Robert Fitzpatrick: ‘A vicious cycle exists in American musical higher education’

Robert Fitzpatrick: ‘A vicious cycle exists in American musical higher education’


norman lebrecht

April 16, 2015

Earlier this week we circulated a widely-read assertion by Robert Freeman, former head of the Eastman School of Music, arguing that ‘we’re graduating too many, too narrowly trained musicians’. 

True, or false? Robert Fitzpatrick, long-serving Dean of the Curtis Institute and presently Provost and Dean of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, believes that one has to see the problem in a global, historical perspective. Here are his thoughts, written for Slipped Disc:

L. Bernstein & R. Fitzpatrick, April 1984 Academy of Music (2)fitzpatrick


If musicians were generalists before the French Revolution, and would become specialists after those events, could we point to the founding of the Paris Conservatory around 1795 as the beginning of the current dilemma about which Robert Freeman polemicizes?

Leaving that argument aside for the moment, there are ongoing issues in the USA that have led to a decline in the quality of education in general, and an abandoning of the arts and arts education in particular. Federal, state, and local governments bear the brunt of the responsibility for this downtrend.

Public school music programs in large cities flourished in the period after World War II until at least the late 1960s. In most large east coast cities, every public senior high school and most junior high schools had a symphony orchestra, a band, and a chorus. Primary schools were lively incubators of artistic efforts serving a large and diverse population of students, some of whom were the first in their family born in the USA and educated throughout their teenage years. Each school had a staff of performing and visual arts teachers who made effective use of limited rehearsal and studio space. Most of these public schools also had the equipment, especially musical instruments, necessary for curricular and extra-curricular activities in the performing arts. In most current urban situations, the arts teachers are gone except for a few part-time travelling instructors who serve many schools, and the instruments have been vandalized, lost, stolen, abandoned in closets or warehouses, or simply sold. Fortunately, there are still pockets of resistance in some smaller cities and affluent suburbs, a situation which varies widely according to local resources.

A vicious cycle exists in American musical higher education that began between the world wars and continues today. The National Association of School of Music (NASM) was formed in 1924 by visionaries such as Howard Hanson, one of Robert Freeman’s predecessors at Eastman, to accredit and govern the education of musicians who would become the music educators of the future, especially in primary and secondary schools throughout America. NASM currently counts over 650 member schools, (too) many of whom offer a Bachelor of Music degree in performance which prepares students for a career on stage. Freeman may have a point: too many schools, too many graduates, too much specialization. Howard Hanson and his NASM co-founders expected the conservatories like Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman, Peabody, New England Conservatory and others, to provide the specialized “training” (I’m not a fan of the word) to talented music students destined for careers as professional performing musicians. Other schools would educate and form the teachers; I remember when many post-secondary schools were called “teachers’ colleges” and had excellent music education curricula. Today, some conservatories offer music education tracks and many of the former “teachers’ colleges” offer a Bachelor of Music in performance. Most encourage graduate education for a Master of Music degree (in performance or education).

Perhaps the greatest aberration of all was the creation of the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in order to perpetuate and extend the educational model. This would allow students to get tenured university positions in performance so that they could teach future B.Mus, M.Mus, and DMA candidates who would then seek positions to create more performers and teachers for non-existent orchestra positions, and dwindling opportunities in primary and secondary arts education in the USA.

Instead of adding to the polemic, I propose that NASM re-examine its current mission which should include lobbying local, state, and federal governments to adequately fund public education in general and to enable the arts, including music, through better financial support.

Freeman’s book is interesting but hardly sufficient to change the direction of the descent of arts education in the USA. When 625 music schools speak with one voice and profess their faith in arts education, someone might listen.


UPDATE: ‘The US lags behind the world in arts education’. Click here.


  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    “Perhaps the greatest aberration of all was the creation of the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in order to perpetuate and extend the educational model…”

    Truer words were never spoken. Nota bene, in the Bologna education model adopted recently by most European conservatories and musical institutes of higher learning, there still is no equivalent to the U.S. American Doctorate of Musical Arts (DMA).

