Joel R. Stegall
That two of the most highly respected organizations in music would combine for a conference on general education speaks significantly to a far-ranging movement in academic life today.The reformulation of programs in general education is the topic of public and private debate in high and low places. Many are encouraged by this way of thinking.1 Others may not be so enthusiastic. It is my hope that this conference will offer some insights into the problems and possibilities.
Before tackling where we are going—or even where we are—let's review briefly where we've been.
Even though the great eighteenth century political experiment in democracy which became the United States grew out of European traditions, the social system that evolved in this country was quite distinct from its Old World ancestry. European universities served the aristocracy. The multi-cultural New World required institutions to respond to a wide range of social classes. Political democracy set the stage for a march of more than two centuries toward mass higher education.
Let us examine briefly four major streams of educational tradition in America as they relate to music: 1) the music conservatory, 2) the liberal arts college, 3) the research university, and 4) the land-grant college. Other types of institutions are important as well but these will be illustrative.
The first conservatories were established in Italy in the thirteenth century. Originally charitable institutions for the care of homeless children, music was a basic part of the instruction,2 perhaps to help these youngsters prepare for a life of service to the church. The conservatory grew to be one of the central elements in the training of musicians in Europe during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During the same period in America, other kinds of education took precedence over professional training in music, and it was not until 1857 that the earliest endowment was set up, by George Peabody, to establish a conservatory. The Peabody Conservatory did not actually open its doors until 1868, thus leaving Oberlin the distinction of being the first conservatory to go into operation in 1865, followed by the New England Conservatory in 1867. It was not until 1919 that Eastman and Juilliard opened.3
Like their European ancestors, these American conservatories were established as independent institutions. Concern with the conflict between professional standards and public taste was voiced as early as 1920 by Harold Randolph, then director of the Peabody Conservatory.
Are we ready to abandon ... or modify our attitude of artistic exclusiveness? No one will pretend for a moment that the world at large is as yet thirsting to hear Bach fugues, Beethoven sonatas and Brahms symphonies, and we know beyond a peradventure that a large portion of it never will, so why not face the fact?4
The purpose of the conservatories was distinct from that of the colleges and universities. In the main, the conservatories sought to train professional performing musicians, in spite of the broader goals suggested by Frank Damrosch, dean of the Juilliard School earlier in this century. Damrosch wrote, in 1905, 14 years before Juilliard opened:
In America the conservatory must aim to make the mass musical, in order to build its pyramid upon a broad foundation, upon which may then be built a structure that may pinnacle in the stars.5
The first liberal arts college on these shores was Harvard, established by the Puritans in 1636 in the tradition of English classical humanism as found at Oxford and Cambridge.
Perhaps it was because of the Puritan influence that Harvard's earliest curriculum included all of the original seven liberal arts except music. Considering the tendency to imitate Harvard, it is hardly a wonder that liberal arts colleges often have been among the most reluctant to accept music as a legitimate academic discipline. The Harvard Report of 1945 declared that "A training in the musical skills is hardly within the province of general education."6 How different the concerns of CMS and NASM might be today had Harvard been founded by Lutherans rather than Puritans!
Johns Hopkins University, using a German model, brought the research university to America.7 The Hopkins spirit spread to other institutions.8 Established in 1876, only eight years after the Peabody Conservatory admitted its first students, Hopkins' curriculum did not provide for music. It is worthy of note that both Johns Hopkins and Peabody were founded in Baltimore. Each was the first to bring to the United States clearly distinct and independent European educational traditions.
In 1862, the land-grant college was born, fathered by the Morrill Act. Established to serve the practical needs of a growing agricultural and mechanical society, this distinctly American invention, like Harvard and Johns Hopkins, was not designed to provide education in music.
We see, then, that the serious study of music was purposely neglected by three of the most important types of higher education institutions in the United States: the liberal arts college, the research university and the land-grant college. If the job was to be, done, it had to be done by the conservatories. Yet how could the conservatories, as independent, specialized institutions, build the broad base for mass musical education envisioned by Damrosch?
From the colonial period through the establishment of the United States as an international power by the end of World War II, the four types of institutions discussed above operated with relative independence. World War II changed more than the world balance of power. With the return of veterans and a flourishing economy, higher education began a 30-year period of unprecedented expansion. Enrollment growth was accelerated, particularly following 1960, by the attempt to provide access to higher education for all segments of society.
