February, 1987

David Willoughby

One of the most significant contributions made by The College Music Society over the past several years was in providing forums for national dialog on important issues facing music in higher education. Such forums included the Wingspread and Dearborn Conferences on Music in General Studies, the five summer Institutes for Music in General Studies, and published reports relating to minority issues and the status of women in college music.

In articulating these issues, CMS did not presume simple solutions; it did not even presume simple questions. One of its more important tasks in this process was to formulate the right questions.

The Wingspread Conference began with no preconceived answers and without a fully developed set of questions—just the broad question of what to do with music curricula designed for the general college student. The Conference refined the questions and issues and developed a set of recommendations for followup.

With encouragement that this process seemed to work for Music in General Studies, CMS is continuing it by establishing formats to generate a national dialog on three more broad issues:

  1. A Study of the Content of the Undergraduate Music Curriculum (Information and a call for participation previously was distributed to the membership.)
  2. A Study of the Preparation of College Music Teachers and the Quality of Music Teaching in Higher Education (Information and a call for participation also was previously distributed to the membership.)
  3. College Music and the Community (This is Phase II of the Music in General Studies Program and is now in the initial planning stage; more information will be included in the March issue of the Newsletter.)

I encourage the membership and other interested professionals to get involved with the process, formulate questions and possible solutions, and share them.

Relating to the new Community program, I speculate that one of the issues that it may address is the use of the broadcast media in presenting music to wider and more diverse audiences and perhaps the use of media for innovative purposes that perhaps haven't even been widely tested as yet.

An example of the innovative use of media took place in January that many of you may have watched on public television. It was a four-hour videoconference presented by Clavier magazine and produced by the Baldwin Piano and Organ Company. It addressed the question: "Is Independent Studio Teaching a Viable Career?"

The conference originated in Cincinnati and was broadcast live via satellite to prearranged workshop sites throughout the United States and Canada. Five panelists discussed practical aspects of studio teaching, including advertising, taxes, recruiting, and bookkeeping; additionally, they responded to call-in questions from local workshop participants.

Perhaps the use of FM radio for the presentation of music has not been utilized to its fullest potential, particularly for the presentation of more esoteric topics in music such as the more unfamiliar repertoires or those repertoires not usually associated with formal music learning.

An example of a radio format for presenting such topics is the new series on The Nature of Music. Produced for National Public Radio by Dr. Karl Signell, the thirteen half-hour programs are scheduled for release in April 1987. You can contact your local NPR station for day and time of broadcast.

The series presents music's relationship to such topics as the brain, body, spirit, words, technology, and commerce. It explores ways of thinking about music, utilizing a variety of nationally recognized performers, scholars, psychologists, record producers, and creators of music. A wide variety of repertoire illustrates and supports each topic.

Perhaps as society advances and technologies change, our philosophical questions about presenting music and, indeed, our understanding of what music is, creates further questions about what topics and repertoire to include in music curricula. This suggests the need for ongoing reassessment, a process that CMS is seeking to facilitate.