    I have lived in Europe (Germany and Switzerland) since 1976. Fortunately, I have found very satisfactory employment at secondary schools as well as numerous performance opportunities. In the U.S., I was not able to find such opportunities simply because I had no DMA degree. OTOH, I had many colleagues, even winners of important international piano competitions, who wasted valuable time by going back to school after their win just so that they could finish a DMA in order to get a teaching position at a university.

    Talk about a self-perpetuating educational system … this is it!

    • william osborne says:

      As part of the changes created by the Bologna Accords, Baden-Württemberg is establishing a DMA program in its 5 state Universities of Music. See page 50 of url below which says:

      Bereits Ende des SS 2013 hat die Landesrektorenkonferenz einen Antrag auf Einrichtung eines DMA (doctor musical arts) beim Ministerium eingereicht. Die Musikhochschule Trossingen hat an der Entwicklung des Konzepts aktiv mitgewirkt.

      In the 1970s, the University of Pennsylvania (one of the most elite of the Ivies) eliminated its DMA program because they felt it was pointless. In the 80s it was reinstated because their graduates couldn’t get jobs with just a Masters.

      • Dawn Sonntag says:

        That’s interesting. I got a KA Diploma at a Hochschule in Baden Wurtemburg (Heidelberg) and when I moved to the States, decided I needed a DMA – long story made short, I have very mixed feelings about having done it. Got great mentoring and training along the way, but there are certainly other ways to get that mentoring, and am now teaching at a tiny liberal arts school where there are hardly any music majors, not even using what I studied so hard for during my DMA…I could have taught these classes with a Bachelor’s degree, to be honest, and I am now also teaching German, for which I do not have a Master’s Degree (Goethe C2 exam many years ago, and fluent, so since they needed a German teacher they could avoid paying an adjunct because I am full time. I am glad for the benefits I have in my job but although I have tenure, well…can’t talk about it here.

        • william osborne says:

          As a composer, singer, conductor, theorist, pianist, and German teacher you are a one-woman liberal arts college in yourself. It’s true that most of what you teach could be taught with someone with only BA, but all those years spent at UTEP, OSU, Minnesota, Heidelberg, and Tübingen surely gave you a knowledge, cultural depth, and understanding of art and the world that enriches your students far beyond knowing what a subdominant chord is. The ultimate value of education is not what it teaches us to do, but that it teaches us how to be. I’m sure that your students can’t help but absorb that from you, and that it deeply enriches their lives. So take heart. That’s why DMA’s are important, even if colleges should learn that other forms of professional experience can be just as important.

      • Robert Hairgrove says:

        Thanks for the link, Bill … I intend to read all 65 pages of it (just not this weekend).

        Can you perhaps summarize the motivation for German music academies to offer a DMA degree plan? In the USA, of course, every university is happy when they can keep their students on campus for a few more years past the Master’s degree (that usually means more tuition for the school). In Germany, this costs the taxpayers a lot more than in the USA. Professors are also happy, regardless of country, when they can keep their existing students a bit longer and thus fill their pensum requirements.

        In general, I think it is a wonderful thing for students who have a fruitful relationship with their professors and their schools if they choose to continue down the DMA path in order to further deepen their musical knowledge and their instrumental proficiency, where applicable. What bothers me about the system is its elevation to a requirement for gainful employment of teachers, particularly in the disciplines of musical performance.

        Why should 2nd or third place winners of prestigious international music competitions, usually proven performers with years of experience prior to winning their competitions, be denied job opportunities just because they have no DMA degree? Unfortunately, that is the reality today in most universities and conservatories in the USA (unless you are a foreigner, of course; then none of that applies any more…)

        • william osborne says:

          I asked my wife about the DMA program at the Trossingen Musikhochschule. She said that the DMA program was approved and is already published as a course of study in the school catalog.

          Needless to say, the criteria for gaining a professorship in music does not require the degree, since it has not existed until this year. The number one criteria for orchestral instruments is generally many years spent playing in an orchestra – and usually one of the most important orchestras – along with some teaching skills. Until recently, professors were given prestigious and highly paid C-4 positions in the German civil service code where they work very autonomously and with very little oversight. Far too many abuse this and only show up to teach every two or three weeks.

          About 12 years ago (I forget the exact year) reforms were established. Professors now have a lower pay group, and they have something like a tenure process, but it is not very rigorous. It is now rarely possible for the conservatories to draw people from Germany’s best orchestras.