But these heady times of economic expansion and egalitarian politics also brought demands for curricular change. Institutions imitated each other in the effort to secure public and financial support and, perhaps of even more importance, to gain recognition in the world of academe. Many institutions sought to develop creativity and the ability to enjoy leisure time as well as to prepare students to earn a living in a wider variety of professions. These two motives—enhancement of the ability to live the good life and expansion of career options—encouraged many liberal arts colleges, research universities and land-grant institutions to develop programs in music.9 A large part of this change has occurred since 1945.
In other words, descendants of the Italian Conservatory have married outside the faith, through wisdom, convenience or necessity. The merger within the last few years of Peabody with Johns Hopkins is the classic example. Mutual affection has developed in some cases—in other cases not. Considering the relatively short period of living together, however, we should expect some adjustment problems.
My experience suggests that many liberal arts faculties, and perhaps those in engineering and research, want little to do with music, especially professional training. Sometimes music faculty long, not very secretly, for the autonomy of the independent conservatory and the single-minded dedication of the "serious" student. For the most part the ideal educational model within our profession continues to be the conservatory.10
On the other hand, we may have an opportunity today to develop a new concept of music as an integral part of a comprehensive contemporary American education. Let us acknowledge that we have learned from the conservatory, the liberal arts college, the research university and the land-grant college. Let us have the courage and insight to see, however, that the time may be past for rigidly discrete institutions. Can we finally, after nearly 350 years since Harvard's exclusion of music, make the case that the liberal arts should include the arts? Are we ready to support, through the art of music, the aims of liberal education?
Concern is often expressed that efforts to teach music to general students will dissipate scarce resources and sap the energy of already overextended faculty. The opposite may be true. As the needs of a broader range of students are taken seriously, doors may be opened for increased support. And a change of teaching assignment may be an antidote for burnout.
Even if we see general education as an opportunity, can we do anything about it? I am not totally optimistic. The chasms of communication are frequently so great and the departmental barriers so massive we can fairly ask if music for the general student is a realistic goal for our generation. On my pessimistic days, I fear that many of our music programs may have to die before new life can be found if we still believe in the myth of the Phoenix. Institutional change comes only with patience and often with great pain. We all know people whose natural impulse on seeing something new is to step on it before it multiplies!
Should we become advocates for change? I believe we should. Can we ensure that change will be positive? I do not know for certain, but I do know that if we make no attempt, we will never find out. I am convinced that inaction will be prelude to a requiem for music as we know it in higher education, perhaps in our society. We all must assess the potential on our own campuses for creating a sensitivity to our art and its enormous contribution to educated persons and to the kind of society in which we would like to live.
For the remainder of this paper, I will assume the desire to increase the music opportunities for general students and will suggest means of initiating change in that direction.
Music units on multipurpose campuses exist in a network of interdependent relationships. Some of us may be allowed relative freedom of operation within broadly defined understandings, but no one operates totally independent of other campus interests. Resources are always finite and there is invariably a struggle for a share of those resources.
An analogy may be drawn by seeing these naturally competing forces as sibling rivalry in a large family. There is a general, usually unstated, recognition that the family is important, but there is still a lot of bickering. To always demand for oneself, and never give support for others, eventually proves self destructive. In the family, that means your big brother punches you out The trick is to understand the necessity of tradeoffs—when to assert your own needs and when to support the needs of others. How do you know? Every situation varies, but I suggest starting by spending at least as much energy and time listening as telling.
The reason to listen is to determine how you can meet the needs of other individuals and groups within the context of institutional goals. Every institution has goals. They can be divided into two categories: those stated in the catalog and the real ones. To guide our programs successfully in support of institutional purposes we must deal both, with rhetoric and reality. The catalog statement should be read, but what is crucial is to know the culture of the campus. In other words, you must understand not only what should be but what is. Only if you know what is, can you move effectively to what you think should be.
Let us look now at some of the groups whose needs must be met if we, as administrators and faculty leaders, are to be effective in creating support for music in general education. Consider the other academic units. Generate courses wanted by students and faculty in these other units. How can you find out what they want? Ask. People love to give advice. It is presumptuous for us to pretend to know what's good for people. It does no good to design a new course nobody takes. Not only can new courses be created, but also minor programs and clusters of courses that could be used as adjunct fields to other disciplines. Look for connecting links. Look for courses in other areas that could serve as cognate disciplines for music degrees. Modify the music curricula so that music majors can take minors in other fields.
