional, multi-purposed, and sufficient in scope to qualify the student adequately for a variety of possibilities, presumably open to him upon graduation.
But this very openness inclines sometimes to frustrate both faculty and student. The glamorous statistics on "America's Continuing Boom in Music" contrasted to the serious student's sense of inadequacy after four or five years of university study, often leave the young musician holding a college degree and facing a career, but bewildered and without the urge and stimulation to further develop his talents to their fullest potential. The campus emphasis on grades and on the degree credit system tends to deflect the student from his primary task: that of mastering his instrument in order to perform with authority and musicianship.
The universities and colleges have overwhelmed and absorbed the conservatories as well as the private music schools and teachers. Their strength lies in their power to offer the student a degree which promises to insure a safe haven in an uncertain music world. What confronts us now as the essential factor is the urgency for universities to recognize without delay the need to make appropriate adjustments in their institutional arrangements in order to fulfill their responsibilities as institutions for professional training in music.
In a recent article, Hans Sittner, Director of the Vienna Music Academy, quoted the words of Goethe. "Everyone," Goethe held, "wants to be able to achieve something, to do what is right; but fails to realize, that he can only do so as part of a greater whole." The attainment of heights in one area lends perception and understanding of another. Albert Einstein asserted, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
Numerous problems present themselves. The old European patterns of professional music training constitute a system geared to the talented few and perhaps violate our essential principle of mass education. On the other hand, the musically gifted who rise to professional status within American systems are too often disadvantaged during their program of education by conditions which retard or prevent them from achieving full blossoming of their artistic worth.
Let us draw an analogy to European patterns. Our university freshman, matriculating in pursuit of a professional music degree, represents in age and, theoretically, in level of attainment, the counterpart of the entrant to the Paris Conservatoire, the Vienna Music Academy, or the Moscow Conservatory. In four or five years he must be prepared to play concerts, audition for a position in a professional orchestra or chamber music ensemble, or he must be equipped to teach as a professional musician in a public or private school.
For the majority of our university and college music departments—and indeed for the students, a point of great stress begins here at this relatively early but critical juncture. Only a small minority of the applicants duly enrolled are genuinely qualified and possessive of a musical mind. The faculty is soon left to face numerous withdrawals and then to cope as best it can with those students who will earn their passing grades, graduate, and finally be sent on to the teaching or performance professions. Additionally, they will, of course, influence attitudes in contemporary musical life.
Although we may feel confident that our society has accepted the idea of the college and university as the advanced training ground for the performing arts, it remains for us to promote and clearly establish, in conjunction with this, public recognition of the necessity and hence responsibility for high quality training also during the student's preparatory years. Continued inattention to the needs of the gifted child will impoverish our valuable human resources in the arts and also leave our university and college music departments stranded.
Recent developments in European music instruction highlight a few first steps which we also might take towards solving our national music dilemma. Following careful investigation and study, several foreign governments have established and subsidized state music schools in many cities throughout their provinces for the training of their children by professional musicians. In France, for example, seven hours of classroom time are set aside weekly for music study in primary and secondary education. In this way, they feel that instruction in music culture and humanism is provided early for the enlightened amateur, while later, a cycle of intense study is then reserved for the aspiring professional orchestra player and soloist. Denmark, with equal foresight, passed new parliamentary regulations which specify that in all cases music teaching may be done only by highly qualified specialists in each field, so that also the general student is guaranteed a proper introduction to the art of music.
In the December Music Journal, Professor Alexander Nikolayev, Deputy Director of the Moscow Conservatory, describes the Russian network of music schools which has an enrollment of 200,000; tuition is free, and student allowances are paid by the state. Professor Nikolayev also cautions, "A fact always to be borne in mind is that a musician can attain the highest skill as a performer only if he masters the fundamentals of technique from his very childhood." In the U.S.S.R., music education is based on gradual selectivity beginning with the junior music school, followed by the senior specialized music school and only then is selection made for the Conservatory. This Russian educational structure is not designed specifically for the exceptionally gifted. Eleven years of specialized music study is expected before the music aspirant is admitted to the Conservatory for professional study.
The Toronto Royal Conservatory encompasses a School of Music whose most important function is to act as a preparatory school, offering special courses in which younger students can get valuable grounding in all subjects before proceeding to the University.
Britain published its Gulbenkian Report, Making Musicians, late in 1965. This is a report on music education which was sponsored by the Gulbenkian Foundation. In addition to an intensified curriculum, it recommends that a new Performer's Diploma be created, that the State give the Music Colleges aid equal to that contemplated for university and technological education and that a National Conservatory be created for higher and advanced studies. Further, for the students, the Report sets forth a time-table of thirty-five hours a week in their principal subject, comprising ten hours of instruction and twenty-five hours of private study and practice.
