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College Music Symposium: A Reflection on the Past and a Step into the Future

College Music Symposium, the premier journal of The College Music Society, was published in print form for 50 years, 1961-2010. The journal included scholarly and historical articles, reviews of publications and recordings, reports of musical events, and discussion of curricula and teaching methods of interest to the music and higher education community.

Symposium emerges today as a refereed, web-based service through which The College Music Society presents the work of its members to the public and professional musicians. The name “College Music Symposium” honors the achievements of the past while using new technologies to meet the continuing needs of the public and all working in the music field.

Symposium includes ten major service areas:

  • Scholarship and Research—refereed scholarly articles
  • CMS Forums—Opinions, editorials, commentary and essays
  • Reviews—reviews of books, textbooks, periodicals, and instructional materials
  • Instructional Technologies, Methodologies, and Resources—review and discussion of technologies and methods useful for teaching in the classroom and studio
  • CMS Report—in depth reports concerning important topics, events, or issues
  • Music Business-Industry—presentation of reports and discussion of topics relevant to music business-industry education
  • CMS Audio Archive—an audio archive of performances of CMS members
  • Lectures, Performances, and Lecture-Recitals—a video archive of refereed music lectures, performances, and lecture-recitals
  • CMS Conference Archive—abstracts of international, national, and regional music conferences
  • Events in Music—information concerning events in and outside academe, including international music conferences

T. S. Eliot received the Nobel Prize in 1948 for his work as a trailblazing pioneer of modern poetry. His memorable poem "The Four Quartets" captures, in my opinion, where we are today as we reflect on fifty years of the publication of College Music Symposium;

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future


And time future contained in time past.


If all time is eternally present


All time is unredeemable


What might have been is an abstraction


Remaining a perpetual possibility 


Only in a world of speculation.


What might have been and what has been


Point to one end, which is always present.


Footfalls echo in the memory 


Down the passage which we did not take


Towards the door we never opened into the rose garden.


My words echo thus in your mind.


We stand today as members of The College Music Society in the "present" of all the complexities of music in higher education and music in society. As we enter a new era in the life of Symposium, we look at the future and its many possibilities and opportunities with excitement and yet with anxiety. We take with us "time past" as we enter into this new era of publication. We take with us "time present" as we contemplate the future purposes and activities of The College Music Society, as well as the web based publication of Symposium.

The founders of College Music Symposium began their discussions of the purpose and direction of the journal during the winter of 1960. In 1961, Symposium, with its startling breadth of topics and its all-encompassing perspective of issues, concerns, and scholarly work in music in higher education, became a reality. Donald M. McCorkle, first editor of Symposium, stated the purpose and the goal of the journal in his editorial in volume 1, published in fall 1961. McCorkle presents the purpose of Symposium as the amalgamation of scholarly thought, research, and ideas that transcend areas of specialization and provide a unique cross-section of provocative ideas in music. The journal was to stimulate the intellectual curiosity of composers, theorists, conductors, pianists, singers, educators, and administrators – all faculty in music in higher education. It was to be "a different sort of scholarly journal,” "address[ing] itself with optimism and vigor" to each of the professional areas in music.

A year later, in volume 2 (fall, 1962), McCorkle stated "that the future of CMS and Symposium is completely in the hands of you the members, readers, and authors." He strongly emphasized that Symposium should not duplicate or run parallel to the journals and activities of other associations, but that The College Music Society and its journal should rise above provincialism and should "take our place with our own best assets which are considerable among the foremost American musical associations." He strongly suggested that we could do so by understanding ourselves and those with whom we work.

As we launch Symposium as a web-based service, we look in the rear view mirror at Donald M. McCorkle's earlier predictions and statements of purpose. Have we created a provocative and stimulating forum in Symposium that transcends the barriers of specialization? Have we shared our collective wisdom as a professional and a professional Society? Have we provided our culture with a greater understanding of our art form and our pedagogy? Has Symposium succeeded in the purposes stated by the founders in 1960?

