Graduate Education of the Musician-Teacher

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This paper was part of a panel presentation for The College Music Society at the University of Toronto on November 7, 1970 entitled Music and Higher Education in the 1970's. Chairman of the panel was William J. Mitchell. The other panelists were Charles Hamm, Mantle Hood, James Haar, Claude V. Palisca, and Neal Zaslaw. Abstracts of the papers they presentedas well as Mitchell's introductory remarkswere also included in Symposium Volume 11.

Anyone who has been reading our professional literature during the past decade knows that there is no lack of "experts" nor paucity of opinions on the subject of educating teachers. In the fear of obscuring the subject with yet another view, I will try to briefly explain some considerations of this important matter as we face the challenges of the present decade.

First, I would like you to understand that my interpretation of the word "teacher" is flexible enough to include practically all professional musicians. I do this because I feel that any job analysis of the members of our profession would show that they spend a major portion of their professional time communicating about music. Whether in the studio or the classroom, a graduate seminar, or on the podium, they are in a position of being "teachers," in the very best sense of that word.

In considering the need for a new type of education for teachers of music, I am first reminded of the Yale Seminar which in 1963 prepared a document of recommendations that was most prophetic in light of the reforms now being discussed in music education. In its report the Seminar recommended "that comprehensively competent musicians should be the aim of teacher training." They went on to emphasize the great need for more music history and literature and an increased emphasis upon analytical understanding as part of the college education. The report concluded that "there was no substitute for the initiative and imagination of a teacher steeped in his subject." In order to achieve these ideals new means of education had to be sought.

I would caution us now of the obvious fact that any consideration or revision of curricula must not lose sight of the fact that a mere curriculum description or philosophy remains rather abstract until it is brought to life by a competent musician-teacher. In other words, it is the individual teacher or professor who gives meaning to educational strategies and plans. Therefore, it seems to me that it is impossible to discuss graduate curriculum without some understanding of the type of undergraduate experiences the student needs.

The project which I represent has been involved over a period of some five years with developing an undergraduate curriculum based upon the theory of comprehensive musicianship. Which, I must hasten to add, is no set "course" but rather more of an approach or attitude. To give you a more succinct description of this approach, I would like to quote from Professor Mitchell's description of this theory as it appeared in an article in Symposium in 1969: "The theory of comprehensive musicianship is divided into four elements. (1) Each component of basic music studies should be directly related to all others; (2) Individual courses should draw materials and techniques equally from all eras. The third affirms the ultimate applicability of the theory and practice of comprehensive musicianship to all levels of education in music and to all types of participating students, regardless of their designs on a professional calling in music. The fourth gives a statement to the basic educational objective of comprehensive musicianship: To encourage the student to develop self-direction, exercise his imagination, and sharpen his critical judgment in a broad perspective of music." An undergraduate education based upon these principles would best be achieved by applying many of the attitudes and practices that have traditionally been associated with graduate education to the undergraduate level.

In October 1970, a Commission on Teacher Education established by the Music Educators National Conference stated in their interim report that "Music educators need to demonstrate at least a minimum knowledge of and competence to teach in "all musics," and cannot be restricted in their training to the styles represented by a few hundred years of Western art music. The enormity of the task of becoming competent to function within the whole spectrum of music dictates the need for a new set of tools. Music educators need something more than performance skills. They must develop a comprehensive musicianship which, coupled with an open-mindedness toward the use of any sounds combined in a musical context, will enable them to address themselves to any music they encounter."

Proposals seeking this broader content are now appearing from many sources. I believe they contain several implications for future curricula at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

1. That the artificial compartmentalization of students, faculty and content is not desirable and indeed defeats the ideal of achieving a synthesis of musical understanding and experiences.

2. That schools and departments consider one Bachelor of Music degree for the preparation of all musicians in which they would develop competencies in all the components of musicianship—analytical skills, performance, and compositional processes along with an ability to communicate these skills and understandings—together with humanistic studies for their general personal enrichment.

3. That the traditional four-year time span or the accumulation of course hours is not the measure of an "education" in music. Rather, as some have recommended, that the faculty should establish competencies for the undergraduate candidate and seek means to evaluate their fulfillment, no matter what the time span might be to achieve this.