We cannot forget to look internally to find needs that must be met. The most difficult group may be the music faculty itself.11 Many were trained in institutions where the central goal was to produce professional performers. It is understandable that they would have reservations about emphasis on non-majors. It is our job to help them see that providing a music education for all students does not have to diminish the quality of professional training. We may need changes of attitudes. In my opinion, this is not impossible, particularly if the basic approach is one of thoughtful, rational but firm persuasion. One effective means of persuasion is simply to tell people what you want, and why.
THE REWARD SYSTEM
Faculty evaluation on many campuses is an Alice in Wonderland exercise in artificiality.12 Evaluation should be an ongoing means to help faculty members improve. The process should be continued with every faculty member, tenured or untenured, for as long as they are with the institution.13 To be worth anything, evaluations must be based on an accepted value system. If not, they will be regarded with richly deserved cynicism.
Typical faculty evaluations use the criteria of teaching, scholarship or performance, and contributions to the institution, profession and community.14 Do not relegate general education to the often maligned and vague criterion of contribution. Music offered for general education is just as an aspect of teaching, performance and scholarship as piano or music history.
Some may think that tenure, promotion and salary procedures should comprise the heart of this paper. I do not feel these are the central issues in part because I understand that in many institutions they are not very powerful rewards or are not controlled by the music unit.
Other rewards are available. Even in those situations where the music administrator has considerable leverage with tenure, promotion and salaries, more subtle approaches may prove more effective. Symbolic recognitions can do wonderful things. Words are powerful. When you observe excellent teaching, compliment the teacher face-to-face.15 On occasion, put it in writing. Give public recognitions. Arrange for stories in the press about the general education program. Two cautions: 1) As you give recognition for general education work, be careful not to ignore faculty members who teach in traditional areas. 2) Never take credit yourself; pass it on to the faculty.
There may be times when the carrot doesn't work and the stick seems necessary. Some negative reinforcements are available. Often the most neglected is simply telling the individual that you are displeased.16 Follow up in writing if you want to make it stronger. As a last resort, there may be times when you need to withhold tenure, promotion or salary increments, if this option is open.
BUILDING THE PROGRAM
It is important to recruit new faculty who will support the things that need to be done. How? Again, by straightforward communication. In advertisements for new positions, state that preference will be given to candidates who can deal with general students. Tell candidates you believe general education is important. Ask what they can contribute. Confirm your expectations in a letter of appointment. At the orientation with new faculty, again express your support. And try to immunize them against cynicism.
When I was teaching in junior high school, I learned that the most effective way to attract students to my chorus was to recruit student leaders. Others would follow. A similar phenomenon is at work with building any kind of program, including one for non-majors. It is crucial to win the support of the faculty leaders. They may or may not have titles. Certain people must approve everything whether or not they hold office.
Further, use the best teachers in general education courses. Ask professors you select to propose courses they would like to teach. Neither the music executive nor a faculty committee can design a program and then look for teachers to "cover" a canned course. The last thing you need is a reluctant teacher for a new, different and important course. When somebody does come in with an idea, encourage it, even if it's half-baked. That's more baking than you got before. Offer to help work out the idea. Show your own excitement, let them see your interest.
Give sufficient load credit for developing new courses. They take more time than teaching fundamentals of theory for the 30th straight semester. If you expect an interdisciplinary team-taught course, give both faculty members full credit for the course, at least when it's new and if both teachers are to be present for all classes. One of the greatest obstacles in such teaching is that administrators say they want faculty to develop team-taught courses, but then fail to recognize the amount of work it takes.
Make the schedule and class size attractive to your best faculty. They should be in keeping with the norm for classes in the major. The time has passed when we can assign music appreciation sections of 200 students at eight o'clock in the morning to an uncommunicative applied music teacher who has room in his load only because he has trouble talking with even one student at a time. Music appreciation is seldom appreciated and often not even music.
Faculty advisers can help recruit—yes, recruit—good students. You need student leaders in new courses. Offer a variety of electives, from introductory courses all the way to interdisciplinary senior seminars. Ask advisers in other disciplines to encourage their students to take your courses. Publicize offerings in the campus newspaper; buy an ad if necessary. Develop a brochure to pass around at registration time. The point is to take the initiative.
