Educating Professional Musicians in a Global Context Philippos

Educating Professional Musicians in a Global Context Philippos
Educating Professional Musicians in a Global Context
Proceedings of the 19th International Seminar of the Commission for the
Education of the Professional Musician (CEPROM)
International Society for Music Education
edited by
Janis Weller
Philippos Nakas Conservatory, Athens, Greece
July 10-13, 2012
Published by the International Society for Music Education
The full papers submitted to the 2012 International Seminar of ISME’s Commission for the Education
of the Professional Musician were double blind refereed by a panel of international authorities before
inclusion in the Seminar Program and Seminar Proceedings.
Membership of the Commission for 2010-2012:
Janis Weller, USA (Chair)
Kaija Huhtanen, Finland
Eddy K.M. Chong, Singapore
Glen Carruthers, Canada
Rosie Perkins, U.K.
Don Lebler, Australia
© 2012 International Society for Music Education (ISME)
email: [email protected]
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National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry
Author: International Society for Music Education. International
Seminar of the Commission for the Education of the
Professional Musician (19th: 2012: Athens, Greece)
Title: Educating professional musicians in a global context
[electronic resource] : proceedings of the 19th
International Seminar of the Commission for the
Education of the Professional Musician. Philippos
Nakas Conservatory, Athens, Greece, July 10-13,
2012 / Janis Weller.
ISBN: 9780987351142 (ebook)
Notes: Includes bibliographical references.
Subjects: Music--Instruction and study--Congresses.
Christina Anagnostopoulou, Dawn Bennett, Diana Blom, Judith Brown
Francisco Cardoso, Gemma Carey, Glen Carruthers, Eddy Chong, Erika Donald, John Drummond, Francis
Dubé, John Encarnacao, David Forrest, Patrick K. Freer,
Michael Hannan, Diane Hughes, Kaija Huhtanen, Don Lebler, Andromai Melissari, Christian Martin,
Annie Mitchell, Rosie Perkins, Pamela Pike, Elisabetta Piras, Hermilo Pinherio Santana, Ian Stevenson,
Angeliki Triantafyllaki, Amanda Watson, Janis Weller, Yangang Zhao.
International Society for Music Education.
Dewey Number: 780.7
Janis Weller
Dawn Bennett & Patrick K Freer
Possible selves and the messy business of identifying with career
Diana Blom, Ian Stevenson & John Encarnacao
The assessment rubric as institutional culture: Evaluating creative music processes
and outcomes at undergraduate level
Judith Brown
Making it Relevant: Engaging performing arts students in theoretical learning
Gemma Carey & Don Lebler
Quality, Accountability, Change
Glen Carruthers
Conservatories and Universities: Emergent New Roles
Eddy Chong
Contemplating Composition Pedagogy in the iPad Era
Erika Donald
Performance Students as Future Studio Teachers: Are they prepared to teach?
John Drummond
Quarts into pint pots: Meeting the challenges of professional education
in the 21st century
Michael Hannan & Diana Blom
The role of popular songwriting in three Australian tertiary music curricula:
different strokes for different folks?
Diane Hughes
Mediocrity to artistry: Technology and the singing voice
Kaija Huhtanen
The education of the professional musician: How much music is required?
Christian Martin &Francis Dubé
Descriptive Gaps of Piano Teachers' Representations about
Healthy Postural Attitudes
Annie Mitchell
Raising the Bar
Rosie Perkins
Conservatoire Cultures of Performance Specialism: Perspectives from
an Ethnographically-informed Case Study
Pamela Pike
Educating Musicians to Teach in the 21st Century: A Case Study of Teaching
Synchronous Piano Lessons Online
Angeliki Triantafyllaki, Andromai Melissari & Christina Anagnostopoulou
Undergraduate students' experiences of music and learning during
university outreach activities
Amanda Watson & David Forrest
Live music and the bands culture in Victoria, Australia: An exploratory study of
education for the professional musician
Poster Presentations—Abstracts
Francisco Cardoso
Flow while Teaching and Learning in Individual Tuition Settings
Hermilo Pinherio Santana
The Role of Information Technology in a Brazilian Higher Education
Music Program
Elisabetta Piras
What Young Musicians Think Listening to a Music Performance
Yanfang Zhao
The Cultural Connotation of the Dulcimer: International Features and
Chinese Characters
Author Biographies
Janis Weller
McNally Smith College of Music
St. Paul, MN, USA
[email protected]
Introduction to CEPROM/ISME
This publication includes the academic papers and poster session abstracts selected for the 19th
International Seminar of the Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician (CEPROM), held
at the Phillipo Nakas Conservatory in Athens, Greece, from July 10 through 13, 2012.
The International Society for Music Education has seven commissions, each focused on specialized fields
within international music education. The Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician
(CEPROM) is one of these seven. The definition of a “professional musician” can be far-reaching and is
somewhat elusive, taking on varied meanings in different types of institutions, in the many different realms
of the field, and between diverse cultures. CEPROM seeks to keep the notion of ‘professional musician’
open, and so explores a wide array of topics related to the training, roles, opportunities, and challenges of
what it means to be a ‘professional musician’ in today’s global context.
CEPROM Mission
The mission of the ISME Commission on the Education of the Professional Musician is to engage in and
promote a variety of activities in international and local settings that:
focus on the professional musician as one who accepts responsibility for advancing and
disseminating music as an integral part of life, and whose creation and performance of music
reflects perception, understanding, appreciation, and mastery in a manner that conveys meaning to
foster the recognition of the many modes of educating and training musicians, as those modes
exist in various societies and cultures; and
emphasise ways in which to enable present and future educators to employ modes of preparing
musicians that reflect an awareness of the continually changing role of the musician in various
societies and cultures.
Theme and sub-themes for 2012
CEPROM has ongoing interests in the innumerable ways that musicians are educated for sustainable
careers in today’s world and these broad interests led to the theme for the 2012 Seminar, “Educating
Professional Musicians in a Global Context.”
The academic papers included in this volume address issues faced by professional musicians and music
educators and reflect on the powerful roles of globalization and the increasingly rapid pace of change in
21st century life.
Format of Seminar
The CEPROM seminar format provides for active participation through presentations, responses, and
discussion, resulting in an intimate and engaged atmosphere for learning and sharing. Unlike traditional,
presentation-based conferences, the CEPROM seminar seeks to draw on the expertise and cultural diversity
of all the participants throughout the week.
All presentations at the 2012 ISME Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician in Athens,
Greece, were peer refereed before inclusion in the Seminar program. In addition, completed papers were
fully (blind) refereed by a panel of international authorities before inclusion in the Seminar Proceedings.
Some papers from the full pool of submissions were designated for a poster session to help encourage
broader geographic and topical diversity of participation.
The seminar proceedings (this volume) are distributed digitally to all participants two weeks before the
seminar and it is expected that everyone read the papers prior to the start of the seminar. Individual
presenters then ‘speak to’ their papers rather than reading them, highlighting salient points and updating
their research when appropriate. Following each ten-minute presentation, two ‘responders’ share their
insights and questions about the paper. Responders select papers of interest to them and their expertise and
prepare their responses ahead of time. Finally, there is a 10-15 minute opportunity for discussion by the full
group. Thorough preparation by all participants coupled with this interactive format deepens and enriches
the active learning of all participants.
In addition to the paper presentations and poster session, time is also allotted for another session entitled
“Open Spaces.” For the Open Spaces portion of the schedule, any presenters or observers may propose
topics of interest related to CEPROM’s mission and convene small group discussions on these topics. Open
Spaces provides an additional opportunity to tap into the expertise and experience of participants and
observers as well, giving attendees a voice in the seminar and in CEPROM.
Networking is another vital aspect of the seminar. Working with like-minded professionals from around the
world at CEPROM seminars encourages ongoing connections between biannual seminars. Relationships
developed at CEPROM seminars have led to numerous joint research projects and recently, a co-authored
book project (scheduled for publication by Common Grounds Press in 2012), entitled Life in the Real
World: Making Music Graduates Employable. A concert presented by our Greek hosts and an excursion to
the Acropolis, new Acropolis Museum, and a festive seminar dinner in the ancient Plaka area of Athens all
nurture continued networking opportunities and help ground the 2012 seminar in the extraordinary history
and culture of our host country.
2012 CEPROM Seminar papers
Eighteen papers were selected for full presentation in Athens. These papers aligned with the overall theme,
“Educating Professional Musicians in a Global Context,” and one or more of the following sub-themes of
the seminar:
Culture Bearers, whose contributions celebrate the roles of music and musicians across broad
cultural contexts are represented this year both by paper presentations and by posters. In 2012,
presenters from Brazil, Australia, Canada, Italy, Finland, Singapore, UK, China, USA, New
Zealand, and Greece brought diverse perspectives and unique cultural heritage to both the
presentations and the discussions at CEPROM.
Music careers: educating musicians for diverse and sustainable careers
Diversity of skills—musical, business, personal, and otherwise—is a vital element in creating
sustainable portfolio or protean careers for 21st century musicians. But how do music
conservatories and universities make difficult curricular decisions within the limited time available
in degree programs? While recognizing the diversity of skills necessary for musicians, Kaija
Huhtanen starts with a fundamental question: how much music is required in order to consider
someone a professional musician? In his paper, John Drummond proposes one possible solution to
over-full music curricula through instituting online learning collectives. Gemma Carey and Don
Lebler share a case study from the conservatoire perspective, in an institution that seeks to balance
traditional performance goals with the wide array of other skills important for employability.
Amanda Watson and David Forrest examine government-supported opportunities for musicians to
learn the business aspects of the field in Victoria, Australia.
Professional Identities for individuals and institutions
Do music students understand this widely recognized need for diverse skills as relevant to their
likely career paths? It can be challenging to help young musicians accept the breadth of skills
necessary for sustainable and satisfying careers within traditional curricula and expectations.
Dawn Bennett and Patrick Freer propose the concept of “possible selves” in helping music
students recognize and begin to develop “holistic musician identities.” Two papers examine these
questions within specific contexts. Angeliki Triantafyllaki, with Andromahi Melissari and
Christina Anagnostopoulou, studied music students working with challenging populations in
community outreach activities and the resulting affects on the music students’ self perceptions and
relationship with their art form. Erika Donald asks the question, “Are music graduates prepared to
teach studio lessons?” She shares the results of a small pilot survey in Canada.
The physical and psychological well-being of musicians are critical elements in career
sustainability. Christian Martin and Francis Dubé delve deeply into physical postures of piano
playing and the implications for teachers and pedagogy.
The topic of music curricula is a popular sub-theme among this year’s presenters and the papers
cover a range of teaching and learning approaches and studies.
Assessing ensemble rehearsals can be difficult, is always highly subjective, and may be perceived
by students as unfair. Diana Blom, Ian Stevenson, and John Encarnacao have developed and tested
assessment rubrics to create fairer and more effective methods of assessment. Darcy Alcantara
Neto examines both the methods and the attitudes that informally trained contemporary musicians
bring to more formal aural training in music school in Brazil. Focusing on efficient strategies for
teaching memorization, Tania Lisboa, Roger Chaffin, and Alexander Demos successfully applied
previous research in memorization methods to a student with no previous memorization
experience. Positioning academic learning as relevant for performance students can be
challenging. Judith Brown shares an effective strategy for teaching music theory and history that
she has developed. Michael Hannan and Diana Blom compared the teaching of songwriting in
three distinctly different higher education institutions in Australia: a city-based university with a
broad music curriculum, a regional university with a focus on contemporary music, and a
vocationally-oriented Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institution.
Institutional cultures and leadership
Glen Carruthers coined the term, “universatoria” to describe the hybrid university/conservatory
model. His paper discusses both curricular and administrative opportunities benefits of this
structure in Canada. Rosie Perkins looked at “learning cultures” within the conservatory,
specifically the continued focus on the culture of ‘performance specialism.’ Rosie’s UK study
shows a realization of the need for diverse learning and skills in the conservatoire, but does not
find these skills “intrinsically valued, respected, and celebrated.”
Technology in music education and professional life
There is no question that developments and rapid growth in technology have had profound affects
on the music industry and in the ways musicians relate to their careers. Three papers address
aspects of technology this year. Eddy Chong discusses technology and the art of composition, first
as technology affects the art of composition itself and secondly, how it pertains to composition
pedagogy. In contemporary popular music, technology plays a highly significant role in “the
shaping and production aesthetics of contemporary vocals,” according to author Diane Hughes.
Hughes discusses these technology elements and their implication in training professional singers.
Pamela Pike focuses on technology and pedagogy, examining Internet MIDI, a tool for online
piano pedagogy, and ways graduate pedagogy students engaged with the software while working
with piano students.
2012 Poster Session
CEPROM was also pleased to welcome our Poster Session presenters, including artists and educators from
Brazil, Malaysia, China, and Italy. Yanfang Zhao discussed the world-wide prevalence of the dulcimer and
its particular role in Chinese culture. Francisco Cardoso studied Flow and optimal experiences in
instrumental lessons in Portugal. Hermilo Pinheiro Santana explored the role of technology in student
learning in Brazilian higher education. Elisabetta Piras examined student perceptions of musical
experiences in Italy.
The ISME Commission Seminar Committee and ISME are grateful to the CEPROM Commissioners who
provided expert, independent advice and who acted as referees for selecting papers and posters for
presentation at the 2012 ISME Commission for the Education of the Professional Music:
Glen Carruthers, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada
Eddy Chong, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Kaija Huhtanen, Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Music, Finland
Don Lebler, Queensland Conservatorium of Griffith University, Australia
Rosie Perkins, Royal College of Music, United Kingdom
Janis Weller, Chair, McNally Smith College of Music, USA
Profound thanks to the CEPROM Commissioners 2010-2012: Rosie Perkins, United Kingdom; Glen
Carruthers, Canada; Eddy Chong, Singapore; Kaija Huhtanen, Finland; and Don Lebler, Australia. Thank
you for your deep and thoughtful reviews, discussions, and help with planning for our Athens seminar.
Thanks also to Michael Hannan for his council as a highly experienced previous CEPROM chair. What a
smart and fabulous team!
CEPROM enthusiastically thanks our on-the-ground planning team in Athens: Angeliki Triantafyllaki,
Lilly Kotsira, and Despoina Mattheopoulou. Your work on crucial behind the scenes elements such as
space, materials, catering, housing, entertainment, and transportation were vital, particularly with the often
tricky nature of planning an international conference. Thank you also for encouraging local Greek music
students and educators to attend the seminar. We could not have held the Seminar without you!
CEPROM gives grateful thanks to the Philippos Nakas Conservatory for the generous use of their beautiful
facility in the heart of downtown Athens, and Mr. Evangelos Kokkoris, Artistic Director.
Thanks to Athens Direct travel agency and Stathis Perdikis for significant help with travel arrangements,
hotel discounts, and our tour excursion.
Thank you to the ever-patient, enormously adept, multi-tasking, Judy Thönell, Secretary General of ISME
and to ISME Board member/CEPROM liaison Theodora Stathopoulos, who attended the seminar.
I want to thank my institution, McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA for their
support of my role as chair of CEPROM over the past two years.
I am grateful and humbled to learn with and from the extraordinary individuals that participate in
CEPROM. Linking our common commitment to educating future and current music professionals and
understanding the ever-evolving nature of music teaching and learning across countries and cultures of the
world is profoundly enriching and inspiring. Thank you!
Janis Weller, 2010-1012 Chair
Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician
Possible selves and the messy business of identifying with career
Dawn Bennett
Curtin University, Australia
[email protected]
Patrick K Freer
Georgia State University, USA
There is general consensus that the working lives of musicians are diverse and complex, incorporating a wide
range of activities and necessitating an attitude of lifelong learning. Whilst numerous music institutions have
initiated curricular reform in recognition of the diverse and complex needs of graduates, the ability of faculty to
engage students in a broad range of learning opportunities remains a problematic issue. This paper considers the
development of students’ salient identities as a means of developing this motivation and engagement. Drawing
on a small case study of undergraduate music performance and music education majors in Australia and the US,
the paper introduces the concept of possible selves as an effective and broadly accessible tool for the training of
musicians. Findings reveal that the limited definition of ‘musician as performer’ underpins the thinking of both
performance and education students. At odds with students’ career and life plans, the performer definition
appears to inhibit the development of holistic musician identities, with the result that many students present a
personal definition of musician that is already too narrow to accommodate their developing career narratives.
Keywords: music, musician, career, identity, education
There is general consensus that the working lives of musicians are diverse and complex, incorporating a wide
range of activities (Burt-Perkins & Lebler, 2008; Hannan, 2003) across a number of genres (Cottrell, 2004) and
including both arts and non-arts roles (Burland & Davidson, 2004). There is similar agreement that the
management of such careers requires an attitude of lifelong learning (Smilde, 2009) and that the pattern of
adapt-learn-survive is increasingly common across the workforce. Indeed, over the past two decades,
recognition that work within the creative or cultural industries provides a “template for new modes of working”
(Oakley, 2009, p. 27) has led to increasing exposure within both policy and academic discourse and has seen a
rise in the use of terminology such as protean, portfolio and composite to define so-called ‘new’ careers and
ways of working.
Against this background, debate about employment, labour patterns and the experience of work has yet “to
locate the tensions between creativity, competition and profit within specific labour processes and in specific
places” (Bennett, Fitzgerald & Rainnie, in press). With the notable exception of studies that have drawn primary
data from intensive research with musicians (c.f. Bennett, 2008; Cottrell, 2004; Smilde, 2009; Traasdahl, 1996),
little research is able to reveal the often-chaotic characteristics and dynamics of music work in terms of (in)
security, (self) exploitation, attitude, trajectory or orientation; or the impact of issues such as commodification
and post/industrialisation.
The difficulty of ‘proving’ the practice of musicians places higher music education in a difficult position when it
comes to advocating the value of and need for curricular or pedagogical reform. Moreover, pedagogues seeking
to broaden students’ self-concept can encounter confusion and opposition when faced with a real word view that
is at odds with a more traditional, performance-focused trajectory. Self-construction of career is culturally and
socially informed, and as such the construction needs to consider both objective and subjective positions (Poole
et al., 1993). Whereas career is objective in relation to the organisation of work, sources of income and
allocation of time and location (Bennett, 2010), it is subjective in relation to self-identity and the way in which
this identity is conveyed to others. In this sense, career can be seen as an overarching concept within which
people can “construct connections among actions, to account for effort, plans, goals, and consequences, to frame
internal cognitions and emotions, and to use feedback and feed-forward processes (Young & Collin, 2000, p. 5).
Our previous research (Bennett, 2012; Freer, 2010) has suggested that the ability of musicians to construct broad
musician identities relates directly to perceived alignment between music work and the self. In seeking to
develop this in students we have drawn on the work of Ylijoki and Mäntylä (2003) to encourage students to
imagine and position themselves within multiple stories of self. In this paper we analyse the thinking of music
performance and education majors at the start of this journey, considering the collective beliefs and
representations of musician brought to the exploration of identity and career.
In this paper we report data from surveys constructed for a longer-term project grounded in the concept of
‘possible selves’ (Markus & Nurius, 1986), which can be defined as personalised representations of self in the
future. Based on multiple layers of extant theory and research (Freer, 2010), these psychological resources “are
instrumental in motivating and defending the self in the course of adult development” (Cross & Markus, 1991, p.
230) and have particular relevance during periods of transition such as the period of undergraduate training
(Weller, in press).
The project involves parallel studies in the US and Australia, which have engaged undergraduate and graduate
students in music performance and music education. Survey items have included those requesting closed and
open-ended response, and repeated items for the purposes of triangulation, validity and reliability. The surveys
have also incorporated drawing prompts (Bennett, 2012). Survey questions have amassed data on participants’
backgrounds, expected and desired futures, fears, and identities. The surveys reported here involved
undergraduate students (n=15 AU; n=8 US) and were delivered in face-to-face sessions with the researchers.
Students were invited to participate in the surveys as part of one of their undergraduate units, and they were
given the option to withhold their reflections and surveys. The Australian students were based at a conservatoire
and the researcher visited the class on four occasions, implementing this initial survey in the first class.
Responses were catalogued, coded and examined for emergent themes.
We consider here a specific sub-set of questions designed to elicit information about the presage or foundational
thinking of students, and we focus on responses from the Australian students because of the researcher’s visiting
(unknown) status, which ensured unbiased responses. The sub-set included the question: ‘To you, what is a
musician?’ Comparing each student’s response to this question with their personal narrative about self-identity
and career enabled us to consider alignment between musician definition and self in each case.
Results and discussion
Our discussion begins with three students whose narratives described a planned, long-term engagement with
teaching. Three of the students (S1, S12 and S13) were undertaking a double degree in performance and
education, whilst the 4th student was a classical saxophone major. For this student (S14), teaching was a
response to the realisation that there would be insufficient performance work:
I guess [my career goal] would be to teach music to children. Right now it [teaching] is
mostly to earn some extra money while I’m at uni, and I guess later on it will be to earn a
living seeing as I can’t be in an orchestra or anything.
The student did not mention professional performance work within her narrative, and she appears to position
herself outside of the musician identity in her performance-focused definition:
A musician is a musical performer, that not only understands the harmony and history and all
that, but expresses their feelings in the music.
The other three students in this group clearly described future careers as music educators, S1 “teaching at a
private school taking choirs and having a substantial amount of private students”; S12 declaring: “Teaching will
be my career!!”; and S13 focussed on developing effective teaching skills. This student planned to eventually
leave classroom teaching in favour of a home-based studio that would align with her ambition to raise a family.
None of these students mentioned professional performance within their initial narratives, and their definitions
(shown below) were performance focused. Student S1 later wrote that she would ideally like to be performing
“full-time on my instrument”, but that she expected to “be teaching and performing”.
A musician is someone whose passion is music … [they] always strive to perform at the
highest standard.
A musician is someone who can play, write and perform music at a decent standard.
A musician is someone who plays and appreciates music.
Six of the instrumental performance majors positioned teaching as a temporary, fall-back position similar to that
described by Huhtanen (2008). One of the two French horn majors (S4) was quite clear about the rationale for
her temporary engagement with teaching:
Three to five years after graduating I want to be coming back from overseas where I had been
getting tutorage, coming to do auditions and hopefully teach in the meantime. Teaching will
help to make me some more money and also help me to work out things with the horn through
explanation to others.
The student’s definition of a musician reflected these performance ambitions:
A musician is someone who creates beauty through sound.
The other French horn major (S8) expressed a simple overall career goal: “to have a career in music”
recognising, however, that “to be a performer it may take 10 years but I could start teaching in 4 years”. Seen
elsewhere in his narrative, this student stated he was not sufficiently skilled to secure a performance position in
the short term. Teaching was again positioned as a temporary role. For this student, and aligned with longer term
career goals, the definition of musician as performer was clear:
A musician is an interpreter of music.