Returning on this point to our own considerations relative to the present pattern of university and conservatory performance training in the United States, it should be stressed with finality that every program of study must be rejected as unrealistic and unsound, if it curtails, in any manner whatsoever, the student's minimum study time of thirty-five hours a week with his instrument. The four years of constant study and practice, so essential during the undergraduate years, cannot ever be recaptured or compensated for. The instrumental course programs must absolutely be organized around this major requirement.
In a recent Science magazine article, John R. Platt, published his contribution to the 1966 University of Chicago Liberal Arts Conference on the topic, What Knowledge Is Most Worth Having? Dr. Platt wrote, "I celebrate diversity. Our research, our lives, our goals, our pursuit of excellence are all too homogeneous. More diversity in our science, our patterns of living and our education would enrich us all. How many of us have gotten D's and F's in apple-tree courses simply because the teacher was too narrow to see that we had to be nurtured as pear trees." The learning and penetration of a Beethoven Sonata or a Bach Partita is as disciplined an act of study, as broadening culturally, and enriching spiritually as, for example, a semester's work in genetics, sociology, or the English novel. All mountain peaks share an open view of the surrounding landscape and distant valleys.
Within the routine of customary college and university programs, our exceptionally talented musicians, our talented ones, our average and mediocre students, and our amateurs are separated, if at all, only by shades and degrees. I have recently had to undergo the painful experience of allowing a most gifted student to write an assigned 400-page term paper on a "History of the Crusades," instead of helping him concentrate his talent, his time, and his effort on the preparation of a new concerto for performance with orchestra, which he could have accomplished beautifully and creatively.
The hour is now here for our educational institutions to set new priorities. Of primary importance is a greater understanding—a personal perception, if you will—of how time may be more fruitfully spent in the general education and the professional training of a performing musician. Inevitably, this will lead to more diversity in course requirements and greater allowance for individual difference among students of varying talent.
In conclusion, may I underscore the words of advice printed in the 1965 Rockefeller Report: "The universities and colleges will also have to develop flexibility in their curriculums and in scheduling classes to insure that students who wish to prepare themselves for performing careers are given the opportunity to concentrate single-mindedly on their art."
Syracuse, New York
A POINT OF VIEW—#3
In this period when more and more professionally trained musicians are teaching in the music departments of liberal arts colleges, it is important for them to remember that there is a distinction between education in a conservatory and education in a liberal arts college. The aim of the conservatory is completely focused on turning out well-trained performers and composers who intend to have professional careers in music. The aim of the music department of the liberal arts college is to educate young men and women through, rather than for, music.
The difference in aims and objectives is reflected in the kind of student who chooses the liberal arts college. This does not mean that musically talented students do not go to college. There are many such who do, and who could, if they wanted, have careers in music. But in college the talented music students tend not to work at top capacity. Partly this is due to lack of self-motivation; partly it is due to the lack of competition. In a conservatory the entering student hears within a day or so ten pianists or singers or violinists who are miles beyond him. He realizes at that moment that he is going to have to utilize every drop of talent that he possesses. The same student in a liberal arts college soon realizes that he is ahead of his competition. He relaxes, since he knows that even if he works up to half his capacity he will still be the best. If he is continuing his work in music as a part of a general education, this is fine. If, on the other hand, he is falsely encouraged to think of himself as an incipient soloist, he is being misled. It is sometimes difficult to hew to a line, but it is important that the college music teacher always remember the intent of his teaching.
Content is something else. While there is a great degree of difference between conservatory training and the instrumental work in a college music department, there need be no great difference in the course work required of music students in both situations. Theory, history, ear-training, and sight-singing should be taught to all students seriously interested in music. These subjects should not be taught, however, just for themselves or just because tradition dictates they be taught. They must be taught as various ways of equipping a student to understand the most important aspect of music—the creative process. Teaching a group of students to write four-part harmony is of little value, unless the student learns to view part-writing as a part of compositional procedure. (Bach, after all, did a rather good job of harmonizing the best known chorale tunes—sometimes exhaustively). Courses in so-called "appreciation" must aim at doing more than equipping a student to recognize a rondo form or any of the other form-molds that loom so important in some music courses. Ideally, a student should emerge from a course in music not just equipped to drop the names of composers at cocktail parties, but rather with an understanding and true appreciation of what music is all about. Only when an understanding of the creative process has become a part of his thought habits can the student really be considered to have real musical training.
(Summary prepared by the author)
The Rockefeller Foundation
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