Harold Spivacke's article, "The CMS Amidst National Societies," which was published in volume 2 (fall, 1962) of Symposium, provides a framework by which we might address the questions posed above. In his review of the relationship of The College Music Society to other societies in our field, he delineates the components and aspects of our profession and its work. He charges us to provide a critical evaluation of teaching at the college level and he welcomes an evaluation of our work by high school teachers. He emphasizes the importance of the relationship of the higher education community to the private music teacher. He stresses the importance of our research and scholarly activity to the work and purposes of the private music teacher. He emphasizes questions of curricula and course content. He challenges us to review law and politics as they relate to the field of music in higher education. He focuses on the publication of books, scores, and records. He draws us to an awareness of copyright law and he addresses government subsidies of the arts.

These topics, first brought to the attention of readers of Symposium at its founding, guided future issues of the journal. Throughout its early volumes, Symposium contained a "Symposium" or "Topics and Perspective" section in which several contributors wrote on a single topic from various perspectives. For example, Volume 3 (1963) published a report of the Committee on Music in the Elementary and Secondary schools which recommended summer training institutes for K-12 teachers, quality standards of musical performance, standards for high school text books in music history and theory, the discontinuation of humanities or related arts courses, and the better education of college guidance counselors. Volume 4 (1964) contained a Symposium section entitled "Performance as Humanistic Study" and Volume 5 (1965) contained a Symposium section addressing "The Crisis in Theory Teaching."

Throughout its history, Symposium responded to Harold Spivacke's original topical suggestions. Symposium provided its readers with new perspectives in music teaching, in the theoretical aspects of our field, in performance, in governmental relations, in ethnomusicology, in the development of a broad based curricular structure and in the integration of ideas and thoughts regarding music.

Yes, we have accomplished the goals set forward in 1960 by our founders. We have created an international forum through Symposium that cuts across lines of specialization and provides opportunities for the discussion of ideas and problems related to music in higher education. Symposium has advocated a broad-based, comprehensive, and scholarly approach to the issues presented and it has encouraged controversy and debate.

Through the ideas expressed in Symposium in the early volumes, an agenda was set for the presentation of focused research and scholarly work in the years to come. Subsequent Editorial Boards focused on research and writing of high quality that would meet the standards set early in the journal's history. In meeting the challenges set by the founders, Symposium has demonstrated one of the great strengths of our profession: the collaboration we bring to our curricular and pedagogical work.

Now, it is appropriate that we set a new technologically based agenda for Symposium. That agenda should include a thorough review of music curricula in higher education, one that will address the broad educational needs of our students in the twenty-first century. The agenda should embrace technology and how technology will be utilized in every area of specialization. The agenda of Symposium should examine the nature of the partnership between higher education and the public primary and secondary schools, as was the charge given to us in 1962 by Harold Spivacke. Our agenda for Symposium for the twenty-first century should continue to consider the role of music in the various cultures of the world as an imperative in the growth and development of music in higher education. The agenda should continue to include a comprehensive approach to analysis, theory, and creativity, and the agenda should celebrate the joy of teaching in all of the specialized areas. The agenda for the 21st century for Symposium should include provocative examinations of the role of the government in artistic development, as well as the role of local, state and federal support of the musical arts.

It is appropriate as we enter a new technological and web-based period for College Music Symposium that we celebrate the field of music and the achievement of our journal. We must also challenge ourselves to consider what is old and familiar to us in startling new ways. As William Faulkner phrased it in his Nobel Prize winning address of 1950, "Make out of the material of the human spirit something that was not there before." Let us celebrate our work, our dreams, our research, our scholarly activities and our visions. Let us look for new ways and new directions of artistic and scholarly development in the pages of the web-based Symposium. Let us make out of the material of the human spirit something that was not there before.
We are reminded of our future in the poem "The Rewaking" by William Carlos Williams, first printed in Volume 1 (1961) of Symposium:

Sooner or later


we must come to the end


of striving



to reestablish 


the image the image of 


the rose 



but not yet 


you say extending the 


time indefinitely



by 


your love until a whole


spring



rekindle 


the violet to the very


Ladies Slipper 



and so by 


your love the very sun

itself is revived