          Another big change is the Bologna Accords. In an effort to unify degree requirements throughout the EU, an American style curriculum and degree requirements have been established. Europe’s ancient traditions of learning and culture as a self-directed, loosely organized end in itself, which harkens back to the old monasteries where European universities began, was replaced with the American concept of 4 years of vocational training. I think this also explains the rationale behind the new DMA programs. They want to imitate the American system, and in fact, they even use the English term Doctor of Musical Arts. In the global village we must all be alike it seems…..

          Efforts were also made to charge students tuition in many German states, even though university education has traditionally been free. Baden-Württemberg charged about 600 Euros for a while, but it was unpopular and the ruling Green Party rescinded the concept of tuition.

          Germany has 22 state conservatories and private conservatories are forbidden by law. Since there is no tuition, or only a nominal tuition, and since the faculty is often internationally recognized, students from all over the world flock to German conservatories. About half the student body in most are foreigners, and mostly from Asia. I think this has a very positive effect for German relations around the world, aside from the more idealistic considerations, but some politicians also complain about this.

          With the worldwide emphasis on economic reforms and small government (an economic concept known as neoliberalism) I think German conservatories have a bulls eye painted on their foreheads. I hope Germany will be able to resist, but I’m not optimistic. In Baden-Württemberg a massive effort was made to eliminate two of its five conservatories, which was only barely resisted. Now all five have had a 10% budget reduction across the board which is having very destructive effects.

  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    Interesting to note that the gentleman on the right (my left) in the 1984 black and white photo above is Edwin Heilakka, former Director of Music for the School District of Philadelphia who retired around 1979 after over 30 years of service in various capacities for Philadelphia public schools. In retirement, he became curator of the Stokowski Collection and orchestra librarian at Curtis. The other gent in the photo, also a great educator, needs no introduction.

  • John says:

    I’ve been wondering where all these performance majors were going in this climate of shrinking interest in the arts. I thought we were just cranking people out regardless of the market demand for another three hundred superb flutists, and we are!!!

  • william osborne says:

    Beginning in the 1970s, there was a strong shift toward education as a vocational training ground. It was part of a larger shift in society toward more market-oriented values (an economic philosophy technically referred to as neo-liberalism.) Students were to be trained for the job market, and more specifically, a job market designed to keep the American economy strong in the newly formed, borderless world of free trade. Computer science, telecommunications, avionics and other forms of engineering became the word of the day and were massively subsidized. Arts programs were reduced in order to build stronger science programs.

    Today we see the results. 45 percent of the faculty members in Stanford’s main undergraduate division are clustered in the humanities — but only 15 percent of the students. The tech moguls of Silicon Valley do not support the arts because they’ve had little contact with them. Harvard had a 20 percent decline in humanities majors over the last decade. Princeton and Stanford, in an effort to recruit more humanities students, offers a program for high school students with a strong demonstrated interest in humanities.

    So with arts education reduced, why do will still have so many music majors? It seems that the artistic impulse of human beings cannot be suppressed. It’s something they have to do. One might further observe than when the artistic impulse is suppressed, societies become sick and deeply dysfunctional. Classic examples are Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. When the arts are suppressed the human psyche is deeply harmed and societies collapse. If one looks around America, one can see the results. An unmitigated capitalism can also become a totalizing force that harms the health of societies.

    The problem is that the relationships between the arts and the health of the social psyche are so complex that they are virtually impossible to document. We could begin by studying the dysfunctionality of societies where the arts are suppressed and compare them to societies where the arts are promoted. Some good examples could be how Europeans used the arts to heal and rebuild their countries after WWII. Or how the explosive rise of the Chinese economy has been correlated with freer artistic expression. I think we would find that societies with high levels of artistic activity, develop healthy, strong social environments that contribute to good economies. This is in direct contradiction to the cuts in support for the arts advocated by the small government philosophies of neo-liberalism.

  • Erwin Poelstra says:

    A very well written analysis, but there’s is one thing I don’t understand, and it seems a contradiction to me: if there is “an abandoning of the arts and arts education in particular”, how come that there are “too many schools, too many graduates”?

