Music in General Studies: A Partnership between Administrator and Professor

Robert J. Werner

When I was asked to make a statement about the national importance of Music In General Studies and the role of the Dearborn Conference in this effort, I decided it would be helpful to place this in some kind of historical context, for I see this as a partnership between administrator and professor as exemplified by this Conference. Thus, it is both symbolic and appropriate that this Conference bridges the meetings of CMS and NASM. By so doing it underscore's the importance of this topic by uniting in discussion, and hopefully action, administrators and their faculty. Without this cooperation and unity of purpose, meaningful and effective programs in this area are impossible.

It is important for us to remember that the very genesis of the College Music Society comes from a concern for the place of music in the liberal arts tradition. It is for this reason that the concept of music for the general university student, the non-major, has been very much a part of the concerns of the members and officers of the College Music Society during its more than twenty-five year history.

The last time these two organizations met concurrently was in November 1972, in Minneapolis. At that meeting one of the major papers was delivered by Robert Trotter on the subject, "Music for the General College Student." In his remarks Professor Trotter referred to his invitation several years earlier in 1963 to speak to a general session of NASM in Chicago. At that time he served as President of the College Music Society as well as being a music administrator. You might remember that Bob Trotter was later to be CMS' first Member-At-Large for Music In General Studies. I think it is worth repeating what he said in 1972 drawn from the remarks he had delivered to the NASM meeting in 1963 as we discuss these same concerns in 1983. He stated that his commitment to music for the general college student was based on the fact that, "All instructional activities in music for the general student begin with a fundamental commitment to provide opportunities for developing amateurs and connoisseurs of music; that such opportunities must begin with the experience of music and then go on to develop a student's appetite and capacity to reflect critically on that experience." 1

This commitment for providing musical experiences for general college students has been a recurring motive in both CMS and NASM meetings. However, it was apparent that when the rhetoric ceased,, the level of support for Music In General Studies often. remained basically unchanged. As we know, the traditional pattern was to assign these classes to junior members of the faculty who had to "pay their dues" until they could move on; usually in the area of Musicology where they would devote, more and more time to their more and more limited areas'of specialization. In addition, little recognition was given towards promotion and tenure, or in the merit s ystem, to the teachers of these courses. Thus, we had a situation whereby personal commitment.was stated at every occasion while strong professional support was lacking on many campuses. It is of more than passing interest to note the change in this attitude indicated by the results of the recent survey of national practices in regard to Music In General Studies published by NASM/CMS this past September that now 56% of the faculty teaching these courses are tenured, full time professors. The highest ratio of these were in the private four-year colleges, but all institutions reporting indicated increased faculty interest in this area of instruction.

It was because of this growing interest in music for the general- student that the Executive Committee of NASM decided to devote a major portion of the Association's 1978 meeting in Colorado Springs to the subject "Music in General Education." The report of this meeting states that it was expected "that the results of such a discussion would provide a basis for NASM participation in, the much larger discussion which must necessarily involve colleague organizations representing other components in our musical life." These discussions at Colorado Springs had two major objectives, the first was to "raise the consciousness of participants concerning the resources and issues in the development of the American musical culture, to focus on the campus responsibilities for music in general education and to discuss the training of professionals whowould be better equipped to contribute to a national effort in the development of a committed and sophisticated musical public." The second objective was to develop ideas which might be incorporated into a revision and, expansion of the NASM standards statement on Music In General Education. This objective was realized when in 1981 a new statement appeared, in the Association's Handbook which greatly expanded the emphasis on Music in General Education.

Today I would like to direct our attention to the first of these objectives stated by NASM, that of "training professionals who are better equipped to contribute to the national effort for the development of a committed and sophisticated musical public." This I believe underscores the remarks I quoted earlier from the concern expressed by Bob Trotter in both 1963 and 1972. Now 20 years later we have to ask ourselves if as either professor or administrator we have satisfactorily come to grips with this important area of professional training, particularly for students in our doctoral programs who are preparing themselves for a career of teaching in higher education. Will they be able to teach music effectively to the general university student? What courses or supervised teaching experiences prepare the next generation of professors to communicate effectively about music to the general student? This certainly, should be a topic of present and future concern for all of those participating in the Conference.

I believe you are all aware that as a follow up to its national conference on Music In General Studies held at the Wingspread Conference Center in July 1981, the College Music Society has held two summer workshops, in June 1982 and June 1983, for college teachers to develop and refine their skills in presenting music to the general college student. Both have been eminently successful. The wide range of professorial rank and ages that have participated in the CMS sponsored workshops has been encouraging, as has been administrators' support.

At the Wingspread Conference a great deal of emphasis was placed on the importance of involving students with music so that they could develop the skills and insights needed to make their own value judgments about a wide range of music as a major benefit of their college education. For it is they who will be the next group of parents, board members, and regents. They, too, will be our university presidents, deans and vice presidents who make decisions about our programs. The experiences they have in music during their university education often are reflected in decisions throughout their careers.

I suggest that the challenge to this Conference and to our future activities that result from it, for both CMS and NASM, is how we will react to two major issues. First, to providing curricular approaches both practical and idealistic enough to capture the imagination of our profession and at the same time provide teachers with the security to implement new approaches and reevaluate present programs. Secondly, to develop programs for the important task of training future professionals and retraining present professionals to be able to respond successfully to this need.

It is my hope that we can move the process forward as a result of our meeting and discussions here, because time is indeed short. With the intensified emphasis on technology and career education in our universities we must provide a viable and effective example of the importance of the arts in education. As administrators and professors we must take this opportunity to turn beliefs and hopes into action and change. This is my hope for the Dearborn Conference.


1Trotter, Robert, "General Education in Music" Bulletin #52, National Association of Schools of Music, p. 43.