I believe we are at a time when we will see more and more responsibility placed upon college faculties to evaluate their "product." Already several states have taken the lead in this way and many more are on the verge of following, by putting the responsibility for certification of public school teachers on the faculty that prepares the candidate. Obviously this removes the long held practice of colleges blaming the state certification agencies for all of our problems and regimentation in undergraduate education. Such a procedure brings the responsibility, as it should always be, on the entire faculty of a school or department of music for the preparation of teachers at all levels and not simply on a group labeled the "Music Education Department."

I submit that a graduate program built upon this kind of a comprehensive undergraduate education should continue to direct approximately one-third of its emphasis toward this integrated approach to musical studies with the remaining two-thirds devoted to the development of a more in-depth specialty. However, I well understand that the day when we can assume this type of undergraduate preparation is not immediately in sight. Therefore, it seems to me that in considering graduate curriculum for the present it is extremely important to take into consideration the lack of this type of integrated undergraduate education and to develop a program, particularly at the master's level, which will direct up to half of the required work towards developing a structure for synthesizing the components of musicianship. I believe it would be undesirable for anyone to leave our institutions with a graduate degree who has not experienced the concept of synthesis of musical processes and without having developed an attitude necessary for a more integrated musical approach in his professional work.

How would such an education be implemented? I believe that this type of education depends upon a similar atmosphere within the school or graduate department. The student must see the actual personification of these theories in the entire modus operandi of the school or department and most certainly in the attitude and actions of his professors. This would mean the dedication of a faculty who were teaching scholars and performers as well as research scholars and concert artists. Naturally this means that professors must be rewarded for this type of activity by the administration. A love for teaching and the importance it holds in the transmission of the art of music can best be communicated to our graduate students by an identification with professors who exemplify this type of personal commitment. The education I speak of here is not training; it is the difference between teaching and telling. It is an honest response to the students in our colleges and universities who today are calling us to task for the apparent inconsistency between our publicly stated goals and our actual performance.

May I close by suggesting a few ways in which such a graduate program could be implemented:

1. By creating an atmosphere within the department or the graduate program that would destroy the artificial compartmentalization of the student's musical education and that would develop an attitude in which all musicians are responsible for a musical education in both the public school and the college.

2. The development of a graduate collegium or colloquium of students and faculty to foster inquiry into a variety of subjects that would tap the expertise and specialities of both graduate students and faculty. Such a forum could be a graphic example of the rich diversity of the specialized areas within the profession while at the same time reflecting its central commonality music. Some colleges have been using this approach with considerable success.

3. The establishment of actual teaching internships for graduate students interested in college teaching. These internships might be most fruitful if done in coordination with junior colleges. This branch of higher education is obviously growing to an extent that it will have a significant influence on upper division and graduate programs during this decade, if not already. I would suggest that graduate students be given supervision in teaching freshman and sophomore level courses of comprehensive musicianship in coordination with area junior colleges. Programs of this type have been developed by our Project and have been highly successful. They have proved to be a way for bridging the gap between the junior and senior institutions, so often a problem in most states. Senior colleges and graduate schools must assume the responsibility for the preparation of teachers specifically for this field and through them the curriculum of the junior colleges.

4. Teaching assistantships in the senior colleges must be viewed as being more than a cheap labor supply. Professors must be freed to truly mentor the developing college teacher so that he is not simply a means for freeing the senior professor for further research and publishing activities.

What I have been trying to suggest in this brief consideration is that we need to rethink the purposes and responsibilities of graduate education in music and how it is affected both by the undergraduate curriculum and the education and perspective of the college professors. I would submit that compartmentalized specialization can no longer be relevant to the preparation needed by the members of the music profession of the future unless it is based upon a thorough understanding of the interrelationships and synthesis of the entire musical process. Curriculum reform will only take place when the college graduate faculties and administrators re-establish their priorities and rewards in accordance with this type of education. Certainly the most significant area for influencing change is the graduate education of musicians who can communicate through and about music. It will be the responsibility of the college professor, the alumnus of our graduate programs, to provide the education of the future generation of teachers and professional musicians. Thus they hold within their power the ability to affect all aspects of the profession. We must seek a more comprehensive approach to the education of musicians while at the same time not sacrificing the musical standards so necessary for a viable profession.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 13/11/2018

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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