  • william osborne says:

    Does anyone know if there is documentation about US music schools graduating 30,000 students per year? If there are 625 schools, that would average 48 per school which seems a bit high. 625 schools would average 12 per state. I would guess that at least 400 of those schools are small departments in liberal arts colleges or state schools with small departments.

    I like Robert Fitzpatrick’s suggestion that NASM lobby for better arts support from the government, but does NASM have lobbists or any other capacity to lobby? And even if it does, how likely is their voice to be heard?

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Yes, the majority of NASM member schools are smaller departments of music as you describe. An average of 48 per school is possible because of large graduating classes in schools like Jacobs (IU Bloomington), Eastman, and some of the other University related schools of music. Curtis graduates c.35 each year, San Francisco Conservatory of Music graduates c.160 each year (more than 50% of them are in a two-year Masters track); these are the only statistics I can quote with some certainty.

      NASM has no lobbyists or skill in that area and that is by design. My suggestion is that they consider a more activist approach.

      • william osborne says:

        It too thought about the big schools, but the number still seems high to me. Due to drop outs and changes of majors, I would guess that most music schools graduate about 15% of their students each year. If 30,000 graduate that would mean we have 200,000 music majors — an average of 320 per school and an average of 4000 music majors per state. I don’t think we’re quite that musical. If It would be good to see some documentation — also broken down between music ed and performance degrees.

        I really like your idea about NASM speaking with a unified voice about arts support. If they were joined by the musicians union, ICSOM, ROPA, NAfME, ASCAP, BMI, and Americans for the Arts, all with a unified voice, perhaps they could muster some clout. Americans for the Arts does have a lobbying apparatus but it has had very little effect. It seems to me more like a place marker than an actual lobbying organization.

        RIAS and MPAA have extremely effective lobbying wings and have led congress to create so many laws protecting their interests that they almost seem like racketeering organizations. Big money is involved. MPAA’s members pay $10 million per year to the organization. I wonder if these organizations would try to destroy an effective lobbying group for classical music because better support for classical music might take customers away from their markets. Like many lobby groups for big business, they both lean Republican.

        How do we move forward in a society so plutocratic that democracy no longer seems to function?

  • william ransom says:

    Robert Freeman and so many others do not recognize the essential problem or the solution. We do not need a “revolution in music eduction” for performers and music teachers, we need a revolution in music education for NON-performers and NON-music teachers. It is a bit long, but if you are interested, read below:

    Portrait of a Successful Residency: How a String Quartet in Residence can Help Save Classical Music

    “A single microscopic vibrating string of energy, interacting with similar but diverse strings to form complex life-forms– is this how life begins?” “A single vibrating string of energy, interacting with other strings to form a complex piece of music—is this how music begins?” David Lynn, internationally-known chemical biologist and Domenic Salerni, first violin with the award-winning Vega String Quartet, captivate the class of 100 undergraduate chemistry, biology, and yes, music majors in a regularly scheduled class at Emory University. They continue with a scintillating contrapuntal conversation demonstrating how science and music are interrelated, how both disciplines speak of “cells”, of “structure”, of “building blocks”, of how a Bach fugue theme is like the DNA of a piece. The Vega plays examples throughout the class, and towards the end, they perform a complete movement of Beethoven, or Ravel, or Bartok.

    This scene is repeated in classes across the curriculum at Emory- in History, Physics, Languages, Philosophy, Math, Theology, Neuroscience- throughout the year- as well as in programs at all the professional schools (Mozart @ the Med School, Bach @ the B School and Ludwig @ the Law School) showing the interrelationship between music and every imaginable discipline. Inevitably, the students jump to their feet cheering at the end of the performance, and swarm the Quartet to speak with them. After every class, the same phrase is heard over and over- “That was the best class I ever went to!” The students end up “friending” the Vega on Facebook and going to their concerts on campus. A new generation of passionate classical music lovers is born.