One of the violin majors (S7) viewed teaching as “a part time career. … While teaching, I can continue to work
towards perhaps a career in music performance or something entirely different”. Expressing a fear that she
would “fail/not be good enough to become a performer”, the student was concerned she would “not find
something else that I am passionate enough about to enjoy as a career”. Career alignment with passion, or
calling, emerged as tremendously important to this cohort with one student writing: “I just love music, couldn’t
see myself doing anything else” (S9). Passion or a love of music was seen in six of the fifteen definitions, five of
them from the performance majors.
S1 … someone whose passion is music, who devotes their life to music. …
S2 … a person who has patience, passion and respect…
S6 … someone who loves their instrument and is passionate about what they do…
S7 … someone who loves music…
S9 … someone who has a deep passion for music…
S11 … someone passionate about the ART of music
Four of the definitions in which passion featured strongly came from students who demonstrated particular
incertitude with regard to the future. Students with well-defined career plans and goals were much less likely to
write of passion: for example, one trumpet performance major was targeting a career in the Royal Navy Band
and defined a musician in terms of task: “a person that plays or teaches as a living”. For some students,
including the two violin majors, intrinsic satisfaction was paramount to primary career goal: “to make a living
doing something I enjoy/love and that others also benefit from…” (S7); “… to be happy and successful. I think
this is more important, as well as the journey, than single-mindedly chasing a goal” (S6).
The element of fear was commonly expressed. Some students worried about “money issues and job security …
due to lack of demand and over-supply” (S9), whilst others worried on a personal level: “that I won’t find my
passion and be completely happy”. Of note, the realisation that teaching would play a role in future careers
(whether as a primary or supporting, temporary or long-term role) prompted concern about teaching ability: for
example, a flute/education major (S10) was concerned “that maybe I won’t be good enough to teach” and a
voice/education major (S13) wrote: “I fear I won’t be fully equipped to teach things in areas I don’t understand
and so there will be gaps in my students’ understanding”. The students’ narratives suggest a desire to engage in
teaching activities in order to become effective teachers and learners.
Only one of the Australian students mentioned a role other than performance or teaching, which suggests the
students had yet to consider the myriad opportunities open to them within and beyond a life in music. In contrast,
and perhaps reflecting economic conditions in the United States, students in the US frequently spoke of how
university training in music and education might transfer to employment possibilities beyond music. These
ranged from clerical office work and financial services through to architecture and construction.
Our findings correspond with those of Steinberg (2005) who reports that older adolescents experience the latter
stages of cognitive and affective development, with commensurate changes to brain structure and function.
Though older adolescents can hypothesise about their future roles and tasks with prompting and guidance, their
characteristic response is to focus on immediate concerns and identities (Gabb, Tinberg & Weisberger, 2011).
Students in this study related to a musical identity that initially seemed to allow for little else than the most
obvious roles of performer and teacher. As they grappled with the realisation of what graduate life might bring,
many students seemed to leave the identity of musician behind, only to view it as an outsider looking in on the
world of the performer. Most troubling is that as they left behind the traditional musician identity they rarely
appeared to know how to construct one of their own making.
Closing remarks
“A musician is someone who can tell you who they are through the way they play their music.” (S10, music
education/performance major, flute)
The above statement encapsulates the way in which both the performance and education majors defined
musician. Not only was performance the overriding characteristic of the musician identity, it defined the whole
person. The reality is that the students appear to be positioning themselves outside of their own definitions. For
graduates to effectively transfer knowledge (and perhaps themselves) from one situation to another they need to
recognise their potential to take ownership of and manage complex challenges within their working lives,
including challenges to their professional identities.
Integrating self-efficacy, which requires students to relate clear self-image to a professional skill set (Bandura,
1997) is a complex task for educators in disciplines such as music. Of particular relevance here is Guichard’s
(2006, p. 7) description of cognitive structures that enable individuals to organise the conception of others in the
construct of themselves: “identity [cognitive] frames are relative to all kinds of social categories constituting the
‘identity offer’ for a given individual in a given society”. Diversified industrialised, global societies are said to
offer identity that is increasingly “diverse and evolving” (ibid). Rather, the social stereotypes of musician serve
to frame ‘default values’ (Minsky, 1975) around established sets of attributes, skills and tasks that are
misaligned with the realities of music work.
Promoting lifelong self-construction of a broad and fluid musician identity is a well-founded challenge, but the
emergence of possible selves as a focal point for identity research has energised discussion about what people
hope and expect to become, or fear becoming, in the future. The alignment of this to student engagement and
motivation is consistent with a social constructivist perspective of identity (Dunkel & Anthsis, 2001). It is this
construction, after all, that has led to the performance-focused definitions of musician on which students based
their narratives. The students reported in this study seemed focused on a conceptualisation of their present self
with little ability to think forward toward a possible future self that would blend the role of performer with the
role of teacher and, beyond that, to the multiple possible roles of a musician. While it is possible that this
bifurcated view is a product of normal older adolescent development, it is equally possible that the structure of
university course work, in the absence of explicit exploration of possible selves, enhances and exacerbates the
effect, thereby cementing the role of performer or teacher to the exclusion of anything else.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.
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The assessment rubric as institutional culture: evaluating creative
music processes and outcomes at undergraduate level
Diana Blom
University of Western Sydney
[email protected]
Ian Stevenson
University of Western Sydney
[email protected]
John Encarnacao
University of Western Sydney
[email protected]
When institutions, such as universities, place an assessment model across all disciplines as part of the
institutional culture, this is done with notions of fairness in mind, regardless of whether the model chosen suits
all disciplines. This paper presents a preliminary discussion of the assessment rubric as a model for assessing
outcomes in rehearsal of group performance and creative outcome of sound technology. Discussion focuses on
the views of three academics whom have designed and used assessment rubrics, focusing on their thinking
behind the design of two assessment rubrics and their experiences using these rubrics. The designer/assessors
find the rubric to be fairer and offering more readily understood numerical results for students; aiding the
defensibility of decisions made by lecturers with respect to those results within a framework of responsibility
and accountability; and streamlining the integration of multiple assessors engaged in a single assessment task.
Assessment rubric; assessing music; assessing group performance rehearsal; assessing sound technology
creative outcome
The assessment of creative processes and outcomes of undergraduate music is the subject of ongoing
discussions. This paper presents a preliminary discussion of the assessment rubric as a model for assessing
outcomes in group performance and sound technology. After a review of literature on ways of assessing creative
processes and outcomes in music and on the assessment rubric as a model, discussion by three academics (who
designed, and/or assessed with a rubric) will focus on: i) their thinking behind the design of two assessment
rubrics; and ii) their experiences using these rubrics.
Several approaches are offered for assessing creative music processes and outcomes. Leung, Wan and Lee
(2009) find their assessment framework for music composition to be “reliable…for assessing composition” (p.
266). It employs “the microview, which emphasizes the technical aspect; and the macro view, which focuses on
the overall interpretation of the work” (p. 252). Macroview parameters include “originality and creativeness,
aesthetic value/context” while microview parameters include “melody, rhythm, harmony and counterpoint, tone
colour, range and texture; idiomatic instrumental writing" (p. 253). In acousmatic music, other parameters, such
as considerations of space, can be part of the microview including “density, texture and amplitude” (Barrett,
2002, p. 316) and of the macroview, “spatial allusion” (p. 314).
A rubric with a high inter-rater reliability is the Consensual Assessment Technique that asks panels of experts in
the domain to rate the creativity of creative outcomes such as stories, collages, poems and other artifacts. Judges
are not asked “to explain or defend their ratings in any way[,]… no such instructions are to be given” (p. 4) and
there is no feedback to students other than a mark. The result is a rating of “the comparative creativity” (p. 4) of
the outcomes being judged. Byrne, MacDonald and Carlton (2003) asked undergraduate music students,
experienced music lecturers and trainee teachers to use Consensual Assessment Technique to rate group
compositions for creativity using a seven-point scale. The music lecturers were also asked to assess each
composition “on a standard set of criteria …as used in the music degrees taught within the department” (p. 284).
The significant correlation between the staff criteria score and the staff rating for creativity suggests that
Consensual Assessment Technique is “related to the seven criteria” (p. 284) and the Technique “has the
potential to be used as an alternative to the more problematic criteria-based approaches” (p. 285).
In their literature review of assessing music performance, Latimer, Bergee and Cohen (2010) describe “a priori
sets of performance dimensions (e.g., tone, intonation, etc.) without descriptors, to generate a single global score
or rating (a single summative assessment of an overall performance)” as a common characteristic of many
traditional performance adjudication forms. This includes constructing “evaluative scales that focus
purposefully on performance dimensions”, “criteria-specific rating scales to assess various levels of music
achievement in specific performance domains” (p. 169), and the rubric with a maximum of five descriptors. The
rubric was found to provide “clearer explanations of particular levels of achievement in performance dimensions
and offer… adjudicators more guidance in how to score the dimensions” (Norris and Borst 2007 in Latimer et
al., 2010, p. 170). In Latimer et al.’s (2010) study using a multidimensional weighted performance assessment
rubric for evaluating large group (orchestra, band, choir) festival performance, the approach indicated it was a
better means “to support…ratings than traditional rating sheets, gave [music] directors more information than in
the past, provided them relevant information about their performances,…could be successfully integrated into
classroom instruction” (p. 178) and possessed “improved pedagogical utility” (p. 168). Unlike the Consensual
Assessment Technique, the rubric style of assessment pursued here gives those assessed guidelines towards the
improvement of outcomes, and makes the assessors accountable for the marks awarded.
Acknowledging a lack of pedagogical understanding of the term ‘rubric’ in the early 2000s, Hafner and Hafner
(2003) find that the rubric “is now emerging as a valuable pedagogical tool” (p. 1510) for educators at all levels.
Their study asked biology majors in a US college to work in pairs or small groups to prepare an oral
presentation and self- and peer assess, consulting the rubric as a guide. The rubric was found to be “a useful
assessment tool for peer-group (and self-) assessment by students” and the general form and evaluative criteria
of the rubric were “clear” (p. 1509). Discussing assessment rubrics for evaluating primary and secondary school
composition, Hickey (1999) uses “aesthetic appeal, creativity and craftsmanship” (p. 29) for assessing general
criteria in a composition assignment. These descriptors are drawn from a “consensual assessment reliability
study” (p. 28) she conducted, and the wording for the descriptors is taken from what composers and teachers
thought about when they were assessing pieces of music. The “quality line”, for example, moves from “needs
work…[to]…Terrific!” (p. 29). The rubric should have “constructive rather than negative connotations” (p. 28),
serve as “guidelines to students[,]…help students to become sensitive and informed critics of their own work” (p.
30) and at the same time “engage students in the learning and evaluation process” (p. 32).
For our university, a criteria and standards-based approach, introduced in recent years across the institution,
“articulates expectations to students about what is required of them in an assessment task[; and]…informs them
what to aim for in their learning and on what basis their work will be judged” (Armstrong, Chan, Malfroy and
Thomson, 2008, p. 1). In doing so it “provides a defensible framework for evaluating and justifying the
legitimacy of judgments about student performance” (p. 1). For this to occur and for “an assessment to be
considered valid it requires explicit alignment between intended learning outcomes of the unit, teaching and
learning activities, and the assessment methods and tasks used to measure student achievement of those
outcomes” (p. 2). The approach also “reduces time to mark student work and promotes consistency in marking
[and] …can minimise student questions about their result…” (p. 3). Discussion of taxonomies of learning offers
lists of suitable verbs and the examples are assessment grids or rubrics. The standards-based approach requires
the articulation of ‘standards’, statements which “describe the level or quality of student performance” (p. 6) in
the assessment task. While these standards may be similar across some disciplines, the processes and outcomes
of creative music tasks present challenges.
The assessment rubrics and discussion
The two areas of the music discipline discussed, performance and sound technology, both have skills
development and creative outcomes. In this paper, one focuses on assessment of the rehearsal process, the other
on the creative outcome and relevant skills.
Collaboration and Live Music Performance is a second year unit in which students play together in groups
ranging from jazz ensembles, classical piano quartets, rock groups and improvisation groups. Lectures are given
on group dynamics, rehearsal readiness, interpretation and a related written task.
The learning outcomes for the unit focus on collaborative group music-making including: development of
musical communication skills through rehearsing; group dynamics and collaboration; application of reinterpretation; musical thinking within one’s own musical practice; considering and developing a personal
repertoire of onstage physical gesture; considering and rehearsing the notion of persona and its relationship to
communicating with audiences; the development of repertoire and working relationships within a group over a
limited time frame; analysis of modes of collaboration; and practical skills in relation to musical equipment and
The assessment rubric (Table 1) has three levels of professionalism which include ‘soft’ skills of punctuality,
instrument ready, and respect; five levels of contribution to the group process which include preparation,
contributions, leadership and initiative; and five levels of aesthetic aspects including sound quality, style and
Table 1: Assessment rubric for rehearsal process of group collaboration
High Distinction/ Distinction range
- Attendance is regular and punctual.
- The student’s instrument and/or equipment is
well maintained and brought weekly.
- The student may modify or change the
instrument on offer due to the requirements of
the music.
- If a vocalist, the student has warmed up prior
to class.
- Respect is shown for fellow group members.
High Distinction
- A high level of
preparation of
material is evident on
a weekly basis.
- The student
consistently shows
imagination in ideas
suggested to the
- Leadership is shown
by the student in
tandem with a
collaborative spirit.
High Distinction
- There is a high level
of refinement,
individuality or
nuance to the
student’s individual
- The student
contributes at a high
level to the overall
sound of the group
and its articulation of
musical style.
- The student
contributes to the
staging and
production of the
group’s material at a
high level.
Marking criteria
1. Professionalism (30%)
Credit/Pass range
- Attendance is regular and, for the
most part, punctual.
- The student’s instrument and/or
equipment works well and is
brought weekly.
- If a vocalist, the student often
warms up prior to class.
- Respect is shown for fellow group
May be attributable to any or all of the
- Irregular attendance or frequent
- The student’s instrument or
equipment is badly maintained,
incomplete or sometimes absent.
- A lack of respect is shown for fellow
group members.
2. Contribution to group process (40%)
- Some preparation of - Some preparation of
- A better than
average level of
material is evident
material is evident.
- The student shows
preparation is often
- The student
some initiative in
consistently offers
suggesting ideas to
- The student
consistently offers
ideas to the group.
the group.
- The student works
ideas to the group.
- The student works
- Important
consistently towards
the group’s
contributions are
made by the student
towards the group’s
3. Contribution to aesthetic aspects (30%)
- There is some
- The student’s
- Some attention is
paid to the student’s
individual sound is
consistently well
individual sound.
individuality or
- Some attention is
nuance to the
student’s individual
- Some attention is
paid to the overall
paid to the overall
sound and musical
sound and musical
style of the group.
- The student
contributes well to the style of the group.
- Some attention is
overall sound of the
- The student
paid to the staging
group and its
contributes well to the and production of the
group’s material.
articulation of musical staging and
production of the
- The student
group’s material.
contributes well to the
staging and
production of the
group’s material.
May be attributable to any
or all of the following:
- There is little or no
preparation of material
between workshops.
- The student shows little or
no initiative in suggesting
ideas to the group.
- The student fails to work
collaboratively with other
group members.
May be attributable to any
or all of the following:
- Little or no attention is
paid to the student’s
individual sound.
- Little or no attention is
paid to the overall sound
and musical style of the
- Little or no attention is
paid to the staging and
production of the group’s
All tutors in the unit assess with the rubric. The rubric designer says the criteria attempt to orient the student
towards elements of the task that are easily forgotten or taken for granted – particularly with regards to
professionalism (the importance of punctuality, maintenance of gear, forging and developing productive and
respectful working relationships) and interpretation (arrangement, instrumentation, attention to one's own
sound/timbre and equipment). From a teaching perspective, he feels many students come into the university
thinking that their technical music performance facility is all that matters, and therefore that a big part of this
unit should be a concentration on other factors that enable a musician to work well with others and in a variety
of contexts. The "contribution to group process" aspect should remind students that working in a group is
something that requires weekly work by individuals leading up to the session, rather than expecting it all to
happen in that two-hour workshop each week.
He notices that some students are overly fixated on the numerical result, and that perhaps the assessment rubric
also contributes to this in some sense. He tries to encourage students to simply deliver their best work, with
reference to the marking criteria, rather than to try to second guess what the work is that will get them the
highest mark – because, of course, that work doesn't exist.
A rubric assessor thinks that if students read the rubric before the unit finishes they will understand that
rehearsing encompasses a wide range of issues. She makes notes as she hears the groups during the semester and
then transfers these onto the rubric using the rubric itself as a marking sheet with circles around relevant points
plus written comments. Any rehearsal issues not covered, or which require further comment, such as persona
and presence, initiative, complex note reading, integration of instruments, are addressed in a blank Comments
section below the rubric. The rubric gives students an insight into aspects of their rehearsal process from her
point of view and the extra comments stop the rubric from stifling discussion of issues that arise. As a marking
tool it speeds up the marking process for her and also focuses moderation discussion. She feels it would be
useful to ask students to self-assess using this rubric.
The unit Sound Technologies and Machine Musicianship is a second year sound technology major unit with
outcomes focused on: the ability to understand and productively explore the creative potentials of digital music
performance systems; extending knowledge of sound synthesis techniques; developing skills with music
programming in software patcher environments; developing a conceptual understanding of interactive or
responsive sound works; and the ability to design, plan, realise and assess substantial creative projects.
The performance/presentation project (accompanied by written/audio-visual documentation) requires students to
work in pairs to “develop and execute an electro-acoustic sound work of 8-10 minutes during, using Max/MSP
and one or more musical control devices. Installations and interactive works may also be proposed. The
assessment task aims to help the student "develop and test (their) ability to design, plan, realise, document and
assess substantial creative projects” (Learning Guide 2011). Students are required to present their
performance/installation work in concert at the end of semester.
The assessment rubric (Table 2) has five levels of professionalism ranging from unsatisfactory to exceptional,
and five descriptors – structure; presentation/audience engagement; performativity; interactivity; and balance,
timbre and dynamics.
Table 2: Assessment rubric for electro-acoustic sound work of 8-10 minutes
No structuring
concept evident or
random events.
Simple formal
structure – song,
linear, binary,
ternary, etc.
Idiomatic and wellintegrated musical
Presentation /
context. Major
technical failure
due to lack of
Some lack of
attention to detail in
presentation or
awareness of
Well rehearsed
performance flows
smoothly, all sound
material integrated
into performance.
Mainly prerecorded material.
Relies heavily on
Good balance
between preproduction and
structuring on
macro and micro
All sound material
created in
strong link between
gestures and sonic
“Press to start”
Simple control
systems inhibit
potential or
variation in
interaction with
Novel performance
interaction with
sonic material or
Balance, timbre
and dynamics
Unintelligible sound
Some elements
obscured or poor
instrument timbres.
Lack of attention to
sound image or
Effective use of
Subtle use of
technique and level
balancing. Good
image production.
Structure enhances
concept, form and
content clearly
related, form
creates drama and
Well executed
captures and
engages audience.
Creative use of
Novel approach to
formal construction
creates strong
aesthetic impact.
Additional technical
or performance
introduced to
capture audience
attention and
support musical
technique. Highly
Unique realization
created in the
integration of
acoustic and
Advanced and
enhanced through
superior image
balance and
For the designer/assessor, the rubric attempted to capture the key aspects that had been highlighted in panel
assessment procedures in previous units. In these discussions several objective criteria were recurrent in the
critiques of student work. Occasionally one panel member would have strong negative or positive opinions
about a particular performance, however within the panel process, unless these opinions could be clearly argued
in terms of some objectively observable aspect of the performance the opinion was unlikely to sway the other
panel members. The selection of criteria in this table attempts to condense those objectively observable criteria.
It should be noted that there is no "global impression" or "artistic merit" criteria included although aspects of
these types of evaluation will be noticed in the descriptors under the "Exceptional" standard for various criteria.
It is perhaps this "global impression" that motivated some of the difficult to resolve debates in panel situations.
The rubric takes advantage of the electronic gradebook offered by Blackboard learning management system to
calculate a final grade with the benefit of providing grades and written feedback to students in an efficient
manner. The actual grades and standards indicated in this table were modified in subsequent grading rubrics by
adding a "needs improvement" standard yielding a grade of 40% and by adjusting the individual values to lie at
the median point for each standard. In cases where "global impression of artistic merit" considerations sway the
assessor they are encouraged to choose one criteria to advance the grade and then provide written feedback on
the merits of the work and any disparity with the wording in the rubric. While the system may appear overly
mechanistic, individual assessors are encouraged to discuss their grades over the phone and a formal grade
comparison is completed at the start and end of the grading process. The system has the great benefit of being
efficient in a context where face-to-face feedback is limited. It is the opposite of an expert panel grading
approach which was no longer viable due to budget constraints.
From a student’s perspective, the designer/assessor suspects the selection of the criteria is somewhat jargon
heavy with the terms "Performativity" and "Interactivity" both contestable and not clearly defined. These terms
were specifically chosen to promote debate and critical reflection on aspects of music technology. They were
intended to be key terms in the content of the lectures and tutorials and it was felt that by foregrounding them in
the assessment criteria this would help focus the attention of the students on these issues and thereby enhance
their ability to achieve the desired learning outcomes. Although he has no way of evaluating this he suspects that
the presentation of these ideas and the other descriptive detail in a highly condensed rubric format does little to
clarify this intention for the students and assumes that, as ever, a small number of students carefully read and
consider these details and the criteria, the majority will quickly scan the description and a small number do not
read it at all.
The deployments of the institution selected rubric model for assessment of performative and creative work
presented here attempt to empower and inform students with respect to the criteria used, the aesthetic boundaries
of the work, and practical issues around its realisation. They offer an attempt to provide some objectivity around
assessments that may appear, both from outside the discipline, and from students with a wide variety of
experiences and expectations, to be subjective. Among the desired results of using this system are i) fairer and
more readily understood numerical results for students; ii) the defensibility of decisions made by lecturers with
respect to those results within a framework of responsibility and accountability; and iii) a streamlining of the
integration of multiple assessors engaged in a single assessment task. In future work it is proposed to evaluate
the effectiveness of this method by allowing students to self-assess using the rubrics provided.
Armstrong, S., Chan, S., Malfroy, J., & Thomson, R. (2008). Standards-based Approach to Assessment at UWS.
Teaching Development Unit (TDU), University of Western Sydney: Sydney.
Baer, J. & McKool, S. (2009). Assessing creativity using the consensual assessment. In C. Schreiner (Ed.),
Handbook of assessment technologies, methods and applications in higher education. Hershey, Pennsylvania:
IGI Global, pp. 1-13.