Offer lessons to all students, even beginners. Why do we so often object to giving beginning lessons to a college student? Why should not a future doctor study piano, even if he or she has not studied before? I had never studied philosophy before college, but I got credit for introductory philosophy. I am sure my philosophy professor was appalled that he had to teach me the difference between Aristotle and Aristophanes. But he did, because teaching was his profession. Music, no less than philosophy, is an attempt to get at the essence of what it means to be human. This truth is the heart of why we should teach music to all students. Psychoanalyst Rollo May suggests that "imagination and art are not frosting at all, but the fountainhead of human experience."17
Propose institutional requirements in the arts for all students. Some will object that it is hard to teach students who only want to fulfill a requirement. Granted, it is harder, but an institution's value system is seen more in the requirements than in philosophical statements. We require math and writing because they are important. We should require music because it, too, is important.
The reason for encouraging music in general education is not to preserve the jobs of music faculty or administrators. It is, rather, to make a significant contribution to our culture. We need a redefinition of American education that affirms the centrality of the arts for all persons. Harold Taylor, former president of Sarah Lawrence College, writes that:
The arts, all of them, should be available to the beginning college student in exactly the same terms as any other form of knowledge, from physics to literature, and should be a central part of the curriculum for the entire four years.18 (Emphasis mine.)
Let us proclaim loudly, even prophetically, that a well-educated person not only must be able to read and write, have an awareness of the social world, literature, mathematics and science, but also must understand the crucial contribution the arts make to individuals and to a civilized and sane society.
At the same time, I do not dispute the need to promote our own self-interest. It is, in part, a larger view of self-interest to understand that performers, at least of traditional Western art music, must have audiences. Our current non-major students not only will be the audiences of the future but may well be business executives, legislators, and members of city councils and school boards. Professional orchestras, opera companies and the music education system at all levels need the support of these decision-makers. What greater tribute to our institutions than for future business and community leaders to have learned on one of our campuses that music is important to the kind of community in which they would like to live. We do not need more professional musicians. We need more doctors, lawyers and business persons whose spirits have been stirred by music and who support our art.
There is no question I am talking about changing the way we educate college students. Our functions as producers of professionals and as musical museums is not bad—it is simply not enough. We have a responsibility for the continued renewal of the human spirit in our culture. I am proposing nothing less than shaping the future of Western civilization.
1Jerry G. Gaff, General Education Today (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1983), pp. 1-8.
2Willi Apel, "Conservatory," Harvard Dictionary of Music (Second Edition; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969), p. 200.
3Willis J. Wager and Earl J. McGrath, Liberal Education and Music (New York: Teachers College, Columbia University), p. 36.
4Harold Randolph, "Co-operation in Music Education," PMTNA, vol. 14 (1920), pp. 15-16. (Quoted in Wager and McGrath, p. 38.)
5Frank Damrosch, "The American Conservatory, Its Aim and Possibilities," PMTNA, vol. 1 (1906), p. 20. (Quoted in Wager and McGrath, p. 39.)
6_______, General Education in a Free Society: Report of the Harvard Committee (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1945), p. 213. (Quoted in Wager and McGrath, p. 25.)
7Frederick Rudolph, The American College and University (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968), p. 245.
8Ibid., p. 278.
9Robin M. Hendrick, "Music (Field of Study)," The International Encylopedia of Higher Education (Asa S. Knowles, ed., vol. 6; San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1977), p. 2925.
10For an extensive discussion of attitude's of music faculty in regard to liberal arts, see Wager and McGrath, pp. 103-152.
12Peter Seldin, How Colleges Evaluate Professors (Croton-on-Hudson, NY: Blythe-Pennington, 1975), p. 7.
13Richard P. Chait and Andrew T. Ford, Beyond Traditional Tenure (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1982), pp. 172-198.
14John A. Centra, Determining Faculty Effectiveness (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1979), pp. 1-16.
15Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, The One Minute Manager (New York: William Morrow, 1981), pp. 36-44.
16Ibid., pp. 50-59.
17Rollo May, The Courage to Create (New York, Norton, 1975), Bantam Books edition, p. 150.
18 Harold Taylor, Students Without Teachers (New York: McGraw-Hill 1969), Discus edition, p. 309.