    This music we treasure- some of mankind’s greatest creation- is an endangered species in our country. Hundreds of Conservatories and Schools of Music are turning out thousands of would-be performers annually- most of whom do not play at the highest levels of excellence and will never make a living as musicians. But who is actively developing the next generations of music lovers and supporters- those who will attend concerts and donate to the musical organizations of the future to keep this great music alive? Emory University has developed such a model – based around a full-time String Quartet in Residence-which can be seen as the revolutionary future of successful music education in this country. Not pre-professional music training, but perhaps even more importantly, giving the highest-quality music education to future doctors, lawyers, businessmen and teachers- and in the process, building a new army of passionate and educated listeners who will cherish and support music forever.

    What is critical is that this is a true full-time residency, with the Vega based in Atlanta (they are first professional string quartet to ever be based here) allowing them to interact with the entire Emory and greater Atlanta community on a daily basis. Not just a two or three day “residency” as so many schools now offer, where a quartet comes in, gives a class or two and a public concert, and is gone. That can be valuable in certain settings, especially for pre-professional music training programs, but there is no lasting impact on a school or a community from such so-called residencies, and no development of future audiences. The Vega teaches throughout the University- and of course also in the Department of Music, where %99 of our approximately 140 Music Majors are double majors who are not planning to make their living in music. At Emory, they coach student chamber music ensembles (including a record 7 string quartets last semester), and give sectionals to the University Symphony Orchestra, which has helped to transform that group into a source of excellence and great pride for the school. They have also begun a Youth Chamber Music Program- training some of Atlanta’s best pre-College students in the art of chamber music, and have joined Young Audiences of Atlanta, giving outreach performances and classes to thousands of students in the Public School system throughout the area. They also work with the Emory Youth and Junior Symphonies. With three formal concert series at Emory- a Noontime Series designed mainly for the Emory community (but open to all), a Family Series designed for children, and a more formal Emerson Series of full-length concerts, they are taking the music to every facet of the University and the greater Atlanta community, touching lives from ages 2 to 102. All students of any age have free admission to all concerts. The presence of the Vega has been a driving force in establishing the creative arts, and especially Music, as a beacon of inter-disciplinary cooperation at Emory.

    The symphonic literature is extraordinary, but a String Quartet- and chamber music in general- delivers the same power, passion and depth, but with the added elements of portability and intimacy- and this is what goes straight to the heart of young listeners and awakens a passion for the music. Experiencing Ravel’s Quartet played by world-class performers who are young, dynamic and attractive; sitting just 10 feet away from the musicians and talking with them afterwards is a transformative life experience for many.

    Affordability of a Residency

    A Symphony Orchestra is a treasure for a community- but in terms of the financial model many run on they are unsustainable dinosaurs. With the huge costs of the enormous administrative structure and the high costs of conductors, guest artists and the musicians large Orchestras need thousands of individual, corporate and Foundation donors to still run in the red every season. They are forced to charge prices for tickets many can’t or won’t afford. With an annual budget of near $50 million, the Atlanta Symphony spends almost $1 million every week, every year. By contrast, a full-time String Quartet can be hired for about $100,000 a year, and endowed permanently for about three weeks of the Symphony’s annual budget. And the impact that a Quartet can have on a community- as demonstrated by the Vega’s residency- can be just as powerful. Because of this extraordinary cost to benefit ratio, a single visionary donor or a very small group, Foundation or corporation can single-handedly transform the cultural landscape of an entire community with a very small investment. The financial model for a successful residency is that the University provides a small salary, with benefits including health and retirement- and with additional concert activity expected of a successful Quartet and a minimum of private teaching, each member can make a very comfortable and secure living. Even the smallest University has access to a huge donor base- and $100,000 is an easily reachable goal for any organization- it is simply a matter of making it a priority of the institution. If administrators can be convinced that the Arts at the highest level- and Music in particular- is the best possible entry into the discipline, creativity, and passion that is necessary for success in any field; and that though we need Medicine, Law, and Business to live, we just as importantly need a reason for living, then Music can become an indispensible part of the life of the institution. And every performance the Quartet gives off-campus- in the Vega’s case from the Public Schools in Atlanta to international tours and radio broadcasts- carries Emory’s name in the most positive ways imaginable. This kind of PR alone is priceless for a University, and can pay for the Residency many times over.