Barrett, N. (2002). Spatio-musical composition strategies. Organised Sound, 7(3),313-323.
Byrne, C., MacDonald, R., & Carlton, L. (2003). Assessing creativity in musical compositions: Flow as an
assessment tool. British Journal of Music Education, 20(3), 277-290.
Hafner, J.C., & Hafner, P.M. (2003). Quantitative analysis of the rubric as an assessment tool: an empirical
study of student peer-group rating. International Journal of Science Education, 25(12), 1509-1528.
Hickey, M. (1999). Assessment rubrics for music composition. Music Educators Journal, 85(4), 26-32,52,33.
Latimer, M.E., Bergee, M.J., & Cohen, M.L. (2010). Reliability and perceived pedagogical utility of a weighted
music performance assessment rubric. Journal of Research in Music Education, 58(2), 168-183.
Leung, C. C., Wan, Y..Y. & Lee, A. (2009). Assessment of undergraduate students’ music compositions.
International Journal of Music Education, 27(3), 250-268.
Making it relevant: Engaging performing arts students in
theoretical learning
Judith Brown
Central Queensland University
[email protected]
This paper reports on a teaching strategy that I have developed over the last ten years to enhance the learning of
music theory and history for first year performing arts students at a regional Australian university. The strategy
was developed in response to the difficulties some performing arts students face with academic learning in their
first year of study, and in particular, their reluctance to engage with academic learning that they see as irrelevant
to their training as performing artists. This paper describes the teaching strategy, which has at its core live
performance, and includes discussion of relevant literature, responses from students over several years, thus
providing evidence that this strategy is effective in engaging these performing arts students in their academic
learning. The paper concludes with suggestions for future research to enhance the learning for tertiary
performing arts students.
Performance training, engagement, curriculum, learning
The aim of this paper is to outline one of the teaching strategies I have created at a regional Australian
university to actively engage successive groups of music and theatre students in their academic studies within a
performing arts degree program that is largely focused on practical studies. Incorporating multi-media and live
performance, I present a series of innovative music lecture recitals designed to support the academic learning for
first year performing arts students in their core courses in music history and theory, while at the same time
having a broader application to their development as instrumental, vocal and theatre performers. These lecture
recitals form a compulsory part of their first-year core courses, supplementing the weekly lectures and tutorials,
but they are also open to all university students and the general public. They comprise a one-hour high-quality
presentation of lecture, music, song and dance, led by myself performing on the piano, with guest appearances
from other professional performance staff and senior performing arts students, linked around themes that
directly support the curriculum in the history and theory of music.
The context
One of the important challenges for performing arts students, who identify their main objective is to learn to
perform and commonly begin their studies by seeing anything that is not performance as ‘a waste of time’
(Allen, 1992; Kogan, 2002), is to develop a contextual understanding of the theory and history of music. This
enables them to listen to music more critically to discern elements of musical style, and later apply this
understanding of style in the interpretation of similar works in their own performances, as independent learners.
Rogers (2004, p. 14) notes that
Of prime importance in the overall university setting is the responsibility of the theory teacher
(and the whole music faculty) to make connections between the content of a theory program
and the entire range of a student’s other musical experiences such as performance, aesthetic
response, and teaching preparation, so that all of these activities, including classroom
instruction, applied lessons, concert attendance etc, are mutually reinforcing.
Lectures about music and its history can be dry. While listening to recorded music can be interesting, and is
certainly essential in the training of performers of all genres (Creech et al., 2008; Kraus & Chandrasekaran,
2010), many students struggle to remain engaged when listening to a whole recorded performance, especially
with unfamiliar works. The setting in a lecture room is not always conducive to good listening and the view out
of the window, or the conversations via social media on their laptop, are often more exciting. This is especially
so when you are trying to introduce unfamiliar works to students that require them to engage for a lengthy
period of time with a purely aural art form. In contrast, live performance engages and breathes life into music.
Schmidt (2006, p. 121) agrees and states “the thrill of watching a live performer and experiencing the active
communication between performers and audience cannot be adequately replicated in any audio or video
format.” The audience not only hears the music but watches it being created and can sense its unique aesthetic
qualities. Combine a music lecture with a live performance in the convivial atmosphere of an authentic
professional setting such as the university campus theatre and the music lecture is transformed into an
experience that motivates and inspires young performers to engage with their learning on a deeper level. “It was
good to have practical demonstrations rather than just someone lecturing us — helps it to make more sense”
(Anonymous student survey, 2010). Another student who is now performing in professional music theatre in the
USA supports this: “It is impossible to understand the correlation between Bach and the Beatles without
experiencing the sometimes convoluted musical path between them. This is not something, however, that is
easily demonstrated with recordings” (2003). A previous Head of School acknowledges this teaching strategy:
“With flair and expertise the lectures became both highly entertaining (drawing significant community interest
and attendance) and informative (attracting significant student numbers). It was the nexus between
entertainment and education (edutainment) that worked extremely well.”
This teaching strategy also fills another gap in the learning for tertiary performing arts students at this regional
university campus as they have limited access to high quality live performance during their study time on
campus. There is a program of regular professional performances at the city entertainment centre, but for many
students, the cost of attendance is prohibitive. Exemplars of live performance at a professional level are
extremely important for young performers (Torrance, 1983) and this series of lecture recitals exposes the
students to a wide range of professional level performance that inspires and motivates them in their own
learning journey. As noted by one of the past vocal students (2008), “This particular class remains with me
years down the track due to the inspiring way in which the subject matter was delivered…Having these
professional, live performances which covered our class work, not only made the content easy to understand and
comprehend, but also easier to remember.”
The teaching strategy
The lecture recitals are cocktail-hour concerts, one hour in length, presented free of charge to the students and
the general public, four times a year. Each lecture recital is structured around a single theme and, since their
inception in 2001, I have explored a range of themes including rhythm in music, film music, music inspired by
the weather, music inspired by dance, and the music of Tin Pan Alley, to name just a few. These themes are
directly linked to the students’ coursework in the history and theory of music, and provide them with the
opportunity to contextualise well-known music and new works within the framework of music history, as well
as increasing their engagement and motivation in the parts of the academic curriculum that performing arts
students often struggle to access and understand. This is evidenced by feedback from one of the students (2006):
“As a music theatre student, having a passion for performance, [these lecture recitals] allowed me to retain all
information delivered through this live show, and helped to improve my grades substantially.” As noted in
comments by various first year students in a series of anonymous students surveys in 2010, “It is set up so that
you’re wanting to know more about what you’re learning;” “It encourages me to explore different methods of
learning when I’m struggling to understand something;” it is clear these lecture recitals make the learning
experience more inclusive and promote greater engagement in learning through increased understanding.
In order to further engage the students with the music being performed, I also incorporate a visual element
alongside the music performance interspersed through the lecture. Although the use of visual elements in a
lecture is widely acknowledged as best practice in university teaching (Jeffrey, 2009; Sternberg & Zhang, 2001),
this approach is extremely innovative in classical music performance. “As an international concert pianist
myself I can honestly say this work is by far the most educationally informative and inspiring that I have seen in
Australia” (Concert pianist, London, 2005). These visual elements are brought together in a multi-media
presentation that includes textual information on the works being presented or the theme of the lecture, as well
as photos, films or other visual materials that enhance the experience and understanding of the performance. A
vocal student also acknowledged the effectiveness of this teaching initiative in a 2010 course survey: “The aural,
visual and kinaesthetic approach was very effective.”
In one lecture recital, for example, I wanted to demonstrate how pianists worked in silent movie theatres. I
edited a three-minute segment of Buster Keaton’s The General, and played this film while I performed movie
music that matched the mood of the film. The laughter from the audience demonstrated that the music had
indeed heightened the effect of the comedy, and this performance was remembered as a highlight for that year.
In a concert aimed at explaining the development of art music through the twentieth century, I performed
Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in mirror) by Arvo Pärt, a work he describes as ‘spiritual minimalism’. I performed
this as a duo with the violin lecturer, while I played a film shot from the space station in orbit around the earth.
The visual impact of the vastness of space matched the sense of infinity created by this slow and intense piece of
music. Many students and audience members were intensely moved and gained a new understanding of the
range of music styles present in the late twentieth century.
Learning in the performing arts
The performing arts, in all its manifestations of music, theatre, drama and dance, have always been a diverse and
challenging profession (Quin, Hunt, & Sparrow, 2005). It is highly competitive and those who aim to become
professional performers need to possess a wide range of professional and personal qualities that will enable
them to continually develop their skills as performers (Allen, 1992; Kogan, 2002; Talbot-Honeck & Orlick,
1998), adapt their practice to take advantage of professional opportunities as they arise, and deal with the
realities of the industry (see for instance Burt & Mills, 2006; Buttsworth & Smith, 1995; Woody & McPherson,
2010). Allen (1992) and Kogan (2002) comment that many students of the performing arts are reluctant to spend
time on broader academic pursuits, as they are often strongly focused on the development of performance skills.
“The performer’s goal in brief is concrete and action-oriented: to have the kind of impact that makes for a solid,
possibly inspired, performance” (Kogan, 2002, p. 4). However, they both argue that it is the broader academic
knowledge, often found in studies of the liberal arts, that is needed to transform their performance ability. They
go on to explain that not only do students need to master the technical aspects of their particular discipline, but a
well rounded advanced performance training program should include studies in the liberal arts so that
performers can gain a thorough understanding of a wide range of stylistic elements, their historical context and
their application to modern performance contexts (Allen, 1992; Kogan, 2002). The teaching strategy that I use
for my performance students is not strictly within a liberal arts paradigm, but the content that students engage
with in their core first year courses of music theory and history, like studies in the liberal arts, is not always of
direct interest to them. This teaching strategy helps to make some of the connections between theory and
practice and adds relevance to this knowledge for young performers (Rogers, 2004).
Educational theory has long acknowledged that learners need to be stimulated to engage with their learning in
multiple ways (Bryson & Hand, 2007; Sternberg & Zhang, 2001). The lecture-recitals take a learner-centred
approach as I take the curriculum of first year music theory and history and look at innovative ways of
scaffolding this learning for the students. As noted by Sawyer (2011) good teaching makes use of both structure
and improvisation to enable students to maximize their learning. The curriculum itself provides an element of
structure to the teaching and “improvisation helps us resolve the curriculum paradox: it is a productive way of
thinking about the relation between curriculum as planned and curriculum as enacted” (Sawyer, 2011, p. 13).
The lecture-recital learning environment allows me to respond to the learning needs of the students, tailoring the
content of the lecture recital directly to the curriculum as well as areas of learning difficulty. My ‘improvising’
on the content of the curriculum means that each year, the lecture-recital content changes, depending on the
learning needs of the students, with the added bonus that I am able to provide a fresh look at the curriculum that
has appeal to other students in the university community and the general public.
Outcomes of this teaching strategy
As students deepen their understanding of the way music, its history and the development of musical style can
inform their current performance practice, they become more confident as performers (Schneiderman, 1991) and
more comfortable with the parts of the curriculum that often cause fear and stress in their learning experience
(Sternbach, 2008). “I am not well accustomed to music theory, so to see it performed made it easier to grasp the
concepts” (Anonymous student survey, 2010). By clearly linking performance practice and its theoretical and
historical underpinnings, the students’ learning is invigorated. As noted by an instrumental student (2005),
“These lecture recitals bring to life the melodic, harmonic and historical aspects of musical learning in an
authentic and relevant setting outside of the classroom.”
The lecture recitals have also become an institution within the broader community of this regional Australian
city. During the last ten years, I have engaged with many of the city’s music lovers who regularly attend these
evenings. It has become so popular with the students and the general public that there is often a full house. A
retired university lecturer comments (2010): “Along with the students, and I believe the audience, I have been
given a new perspective regarding the works of the great composers, resulting from the revealing background
information which you have cleverly interwoven in the presentations.” The community members who attend not
only enjoy the high quality of music that is performed, but enthusiastically embrace the informative and
entertaining format and the opportunity to learn with the students. As noted by the Head of School (2009): “The
entire audience had an extremely enjoyable evening, while learning a great deal about the subject matter and the
creative arts more generally.”
The development of these lecture recitals as a teaching strategy to supplement the lectures and tutorials for firstyear performing arts students is part of my broader holistic approach to the teaching of music and theatre
performance at the tertiary level, which is concerned with enhancing the quality of students’ learning through
the development of a range of strategies that foster independent learning and skills for lifelong learning. The
public lecture recital format capitalises on the immediate and vibrant nature of live performance, and by
incorporating creative and engaging multi-media presentations, I am able to contextualise the elements of the
music theory and history curriculum, thus engaging the students more actively in this essential learning.
Acknowledging the specific feedback from students, this paper demonstrates the effectiveness of this particular
teaching strategy for these tertiary performing arts students in a regional Australian university. Literature in the
field of performing arts education supports the pedagogy of this teaching strategy. Further research is needed to
quantify the explicit elements of this teaching strategy that influence learning for tertiary performing arts
students. Such a discussion is beyond the scope of this paper but could become the focus of a larger research
project on pedagogy for effective engagement in learning for students in the performing arts.
Allen, J. S. (1992). Educating performers. American Scholar, 61(2), 197 - 212.
Bryson, C., & Hand, L. (2007). The role of engagement in inspiring teaching and learning. Innovations in
Education and Teaching International, 44(4), 349 - 362.
Burt, R., & Mills, J. (2006). Music students at a UK conservatoire: Identity and learning. Paper presented at the
9th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, Bologna.
Buttsworth, L. M., & Smith, G. A. (1995). Personality of Australian performing musicians by gender and
instrument. Personality and Individual Differences, 18(5), 595 - 603.
Creech, A., Papageorgi, I., Duffy, C., Morton, F., Hadden, L., Potter, J., et al. (2008). Investigating musical
performance: Commonality and diversity amongst classical and non-classical musicians. Music Education
Research, 10(2), 215 - 234.
Jeffrey, L. M. (2009). Learning orientations: Diversity in higher education. Learning and Individual Differences,
19(2), 195 - 208.
Kogan, N. (2002). Careers in the performing arts: A psychological perspective. Creativity Research Journal,
14(1), 1 - 16.
Kraus, N., & Chandrasekaran, B. (2010). Music training for the development of auditory skills. Nature Reviews
Neuroscience, 11, 599 - 605.
Quin, R., Hunt, L., & Sparrow, H. (2005). What makes the Boy from Oz good? Hugh Jackman and the
pedagogy of excellence. Journal of Educational Enquiry, 6(1), 1 - 18.
Rogers, M. R. (2004). Teaching approaches in music theory: An overview of pedagogical philosophies (2nd ed.).
Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
Sawyer, R. K. (2011). What makes good teachers great? The artful balance of structure and improvisation. In R.
K. Sawyer (Ed.), Structure and improvisation in creative teaching. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Schmidt, H. (2006). Music therapy and the effects of music. In N. G. Cuellar (Ed.), Conversations in
complementary and alternative medicine: Insights and perspectives from leading practitioners (pp. 115 - 122).
Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publications.
Schneiderman, B. (1991). Confident music performance: The art of preparing. St. Louis, MO: MMB Music, Inc.
Sternbach, D. J. (2008). Stress in the lives of music students. Music Educators Journal, 94(3), 42 - 48.
Sternberg, R. J., & Zhang, L.-f. (Eds.). (2001). Perspectives on thinking, learning, and cognitive styles. Mahwah,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Talbot-Honeck, C., & Orlick, T. (1998). The essence of excellence: Mental skills of top classical musicians.
Journal of Excellence, 1, 61 - 75.
Torrance, P. E. (1983). Role of mentors in creative achievement. Creative Child and Adult Quarterly, 8(1), 8 15.
Woody, R. H., & McPherson, G. E. (2010). Emotion and motivation in the lives of performers. In P. N. Juslin &
J. A. Sloboda (Eds.), Handbook of music and emotion: Theory, research, applications (pp. 401 - 424). New
York: Oxford University Press.
Quality, accountability, change
Gemma Carey
Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
[email protected]
Don Lebler
Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
[email protected]
At a time when Higher Education providers are increasingly being held to account for the career outcomes of
their graduates, improving preparation for professional life has become a priority for many conservatoires.
Recent employment data indicates that graduates of higher education music programs will commonly engage in
portfolio or protean careers that will require them to be pro-active in their planning in order to ensure the
sustainability of their careers. This has produced a growing awareness of the need to provide programs that will
enhance students' prospects of employment. This paper presents a case study of one conservatoire that has
attempted to provide a balance in its program offerings between the demands of traditional performance goals
and the skills required to assist in maximum employability.
Conservatoire, portfolio career, skills, professional preparation
While the current economic climate has had an obvious and profound effect on international financial markets,
its impact has been no less significant on institutions of higher education, at least some of which have been
forced to respond to their changed circumstances by making changes to undergraduate programs. In the United
Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, governments have increasingly
tied funding for education to learning outcomes as measured by government-determined standards. These
standards are generally linked to government-approved outcomes such as better employment.
A number of academics (e.g., Corson, 2002; Gale & Densmore, 2003; Luke, 2003; Meadmore, 1999; Sachs
2003; Parry & O’Brien, 2000; Gewirtz, 1999) have used the term corporate managerialist discourse to denote
the logic that drives this sort of policy. One clear manifestation of the application of this discourse, according to
Corson (2002), is the drive towards standardised testing linked to notions of accountability that are among other
things presumed to measure improvements in learning:
[G]overnments across the world are saddling [educational] … systems with an extravagant array of
tests and assessments, so much so that some warn against the arrival of the “evaluative state” that
will be tied in all respects to a doctrine of competition, measurable results, and efficiency. (p. 7)
According to Ranson (2003), accountability is no longer “merely an important instrument or component within
the system”, but “constitutes the system itself” (p. 459). It seems reasonable to claim that in conservatoria, as in
many other professional communities, audit cultures work as all-embracing mechanisms for validating
quantifiable measures of a limited set of outcomes over broader educational goals. It is within this context that
the vocational outcomes of individuals have come to matter a great deal in educational institutions such as
It is therefore no longer sufficient for a new graduate to have knowledge of an academic field alone.
Increasingly it is necessary for students to be provided with skills that will enhance their prospects of
employment (Fallows & Steven, 2000). As a result university departments have been placed under increasing
pressure to include activities in their curriculum that are vocationally oriented (Gee, Hull, & Lankshear, 1996;
Poster, 1995; Reddan & Harrison, 2010).
For music institutions, this includes the need to acknowledge that, “whilst in many professions the model of a
regular, salaried, permanent role that one can develop as a career over many years holds true, this is far from the
case for musicians” (Burt-Perkins, 2010, p. 277). As Weller (2010) argues, “unlike students pursuing careers in
(other) professions, … graduates in liberal arts fields… rarely have a clear-cut, predetermined path into
professional life” (p. 276). Indeed, according to Bennett (2010) almost all musicians will be self-employed in
some area of their work and furthermore, two-thirds of them will work both within and outside of music.
Maintaining instrumental/vocal performance standards at an elite level is a priority for conservatoires and
therefore performance studies are central to most programs. This is reflected in the curriculum design and credit
point allocation where performance and practical components are usually awarded considerable weighting,
normally in excess of 50% of a program. As Bennett (2008) argues, however, the term musician is not just
restricted to somebody who plays a specialty instrument but more commonly refers to somebody who will
engage in diverse work patterns around the concept of music. Mills (2004) also reminds us that “locking
yourself away in a practice room for four years … is not a route to success … personal fulfilment and happiness
are found more readily in collegiality and an openness to new experiences" (p. 197). Although at most
conservatoires, students are required to enroll in academic courses, it is assumed that performance is the
dominant way they will experience music in their lives and consequently their application to acquiring other
skills can be limited.
The overwhelming view expressed by presenters at the International Society for Music Education World
Conference in Beijing in 2010 was that being a professional musician consists of multiple roles, including the
ability to undertake a broad range of activities and being able to adapt to changing circumstances. These include
“performing, composing, arranging, producing, organizing, directing, teaching, researching, critiquing,
philosophizing, promoting, advocating and facilitating” (Hannan, 2010, p. 278). Graduates will commonly
engage in portfolio or protean careers that are “varied and diverse and which lack formal structures for
progression and promotion” (Burt-Perkins, 2010, p. 277). Protean musicians will therefore need to be “proactive in their planning” (Smilde, 2010, p. 277) and will need to be able to assemble a portfolio of incomegenerating activities to ensure the sustainability of a career.
This phenomenon is not entirely new. Bridgstock (2005) notes that individuals with careers in the fields of fine
and performing arts often fit into a protean model and have done so for at least the last decade. Indeed, the
majority of historically significant leaders in music over the past several centuries have engaged in music in a
variety of ways including performance, composition and the nurturing of students. The portfolio career does
raise many challenges for music institutions as they seek to balance traditional performance goals with the need
to prepare students for a diverse and sustainable career. Put simply, in addition to learning the distinct skills
required in their choice of specialised instrument, students will need to gain both broad and deep knowledge
about their constantly changing profession.
While most universities have recognised the need to adapt and ensure that graduates have generic skills required
for future employment, conservatoires have been slow to respond to the increasingly diverse needs of the music
industry and the community it serves. Beeching (2010, p. 276) argues that “often faculty and staff in academia
can be oblivious to the difficult realities...and changes in, the real world career paths” and as a result students are
uninformed about many non-traditional and entrepreneurial possibilities. Carruthers (2010, p. 276) supports this
view, arguing that institutions are largely responsible for the “unrealistic expectations” of students as the model
they currently adopt assumes that “students who perform well will have successful (if not brilliant) careers”.
Burt-Perkins (2010) suggests that institutions provide a “space within programs for the development of the skills
necessary not only for the objective facets of career, but also the subjective” (p. 277). Smilde (2010) supports
this notion stating that one way of assisting students to build their future careers is through creating space for
students’ own interventions and leadership. According to Smilde, students need to be encouraged to be proactive in their planning and need to be equipped with life long learning skills which are essential in preparing
them for constant change. Hannan (2010) states that students will need skills to develop strong networks of
collaborators across different sectors of the music industry and will need to be up-to-date with technologies
relevant to production, presentation and marketing. He also argues that through reflective practice, the protean
musician is better equipped to develop strategies for career success and fulfillment.
Weller (2010) argues for both reflective and practical approaches within a curriculum. This, she states, will help
safeguard against the danger of developing students’ generic career skills without their understanding how they
might apply them within their lives. The inclusion of short range and long-terms goals and the development of
strategies to implement these generic skills are also essential. According to Weller, if students are taught to act,
think and interact as music professionals, with business skills and with “intra-preneurship – learning deeply and
honestly about oneself” (2006, p.178), then they will be able to deal with ever evolving and changing careers
encompassing new challenges and opportunities (ibid).
