Synthesis in Musicianship and Reform—The Next Five Years of the Contemporary Music Project

Robert J. Werner

Last year's volume of SYMPOSIUM devoted some seventy pages to a description of the Contemporary Music Project giving both its background and a report of its current institutes. In the same issue there appeared a Letter to the Editor from Professor Robert Trotter voicing his hope that the College Music Society would some day ". . . include everything to do with college music." The present paper, which is meant to describe the next five year program of the Contemporary Music Project, is really a continuation of both of these items from last year's volume.

The history of the project, well described in volume seven of SYMPOSIUM, and the consequent programs of the institutes, which represented some thirty colleges from all over the country, was an example of the evolutionary nature that has been typical of C.M.P. since its inception. The major purpose of these institutes and their programs was to develop a "synthesis" of musical skills and understandings within the framework of educating a professional "comprehensive musician", whether he be a teacher, performer, musicologist, theorist, or composer. Having this basic philosophy and rationale for their professional activities, it was hoped that such training would produce a standard for "comprehensive musicianship" from "kindergarten to the graduate school."

The new five year extension of C.M.P. activities is a continuation of this philosophy recognizing the need now to move from the experimental and pragmatic to more tested and operative programs. Hopefully the term "comprehensive musicianship" has become more than a glib part of the jargon of the project. In planning for the future it is now our obligation to give more definition to this term through the quality of its implementation.

During the past ten years the project has become, for many, a central voice for the expression of concern about some of our fundamental problems at all levels of musical education. Through its workshops, publications, experimental projects, and institutes, C.M.P. began to develop an approach toward the teaching of music that attempted to become more and more comprehensive. Throughout these experiments a constant element appeared in both its failures and its successes, that is, the undeniable importance of the individual. This is not stated as a revolutionary new fact, for it has always been the necessary catalyst for good education, but its reaffirmation again strengthens its significance and underlines its need.

Thus, the importance of the individual has become the theme for the next five year plan of the Contemporary Music Project. Through the continuing support of the Ford Foundation plus additional contributions from the Music Educators National Conference the project will now focus on the role of the individual in the following three major areas.

The first program is for Resident Professionals. This is an outgrowth of C.M.P.'s policy of placing composers in the public schools. In the new project the "professional-in-residence" category has been expanded to include composers, performers or scholars who may range from young to mature members of the profession. These musicians will be placed in a community, including its schools as before but not restricted only to them, for a two-year period subject to renewal for a third year. Thus the scope of these activities will be enlarged to provide artistic and educational services to a variety of groups and institutions within the entire community.

The second aspect of the new project will be an expansion and continuance of the programs inaugurated during the last two years by the Institutes for Music in Contemporary Education. The main purpose, as stated in the proposal, "would be to bring about needed improvements in the content and design of the curriculum shared by all who aspire to musical careers."

However, a major innovation for the project would be "to identify and support unusually competent and creative teachers on any level of education." This would be done by freeing the recipient teacher, by means of a financial grant for one year, "to devise and carry out a course of instruction, assemble or produce new teaching materials, evaluate and study the results of his work and those of other teachers, provide a laboratory situation for his colleagues to acquire and disseminate new knowledge from his successes and failures; and to exemplify through his work the qualities and standards of a dedicated and competent musician-teacher." In other words, this phase of the project will attempt to give the musician-teacher an opportunity to more fully answer the questions "Who am I?" "What do I believe?" and "How can I pass on these beliefs?" At the same time this project will establish models for the student and neophyte teacher to emulate.

The third phase called "Complementary Activities" would help to disseminate information by bringing the findings and work of C.M.P. to more and more people in the profession. These activities would take the form of such things as:

  1. short-term workshops
  2. publications
  3. the establishment of close working relations with many organizations active in the field of music
  4. the continuance of the C.M.P. publication series
  5. the organization of conferences and symposia

A survey of the professional literature would seem to indicate that these plans for the future of C.M.P. are certainly a reflection of the concern now appearing in many sections of the music profession. It is this quest for the meaning and curricular implementation of "synthesis," as expressed in comprehensive musicianship, that now so strongly influences our efforts. However, the project is well aware that these efforts cannot simply become a collection of educational receipts but, rather, they must be the outgrowth of viable musical and educational experiences in the preparation of the next generation of teachers, performers, and scholars.

Some, such as Professor William Mitchell, have suggested a college curriculum in which all members of the profession would have their initial preparation in a common study of Comprehensive Musicianship together with a more liberal education so that their concentration in an area of specialization would be delayed until post baccalaureate studies. Such a plan has merit in that it might provide a better basis for communication within the profession through the establishment of mutual respect before the development of professional cliques so incompatible with real "comprehensiveness." Let us therefore reconsider the challenge of Professor Trotter and stop ". . . perpetuating the circle of factional thinking" in our college curriculums and our professional activities.

The Contemporary Music Project is engaged in a search to answer this challenge and by so doing to develop the comprehensive musician equipped to meet the challenges of 20th century education and art. I submit that the College Music Society in its commitment to ". . . gather, consider and. disseminate ideas on the philosophy and practice of music as part of liberal education in colleges and universities," is concerned with a very similar quest.

It is this parallel engagement that I would bring to your attention for it can give strength to our action and substance to our reforms. It is my earnest hope that the next five years of the project might strengthen and solidify these bonds of common concern between the Contemporary Music Project and the College Music Society. To this end we invite your comments and ideas along with your support and participation.