    The Right Mix

    For a residency to be successful, a Quartet must be open to moving to whatever area is willing to support this kind of program. Many younger Quartets seem to think that unless they are based in New York City they have no viable career. That may be the number one reason so many young quartets do not last very long. A residency allows a Quartet to play an almost endless number of concerts in the community, to build a repertoire, to develop an infinite number of creative collaborations and programs, to learn how to teach and how to build a career. In six years at Emory so far, the Vega has given the complete Beethoven Cycle, a Bach-Bartok cycle featuring the complete works for solo strings by Bach mixed with the six Bartok Quartets in six concerts; and worked with numerous composers, both on the faculty, in the community and around the world. They have collaborated with the Dance program in several imaginative programs. They work with the University Chorus, and even the Wind Ensemble and the Jazz Ensembles. And they have co-created entire semester-long classes like the wildly successful “The Musical Brain” class with the Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology program. And in doing so, they have developed more and more lovers of great music. In addition, since the Vega is based in Atlanta, they are able to offer concerts and outreach activities to smaller series around the southeast at a much lower cost than comparable groups from New York or Europe- both enriching the lives of countless audiences and giving the Vega more performing opportunities. It is truly a win-win situation for both the musicians and the community- but the Quartet must be top-notch musicians dedicated not only to performing but also to teaching in a wide variety of ways. Emory University and the Vega String Quartet are the perfect match, and if more Universities and more String Quartets would follow their lead, the future of classical music would be in good hands indeed.

    The Future at Emory

    At Emory, a visionary and generous individual, Cherry Emerson, initially funded the Residency with a three-year gift as a pilot program. It was then picked up by a single visionary and generous Foundation, the Abraham J. and Phyllis Katz Foundation, who are funding the program for the next year. In addition, the Katz Foundation has now made a $1 million matching challenge grant that, if met, will make this extraordinary and innovative Residency a permanent part of the cultural life of Emory and the greater Southeastern area. And I hope anyone reading this will consider helping us in our drive for a permanent endowment- be a part of forever, and help us keep the music playing!

    William Ransom, Artistic Director
    Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta

  • Jim Cottrr says:

    Journalism is in a bigger mess. J-Schools are populated by Phds who, in the main, have never worked as journalists; teaching students who may never have careers in this dying profession.
    Ironic that this piece is published on arts journal’s website, home to many former full-time, professional journalists.

  • Steve Wogaman says:

    Imagine what might happen if the NASM visiting teams included people NOT in music academia: orchestra musicians, managers, presenters, etc. A dose of reality, perhaps?

  • David Conte says:

    While I agree that it is possible to see the creation of the D. M. A. degree in performance as having lead more to extending the education model than to rigorous performance standards, the D. M. A. in Composition may be seen as being different from the D. M. A. in Performance. The training of a composer is long, elaborate, and expensive, and important composers have benefitted from the extended training and opportunities to work within an educational community since at least the 1950s. To name one example, George Crumb received his D. M. A. from University of Michigan in 1959, and many valuable composers have followed this educational path. This is not to say that the number of degrees is related to the quality of music that one composes. If this sounds defensive about the D. M. A. degree in Composition, it is…:-) My D. M. A. program at Cornell University was the result of visionary work by Robert Palmer, Karel Husa, William W. Austin, and Donald J. Grout. There are many other degree programs in our country that were inspired by the vision of equally brilliant men and women, and which have resulted in much of the American music that has entered the repertory. I applaud Dean Fitzpatrick’s suggestion to NASM to become more involved in government lobbying. There are equally important initiatives that educators must champion regarding the impact of technology on the learning and creating of music.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Granted, the DMA can be especially important for composers. My comment about it being an aberration is not a reflection on the quality of the degree or the competencies of the teachers and students. The original target of this relatively new degree (started in mid-20th century, I believe) was tenured employment in higher education for those graduates, especially instrumentalists and singers, who would not find positions as professional performers. The distortion is the creation of a closed, self-perpetuating cycle which some students utilize to stay in school as long as possible while accumulating significant debt with diminishing employment possibilities. I hope that my diatribe on the DMA didn’t distract from the real point: the resurrection of music instruction at all levels, for specialists and generalists, in public schools.

      • Robert Hairgrove says:

        Interesting that up till now, the only performance degree offered in most European countries beyond that of the Master was the artist diploma (or equivalent, e.g. “Konzertexamen” or “Konzertreife” in Germany and Switzerland), whereas composers, educators, and musicologists could pursue a Ph.D. William Osborne has posted a very interesting link (if you can read German) which seems to imply that this might change in the near to mid-term future.