While the time-honoured music teaching practice of one-to-one instruction is a method that is well entrenched in
the teaching culture of most conservatoires, it is clear that it is not necessarily the most effective method for
developing the skills outlined earlier. This traditional model of teaching takes place in isolation and insulation
and aspires to develop musicians who demonstrate high level performance competencies, deep musical
understandings, and a core of personal confidence. It tends however, to be teacher-centred and students may
become dependent, rather than adaptable, self-monitoring and self-directing. As a result many students lack the
independence and the skills required to achieve a sustainable career.
In light of the current situation, the question for tertiary institutions becomes, how do they provide a balance
between the demands of traditional performance goals and the skills required to assist in maximum
employability? And in doing so, how do institutions maintain the highest possible performance standards
without destroying the primary purpose of their existence which is, as many would argue, excellence in
There are currently some institutions in the United States and Europe (e.g., Weller, 2010; Huhtanen, 2010) that
have addressed the need to offer highly innovative courses or programs which focus on musicians’ personal
attitudes toward the music business. These institutions have realised that the inclusion of such courses in degree
programs is not only desirable but an essential element in equipping graduates for the 21st century. There is still
however, some resistance and skepticism in Australian conservatoires about offering anything other than
performance related skills. It is timely therefore to ask how far have we come in our commitment to providing
students with the skills they will need to gain both broad and deep knowledge about their constantly changing
The following case study is a response by one tertiary music institution which has recognised that its graduates
will need to have the ability to self-manage, direct their own careers and adapt readily to change, in addition to
acquiring performance skills appropriate for successful music practice.
Case Study
The Conservatorium site of this study, like most conservatoires, has offered tertiary training in the major strands
of western classical music, namely performance, composition, and academic subject areas since its inception in
the late fifties. The program offerings have continually evolved and now include popular music, multimedia,
world music, pedagogy, musicology, music technology, research and education preparation pathways.
During the course of the last five years however, there has been increasing concern relating to the largest
program of offering, the Bachelor of Music (BMus) program. The BMus has a total enrolment of over 600
students and is currently offered as a four-year degree with optional third year exit point. The core business of
the BMus degree remains performance, composition and pedagogy. Within a four-year structure, the default
strands to which all students are admitted are Performance, Composition, Performance and Pedagogy and
Advanced Performance. The three-year exit degree is a generic Bachelor of Music without strand qualification
(2006, Curriculum review).
The BMus program has undergone two internal reviews since 1991 and one external review in 2006, all of
which have highlighted the need for change. The external review recommended that the Conservatorium
carefully review its curriculum and strategies in relation to contemporary performance practices, teaching and
other professional opportunities, by taking into account the broad skill-basis needed to respond to the realities of
a portfolio career for musicians working in the first decades of the 21st century (External review 2006).
In response to this recommendation, the Conservatorium enunciated a number of aims for the Bachelor of Music
program including its intention to:
produce graduates who are highly skilled, musically adaptable and equipped to enter
professional life as creative and flexible 21st century musicians;
develop pathways of study that help the acquisition of skills including adaptability, selfmotivation, technological literacy and breadth of vision necessary to succeed in the
contemporary music industry; and
develop in students a clear sense of direction and a repertoire of relevant professional skills
built up through practical experience and workplace training.
A five-year review was undertaken in 2010 to ascertain whether or not these aspirations were being met. As
with previous reviews, the 2010 process was informed by comprehensive performance indicator data and
substantial feedback from staff, students and other stakeholders. Information was collected through separate
meetings with staff and students, student evaluations, graduate surveys and feedback from the music industry,
along with benchmarking with other Australian and International tertiary music institutions (Carey & Lebler, in
During the course of the review, it was clear that teachers at the Conservatorium are committed to striving for
excellence both in their own practice and in the achievements of their students. The strongest criticism of the
existing program however, was the perceived limitations in preparing students for a life in music after
graduation. Questions relating to the traditional model of performance training were also raised. In particular,
does one-to-one teaching as it is currently practised, enhance or impede the development of personal confidence,
musical understandings and learning competency, and can a diversity of pedagogical practices within this model
increase the effectiveness and self-efficacy in music students?
In order to attempt to address the above, and to better prepare students for their likely futures, the Committee
produced a number of core strategies, the most significant of which were the following:
● introduction of free choice electives including cross-disciplinary areas;
● introduction of a new suite of courses titled My Life as a Musician specifically addressing
issues around life as a music student and preparation for professional music practice; and
● establishment of a research project to focus on identifying and disseminating empirical
evidence about the nature of one-to-one pedagogy in the Conservatorium.
Free choice electives
Prior to 2011 the program incorporated the development of musical skills including performance experience at a
very high level, pedagogy and project-based learning courses intended to assist students to develop the skills
necessary for success in the industry after graduation. However, the program structure was heavily prescribed
with limited opportunities for students to exercise choices that would enable them to pursue their personal
musical interests and no opportunity to study courses outside the Conservatorium. There were also evident
weaknesses in professional/business skills which are essential to a portfolio career (Carey & Lebler, in print).
The new program structure provides students with an opportunity to engage with elective studies, both within
the Conservatorium and in other areas. This will assist in the development of a sound knowledge of how the
music industry functions and equip them with the business skills to identify opportunities and actively create
Students are now able to enroll in a wide range of Conservatorium courses in addition to undertaking a limited
number of free choice higher education courses. A further expression of this more open approach is the
development of a double degree program in collaboration with the host university’s Business School. Students
undertaking the double degree program focus on music in the first two years and business courses in the final
two years of the program, graduating with a Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Business double degree
My Life as a Musician
The second major innovation has been the inclusion of a suite of courses titled My Life as a Musician. The
courses are designed to prepare students for life as a musician beyond skills relating directly to performance.
They consolidate and make explicit a large number of aspects of life as a musician, providing preparation for a
successful career in the myriad professions that form the contemporary musical arena. These courses assist
students to understand that viable careers in music can take many forms. One of the mechanisms by which this
goal is achieved is the presentation of a range of short video interviews, mainly with graduates of our BMus
who have achieved success in ways they did not imagine would be outcomes of their studies. These stories
include accounts of success in genres other than those studies as well as such diverse activities as creating music
for film, forensic audiology, journalism, management and games design. Students’ awareness of how to
capitalise on their degree is enhanced through inclusion of practical information and the development of
reflective processes. Gaining broad and deep knowledge about the field of music beyond a “performer’s
identity” (Huhtanen, 2010, p. 278) assists students to discover what a constantly changing music career one
might encompass and how one actually makes it a reality (Weller, 2010).
These courses are considered central to the degree and are therefore mandatory in each of the 4 years of the
program. The structure of the program is such that these courses do not reduce students’ potential to engage with
appropriate levels of performance training.
Research into one-to-one pedagogy
The third significant core strategy has been the establishment of a research project intended to track and monitor
emerging approaches to tuition in music performance, to investigate the effects on student learning, and to
compare local findings with related sector-wide studies. The project will map how the interactions between
teacher and student in one-to-one tuition occur and identify and characterise the observed pedagogical practices.
It specifically focuses on staff-student interactions in one-to-one sessions conducted by Conservatorium staff.
The aim is to clarify and present pedagogical practices that allow students to acquire a broader, relevant range of
skills that will have a life-long impact on professional growth and development. The intention is to assist
students to learn and self-evaluate in ways that improve their prospects in contemporary, portfolio careers.
The need to balance practical skills for the elite performer with the need to provide realistic opportunities and
skills for all students to survive in the music industry is an ongoing challenge for conservatoires. The
implementation of the strategies described in this paper does not provide a panacea for all the problems facing
music graduates entering the uncertain world of the music profession; neither does the paper purport to address
the complex employment issues for all music graduates. It does however provide a broad framework for
learning, which ensures that music graduates are as well equipped as possible to meet employment challenges.
By providing a space in programs for the development of necessary non-performance skills and by encouraging
students to be pro-active in their planning (Smilde, 2010), at the very least, career satisfaction for graduates both
within and beyond music can be more readily assured.
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Conservatories and universities: Emergent new roles
Glen Carruthers
Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada)
[email protected]
The marriage of conservatories with universities presents both opportunities and challenges. As the Bologna
Accord is adopted widely and conservatories are allied with universities, the analysis of longstanding models of
institutional co-operation can help further new alliances.
Conservatory-type instruction has flourished in Canadian universities for a century and a half. I have coined the
term “universatoria” to describe these hybrid conservatory/university models, the administrative and
pedagogical dynamics of which are varied and intricate. The current study, which builds on previous research
into post-secondary music education in Canada, considers universatoria from pragmatic and conceptual
perspectives. Administrative efficiencies and enhanced learning outcomes facilitated by situating music study
within universities are interrogated using concrete exemplars.
On a pragmatic level, interaction within and between institutions, in cooperation with community arts partners,
increases creative collaborative teaching and learning affordances. A program called Arts Express, which has
flourished at one Canadian university for almost twenty years, includes an integrated arts camp for children with
special needs. The University, a commercial dance studio, a college diploma program, and many other arts and
arts education partners pool resources to offer a service learning course for students and an outreach camp for
children and young adults.
Costs-per-student and provincial funding formulae are also examined as they relate to university music
programs. Universities subsidize high-impact but costly teaching and learning practices, including one-to-one
studio instruction. Cost centres are balanced by revenue centres and, for example, engineering and business
programs subsidize fine and performing arts programs.
Finally, and most importantly, universities provide the breadth of knowledge that necessarily informs successful
practical study in music. An expansive view of musical performance aligns with recent researches in
performance studies and represents a significant value-added experience for students. Because musical
performances are shaped, not by documents and theory, but by traditions and practices, the university aptly
contextualizes what could otherwise become a quasi-athletic pursuit.
Both pragmatically and conceptually, extant Canadian universatoria proffer international benchmarks for postsecondary studies in music.
Keywords: conservatories, universities, disciplinarity, learning affordances, collaborative learning
As for the seat of superstition, “the Conservatoire remains the same gloomy,
dirty place we remember, where the dust of unhealthy traditions stills sticks
to the fingers.”
Sentiments like these come easy to the outsider. Adolescents and charlatans,
as well as geniuses, profess them daily. (Taruskin, The Danger of Music, p.
In a number of previous studies I considered the role of schools of music in the twenty-first century (Carruthers
2012, 2009, 2008a, 2008b, 2006, 2005a, 2005b). I advocated an amalgam of community-based/university-based
engagement with music that would support lifelong learning at all levels of ability, achievement and potential.
That this utopian vision is conceivable if not easily realizable has to do with community and institutional
dynamics, and with the nature of music itself. More so than traditional academic disciplines, music can
overcome with comparative ease isolationist hurdles within institutions, and between institutions and the
communities with which they interact. Other disciplines –philosophy, for example– struggle to span the
town/gown chasm while music bridges it effortlessly. What chasm may exist between town and gown is not
endemic to music, but to the ways and means it is taught, learned, researched and delivered within the academy.
To prevent such gulfs from becoming unfathomable, periodic reappraisal of music’s role within the academy is
indicated, so that music, music study, societal needs and careers in music remain in purposeful alignment.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which begins “let us not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments” is, of
course, about love, but its message can be applied to the study of music within universities. Music study –both
practical and academic– within universities is not without obstacles, old and new, and they are becoming
increasingly rife. Some challenges are intrinsic to schools of music and universities, and others are extrinsic to
schools and universities but intrinsic to arts communities. Quite simply, a wealth of strengths and challenges
arise when music study is situated within universities and strong leadership is required to steer programs and
curricula between hidden shoals and looming boulders.
In another paper I coined the term “universatoria” to describe the two-headed conservatory/university hydra that
is burgeoning in prevalence, if not necessarily popularity worldwide (Carruthers, 2012). As the Bologna Accord
is operationalized widely and more-and-more conservatories are allied with universities, it is worthwhile
revisiting longstanding models of institutional amalgams. The present study explores the marriage of
conservatories with universities, and celebrates the creative collaborative teaching and learning affordances
arising from them.
The Canadian Context
Music programs have been ensconced in Anglo-Canadian universities for almost a century (the University of
Toronto music program –the first in Canada– was founded in 1918), and university-administered practical
instruction and examinations in music predate formal programs by another half-century. Remarkably, then,
teaching and learning music, in one form or another, has been a purview of Canadian universities since well
before the Country’s confederation in 1867.
Canadian universities continue to operate music programs with varying degrees of institutional autonomy, from
departments within faculties of arts, humanities, social sciences, or fine arts, for example, to faculties with their
own departments of history, theory, composition, improvisation, performance, therapy, jazz studies, popular
music, entrepreneurship, technology, world music, and so forth. Free-standing conservatories that are not part of
larger publically-funded institutions are the exception rather than the rule in Canada. Significantly, and despite
periodic discussion about broadening its scope, mandate and name, the organization representing post-secondary
music programs nationwide is the Canadian University Music Society.
What can be learned from his century-and-a half umbilical tie between conservatories and universities in
Canada that might usefully be applied to universatoria worldwide?
Pragmatic and conceptual affordances
In the simplest terms, music learning is enhanced by positioning it within larger institutions by the breadth and
depth of collaborative opportunities. In my home institution, Wilfrid Laurier University, “Managing an ArtsCentred Career” is a course for music students offered by the School of Business and Economics. Funding
derives from an externally sourced development grant and the impetus for the course came, perhaps tellingly,
from the School of Business and Economics, not the Faculty of Music.
Collaborative ventures are enriched by multiple stakeholders. Again, at my home institution, Arts Express is an
integrated arts camp for children with special needs. The camp counsellors –students drawn from two
universities (Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo) –participate in a designated community
service learning course, “Creative Arts for Children with Special Needs.” Numerous stakeholders, including a
commercial dance studio and college offering a diploma in early childhood education, cooperate to make the
program possible. The course and camp are administered by the Laurier Faculty of Music in conjunction with
Continuing and Part-Time Studies, and with support from the Manfred and Penny Conrad Institute for Music
Therapy Research. The Research Institute is administered jointly by the Faculty of Music and the Office of
Research Services. The Director of the Institute reports to the Dean of Music, but the Office of Research
Services is administered by the Vice-President (Research). There are, in all, a half dozen university and a half
dozen community partners working closely in conjunction with one another. Because the course is supported by
the Faculty of Music, it remains viable even though expenses exceed revenues annually. A sustainable funding
model is in development, but in the meantime the Faculty of Music’s operating budget compensates Continuing
and Part-Time Studies for its losses.
Just as the Faculty of Music subsidizes Continuing and Part-Time Studies, so the School of Business and
Economics subsidizes the Faculty of Music (at least indirectly). This fiscal chain of loss, subsidy and balance
unfolds on a macro level across the institution. One result is that one-to-one music studio instruction remains
viable despite exorbitant costs. Whether studio instruction is unfairly privileged –most historians, for example,
would jump at the opportunity to engage with students on a one-to-one basis– is fodder for another discussion.
The fact is, that largely because of one-to-one instruction, the cost to the university of educating a music student
is more than twice that of educating a business student. Although differential government funding formulae
ameliorate disparities somewhat –each music student garners for the university twice as much support from the
provincial government as a general arts or science student, for example– grant and tuition dollars do not come
close to defraying the cost per student. This delta between expenses and revenue on a per student basis –the
structural deficit– is illustrated in Table 1.
Table 1. Financial Metrics per student in Arts, Science, Business & Economics, Music, and Online Learning,
2009-2010 (Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada).
OL Learning
Tuition & Grant Revenue/Student
Total Revenue/Student
Total Expenses/Student
Contribution Margin/Student
Allocated Overhead/Student
Net Surplus (Deficit)/Student
The university posts a loss (“Contribution Margin”) of almost $3,000 per music student per year, once tuition,
grant and other revenues (“Total Revenue/Student”) are weighed against expenses (“Total Expenses/Student”).
This compares to a profit of over $5,000 for each student in arts. Note that the profit per online student exceeds
$9,000. In other words, it costs $12,000 more to instruct an on-campus music student than an online arts student
(the difference between -$3,000 and +$9,000). Once overhead allocations are factored in the loss per music
student approaches $8,000, while the profit per business student is almost $1,500 (and per online student is
almost $4000!). In the university, as in the real world, subsidies make the fine and performing arts possible.
Protectionism and disciplinarity
Along with opportunities come perils. A protectionist ethos was once prevalent in Canadian universities. Sieves
and funnels filtered and streamed applicants to all but the most egalitarian institutions. Music programs catered
to an elite cohort of well-prepared and highly motivated students. “Outsiders” were placated by appreciation and
rudiments courses that were later replaced by populist offerings in popular music. Within music programs,
boundaries were clearly defined, not along broad disciplinary lines, but according to sub and even sub-sub
disciplines. Music study was mired in silos within silos. It was not long ago (to use the parlance of the day) that
comparative and systematic musicologists rarely interacted, while music therapy and composition, for example,
were completely separate realities.
In the same way that national perspectives have given way to global perspectives in music, disciplinary
perspectives have given way to supra-disciplinary perspectives in progressive schools of music. This
encompassing view of music’s traditional disciplines and sub-disciplines accords with the fluid centres and
peripheries of the new university. As universities and conservatories evolve, so universatoria evolve.
Evolution has been impeded, however, by an obstructionist ethos that was finally named in the late twentiethcentury. Once it was identified, it could be isolated and challenged. That phenomenon is disciplinarity. Multidisciplinarity, inter-disciplinarity and trans-disciplinarity do little to remedy the situation, since disciplines are
nonetheless discreet when they intentionally interact. Mixing and congealing are not synonymous. It takes
strategy and perseverance to transcend disciplinary boundaries, since disciplinarity is not only about defining
boundaries; it is fundamentally about defending them. Supra-disciplinarity, on the other hand, exists above and
beyond borders; its boundaries, in other words, are limitless.
Product and Process
The familiar distinction between product and process plays a role here. Disciplinarity and its various
permutations inscribe owning a product. Supra-disciplinarity inscribes sharing a process. Yukio Mishima puts it
this way: “[A]t no time are we ever in such complete possession of a journey, down to its last nook and cranny,
as when we are busy with preparations for it. After that, there remains only the journey itself, which is nothing
but the process through which we lose our ownership of it” (Confessions of a Mask, 118). Preparing for a
performance is a case in point – a performer owns the process but surrenders the product. The former involves
acquiring capital personally, while the latter involves expending it communally.
It is when universities relinquish their preoccupation with end results, and reposition processes at least on par
with products, that conservatories and universities can coalesce meaningfully. When cooperation, not
coalescence was the goal, schools of music functioned ably within universities, perennially square pegs in round
holes, but supported philosophically and financially by a bemused mother ship. This paradigm, although deeply
ingrained, is outmoded. As music and musicians and their roles in society change, so institutions that teach (and
students that learn) must change apace. A new set of variables problematizes an already complex situation when
conservatories are housed within universities. Change in one institution does not necessarily articulate readily
with change in the other.
Public accountability
One of the greatest challenges to music programs within universities, certainly in Canada, is government policy.
Put simply, funding is following students, and students are flocking to science and business programs. As
governments repurpose universities to resemble more nearly vocational institutions, fine and performing arts
programs repurpose themselves to train students for jobs. The friction between square-peg conservatories and
round-hole universities quickly dissipates. But that friction had its benefits. That the amalgam of conservatories
and universities is not seamless is good, not bad; if they resemble one another too closely, their union engenders
only breadth, not depth, since friction can be a source of discovery and new energy.
The reverse position can easily be argued; that as universities become increasingly pragmatic conservatories will
become more at home in them. If marketable skills are the objective of higher education, then conservatories
that train students for careers in music could be accommodated within universities without difficulty. But
conversation about universities and their mission is far from over. While philosophers of education, government
bureaucrats and university administrators debate the topic endlessly at conferences and in scholarly and
government publications, discussion unfolds simultaneously in the popular press. While preparing the first draft
of this paper, an enlightened article on post-secondary education appeared in Canada’s generally unenlightened
daily newspaper, the National Post. The author, Patrick Keeney, observed that until recently,
the overarching aim of a liberal education was never in doubt: free citizens need to develop their minds
— as opposed to simply acquiring marketable skills — to achieve lives that are rich, meaningful and
It is this ideal that, in one form or another, has remained a constant in the imagination of the West, and
was, until recent years, the animating spirit in our universities. And most professors still acknowledge
this ideal — or some version of it — as a crucial part of the university’s mission. Yet this ideal is being
eroded and undermined, if not deliberately bulldozed, in the name of a reckless, unrelenting economic
Keeney concludes that
Governments in various jurisdictions have been successful in persuading people to accept the view that
universities should become more like vocational schools. It is time to ask ourselves if this hollowing
out of a crucial institution and enfeebling of a cherished educational ideal is worth the price. (Keeney,
Debate concerning the role of universities is germane to the present discussion because where universities end
up will determine if conservatories belong in them or not. The obvious argument that pragmatic conservatories
and pragmatic universities ally comfortably runs counter to my position that conservatories belong in
universities precisely because the latter can contribute to the former dimensions that are not at all pragmatic.
The marriage of true minds should have as its foundation, neither convenience nor efficacy, but the values and
benefits of a liberal arts education. Universities can unfetter music study from the abiding pragmatism of
vocational conservatories.
Unfettering music
This does not mean that liberal arts universities are a panacea for conservatories. Historically, universities have
fettered disciplines that are best unfettered to facilitate assessment and evaluation, for example, or to streamline
governance. Some disciplines lend themselves more readily to academe than others and applied music study is a
challenging fit. Music theory and history resemble theory and history in other disciplines and meld easily into
university curricula. Conversely, studio and ensemble instruction are not obviously at home in universities and
seem tangential to core academic study. There is a parallel, however. In the twentieth century, music and
athletics at universities resembled one another so nearly that performance training in one discipline mirrored
that in the other.
Performance studies, however, reveals that musical interpretations are highly nuanced by historical and cultural
contexts. Interpretations are shaped, not by documents and theory, but by traditions and practices. Work
undertaken at the AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice (CMPCP) at the
University of Cambridge foregrounds ways which performance instruction misrepresents performance practices.
Popular music programs have, for the most part, got it right from the beginning just as classical music programs
have often had it wrong. Because popular musics were admitted to universities comparatively recently, less of a
built tradition has accrued to them. The end result is that classical music study has been compromised in a way
that popular music study has not – yet. Universatoria are now rightly challenging the built tradition that
surrounds western classical repertoire.
A tradition of musical performance that emphasizes brazen athleticism and personal capital at the expense of
reflective historicism and community capital is, in the long run, untenable. Performing at the highest levels
involves more than rigorous physical and mental discipline, since music cannot be wrested from socio-cultural
and political contexts and meanings. Indeed, cultural artefacts accrue multiple meanings in multiple contexts,
and universities have capacity to contextualize deeply and broadly the study of music. Sustainability is
predicated on adaptive behaviours, and flexible and proactive universatoria are poised to address the pragmatic
and conceptual challenges confronting post-secondary music teaching and learning today.
Carruthers, G. (2012). The marriage of true minds: “Universatoria” in Canada. Paper presented at the 3rd
International Reflective Conservatoire Conference, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, England.
Carruthers, G. (2009). Reactive and proactive reform in post-secondary music schools. Ecclectica Online – The
Arts Edition.
Carruthers, G. (2008a). Human, social and creative/community capital in the training of professional musicians.
In Bennett, D. and Hannan, M. (Eds.), Inside, outside, downside up: Conservatoire training and musicians' work
(pp. 37-47). Perth, WA
Carruthers, G. (2008b), Educating professional musicians: Lessons learned from school music. International
Journal of Music Education, 26(2), 127-135.
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Music, D, 1-17.
Carruthers, G. (2005a). Community music and the ‘musical community’: Beyond conventional
synergies. International Journal of Community Music, C, 1-20.
Carruthers, G. (2005b). Articulating diverse music-learner populations. In Forrest, D. (Ed.), A celebration of
voices. Proceedings of the Australian Society for Music Education XV National Conference, (pp. 48-54).
Parkville, Victoria.
Keeney, P. (2011). Don’t turn universities into trade schools. National Post, August 11. Accessed August 27,
2011 at
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Taruskin, R. (2009). The danger of music and other anti-utopian essays. Berkeley: University of California
Contemplating Composition Pedagogy in the iPad Era
Eddy K. M. Chong
National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
[email protected]
Technology has always had an impact on the development of music. From the Greek monochord to the modernday iPad, technology has shaped and continues to (re-)shape both the way we conceive, make and disseminate
music. A corollary change is the redefinition of composing, which in turn prompts a rethinking of composition
pedagogy. This paper invites the reader to contemplate how the nature of composing has been affected by new
technologies and the implications for composition pedagogy. As an “outsider” to this culture of sonic designs,
remix and plunderphonics, the author draws on the literature in music education pertaining to composition
pedagogy as well as the use of technology on the one hand, and inputs from “digital musicians” (Hugill, 2008)
on the other for insights to in turn identify important bases, including ethical-artistic ones, for a composition
curriculum that would better prepare the next generation of musicians to engage in technologyfacilitated/infused creative work.
Composition pedagogy, technology, iPad, electroacoustic and electronic music, sonic and media arts
Technology and the musical landscape
Technology has always had an impact on the development of music, shaping the way music is conceived,
created and performed. The Greek monochord, as a piece of ancient music technology, had defined the musical
spaces by way of a scale system that was the foundation for many European music traditions. In the twentieth
century, electronics opened the door to new sound materials and precipitated new ways of conceiving and
creating music. Following the explorations with electroacoustic and electronic music in the earlier half of the
twentieth century, the early days of modern computing in the latter half witnessed the use of computer networks
for collaborative music creative work in the late seventies ( e.g., Bischoff, Gold, & Horton, 1978). The
increasing widespread availability of personal computers and internet access in the nineties brought the use of
technology in music to a next level (Jordà, 1999; Reese & Hickey, 1999). If the Web had once been “the new
frontier of music” (Duckworth, 1999, p. 13), then the iPad may be seen as signifying one of the latest new
frontiers that may indeed have a profound and potentially revolutionizing impact on musical practices in the
twenty-first century.
In a nutshell, the iPad and, to a smaller extent, the iPhone make available on one hand-held device an amazing
range of music technologies (microphones, speakers, sound mixers, and the like) as well as web-based
services—all supported with much increased computing power and accessed via a user interface that can do
away with the conventional computer and midi keyboards. Furthermore, the capital outlay for hardware
equipment has been drastically reduced for anyone interested in making music with the aid of such electronic
means. This is a stark contrast to the days of Xenakis, who had to spend years, even with institutional support, to
develop his graphic interface computer system, the UPIC (Unité Polyagogique Informatique du CEMAMu) with
its large electromagnetic drawing board, for composing. Much of what Xenakis and his generation had dreamt
for can now be easily done on an iPad; the same has happened to DJ-ing technology. In short, such ease of
access coupled with relative affordability look set to revolutionize the way the man-in-the-street can engage
with music—an empowerment of the individual that was probably unthinkable to musicians in previous
generations. The implications for music education therefore demands to be investigated.
As it is, Jonathan Savage has already called upon music educators to pay heed to the major cultural change in
the way digital natives make use of technology (Savage, 2007b, p. 75). His appeal goes beyond just a call to
adopt technology as a tool; after all, music educators have all along been taking advantage of available music
technologies, whether for creating or teaching purposes (Ashworth, 2007; Finney & Burnard, 2007; Frankel,
2010; Kirkman, 2009; Savage & Butcher, 2007; Webster, 2007). What calls for critical attention is how
technology has transformed “composing” such that the teaching of “composition” has to be reconsidered at a
more fundamental level.
Composing redefined?
Let us first understand a little further how technology has changed the nature of composing. New ICT and music
technologies have not only created “new models of musical performance and improvisation” (Savage & Butcher,
2007), but also spawned new kinds of composers. We now have a whole regiment of music-creative persons
who call themselves sound designers and sonic artists, many of whom engage in multi-media art forms and
straddle between real-time music-making and studio production. These new class of musicians form a growing
subgroup of what Andrew Hugill calls “digital musicians”—musicians who do not merely use technology but
“embrace[ ] the possibilities opened by new technologies, in particular the potential of the computer for
exploring, storing, manipulating and processing sound, … [likewise with] numerous other digital tools and
devices which enable musical invention and discovery”. The creativity they engage in is “of a kind that is unlike
previously established musical practice in certain respects” (Hugill, 2008, pp. 3-4). The traditional notion of
composing clearly needs some rethinking.
Actually, the forward-thinking John Cage had anticipated this as early as in the 1930s when he encountered
percussion music:
Percussion music is revolution…. At the present stage of revolution, a healthy lawlessness is
warranted…. In short, we must explore the materials of music. What we can’t do ourselves will be
done by machines and electrical instruments which we will invent. (Cage, 1973/1968, p. 87, italics
What the predicted technological advances offer composers are then new sonic materials and new ways to
manipulate them. This is of course a welcomed boon to musical creativity except that the “healthy lawlessness”
that Cage recommends has eventually raised some concerns.
For some, technology has taken compositional practices not only into new but also dangerous waters. Here
again, Cage himself was in the avant-garde. For example, his Imaginary Landscape No. 4 for 12 radios in its use
of sound materials (without permission) from radio stations may in present light be seen as one of the early
exemplars of what has now been described as an “appropriationist approach in music” (Holm-Hudson, 1997).
While this may be regarded as a new twist to the age-old practice of parody, the present-day practice more
troublingly raises the question of authorship and indeed about the nature of composing. In an age where re-mix
and mash-up appear to be an acceptable modus operandi, where at least one digital musician even blatantly
advocates “technological shamelessness” (Hugill, 2008, p. 205), what should our moral and artistic stance be as
music educators? How should we teach our students to view and handle such “compositional” practices? Here,
we may turn to the Canadian multi-media artist John Oswald, who has presented some thought-provoking
arguments for the practice and suggested some useful guidelines.
Co-opting John Milton to support his advocacy, Oswald had re-titled his 1985 conference presentation from
“Plunderphonics” (a term he coined) to the Milton-inspired “Bettered by the borrower”; he further quotes
Stravinsky’s aphorism “A good composer does not imitate; he steals” (Oswald, 1987). In fact, his original
parenthetical title “Audio piracy as a compositional prerogative” asserts his position even more strongly.
However, his ensuing explanation that James Tenney’s “Collage I” allows us to hear an everyday music
differently, is more soft-toned yet without losing its persuasive powers. One is then more inclined to accept his
fair-use criteria that musical appropriation should be acceptable if it “fulfills Milton’s stipulation; is supported
by Stravinsky’s aphorism; and does not contravene Elvis’ morality”, the last mentioned referring to the
protection of “the special significance of sounds peculiar to a particular artist, the uniqueness of which might be
harmed by inferior unauthorized recordings which might tend to confuse the public about an artist’s abilities”.
Now, it is beyond the scope of this paper to fully debate the issue here, so accepting Oswald’s ethical-artistic
position for now, let us proceed to consider some pedagogical responses, the urgency of which has only been
increased by the iPad’s & iPhone’s potential to make such technology-aided practices more widespread.
Some music educators’ responses
Many music educators are of course well aware of what technology can offer, not least in fostering students’
creativity. Many are also equally cognizant of the implications of technology’s transformative powers, some of
which may indeed be very radical:
… the relationship between music and ICT is not one of servant and master, but rather a subtle,
reciprocal and perhaps empathetic one in which the very nature of what constitutes musical practice is
challenged, mediated and redefined through performers’ and composers’ uses of ICT…. it could lead
pupils and teachers to engage with and organise sounds in new ways, challenging the very nature of
music itself at a fundamental level. (Savage, 2005b, p. 168, italics added)
Inevitably, digital technologies “have [in turn] brought into question some of the most basic conceptual
frameworks that have underpinned music teaching” (Cain, 2004, p. 217). In this regard, Savage has made a very
strong call for action: “Compositional practice in the wider world has undergone a revolution that we, as
educators, ignore at our peril” (Savage, 2005b, p. 178).
Fortunately, music educators have not been negligent, and have recognized the role of both technology and the
very technology-dependent genre, popular music, in framing compositional and improvisational work (Webster,
2002, p. 26 & 31). Hannan (2003), for example, has surveyed some global trends in popular music to envisage a
new music educational model—one that brings together music and other art forms, media and publishing , and
even industrial inputs to foster collaborative new media production—suitable for the training of the professional
musician of the digital age (2003, p. 100). His colleague, Fitzgerald (2008) offers additional useful insights into
the contemporary music program at the Southern Cross University. The work of John Savage (2005a, 2005b,
2007a, 2007b) further adds to our global purview. What then are some of the changes needed for the new
paradigm of engaging digital-age students in music creative work?
A new pedagogical framework?
Synthesizing from the above-cited music educators’ offerings, we may distil the following guiding principles to
revamp our curricular framework:
Subject knowledge is crucial. This includes both traditional musical knowledge of theory and musical
styles as well as technology-related knowledge including sound acoustics. The theory knowledge
however must be relevant to a broad range of musical styles, whether of acoustic, electroacoustic or
electronic music.
Technical skills are equally critical as enablers. Again traditional compositional and arranging skills as
well as aural skills are useful but these need to be expanded. For example, composing now need to
recognize the elevated importance of rhythm, timbre, texture and even the spatial dimension, if not
even of other media: traditional training in harmony, counterpoint and orchestration will not suffice.
Aural training also needs to be tailored accordingly. Working with electronic and non-conventional
sounds often entails much composing or arranging by ear, which in turn also involve analysis by ear
(“listening back” [Savage, 2005b]);
these certainly extend Gordon’s (2001) idea of audiation even if audio playback appears to eliminate
the need for inner hearing in some circumstances. On the other hand, whilst technology can by-pass
conventional music notation, its alternative representation in reality demands a different kind of auralvisual musical literacy (and imagining).
An explorative mind is instrumental. “Musical doodling”, as Savage (2005b) calls it, is particularly
vital for genres such as electroacoustic, electronic, and multi-media works, where compositional paths
often need to be struck out in relatively, if not totally, new sound terrains. And in an ever changing
technological environment, this doodling mind must be ready to explore new “musical instruments”, be
it the iPad/iPhone ones or Tod Machover’s hyperinstruments
( and the like. In fact, the doodling may even
entail the spatial dimension whereby, in one practitioner’s words, “the site becom[es] her instrument”
(Hugill, 2008, p. 210).
Musical decision-making skills must be developed. This is as an important cognitive and metacognitive capacity needed to work hand-in-hand with musical explorations, for together they establish
the diverging-converging dialectic that is central to creative thinking (Webster, 1987).
Evidently, there is much that is in common with traditional compositional curriculum. Indeed, many
digital musicians themselves would concur, as illustrated in Table 1 below. The middle column summarizes
Webster and Hickey’s (2006) literature review on more traditional pedagogical understanding for the teaching
of composition and improvisation. The right-hand column samples relevant remarks from the twelve leading
international digital musicians interviewed by Hugill (2008); some of these remarks illustrate the extension of
the respective curriculum content areas for the digital sound world.
Table 1. Relevant curriculum content for teaching composition and improvisation
content areas
Recognition by music educators (as
cited in Webster & Hickey, 2006)
Vocabulary of patterns (Berliner, 1994)
Study of form; larger issues of tension,
unity, and balance (Hickey, 2002)
Music listening (Berliner, 1994)
Mastery of music materials (Swanwick
& Tillman, 1986)
Mastering the technical aspects of a
genre (Kratus, 1996)
Begin with exploration-based behaviour
(Kratus, 1996)
Exploration of sound (Hickey, 2002)
Musical decision
Decision-making skills (Pressing, 1988)
Metacognitive decision making
(Swanwick & Tillman, 1986)
Corroboration by digital musicians (as
documented in Hugill, 2008)
“traditional music theory and skills can greatly
help electronic musicians with their art” (p.
“knowledge of music outside the digital
domain” (p. 225)
“electronic musicians’ music theory:
psychoacoustics, DSP, discrete math,
representations/formalisms” (p. 202)
“programming language and sound physics,…
digital signal processing” (p. 209)
“a good ear” (p. 230)
“integrate ideas with technical skills” (p. 214)
“All kinds of skills [esp.] collaborating with
other people” (p. 212)
“file management and archiving” (p. 221)
“knowing how to optimise the performance of
one’s computer” (p. 217)
“wonder about the imperceptible” (p. 200)
“desire to tinker and explore potential” (p.
“spirit of experimentation and innovation” (p.
“constant questing” (p. 211)
“experiment, explore and find the ‘edges’ of
the medium” (p. 221)
“escape the normal, pre-set paths” (p. 230)
“recombine, transform and place sounds in a
musical way” (p. 204)
Augmented musical imagination, explorative mind
If we may sum up the essence of what is critically new for the digital-age curriculum, it would be that the
musical imagination that we seek to cultivate is an augmented one. The digital composer’s imaginative
mind needs to approach composing with a heightened awareness of the expressive potentials of rhythm,
timbre, texture, space and multi-media rather than focusing on melody and harmony as the primary
compositional determinants (that is, “a change in musical priorities” [Savage, 2007b, p. 730]). The sound
materials to be used are perhaps limited only by the composer’s musical imagination and, of course, the
state of the technology involved. At the same time, non-linear structuring of music may be called for
(Hannan, 2003, p. 98; Hugill, 2008, p. 109). Typical too is the dimension of collaborative or interactive
work including virtual ones. On top of that, a readiness for multi-disciplinary work would be a great asset.
Helping students develop their musical voices with such augmented musical imagination is perhaps more
challenging a task than in the case of training a traditional composer. Cage foresaw this decades ago in his
1958 musical credo:
I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music
produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available any and all sounds
that can be heard . .. . The present methods of writing music will be inadequate for the composer
who will be faced with the entire field of sound…. [In fact] the composer will be faced not only
with the entire field of sound but also with the entire field of time. (Cage, 1973/1968, pp. 3-5)
No longer can students rely entirely on conventional compositional rules or thinking in working in this
augmented sonic space. They may need to musically evaluate sound materials or ideas that are undreamt of
in previous generations. The terms of composing may need to be self-defined and in turn self-evaluated. If
they embark on appropriationist kinds of composition, they would need to understand the music they are
“plundering” and know how they may “better the borrowed”. The former point recalls American composer
David Liptak’s recent remarks about engaging “understandings that have been established by past work”
(Liptak, Summer 2011). The latter point brings to mind Björk on why she “respects” remix: “I like different
points of view, I love the thrill of being in control of one song and then giving it to someone else to get
their view of it” (quoted in Gould, 2003, p. 96). Our job then is to teach our students to be able to develop
their musical minds and abilities to offer interesting “views”—this, after (as Liptak would have put it) they
have explored a relationship between their music and their understanding of past works.
Of course, as noted above, one of the important attributes that needs to work hand-in-hand with the above
competence is an explorative mindset, and this is strongly borne out in the twelve interviews documented
by Hugill (2008, pp. 198-231). Elsewhere, Hugill identifies open-mindedness and cultural curiosity as
defining qualities of a thinking digital musician (p. 143). Here, we may perhaps add a critical thinking
element to further enhance such explorations. The Paris-based Japanese-American composer Atau Tanaka
well embodies this when he speaks of working at the intersection between “a culture of technology” and “a
culture that questions technology” (Hugill, 2008, p. 224).
Closing remarks
Contemplating the relation between technology and music education, Swanwick returns to the Greek term
techne, which means “art” or “skill”, and interpreted the term “technology” in the broadest sense to include
not just “practical application of scientific knowledge”—information and communication technologies as
well as technologies of instrument-making or of managing performance acoustics—but also musical
activities and even music teaching (2001, p. 32 & 40). At the heart of his rumination is a recognition of the
powers of techne to transform both our minds and in turn our culture (or “heritage”, in the context of his
presentation) (p. 34). To the music teacher—seen as “a facilitator extending ‘techne’”—he offers the
reminder that “real multi-media” is not just working with computers but “involve singing, dancing, playing
together, composing and responding to music heard or music imagined” (p. 42). As we, ten years later,
contemplate our pedagogical response to the latest technologies, Swanwick’s sagacious point serves to
balance our enthusiasm and advocacy to embrace new technologies/skills at the expense of old ones.
Equally salutary is Tony Gould’s concern over artistic integrity—what he refers to as “substance and
purpose”—in the face of “the current push to tie [education] inextricably to industry, as if education itself
was an industry” (Gould, 2003, p. 80). I would readily reiterate his reminder not to forget our moral
obligation to help our students not lose sight of “why musicians do what they do”, as well as the
educational imperative of guiding students (in our context) to discover what true composing, in the
broadest sense of the word, entails even as the mechanics and environment of composing continues to
undergo transformation—AND, I hasten to add, even if we ourselves as music educators are still wrestling
with the evolving phenomenon and notion of composing, which arguably can include artistic “stealing”.
Needless to say, we can be sure that the need to re-think composing and in turn compositional pedagogy
will resurface as new technologies and new compositional thinking come on the scene. The augmentation
of musical creative imagination that we have identified at this point in time will most certainly continue to
expand both quantitatively and qualitatively.
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Music Performance Students as Future Studio Teachers:
Are They Prepared to Teach?
Erika Donald
McGill University
[email protected]
Conservatories and universities around the world train the next generation of musical performers. Most will
also become studio music teachers, training subsequent generations, but are they prepared to teach? In
many countries, instrumental and vocal performance students receive little or no pedagogical training or
experience during their post-secondary education – thus many do not aspire to teach, and those who will
are ill prepared to teach effectively and to embark on their future careers. Through a review of relevant
literature, this paper examines several factors underlying this situation, including the pedagogical isolation
and “inertia” that perpetuate the stranglehold of the master-apprentice model, the prevalent attitude of
“performance above all”, tensions between the roles and identities of “performer” and “teacher”, and a lack
of access to pedagogical training alongside performance training at many institutions of higher education.
Each of these factors remains an obstacle to the development of teaching skills among music performance
students and to the growth of studio teaching as a respected profession. The presentation will further
discuss results of a small pilot survey examining the attitudes and experiences of music students at a major
Canadian university pertaining to teaching and teacher training. Notably, survey respondents were
unanimously positive in their answer to the question “Should courses in teaching/pedagogy should be part
of university programs for music performance students?” It is hoped that this paper and presentation will
stimulate international discussion around viable solutions to enhance the education of performance students
through pedagogical training and prepare them for successful and sustainable careers.
Studio teaching, teacher training, pedagogy, instrumental/vocal instruction, higher education
Conservatories and universities in Canada and around the world train the next generation of musical
performers. Inevitably, (and whether they like it or not!), many of these instrumental and vocal students
will also become the next generation of studio music teachers, providing private instruction for students
ranging from total beginners through to professionals. However, many young musicians exiting postsecondary institutions and entering the working world have studied exclusively as performers – they often
lack both training and any significant experience as educators. Since the vast majority of performing
musicians will do at least some studio teaching during their careers, it is essential that our systems of higher
education ready performance students adequately and realistically for the demands of the future. But, are
they prepared to teach?
In questioning the “preparedness” of performance students for the task of teaching individual music lessons,
I mean to inquire as to whether they are both willing and able to undertake this work effectively. Ideally,
instrumental and vocal studio teachers will be not only disposed or inclined to teach, but also highly
qualified and capable. According to Persson (1996) however, “The teaching of instrumental music has been
left fairly untouched by research in music education. ... Applied music teaching tends to rest largely on the
basis of self-devised strategies, commonsense and tradition” (p. 25). Researchers—most notably Janet
Mills in the UK—have begun to investigate one-to-one (i.e., individual or studio) vocal and instrumental
tuition from both student and teacher perspectives, particularly in conservatory settings. Unfortunately,
findings of this relatively small body of published research on studio teaching indicate that performance
students are generally ill-prepared to be the kind of effective teacher they themselves would appreciate and
to meet the needs of their students (Mills, 2002). I believe, for the sake of future generations of musicians,
the preservation of musical traditions and the varied roles of music in society, it is imperative that
performance students also learn to teach.
Review of Literature: Identification and Discussion of Contributing Factors
There are several major obstacles to improved teacher training for musicians. One of these is the commonly
held attitude of “performance above all”. According to Zenker (2004), an emphasis on performance skills,
at every level of music education and at the expense of all other musical skills, sets students up to prize
performance ability and to disregard (or look down upon) teaching and other modes of participating in or
interacting with music. Music education programs tend to encourage “elite” vocal and instrumental
performance by few and from an early age, rather than developing the broad musical skills or appreciation
of many or supporting older learners. Suzuki “Talent Education”, a method of instrumental performance
instruction that begins as early as three years of age, and school band and choir programs, which often
begin in middle school, are two examples. Students who are part of “elite” groups that privilege individual
performance skill are likely to form their musical identities, and possibly career goals, from this experience
and may not gain exposure to other ways of interacting with music (Bruenger, 2004). From such a limited
range of musical experience, most students who pursue instrumental or vocal performance studies in higher
education may not view teaching, whether in a classroom or private studio, as actually “doing” music.
As a result, issues of personal and professional identity often arise when music performance students
contemplate working or training as teachers. Performance students have typically invested heavily in their
musical identities and career aspirations as instrumentalists or vocalists, and may experience a great deal of
tension or conflict between the roles of performer and teacher, a problem explored by Mark (1998) in The
Music Teacher's Dilemma - Musician or Teacher? Mills (2005) found that third year performance students
at the Royal College of Music in London felt teaching would limit their time and energy for personal
practice and performing. Some may feel that teaching is not a legitimate pursuit for them since it is not
what they have spent years training and expecting to do. Post-secondary institutions could serve their
students well by helping them to navigate these tensions and constraints through the development of
realistic goals, supporting competencies, and identities compatible with their future careers.