        Since higher education in general is funded by vastly different models in Europe than in the USA, the question (to me) is what will be gained by it all in Europe? At present, even without the DMA, orchestra auditions are overwhelmed by an abundance of highly trained players. It certainly won’t help them get an orchestra job.

        The number of teaching positions at the conservatory level in most European countries is, I assume, much lower than in the USA, but at least there are numerous teaching opportunities at the level of community music schools and some public schools over here. The fact that Switzerland, for example, passed the public referendum “Musik und Bildung” recently shows that there is a perceived need for a “revolution in music education for NON-performers and NON-music teachers”, as William Ransom so apty put it.

        • Robert Hairgrove says:

          “Musik und Bildung” is/was the name of a magazine devoted to classical music in Switzerland … it should have read: “Jugend und Musik”

  • Rich Holly says:

    There are many excellent thoughts and action steps discussed here – I’m glad to see this. I’d like to comment on a couple in particular: First, the number of graduates vs. the number of schools. While there are ca. 625 music departments and schools who are NASM members, the College Music Society annual directory lists over 1,800 departments and schools of music. Thus, the number of annual music graduates could easily be – or exceed – 30,000; and second, William Ransom’s remark “…we need a revolution in music education for NON-performers and NON-music teachers” is SPOT on. Having NASM take on lobbying, having orchestras invest in their communities, and changing STEM to STEAM would, I believe, be among the essential elements of such a revolution.

    • william osborne says:

      1800 “music departments” still doesn’t convince me, because in the States it doesn’t take music to be one. That the CMS names a number 3 times higher NASM members shows what a wide range exists in what we take to be stats. We need to see documented numbers before being sure about 30,000 music grads a year.

  • Sola says:

    This article talks around the central point: The problem isn’t that we are educating too many musicians for positions that do not exist. The problem is because of this educational model, they are being educated by people who have wasted 10 years getting doctorates in music rather than pursuing specialized training with the best teachers for their instruments, chosen carefully and engaged specifically by the student, not happened upon by the luck of the draw because they happen to be on the faculty of a school the artist Is attending.

    Moreover, the inability of accomplished artists to gain teaching positions *anywhere* – not just at the university level, but even at the strip mall music store level – without at least a bachelor’s degree has led and will lead to a music world populated by academics, trained by and for academia, many of whom regard getting actual employment as a high level performer as some unattainable, magical mystery. These are people with masters degrees and doctorates who have never ironed out their own techniques, performance practice and other real world performing skills enough to get the jobs for which they are being paid to prepare others.

    That is not to say that I think we should go back to the days of, for example, placing semi-famous divas who cannot read music on performing arts faculties, or other artists who have great performing careers but who never analyzed what they do in enough depth to teach their techniques to others. However, there should exist a standard of pedagogical preparedness – an exam, perhaps, or a trial teaching period – that allows for working artists to make the transition to educational jobs.

    There are now, of course, many professional opera singers with masters degrees or even DMAs, because it takes so long to get a career started in singing and older beginning artists are more accepted than in, say, piano or strings. But the benefits of allowing more performing artists without MMs and DMAs into the conservatory level teaching profession would be many:

    – The “all art song, all the time, and only exercises for the first year” model of music school training for singers would be banished forever as artists who have had real careers singing operatic repertoire would be teaching the very repertoire that could gain young artists their first employment.

    – The endless cycle of training academics for academia would be eliminated in the music profession.

    – Universities and conservatories could partner with opera companies to create innovative cooperative programs which would give young artists paid, real-world experience, while saving money for the companies (this would replace the current YAP system, the remains of which would be divided between the student artists and established artists).

    – Student orchestras could partner with local opera and dance companies who would otherwise perform only with piano or recordings to give opportunities to play employable repertoire while giving the performers valuable experience and resume credits.

    – In other words, the emphasis of these programs would not be on learning academics, but on getting out into public and up onstage. This would enrich the musical lives of communities and would ensure that people who are paying to be trained as artists actually get to make art at least sometime in their lives.