It is not always acknowledged that teaching draws upon a unique, though potentially complementary, skillset as compared to performance. According to Persson, “To be a formidable artist and a formidable teacher
may well be the attributes of the same individual, but the two invariably describe different roles as well as
different skills in different contexts…” (p. 25). Education expert Elliot Eisner (1983) observed that
excellent teaching requires not only a strong command of one’s subject matter, or “content knowledge” (as
in the musical and instrumental/vocal skills and knowledge required by a performer), but also a distinct
“pedagogical knowledge” in order to convey the particular subject matter in ways that students can receive
and engage with successfully at all stages of their development. Further, he cautioned that there is no
simple “recipe” for good teaching: “The idea that the skills of teaching can be treated as discrete elements
and then aggregated to form a whole reflects a fundamental misconception of what it means to be skilled in
teaching. What skilled teaching requires is the ability to recognize dynamic patterns, to grasp their meaning,
and the ingenuity to invent ways to respond to them” (p. 9). So how can students and performing musicians
develop their pedagogical knowledge and abilities? And is this even necessary to work as a studio teacher?
Another major obstacle to the preparation of excellent studio music teachers is a firm adherence to the
status quo, or pedagogical “inertia” (Schulman, 1999). Most teachers tend to teach much as they were
taught, regardless of whether this is optimal in a given context. The inability to effectively adapt what we
know to new situations was identified by educational researcher Lee Schulman as one of three
“pathologies” in the “epidemiology of mis-learning” (p. 12). This pattern is, of course, not new. As violinist
and pedagogue Carl Flesch wrote in 1924: “Not infrequently, teachers are satisfied with proclaiming
traditional tenets as unchangeable truths. But there is a good deal of wisdom in the saying by Gustav
Mahler “Tradition means slovenliness.”” (Book 1, vi). This overreliance on “tradition” on the part of
teachers and institutions is largely for want of other ways to teach; courses and programs in pedagogy could
set studio music teaching on a more enlightened path by introducing students to a number of possible
approaches based in theory, research and practice. Mills (2002) has noted “the likely influence of students’
own experience as learners on the teaching that they may undertake as undergraduates, or during their
career” (p. 78).
However, the prevalence of the age-old “master-apprentice” model in instrumental and vocal performance
studies remains another factor preventing the preparation of performance students as competent studio
teachers. Whether or not they are effective as educators, the best performers are frequently also the most
sought-after instrumental and vocal instructors. However, while Mills (2002) found that conservatoire
students do value studying with highly accomplished performers, Persson’s (1996) case study of a piano
professor and her students at a reputable UK conservatory clearly illustrates that outstanding performers do
not necessarily make capable or satisfying instructors.
The main focus of this study is whether Mrs. White as a skilled concert performer is
also successful as a teacher in spite of lacking any type of formal teacher training. The
result of the case study would suggest that while there are several commendable
aspects to her teaching, her instructional strategy, at least as it pertains to the
participating students, must be considered inadequate, and in the case of some
students, a failure. Although she always intuitively knows how to approach
interpretational matters, she does not have a progressive and developmental teaching
strategy. Individual lessons could best be described as a series of master classes, with
no long-term plan of how to take a student from one point of development to another.
Every lesson is, more or less, an independent unit. This lack of progression and clearly
expressed objectives appear to discourage students who, as a result, often feel a lack
of achievement (p. 33).
Persson concluded: “A commonsense strategy to teaching instrumental music appears in the present case
not to be a successful strategy, which raises the important question of the training of performance teachers.
Mrs. White, replete with good intentions, often fell short in accomplishing what she set out to do because of
an unfamiliarity with relatively simple psychological principles of learning and teaching” (p. 34). So, while
the old adage that “those who can’t (do), teach” may still remain prevalent among performance students in
higher education and perhaps musicians in general, one can readily counter that “those who can (perform),
can’t necessarily teach!”
Mills (2002) offers further evidence that a ‘hands-off’ approach to the preparation of instrumental and
vocal music teachers leaves a lot to be desired. She examined the characteristics of effective instrumental
and vocal tuition as perceived by performance students at a UK conservatoire and warned that,
Simply wanting one’s pupils to make progress in technique, musicality, practicing skills
and confidence is not sufficient to ensure that happens. While it is likely that the students’
teachers are reflective practitioners (Schön 1983) who, intuitively or deliberately, apply
Schön’s cycle of diagnosis – planning – instruction – assessment, as otherwise the
students might make little progress themselves, it is not clear that this cycle is being
presented to students within a received teaching style, or range of received teaching styles,
that could be applied effectively to pupils who are younger, who are less advanced, or
who have differing learning styles, or in cases where instrumental teaching is not
presented within the broad overarching music curriculum offered at the conservatoire (p.
Mills concluded that “There is a clear case for giving conservatoire students systematic training as
instrumental teachers” (p. 81).
Thus, it is insufficient for our institutions of higher education to train students exclusively as musical
performers – countless accomplished performers will inevitably discover they lack the pedagogical skills
necessary to help their students develop optimally. It may be most difficult for us to teach students who are
most unlike us since we may have greater difficulty understanding their particular needs and challenges.
Systematic pedagogical training would be of obvious assistance in helping teachers better relate to students
of various ages and stages of development, and identify appropriate goals and strategies for their instruction.
Many teachers find that rising to this challenge has the added benefit of deepening their own knowledge
and understanding, informing and potentially improving their own performance ability. As the French
essayist Joseph Joubert is widely quoted as saying, “To teach is to learn twice”.
Unfortunately, the question of how to develop competence in the realm of instrumental and vocal music
teaching, and particularly of how to do so within the context of a post-secondary education in music
performance, remains a major challenge facing students and institutions. In Canada at present, such training
is scarcely available within university and conservatory curricula with the exception of a few programs in
vocal or piano pedagogy. Further, there may still be no real incentives for most students or faculty members
to pursue professional development and learn to teach more effectively: even at the institutional level, the
majority of studio teachers are employed despite lacking significant pedagogical training, and their
teaching effectiveness may never be carefully evaluated. Most studio teachers are left to haphazardly
develop their pedagogical skills independent of their formal education in performance.
Lastly, in addition to the dearth of pedagogical training opportunities available to performance students in
many institutions of higher education, there are typically no established systems of “professional induction”
for instrumental and vocal music teachers, as are in place for pre-service or novice classroom teachers in
music and other subject areas (Shieh and Conway). This general absence of support networks and guidance
from more experienced teachers means that beginning studio teachers are literally “on their own” to figure
out most everything. This isolation extends all the way to the studios of university and conservatoire
professors, where often only the instructor and each individual student are aware of specific goals, methods,
and difficulties encountered in their private lessons.
Good teaching and a strong foundation can make all the difference in a student’s motivation and capacity to
develop their musical skills. Consequently, it should be of great importance to produce proficient teachers
who are able to respond appropriately to the individual needs of their students. Parncutt (2007) recently
suggested: “Regarding teaching, all music students should be encouraged or required to take advanced units,
because so many will teach in their later careers; such units may focus for example on the application of
appropriate pedagogical theories to specific teaching contexts and situations, or the educational
implications of research in developmental music psychology…” (6) (See also Jorgenson, 2000). However
in many countries, including Canada, students presently complete undergraduate and graduate degrees in
music performance without taking a single course in pedagogy or teaching a single student. Many will
teach individual vocal or instrumental lessons in the future, yet most will never learn how – this is truly
It seems obvious that performance students, (to say nothing of their future pupils!), would benefit greatly
from increased training, exposure, and mentoring in pedagogy at the post-secondary level. Further, a pilot
survey conducted by the author at a prominent Canadian university revealed that students unanimously
believed that courses in teaching/pedagogy should be part of post-secondary music performance programs.
However, as we have seen, there are many challenges to the preparation of performance students as capable
studio teachers. In North America, universities are beginning to respond to this need by offering degree
programs in pedagogy or performance/pedagogy combinations; this is encouraging. If more performing
musicians and performance students begin to demand these courses and invest in the development of their
teaching abilities, it can only benefit their students, themselves, and the profession. It is also the
responsibility of students, parents, and institutions who employ instrumental and vocal music teachers to
place more value on the pedagogical expertise (qualifications, experience and results) of prospective
instructors rather than performing ability exclusively. In answer to the posited question of whether the
graduates of higher education programs in music performance are prepared to become effective studio
teachers, I conclude hopefully: not yet, but there is progress.
Thank you to Drs. Laura Winer and Isabelle Cossette for their assistance in developing the pilot survey, to
the late Arthur Weston and Dawn Weston for their tremendous support through the Weston Fellowship in
Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, to Drs. Lisa Lorenzino, Eleanor Stubley and Marcelo
Wanderley for their encouragement of my interests in teaching and teacher education, and to Dana Glinski
and Irene Sharp for modeling exceptional cello teaching and helping me learn to teach.
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Questioning the Music Education Paradigm. Canadian Music Educators’ Association, 121-135.
Quarts into Pint Pots: Meeting the Challenges of
Professional Education in the 21st Century
John Drummond
University of Otago
[email protected]
Under pressure from contemporary realities the traditional Conservatorium curriculum has given way to a
broader programme thought necessary nowadays to help students meet the demands of the portfolio careers
they are likely to have. Where once it was deemed necessary only to provide training and education in a
limited area of music, the curriculum must now contain wide-ranging musical skills, business skills,
technological and communication skills and personal skills. Given that programme durations have not
increased, curriculum planners are faced with the challenge of fitting a quart of material into a pint pot of
available time. Broadening the academic base to meet the needs of diversity compounds the time problem;
offering praxial community participation projects can have a similar effect. Current thinking about
education suggests one possible solution: online learning collectives. Adopting these approaches can help
address the challenges of the new curriculum, but bring further challenges to traditional teachers.
Conservatorium, portfolio career, educational reform
A century ago, planning the curriculum of a Conservatorium of Music was comparatively simple – or so it
seems from a modern perspective. The focus was exclusively on Western Classical Music, and students
were trained in the expectation that they would be able to make careers as professional performers - or, if
all else failed, as teachers. (Singer, 1996, p. 80). The curriculum had the same three elements to be found in
any court-music training syllabus:
Professional competence
o Advanced performance
o one-on-one lessons
Ensemble work (orchestra, choir, opera)
Appropriate musicality skills
o Aural skills
o Keyboard (as necessary)
Musical literacy and theory
o Harmony and counterpoint
o Analysis
Knowledge about music
o Knowing and understanding the canon
o Aesthetic education (‘appreciation’)
In the twenty-first century this syllabus is widely perceived to be insufficient to meet the needs of students,
and the reasons are, perhaps, not hard to find. There are far more excellent graduates worldwide than there
are professional job opportunities, so few of the students will actually become full-time professional
performers. We live in a world of changing circumstances, and musicians need to be versatile: ‘portfolio
careers’ are becoming the norm (Smilde, 2009, pp. 1, 22-23). The situation is recognized by many students
(Burt-Perkins, 2008), and graduates (Bennett, 2008). There is recognition of the need for ‘horizontal’
careers. (Weller, 2008). Further demands are made on the traditional curriculum when, under government
or financial pressure, conservatoria have become part of Universities, and have been expected to include
more generic tertiary academic skills or learning dimensions (Brown, 2008). The Bologna process has
made its own impact (Smilde, pp. 27-8).
As a result, the desirable curriculum for a conservatorium student nowadays would appear to require the
inclusion of a range of skills and understandings far beyond those included in traditional training. As far
back as 1998 a list was proposed, at a CEPROM seminar, which included technical and technological
performing skills (including improvisation, ensemble skills, recording skills, and skills in electronic
communication); personal skills and relationship skills (confidence to deal with new situations, ability to
relate to people from different backgrounds, ability to facilitate learning and growth in others); business
skills including teamwork skills; knowledge and understanding of a wide range of musics and styles
(Drummond, 1998, pp. 55-6). Smith (1996) more simply suggests students need to acquire the multiple
skills of the traditional European town musician. Barnes’s list (1999) includes work experience, education,
community music activity, enterprise, creative thinking, and understanding the impact of cultural diversity.
Bennett (2008, p. 66) proposes pedagogy, business, communication, management, marketing, technology,
and performance in multiple genres. Weller (2008, pp.149-158) suggests entrepreneurship and
All of these proposals are aimed at adding ‘versatility’ to the traditional conservatoire learning goal of
‘mastery.’ In contrast to the curriculum of a hundred years ago, a contemporary conservatorium curriculum
might therefore look something like this:
Professional competence
o Advanced performance training
o One-on-one lessons
o Ensemble work (orchestra, choir, opera)
Appropriate musicality skills
o Aural skills
o Keyboard (as necessary)
o Improvisation
o Creativity
Application of music skills
o Teaching skills
o Understanding processes of skill acquisition
o Facilitation skills (community-based)
o Leadership skills
o Music-making in the context of cultural diversity
Technology skills
o Creation and performance of music
o Communication
Personal professional skills
o Business skills
Finance and law, marketing, fund-raising
o Personal skills
Teamwork skills
Self-management skills
Self-evaluation skills (the reflective practitioner)
Musical literacies and theories
o Harmony, modality
o Analysis of different musics
Knowledge about music
o Knowing and understanding the canons
o Understanding cultural diversity in music
This is all very well, but how do we fit a quart into a pint pot? Students don’t have any more hours in the
day than they had before. How can all these requirements, the old ones of ‘mastery’ and the new ones of
‘versatility’, be fitted into the study programs of our students?
Expanding the academic base
Some of the new elements, those dealing with expanded musical knowledge, and literacy relating to
cultural diversity, can be covered by providing opportunities to study musics other than Western Classical
music. This is more easily achieved in institutions already providing courses in popular musics and
ethnomusicology. Unless the time spent on traditional academic backup is reduced, this must mean an
increased allocation of time, which will further impinge on the time and resources available to cover other
new elements.
Praxial community participation projects
These projects involve students connecting with community music-making and music-learning, and
alternative learning scenarios of this kind have been tried and tested successfully in many institutions since
Peter Renshaw’s initiatives at the Guildhall School of Music in the 1980s. The aims of such projects are
to learn through participation and direct experience
to engage with experts in the activity
to share personal musical skills in the context of the community activity
to reflect on the experience
Many of the new elements we have identified can be included in such projects, either in preparing for them
or in carrying them out: the application of musical skills through facilitation and leadership, improvisation
and creativity, teamwork, self-management and self-evaluation. If one or more projects take place in the
context of a culture different to that of the student, hands-on learning of cultural diversity becomes included.
Again, however, organizing and carrying out these projects is time-consuming for staff and students, and
further eats into the time available. The pint pot is perilously close to overflowing. But help might come
from a slightly unexpected quarter. As professional musicians and music educators we tend to be inwardlooking, focused on our area and unmindful of what else is going on in the education world. Many writers
are arguing for an approach to learning which reflects the contemporary world. Three characteristics of that
world can be identified.
“The creation of immediate, portable, transferable, on-demand knowledge sources on a scale
equivalent to the Library of Congress”. (Canton, 2006, p.60)
The social networking and gaming phenomena and their corollary of interactive, connective,
collaborative, peer-to-peer group learning. (Thomas and Brown)
The adding of imagination and experience to intellect as key contributors to learning. (Pink, 2005)
The third characteristic comes as no surprise to those engaged in learning how to be artistic performers.
The first two are taken for granted by young learners, digital natives, but are less of a fundamental concept
to digital immigrants, born before 1990. Nonetheless they can offer new opportunities for learning.
Gilbert’s agenda (2005, pp. 206-210) for teachers seeking to work successfully in this environment is as
Work together more
Think of new ways to timetable student activities
Develop skills for helping students work in small groups
Foreground students’ real-world research projects
Develop databases of community contacts
Focus on developing systems-level understanding of the subject (i.e. how does this subject work,
internally and contextually)
Develop imaginative activities to facilitate student learning
Allowing a curriculum to be influenced by these ideas can mean moving away from the old, traditional
models of ‘contact hours’, ‘formal classes’, ‘examinations’, and so on and into more of a real-life, real-
world mode of guided learning for students. The list given above of additional curriculum elements
required for the contemporary world can shift away from being a list of ‘topics to be taught’ and become a
list of skills to be explored in a range of different learning situations.
Live, online, learning collectives
Based on the phenomena of social networking and online gaming, a collective includes students taking
performance courses, staff engaged in the areas to be explored by the collective, and other online
participants from the community who may have something to contribute. The collective will use processes
Discovery (finding out information about something), fueled by
Discussion (processing and evaluating the information), aiming towards
Contextualisation (understanding what lies behind the information and its practical implications
and applications), leading to
Re-contextualisation (imagining how the information can be adapted for particular circumstances,
and realising the result).
The process can be applied to several ‘curriculum elements’, both old and new
contextual information about music being studied and performed by students;
the music business as it affects members of the collective
Working within the collective will additionally lead to the acquisition of a number of useful personal skills:
technology and communication ones, personal skills of leadership and teamwork, evaluation skills, and
creative and pragmatic skills.
A remaining challenge
The modes of teaching and learning employed in learning collectives and praxial projects are significantly
different from the traditional modes involved in acquiring mastery of a musical instrument. In the latter
case the learner is very much under the direction of the experienced teacher, an apprentice to a master. The
master is in charge, although by the end of the process it is hoped that the student is able to take greater
responsibility for his or her learning. In the collectives and projects the learner is already taking greater
responsibility. This may well create tensions within the programme as a whole. Subordination lies at the
basis of the apprentice mode, while partnership lies at the basis of the collective mode. A subordinate
attitude will not lead to good results in the collective, while a partnership attitude may be regarded by a
master as impertinence. In the collective mode teaching staff need to be less directive, more trusting. Many
of us are unused to the idea of stepping back; we may think that we are abdicating our responsibility, and
we may be concerned that the students will ‘make a mess of it’ and we shall be held responsible. In a world
of educational compliance that can be scary. Charles Handy (1990, p. 172) has an interesting proposal to
make in this regard. He discovered that in schools he visited it was assumed that the principal was the
manager, the teachers were the workers, and the students were the products. He suggests an alternative
industrial model: the principal as CEO, the staff as managers, and the students as workers. Perhaps it is a
useful model for the new world of learning we are considering.
Working in praxial projects and in collectives, students will quickly become aware of the different modes
that exist in their learning programmes. This in itself conveys a benefit, and a message, of how natural and
important versatility is in the real world. It is important that teachers are also aware of this. Ideally, they
would themselves become involved across the range of teaching modes, though for many who have
themselves trained in a master-apprentice mode such flexibility will be very difficult. We can expect,
however, that those who work in our institutions will have a respect for alternatives. The best apprentices
offer valid alternatives to their masters, and the best masters acknowledge the invention of alternatives in
their apprentices. The challenge is not to accept this in principle, but to be willing to see its extension and
development across the curriculum, as we plan to help our students become high achievers in every way in
the twenty-first century.
Barnes J. (Ed.) (1999). Making music work: Professional integration project. London: Royal College of
Bennett D. and Michael Hannan (Eds.) (2008). Inside, outside, downside up: Conservatoire training and
musicians’ work. Perth: Black Swan Press.
Bennett, D. (2008). Portfolio careers and the conservatoire. In D. Bennett and M. Hannan (Eds.), Inside,
Outside, Downside Up: Conservatoire training and musicians’ work (pp. 61-72). Perth, Australia: Black
Swan Press.
Brown, J. (2008). Challenging the old paradigms: Using the dimensions of learning to enhance the training
of professional musicians within tertiary music institutions. In D. Bennett and M. Hannan (Eds.), Inside,
Outside, Downside Up: Conservatoire training and musicians’ work (pp. 122-136). Perth, Australia: Black
Swan Press.
Burt-Perkins, R. (2008). Students at a UK conservatoire of music: Working towards a ‘diverse employment
portfolio’? In D. Bennett and M. Hannan (Eds.), Inside, Outside, Downside Up: Conservatoire training and
musicians’ work (pp. 49-60). Perth, Australia: Black Swan Press.
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(Ed.), The musician in new and changing contexts. Perspectives in Music and Music Education No. 3 (pp.
51-62). Malmo: Malmo Academy of Music.
Gilbert, J. (2005). Catching the knowledge wave? The knowledge society and the future of education.
Wellington: NCER Press.
Handy, C. (1990). The Age of Unreason. London: Arrow Business Books.
Pink, D. H. (2005). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New York: Penguin
Riverhead Books.
Renshaw, P. (2005). Connecting conversations: The changing voice of the artist. In M. Miles (Ed.), New
Practices – New Pedagogies. London: Routledge.
Singer, M. J. (1996). Training professional musicians. In G.M. Oliva (Ed.), The musician’s role, new
challenges. Perspectives in Music and Music Education No. 2 (pp. 79-85) Malmo: Malmo Academy of
Smilde, R. (2009). Musicians as lifelong learners: Discovery through biography. Delft: Eburon.
Smith, L. A. (1996). Educating the performing artist: More than music. In G.M. Oliva (Ed.), The
Musician’s Role, New Challenges. Perspectives in Music and Music Education No. 2 (pp. 117-124).
Malmo: Malmo Academy of Music.
Thomas D. and Seely Brown, J. (n.d.) A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of
constant change. Amazon kindle: CreateSpace.
Weller, J (2008). Creating a life in music: Theory to praxis. In D. Bennett and M. Hannan (Eds.), Inside,
Outside, Downside Up (pp. 149-158). Perth, Australia: Black Swan Press.
The role of popular songwriting in three Australian tertiary
music curricula: different strokes for different folks?
Michael Hannan
Southern Cross University
[email protected]
Diana Blom
University of Western Sydney
[email protected]
Four teachers with a commitment to fostering the discipline of songwriting, responded to a set of questions
about their teaching of songwriting in three different Australian post-secondary (tertiary) education music
curricula. These curricula were in programs that included a city-based university where the offerings were
not tied to any particular culture of contemporary music making (embracing a range of practices such as
contemporary popular, traditional classical, contemporary classical, jazz and world musics), a regional
university where there was a specific agenda to educate musicians for careers in the contemporary popular
music industry, and a regional Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institute which embraced a
vocational training mission focused also on the contemporary popular music industry.
The study revealed that despite differences in approach there were considerable similarities in the way the
three institutions structured their curricula, organised their teaching and dealt with the issues surrounding
this specialised area of compositional pedagogy.
Teaching songwriting, popular music, songwriting curricula
Different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and
Scooby dooby dooby
Ooh sha sha
I am everyday people
(“Everyday people” (1968) Sly and the Family Stone)
Bringing popular songwriting into the tertiary environment requires an understanding of what the students
feel and know about this style of composing. It also engages with what Potter (1994) describes as “perhaps
the most revolutionary aspect of rock music” (p. 192) – that is, the tendency, from the 1960s and the
Beatles onwards, for the role of singer and songwriter to become more frequently taken on by the same
person. For Potter, this trend for the performer to create their own material rather than interpret songs
written by others, brought “the range of semantic potential in rock…close to ‘classical’ status, especially
when compared to the limited agendas of much pre-sixties rock & roll” (p. 192). The move allowed singersongwriters to control the musical process of their songs and to identify and define themselves in relation to
their songs. This paper discusses the responses of four teachers of popular song writing in tertiary music
curricula to questions about how and why they teach this specialised area of composition pedagogy.
The various ethnographies of popular musicians (Bennett, 1980; Cohen, 1991; Baynton, 1997; Green,
2000) indicate that songwriting in bands is typically a collaborative activity and that songwriting is usually
learnt in the informal learning setting of the band practice room.
Whereas there is considerable work being done on the processes of formal and informal learning in
contemporary music (Lilliestam, 1996; Green, 2000; Folkestad, 2006) there has been little focus on the
teaching of songwriting and the development of a tertiary level study curriculum for songwriting. However
in discussing the teaching of songwriting in a tertiary education setting Moore (n.d.) believes that it “should
be conceived as a musical discipline distinct from that of composition” (p.1) because of its aural (as
opposed to scored) transmission and because the writing of lyrics is an essential part of the craft (p. 1).
While the secondary music classroom is a different learning environment from the tertiary academic
classroom, there are lessons to be brought across. McGillen and McMillan (2003) write that a
“deconstructivist and utilitarian approach to teaching popular music …” (through
performance/songwriting) “essentially…ignores the contextual elements and assumes that structural
understanding will lead to wider acceptance, understanding and relevancy of popular music forms in the
mainstream music classroom” (p. 25). However, the authors remind us that we need to approach this
teaching with “due care and caution as we are essentially entering a social and musical world in which we
can co-construct and facilitate, but never dominate” (p. 27).
While there is a dearth of academic literature on teaching songwriting in tertiary education there is a
plethora of useful textbooks written about the techniques of songwriting. Some focus entirely on the
writing of song lyrics (Davis, 1985; Davis, 1992; Pattison, 1995). Others look more broadly at the
discipline from literary, melodic, rhythmic, structural, harmonic, production or business perspectives
(Braheny, 1988; Citron, 1992; Gillette, 1995; Blume, 1999). Perhaps the most engaging book category
about developing songwriting technique is the anthology of well-known recording artists discussing their
ideas and techniques (Zollo, 2003; DeMain, 2004; Kruger, 2005). One famous songwriter, Jimmy Webb,
has written a hefty book about his own approach to the craft (Webb, 1998).
A set of questions was developed with reference to the literature of popular music pedagogy, popular
songwriting and contemporary musicians’ work practices. These questions were put to the songwriting
teachers at a city-based university (CU), a regional university (RU) and a regional TAFE college (RT) in
Australia and the results were compared.
The questions were as follows:
• At what level are the students in their tertiary course when they study song writing?
• Why do you teach/offer songwriting?
• Where does the teaching and learning for the subject take place? (i.e. lectures, workshops, aural,
concert, in groups, as individuals)
• How do you suggest students write songs? ( e.g., by ear, get some notes down etc.)
• In what order do you introduce songwriting topics? ( e.g., lyrics, harmony, etc)
• Do you encourage them to think of an audience for the song they are writing? If so, how?
• Do you focus them on aspects of style? If so, how?
• If the students write their own lyrics, what type of lyric writing do you encourage (i.e. lyrics with a
specific meaning or lyrics which are open to interpretation)?
• Do you talk about inspiration or focus on craft?
• Do the assignments require a deliberate use of some theoretical concepts? If so, give an example.
• When do your students, generally, feel that a song is complete? Or are there stages to their song
• How many songs do they have to write in the subject?
• What is your songwriting experience?
• Who do you feel owns the decisions of their songwriting activity in your class environment? How
is this apparent?
• Do you encourage peer interaction during songwriting? If so, how.
• Many students already write songs – what are you teaching them?
The responses were analysed seeking commonalities in relation to each issue, but also what Becker (1998)
calls uniquenesses or “unusual events” (p. 87) that keep the researcher’s (and teachers’) eyes open.
Level of study
At the CU songwriting was studied in second or third year. The RU had a first year core unit for all
students, but for composition majors, songwriting was taught throughout the course. The RT had modules
in the first and third semesters.
Rationale for teaching songwriting
For the CU teachers, popular songs present a range of musical models that are most familiar to the students
both from a listening (cultural identity) perspective and in many cases a practical creative activity. Many of
the students had aspirations to be songwriters. Both the RU and RT teachers saw the popular song form as
central to the creative and performance practices of the popular music industry and therefore a core
vocational skill.
The context of the teaching and learning
At the CU the teaching for the unit included lectures, guest lectures by visiting professional practitioners,
and workshop groups of approximately 4-8 students. At the RU the core Songwriting unit involved a
lecture dealing with the craft of song writing and a group tutorial involving practical exercises. Students
studying in the composition specialisation had lectures relating to arranging, laboratory instruction in
composition technology and some one-on-one tutorials. At the RT there was a class time assigned to song
writing where formal lectures, workshop/seminar, and listening activities took place.
Teacher suggestions on how to write songs
The process of 'writing' the songs was largely left up to the student at the CU. At the RU the students
worked directly with the sounds using a keyboard, guitar or MIDI studio. Students were encouraged to try a
number of methods to write songs, for example starting with a hook, or a groove, or a lyric fragment, or a
title, or a chord progression. In the first module at the RT students worked mainly by ear while some theory
was being simultaneously taught. The second module was more reliant on music theory, arranging and
The sequencing of songwriting topics
At the CU the order of topics was lyric writing, formal structures, melodic writing, harmonic and bass line
concepts, rhythmic 'feel' concepts and style. At the RU the order the order of topics was song structures,
song textures and lyric writing devices. The RT started with lyric writing and moved on to musical aspects.
Writing for an audience
The students at the CU were not directed to think of the 'audience' (beyond the
notion of the unit being focused on ‘popular’ songwriting) in their compositional process. The notion of the
'audience' only came up peripherally in discussion of musical styles. At the RU students were encouraged
not only to think of an audience for their songs but also develop an audience through performing their
songs at gigs and attempting to get airplay for the recordings they made. The teacher at the RT introduced
psychoacoustics and the semiological concepts of music, drawing out the possible cultural (and therefore
audience) responses and associations to certain sounds, sounds the students play but do not necessarily
think about.
Focus on aspects of style
There was discussion of style in the lectures at the CU. This was to demonstrate to the
students the manner in which notions of style direct and shape songwriting
decisions. The songwriting tasks were reasonably open for them to be able to
direct the style of their work toward whatever their own stylistic
preference might be. In the composition specialisation in the RU the emphasis was on the techniques of
analysing recorded music so that the student could understand what makes up the ingredients of particular
styles. The approach at the RT was more concerned with the cultural aspects of song styles than with
writing in specific styles.
Teacher suggestions on lyric writing approaches
The teachers at the CU made no suggestions about lyric writing approaches believing that a range of
options was appropriate. The approach was similar at the RU although suggestions were made to those
writing political or religious lyrics that they should try to avoid being too literal and preachy. There were no
prescribed models and no restrictions at the RT. Having written their songs the students were expected to
analyse their approaches to the lyrics.
Inspiration versus craft
The focus was very much on craft at the CU. The lecture material was about
presenting and examining a range of approaches and techniques. The teacher at the RU believed that most
aspects of musical practice could be reduced to craft, even inspiration. At the RT there was a relaxed
attitude to the issue, a belief that craft is used when inspiration fails (“which is most of the time”) and that
inspiration was more closely tied to motivation than to formulating songwriting ideas.
The use of theoretical concepts for assignments
At both the CU and the RU the students were required to demonstrate an understanding in their assignment
tasks of some of the material presented and discussed in the lectures. This involved harmonic, melodic,
rhythmic and poetic text
concepts. The teacher at the RT wrote that all assignments were submitted in notated form, and that all
artistic decisions must be defended, partly by reference to music theory concepts.
The completion of songs
When songs were being workshopped at the CU and the RU, they were generally considered to be works in
progress. Some students felt a song was finished when it was arranged and recorded, but for others their
songs were in a perpetually malleable state. Typically students had many incomplete songs, often just
single sections of a large number of songs, awaiting later development. The RU composition majors also
struggled with the finalisation of the arrangement and production of their recorded songs. At the RT the
song was technically considered complete when the score was written, but the teacher observed that
students often changed their minds from day to day about when a song was finished.
Number of songs written for assessment
Four songs were required at the CU. At the RT one song was required for the core unit and four songs each
semester for the composition majors (two fully produced and two rough recordings). At the RT one song
was required in the first module, and three in the second module.
Song writing experience of the teachers in the study
Three of the teachers were qualified and experienced contemporary classical music composers and one was
an ethnomusicologist and folk musician. Their track records as popular songwriters were limited. One of
the CU teachers identified as a recreational songwriter; the RU teacher had written some songs in bands
and for popular music theatre productions and the RT teacher had cabaret and music theatre experience.
Ownership of decision-making processes in classroom activities
The CU teachers admitted that most of the songwriting activity took place outside the class environment,
but that the songwriting assignments were partly driven by staff-determined assessment criteria. The RU
teacher thought all creative decisions were made by the students and that students were free to accept to or
ignore any suggestions made for improvements to a song. The RT teacher stated that all creative decisions
were made by the students but that the completed songs were subject to analysis and critique in the class
Encouragement of peer interaction in the songwriting process.
In the workshop situation at the CU a critical feedback loop was generated for the songs as they developed.
The level of student engagement in this process varied, with the students most prepared to give feedback
more likely to be the ones with the most developed songs. The RU teacher focused on the value of creative
collaboration in response to this question, especially where a composer weak in one area and strong in
another collaborated with a peer with the opposite strengths. Collaborative submissions were negotiated
generally on the principal of two collaborative submission equal to one solo submission. The RT teacher
also interpreted this question in relation to songwriting collaborations and identified the same formula for
submission as the RU teacher (basically 2 for 1).
Teaching songwriting to students experienced in songwriting
There was a minority of students in this category at the CU. It was felt that these students might be
stimulated by the introduction of alternative approaches to their sometimes “entrenched” way of writing.
The RU teacher considered that informed feedback was always useful no matter how accomplished the
student was as a songwriter and that experienced students tended to respond more positively to critical
feedback than less experienced students did. At the RT experienced student songwriters were encouraged to
think about their songs more “systematically” and to develop their notation skills.
Discussion and conclusion
The three institutions demonstrated a range of different approaches to the teaching of songwriting. The
level at which songwriting was taught varied considerably and the RU was alone in having a major in
composition focused on songwriting and record production. The CU’s rationale for the teaching of
songwriting was oriented to the needs and interests of students, whereas at the RU and the RT there was
more of a sense of servicing the needs of the popular music industry approach. The context of the teaching
and learning were similar in all three institutions with lectures relating to songwriting craft and practical
workshops where students’ works-in-progress were analysed and critiqued.
In line with the advice in McGillen and McMillan (2003) none of the teachers was prescriptive about how
songs should be written, but rather made suggestions though the lectures and workshops. This was also the
case with the subject matter of lyrics, although the RU teacher advised students not to be too “preachy” if
they were writing on political or religious topics. The non-prescriptiveness trend also resonated with the
question about ownership of decisions about songwriting activities. All the respondents felt the decisions
were owned by the students. Although musical styles were discussed by all three institutions, there was no
prescription of style and students were encouraged to work in the styles they identified with, or to decide on
the styles they would like to work in. On the subject of peer interaction the CU teachers addressed issues
relating to the value of peer feedback while the RU and RT teachers discussed creative collaborations
amongst students and the negotiation of assignment submissions involving collaboration.
There was some variation in the order of introduction of topics, with the CU and the RT introducing lyric
writing first and the RU focusing firstly on song structures, but as lyric structure plays a strong part in song
structure the differences in the sequencing of topics appeared to be inconsequential.
On the question about students being encouraged to write for an audience only the RU emphasised the
importance of this, although the RT indirectly focused on audience considerations by discussing the
cultural meanings of various styles.
All three institutions favoured focusing on ‘craft’ rather than ‘inspiration’ and all promoted the application
of music and songwriting theory in the assignments and in the critique sessions. Although there was no
question relating to “the score versus the recording”, it emerged that the CU and the RT required students
to submit their songs in notated form whereas the primary submission format at the RU was an arranged
and produced audio recording. The number of submissions required varied although there were synergies
between the one song for the first year units at the RT and the RU, and the three or four songs for second
and/or third year submissions at all three institutions.
One of the most interesting trends to emerge was the fact that none of the teachers had a professional track
record as a popular songwriter. Three were from a contemporary classical music composition background
and one from an ethnomusicology/folk music performance background. This could be symptomatic of the
fact that the teaching of songwriting in tertiary music institutions is a relatively new phenomenon, and that
suitably qualified teachers with industry track records as songwriters are still thin on the ground.
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strong synergies amongst the three institutions particularly the student-centred learning approach. There
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particular techniques to be used in the songs the students were writing. The students in all three institutions
were engaged in critical feedback fostered by the workshopping of their songs.
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Mediocrity to artistry: Technology and the singing voice
Diane Hughes
Macquarie University
[email protected]
Technology plays a significant role in the shaping and production aesthetics of contemporary vocals.
Positioned to map the parameters of contemporary vocal artistry in popular culture musics, the qualitative
research discussed in this paper identifies technology as a primary influence on vocal artistry. The
experiences and observations of professional singers, aspiring singers, singing teachers, professional
musicians, sound technicians, recording engineers and record producers were used to determine similarities
and differences in technological treatments. The findings identify the current types, purposes and
applications of technology on the contemporary singing voice and reveal that the purposes and applications
are at times complex, conflating and contradictory. With recurring themes of critical listening, effective
communication, non-artist manipulations, corrective treatments and artistic applications, the findings imply
that technology should be appropriately applied and be reflective of artistic intent and envisioned sound.
While contemporary music education faces persistent challenges posed by developments in and
applications of technologies, music educators have a responsibility to understand relevant technology and
its manifestations in various contexts. This raises challenges for vocal programs centred only on the
development of the embodied instrument. The findings discussed in this paper are therefore significant for
music education, for singers and for musicians. The paper concludes with specific implications for music
education in the training of professional singers.
Technology, singing, listening, music education, artistry
Technology applied to the singing voice enables audible vocal performance and may also enhance,
replicate, alter, distribute and even create performance. The study determined that the application of such
technologies occurs with or without artist direction and understanding. Most forms of identified technology
underpin contemporary vocal artistry while others, typically those that are purposively applied, can
facilitate artistry through inventive manipulation of the singing voice. The contexts, purposes and
applications of technology form the focus of the following discussion. The paper concludes with
implications for music education.
Technology and the singing voice
Frith (1996) defines music technology as “the ways in which sounds are produced and reproduced” (p. 226).
There is currently a propagation of technology including effects, software and loopers being applied to the
singing voice and impacting on how it is produced and reproduced. Hughes (2010) discusses technology in
a broad context and offers strategies for singers to understand, navigate and mediate their sound through the
technological milieu. The microphone is typically viewed as the instrument that initially conducts acoustic
input (the voice) through the technological sound chain that converts it to electrical energy, treats it and
sends it back as acoustic output. Frith (1996) was therefore somewhat accurate in his description that
“popular singers have had a musical instrument besides their voices: the electric microphone” (p. 187) as
technology is now an extensile musical instrument that is by no means limited to the microphone.
Just as the Internet, Youtube, iTunes, SoundCloud and social media now make music highly accessible,
developments in technology facilitate a proliferation of musical production contexts (Székely, 2007;
Middleton, 2000). While information on available technology is accessible ( e.g., Walden, 2011; White,
1998; White 1999), there is limited research based documentation on the relevance of technology on the
singing voice, on contemporary vocal processes and/or on industry demands. Both Bartlett (2010) and
Hughes (2010) recognise the necessity of sound reinforcement and advocate for appropriate training; also
essential is understanding of room acoustics, recording processes and active listening (Hughes, 2010). It is
clearly apparent that technology now includes the ability to tweak vocals and enable mediocre singing to
sound competent (Presto, 2003). However, the role of technology in the transforming mediocrity to artistry
and the impact of technology in its ability to change, manipulate and mediate the singing voice are largely
Research method
Qualitative semi-structured in-depth interviews were undertaken with participants that were sampled to
identify potential influences on and influencers of vocal artistry in popular culture musics. Participants are
representative of diverse musical styles that include mainstream pop, musical theatre and contemporary
folk. The purposively sampled participants include professional and aspiring singers, singing teachers,
record producers, sound engineers, musicians, and other industry professionals. Participant observations
and experiences were analysed to determine similarities and differences, through which themes emerged.
The influence of technology, both on the singing voice and on artistry more generally, was a prominent and
recurring theme.
In the following discussion, the related industry experience is noted where participant quotations are cited.
The distinction is made between professional singers and aspiring singers with limited professional
experience; all singing teachers cited in this article are experienced professional singers.
Through an analysis of the types of technologies and treatments on the contemporary singing voice, a
dichotomy was found between artist and non-artist technological applications. This was largely evident in
the production of the resultant sound that an audience hears in either live or recorded performance, and
whether or not that resultant sound was reflective of the artist intent or was a manipulation of it. Depending
on the type of applications, some technological treatments were seen to be diametrically opposed in their
actualisation. For example, technologies when purposively applied by the artist, such as the style and level
of reverb, were seen to positively and at times creatively facilitate artistry; other non-artist applications of
the same technology were seen to weaken artistry. Technological applications were also discussed as both
aiding performance in a “do-it” approach, while other applications were viewed as a “fix-it” or corrective
approach. The purpose of technology was crucial in determining its influences and is discussed in the
primary contexts of live and recorded contemporary singing.
Purposes and applications
In a live context, the use of reinforced sound equipment or amplification was the technology discussed by
most participants. Amplification was viewed in terms of its principal function of enabling the voice to be
heard. It was also seen to enhance the voice, to facilitate the audibility of soft phonation such as whispering
and aid in the discernment of “the subtleties of the voice” (professional musician). Several participants
discussed the microphone as if it were a single entity commenting that the microphone aided clarification,
expression and assisted in conveying emotion. This was reiterated when one participant stated that a
singer’s emotion needs to leap “across the microphone” (singing teacher) which possibly not only reflects
the typical proximity of the microphone to the mouth but also that the microphone is the entry point in the
sound processing sequence. Sound processing was identified as the voice that goes through “the
microphone, the cable, the desk, the mix … the effects … what it goes to [resultant sound]” (professional
Volume level, either modified by the artist with “minor adjustments that you can make with the
microphone” (professional singer) or at the sound desk by a technician, was identified as being crucial to
effective performance. Several participants, when discussing compromised performances, reported
ineffective operation of sound reinforcement that had resulted in low vocal levels in monitors or foldback.
Not being able to effectively hear during performance was described as being “a massive part to a vocalist,
‘cause you can’t hear what you’re doing” (professional singer). Participants noted that ineffective
monitoring produced the feeling of straining or pushing the voice to be able to hear it during performances.
Other singers reported relying on kinaesthetic awareness of how the voice feels in performances where the
level of foldback or monitoring was inadequate. In addition, appropriate vocal levels and adequate
accompaniment levels were also viewed as necessary. One participant noted that it was not always
appropriate to turn the level of instruments up to enable audibility and suggested the alternative strategy of
“‘I can’t hear that instrument, turn things [other instruments] down’” (professional singer). The findings
therefore indicate that sound monitoring should not be underestimated in relation to "good" performance
and that poor monitoring, described as being administered by inexperienced technicians or being conveyed
through low quality equipment, carries potential vocal health risks.
The issue of successful communication between sound technicians and singers was consistently identified
in non-artist technological applications because essentially “it’s someone else’s ears” (singing teacher)
interpreting the singer’s sound. One singer noted that “the technician has the control to change the sound of
the voice in many ways” but also has the capability to represent the voice authentically to “bring out the
natural sound” (singing teacher). A soundcheck, or the ability to focus and professionally conduct a
soundcheck, was seen as an essential procedure to allow singers to hear “exactly what you want to hear,
and what you want others to hear” (professional singer). “Allowing time for a decent sound check” (singing
teacher) was viewed as being necessary in achieving optimum resultant sound. Several singers indicated a
high level of understanding as to how their voice should sound when graphic equalisation and/or effects are
Participants suggested that singers need to learn the language or learn “the lingo, like the jargon”
(professional singer) and have people management skills so as to confidently communicate their sound
requirements and convey instructions. While most communication on sound occurs during the preperformance soundcheck, one participant also noted that “being able to signal that [requirement] to the
sound guy when you go live” (professional singer) is also essential. Another participant alluded to the
power struggle that sometimes occurs between sound technicians and singers. A specific example of this is
when singers are asked to hold the microphone further away from their mouth so that technicians do not
need to adjust the levels during performance. Dependent on the singer and technician, this strategy may not
necessarily allow for optimum voice signal because “if you move the mic out, you won’t capture, the
voice” (singing teacher). Learning appropriate microphone technique, such as “minor adjustments that you
[the singer] can make with the microphone” (professional singer) that enables adequate sound signal
capture, was an identified strategy that aided effective sound reinforcement.
In recording contexts, studio and home, the monitoring of sound was viewed as being just as crucial as in
live performance. Although participants acknowledged that the critical and prolonged recording listening
can be more intense than in live performance, the need to communicate appropriately with sound engineers
is also essential. As singers predominantly listen through headphones during the recording process, their
listening becomes adjusted to this enclosed format. The levels in the headphone monitor mix need to be
balanced and tailored to individual singers to ensure advantageous results. Participants made the correlation
between the monitored headphone level of the singing voice and their ability to sing in key when recording
which is reminiscent of the propensity to strain in live situations when the monitored vocal level is too low.
For example, if the level of voice was too loud in the headphones then there was a tendency for the singer
to sing flat. This was also seen to occur through listening fatigue which was another issue raised by a
producer who described how “your ears get tired, your brain gets tired, your perception of what’s
happening inside your ear … interpreting the sound waves” (sound engineer/producer/professional
musician). Another producer noted that the singer preference for recording with one headphone off can
sometimes creates production issues if the monitor level in the “cans” is high enough to produce “bleeding”
(sound engineer/producer/professional musician) of the instrumental track into the vocal track.
Participants also discussed the necessity when negotiating production aesthetics to clearly be able to
communicate artistic intent as one participant concluded “… everyone perceives things differently, so if
you’re not clear on what – on your kind of guidelines [for your artistry], then it’s anyone’s for the taking …
it’s so important to know those kinds of things before you … you jump” (singer). This was reiterated by
one participant who believed that if technicians, engineers and producers did not “understand the vocalists
style and market … it [technological treatment] will change the way that they produce the sound for the
artist” (professional singer). Overuse of technological effects, such as compression and reverb, were seen to
detract from the naturalness of the voice. In summary, participants discussed that inappropriate non-artist
use of technology or extreme applications of technology were viewed as manipulating and had the potential
to mask artistic intent.
Mediocrity to artistry
In contrast to non-artist applications, types of technology were also seen to enable creative avenues for
singers to “explore different styles and sounds” (singing teacher). The recording context was seen as a
positive medium for exploration and development. Technology, such as loopers and harmonisers, were
viewed as facilitating a variety of sounds particularly for the solo artist and overall artist applications of
technology were viewed as potentially highly effective reinforcements of vocal artistry. Recording
technology, including home studio contexts, also allowed singers to “redo mistakes in a recorded
environment” (sound engineer/producer/professional musician) and even the facility to artificially correct
pitch was seen by some participants as a viable and cost saving software treatment in that it could preserve
a good take, aid in avoiding possible vocal strain and minimise production costs.
Diametrically opposed to creative artistry were applications of technology that transformed “mediocre”
(singer) artistry. Advances in technology were seen to allow singers “who aren’t necessarily the best
vocalists to have much more successful careers than what they would have previously” (professional
singer). In relation to pitch correction, a sound engineer commented that “there’s a lot of fix up” in studio
production and that it potentially eradicates “some of the character of the way people sing”. This participant
also made the distinction between pitch correction and other types of technology such as compression that,
in relation to vocals, do not really “fix anything”. Another participant believed that a repeatedly
implemented correction procedure such as pitch correction could make singers lazy warning that “if you
allow them to get away with it too often, then they’ll get to a point where they can’t actually sing it” (sound
engineer/producer/professional musician). This point was echoed with the suggestion that technology does
enable “lazy” artistry. In this instance, the participant cited an example, where upon listening to another
singer’s recording, the participant commented that the recording “sounded empty” (singing teacher). The
procedure for this particular recording had involved the compiling or “comping” (Walden, 2011) of several
recorded tracks into the one composite vocal track for each song to the extent that the recording lost the
“the moment of one take” (singing teacher).
The fix-it rather than do-it comparison was also evident in the comparisons between analogue and digital
recording technology. One producer noted digital technology enabled the cutting and pasting of sections
and sounds into composite tracks and enable rhythm to be quantised. Another producer commented that, in
comparison to digital processes, analogue recording was “difficult” but that the limitations of analogue
recording meant that singers needed to perform a take so that when they left a session they “had the take
you wanted” (sound engineer/producer/professional musician). The preference for real performance rather
than corrected performance was echoed by several participants with one singer noting that the application
of certain types of recording technology meant that “you don’t have to be a good singer anymore”
(professional singer).
Implications for music education
The findings reveal that the purposes and applications of technology evident in the contemporary music
industry are at times complex, conflating and contradictory. Effective technological treatments of the
singing voice were consistently viewed as being central to professionalism. It is therefore imperative for
music education to consider the contemporary contexts of singing, and in particular singing with
technological treatment, so that vocal graduates are adequately prepared for industry expectations, are
familiar with their optimum sound and have the skills to discern the placement and treatment of vocals in
any resultant sound. Aligned to much applied technology is the sound frequency spectrum and an engineerproducer participant strongly advocated for singers to understand the spectrum so that confident
communication and mediation of production and/or resultant sound could be realised. With an increasing
proliferation of recording opportunities, affording students understanding of recording procedures,
processes and expectations would also aid singing in a professional context. With recurring themes of
critical listening, effective communication, non-artist manipulations, corrective treatments and artistic
applications, the findings imply that the more skills and understanding a singer possesses, the more likely
their singing voice will be representative of their artistry and their sound. Institutional teaching should
therefore view technology as an extension of the singing voice and, as such, it should be “ingrained in
professional teaching” (Porcello, 2004).
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Hughes, D. (2010). Developing vocal artistry in popular culture musics. In S. Harrison (Ed.) Perspectives
on teaching singing: Australian vocal pedagogues sing their stories (pp. 244-258). Brisbane: Australian
Academic Press.
Middleton, R. (2000). Rock singing. In J. Potter (Ed.). The Cambridge companion to singing (pp. 28-41).
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Society, 29(1), 91-108.
Porcello, T. Speaking of sound: Language and the professionalization of sound-recording engineers. Social
Studies of Science, 34(5), 733-758.
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The Education of the Professional Musician:
How much music is required?
Kaija Huhtanen
Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Music
Lahti, Finland
[email protected]
Today music is performed and combined in diverse ways in global contexts. Working life serves a
multitude of duties that deal with music on a daily basis. Many jobs include many musical and music-based
elements. Still people who work in them are not necessarily musicians. There is a need to clarify which are
the inalienable elements required in order to name someone as a professional musician. Does a degree in
music, exclusively, provide someone the status of a professional musician or are there other characteristics
to justify professionalism? This paper sketches first the context of traditional professional music education
and points out the demands of present time. Next, it serves a comparison between three different study lines
curricula. Finally, it points out the question concerning professionalism: what does "educating professional
musicians" actually mean?
Key words professional musician, education, curriculum, competence
CEPROM as a commission is focused on covering the issues concerning the education of the professional
musician. Professional musician, as a concept, looks very innocent at first glance. Presumably it refers to
someone who earns his living by playing his instrument, alone or of with a group of others players (a band,
an orchestra, a chamber music group). According to Carruthers (2010, p. 42) a professional musician is a
person who makes a living in and by creating music. Presumably this definition includes instrumental
pedagogues who teach how to play an instrument. It gets more dubious as we think about those who teach
musical subjects for diverse groups. Are they professional musicians or professional teachers? What is the
anticipated professional musician, especially in relation to many music-related occupations – or, are we just
dealing with a fading myth? Presenting virtuosity in one's playing along with pedagogical competence does
not suffice as a definition of professional any more. The professional has to gain a large set of additional
skills (Beeching, 2010; Huhtanen 2011). At least two factors are responsible. First, the number of
musicians who are too narrowly educated has risen far too high and alters the unemployment statistics.
Second, working life articulates the needs one should fulfil in order to be competent in rapidly changing
operational environments. This attitudinal climate has forced musicians to defend the value and
significance of art music that has been labeled by some as elitist. Most often this criticism rises from
economic considerations. Music is clearly affective in achieving diverse and significant objectives. The use
of music as a tool instead of an end in itself changes our vision in education: the role of music is different
in a music therapy process than in a performance of Schumann's piano quintet at Wigmore Hall stage. How
much "pure" music-based expertise or instrumental skills are needed as we are using music or music
making as an element of promoting health, social and physical activation, memory work or relaxation? In
these operational environments there are marvellous examples of the effective work, even healing power of
music all around the world (see e.g., Music for health, Musiqué & Santé; Halonen 2009). These contexts
serve music in a serious and professional way, according to very high standards. Important developments in
the area of brain research proclaim the positive influence of music education, especially training that takes
place in childhood. Listening to music and especially hands-on musical activity (playing, singing)
strengthen special areas in the brain and produce lots of positive side effects which support more cognitive
learning (Hakkarainen et al., 2001; Huotilainen 2009, 41; Tervaniemi 2006). The longer musical activity
has taken place and the younger the musical training was started, the stronger the growth in the hearing,
sensing and motor skills areass of in the brain (Rauschecker 2001). Also the corpus callosum that combines
the two halves of the brain is thicker among musicians, and this speeds up the communication between the
halves (Tervaniemi & Hughdahl, 2003). The hard data from brain research could be used in order to
validate the significance of music education. However, the brain research does not necessarily take any
stand about the subtleties of music making. In that regard any musical activity will do, be it in a
professional setting or an amateur one; the artistic standard of music is not an issue. Are we ready to
rethink and, in practice, reduce the education of professional musicians according to these guidelines?
Educational goals
Tertiary music education has leant on the assumption that after gaining a degree (Bachelor's or Master's) in
music the newly graduated students will find their place in the professional world. Our classical music
tradition still dominates musicians’ education, having its' crystallization in the master-apprentice model of
teaching. Educators have the responsibility of carrying, enriching and developing the tradition. However,
global mass production of professional musicians, having been trained too narrowly in this tradition, is an
indisputable fact. Curriculum is designed as a plan that includes the content and learning outcomes and its'
methods of execution. In practice it is a powerful and normative tool because it both gives a promise of
what is going to happen during the years of education and, at the same time, requires an institution to
provide that education. These curricular settings also work as a stage where the professional identities of
students are cultivated and formed (Carruthers 2010, 45). Recalling the traditional conservatory curricula
(if there were any written ones) it is noticeable that they focused mainly on individual instrumental skills.
Playing together with others was another crucial element, accompanied by some theoretical, analytical and
historical studies. By the end of last century the contents of curricula started to get loaded with new
elements due to the rapid changes in operational environments. Insights into occupations and learning went
through an exhaustive change. At the same time, concerns about working and cultural life were heard.
These all had an impact on curricula. (Pöyhönen 2002, 8.) Activem working professionals in the field of
music have many visions concerning the future and their views have been seen in many investigations in
Finland ( e.g., Pohjannoro & Pesonen 2009, Halonen 2010; Pohjannoro & Pesonen 2010; Tolvanen &
Pesonen 2010). New guidelines for learning outcomes are recognized for curricula revision. The jargon of
competence-based learning has landed in our institutions. It looks like the new substance may engulf
elementary parts of the traditional content. Naturally everyone is not happy with this trend. Defining the
balance between "the old" and "the new" is tricky. The need for a violinist who can play a Paganini Caprice
brilliantly is just one in a million. In fact, expertise in only one instrument may be insufficient for music
teachers. In order to get along in the labor market as a pedagogue one should have double- or multiqualifications – one main instrument plus another instrument, music history or music theory. At minimum
one has to be able to lead a band or a chamber music group. (Pohjannoro & Pesonen 2009.) On the other
hand, freelance or entrepreneurial skills are also needed to help secure employment (Huhtanen 2011, 29).
As an educational combination this sounds rather demanding.
Comparing curricula
The following sections provide a short description of different curricula in tertiary music education in
Finland. The examples come from a B.A. level music education in Lahti University of Applied Sciences,
LUAS (see more There are four lines with their own tradition; two of those include also the
pedagogical competence (60 ects) while one concentrates solely on music performance. The fourth
education line, music theatre, focuses strongly on theatrical substance and is left out from this comparison.
The most traditional line, Performing music, emphasizes acquiring instrumental skills. The second
education line, Instrument teaching, was constructed by removing some of the instrumental studies and
adding pedagogical elements instead (Huhtanen 2008a, 5). The third one, Early childhood music education,
also includes pedagogical competence studies. However, it differs radically from the two others: voice is
the main instrument, and a student may have his former instrument (= the one he had before entering
LUAS) as a second instrument. Typically voice studies will start from a zero level when a student enters
the program. The construction of these curricula is presented in the following two tables.
Table 1. The amount of main instrument studies
Main instrument
studies % of all
professional studies
Level of final
Performing music (trad.) 83 %
Instrument teaching
60,6 %
Early childhood music
38,2 %
“applied C”
These three lines differ from each other in the amount of primary instrument studies. Performing music is
the most music-based study line while the two pedagogical lines give space for pedagogical substance. But
this is only the superficial level. In the end of the studies both Performing music and Instrumental teaching
students perform the B level final recital. The assessment of the recital is not dependent on the student's
study line. Respectively Early childhood music education students present a kind of "applied C-level"
Table 2. The amount/quality of practical guided training
One-to-one teaching &
Performing music
Instrument teaching
Early childhood music
Groups: children, aged
30 / 30 ects
12 / 30 ects
18 / 30 ects
30 / 30 ects
Another noticeable feature is found in Table 2. It has to do with the amount and focus of guided practical
training in a real working life setting. Performing music as well as Instrumental teaching students receive
guided training that focuses on personal playing or singing. The amount of that training, however, is
different among these study lines. Instead of that, early childhood music educators have their training
among family groups, "different learners", mothers' groups, and early childhood age groups. Their training
is planned to produce a mastery of working with different groups using musical elements. Training periods
allow the students in all study lines to try on the role as well as the identity of a professional. However,
there seems to be a difference in the mastery of substance that is learned.
In addition, there is a remarkable difference in the backgrounds of the students between the various study
lines. Both Performing music and Instrumental teaching students have a long history with their instrument,
dating back to their childhood or youth. Voice students are an exception: one cannot start voice lessons at
an early age. Growing up together with one's instrument related to identity – the long years that one has
spent training with his instrument have a fundamental influence on the students’ personal and professional
identity (Huhtanen 2008b, 39). This identity reflects not only skill development but also with socialization
among other musicians. In Early childhood music education the identity as a singer has four years time to
mature, from the very beginning to graduation. This results in two questions: first, what type of
professional identity gets supported in Early childhood music education? Second, what kind of
professionalism is manifested?
Justification of professionalism
The idea of professionalism has deep roots. Originally, profession was defined as a demanding occupation
with a strong and valued position in the society. Professions call for some special skills or expertise as well
as a high ethical code. A professional has unusual autonomy in his work. Priests, doctors and lawyers are
originally typical professions. Being a professional meant an established status and esteem in society –
something worth pursuing. Entrance into many professions is regulated and has various gatekeepers.
(Pursiainen 2006.) Education has always been a way to foster the ethical code system belonging to a certain
profession (Niemi 2004). A professional’s clients as well as the whole of society must be able to trust the
person's mandate to practice his professional activity. In addition, the relationship between a professional
and his or her clients is privileged. For this reason, it is criminal to pretend to be a doctor or a lawyer
without legal rights. (Pursiainen 2006.) In sum one could say that using the title of a professional cannot be
haphazard; rather, it has to have correct foundations. Another important element is that one does not learn
to be a professional in any university nor conservatory. Becoming a professional requires an individual
work and become part of a certain community among other professionals (Heikkinen 2001, 117). Johnsson
& Hager (2007) came to the same conclusion in their study about orchestra players: years spent focusing on
improving individual instrumental skills and techniques in a conservatory setting were complemented by
learning crucial lessons in a real professional environment, in a symphony orchestra. Further, the process of
becoming and being a professional musician is closely connected with professional identity. According to
Johnsson and Hager (2009) this identity can be found only by taking the role of a professional musician in a
real working life environment.
This paper discussed state of education of professional musicians of today, beset by diverse voices and
challenges. Those planning curricula do their work surrounded by pressures from working life as well as
the astonishing findings of the brain research. However, absorbing these alluring suggestions outright can
easily lead to unpredictable consequences when the educational system seems to be moving toward more
music-related professionalism. Those in charge of tertiary music education need to be alert and take their
stand in this riptide. The amount of musical training in curriculum, both in length and depth, and the
character of guided training do play a crucial role here. At the end of a day, what kind of professionalism is
to be promoted?
Beeching, A. M. (2010). Music career development and entrepreneurship across the curriculum: best
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Descriptive Gaps of Piano Teachers Representations about
Healthy Postural Attitudes
Christian Martin, Francis Dubé
Université Laval
[email protected], [email protected]
The aim of this study was to identify and discuss the nature of the gaps that seem to emerge from a set of
postural attitudes described as healthy by piano teachers with students at pre-collegial level. The piano
teachers (n = 38) answered a questionnaire asking specifics questions about their representations of a
healthy posture at the piano. The collected data was compared with a set of descriptions of healthy postural
attitudes found in the field of Performing Arts Medicine, with additional descriptions from physiotherapy
and occupational biomechanics. Four categories of descriptive gaps emerged from this data analysis: (a)
descriptions not related to a postural attitude, (b) description indirectly related to a postural attitude, (c)
descriptions directly related to a postural attitude, but not sufficiently accurate, and (d) no description
regarding the postural attitudes questioned. These categorized gaps were discussed with various quotations
from the answers of the piano teachers. Further research should be conducted in order to refute or confirm
the results obtained in this study. The descriptive gaps found in this exploratory study combined with the
recognized educational role of the teachers in the area of preventing musical injuries with students
(Barrowcliffe, 1999; Foxman & Burgel, 2006; Nübling & Hildebrandt, 2004; Medoff, 1999, Redmond &
Tiernan, 2001; Wristen, 1995) justify the needs for further studies about postural attitude from a
pedagogical angle.
Descriptive Gaps, Postural education, Piano Teachers, Pre-Collegial Level, Playing-related musculoskeletal
disorders (PRMDs) prevention
Playing-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs) often cause physical pain that can hinder the practice
of professional musicians (Zaza, 1995). Preventative measures have been suggested to avoid these
disorders (Chesky, Dawson, & Manchester, 2006; Shafer-Crane, 2006; Wristen & Hallbeck, 2009; Zaza,
1994; Zaza & Farewell, 1997) including the adoption of a healthy postural attitude during music practice
(Chamagne, 2000; Dommerholt, 2000; Teasdale, Simoneau, Leclerc, Stuber, & Berrigan, 2006; Travers,
1995; Tubiana, Chamagne, & Brockman, 1989). Indeed, a well-mastered posture should help to minimize
the loading on the musculoskeltal system, and thus help to reduce the risk of injuries (Green, Chamagne, &
Tubiana, 2000; Tubiana, 2000). In this regard, instrumental music teachers can play an important
educational role in preventing students’ injuries (Barrowcliffe, 1999; Foxman & Burgel, 2006; Hildebrandt
& Nübling, 2004; Medoff, 1999; Redmond & Tiernan, 2001; Wristen, 1995). They are often considered to
be key resources that incorporate this physical dimension in their instruction (Quarrier, 1995; Spaulding,
1988; Zaza, 1993, 1994). If they want their students to assimilate healthy postural attitudes, they must have
knowledge of anatomy and physiology fundamentals (Green et al., 2000) and clearly communicate them to
their students. However, we still don’t exactly understand the learning content that instrumental teachers
themselves understand and thus communicate in their instruction. As a result, there are gaps in their
knowledge that could inhibit their preventative role. Concerning this lack of data, the GRePIM and
LaRFADI, two laboratories of the faculty of music at the Université Laval, hope to better understand the
preventative approaches offered to students in a music studio through research over the next few years.
Although we are able to describe healthy postural attitudes adopted to prevent PRMDs at the piano
(Brandfonbrener, 1997; Bros & Papillon, 2001; Kendall, McCreary, Provance, Rodgers, & Romani, 2005;
Papillon & Champagne, 2004; Tubiana et al., 1989), very little information exists about the ability of piano
teachers to guide students with this learning. Redmond and Tiernan (2001) tried to list, with a questionnaire,
the practices and knowledge of piano teachers to prevent PRMDs. In their results, 36 out of 44 teachers
said they were teaching the proper posture to prevent PRMDs. However, the study did not collect data to
confirm if they actually teach the healthy postural attitudes that Performing Arts Medicine judges relevant
to prevent PRMDs. For this reason, Dubé et al. (2011) recently published their first study on this topic. The
aim of this exploratory study was to have better knowledge of the manner with which piano teachers
describe healthy postural attitudes to acquire at the piano. The participants, piano teachers who are teaching
students from the kindergarten level to the high school level (n = 38), responded to a questionnaire asking
specifics questions about their representations of the sitting posture, the upper and lower appendages
posture, the axial skeleton posture, and the pelvis posture at the piano. The answers were coded with NVivo
2 into three categories regarding the relative probability they may lead to the right positions described in
the scientific literature (high probability = Yes, medium probability = Partial, and low probability = No).
The study revealed that some postural attitudes were clearly more difficult for the piano teachers to
describe. For instance, no answers were coded ‘Yes’ for the following anatomical areas: (a) the shoulders
(i.e. their placement relative to the thorax), (b) the forearms (i.e. their positions in prono-supination), (c) the
phalangeals (i.e. their positions in abduction-adduction), and (d) the pelvis (i.e. its position in the frontal
plane). In addition, a low percentage of the participants gave an accurate response that would lead to the
correct physiological positioning of; (a) the legs in the saggital plane (5 %), (b) the elbows relative to the
trunk (8 %), (c) the back (11 %), (d) the forearms relative to the height of the keyboard (16 %), (e) the
wrists in radial-ulnar deviation (16 %), and (f) the hands relative to their metacarpals (26 %). The purpose
of the present article is now to identify and discuss the nature of the gaps that seem to emerge from the
results of the preceding article.
Operational definition
This research assumes that a postural attitude is healthy when the posture used during instrumental playing
doesn’t interfere with the normal physiology of the musculoskeletal system, somatic nervous system and
respiratory system.
Theoretical framework
A review of the literature about healthy posture at the piano was made around this operational definition.
We used descriptions found mostly in the field of Performing Arts Medicine about healthy postural attitude
that was consistent with this definition. In addition we then added other descriptions from physiotherapy
and occupational biomechanics fields. These different descriptions of postural attitude were then
categorized into four categories (axial skeleton, upper limbs, lower limbs, and sitting position). Those
categories and descriptions helped us (a) to design the questionnaire and (b) analyze the data.
The questionnaire contained 27 open questions divided into the four categories of healthy postural attitudes
found in the theoretical framework. This research tool was validated a first time with a sample of three
piano teachers. The responses and comments received during the pilot test led us to write a second version
of the questionnaire, which was also validated with three other piano teachers.
The questionnaire was sent to 273 piano teachers at the pre-college level in the province of Quebec, Canada,
of which 38 teachers responded.
Data analysis
Firstly, a research team coded with Nvivo 2 the responses into three categories regarding the relative
probability that may lead to the right positions described in the literature (high probability [= Yes], medium
probability [= Partial] and low probability [= No]) (Dubé et al., 2011). In this article, a second analysis was
made by the two researchers into the responses that did not meet the postural criteria mentioned in the
literature and was recognized as relevant to preventing musculoskeletal disorders. During this comparative
analysis, the researchers attempted to identify the descriptive gaps made by the participants in comparison
with those of the theoretical framework. An initial categorization of the gaps was made by the principle
author of this article. This completed, the two researchers met to summarize and discuss the emerged
categories. The results showing areas of disagreement were then discussed until a consensus was obtained.
Four categories of descriptive gaps emerged from this data analysis. The first category includes
descriptions not related to a postural attitude. These descriptions explain more movement and relaxation
issues than a representation of postural attitude. The second category has a number of descriptions that are
indirectly related to a postural attitude. In fact, they explain more a posture to avoid, a physical sensation to
seek, or a strategy to use, than a representation of a healthy postural attitude. The third category includes
some descriptions that are directly related to a postural attitude, but they are not accurate enough about (a)
the vocabulary used or (b) the descriptive elements given. Finally, the fourth category is related to the
postural attitude for which the participants didn’t give any descriptions.
To have a better comprehension of the descriptive gaps analyzed, the next section provides various
quotations given by the piano teachers for each categorized gap mentioned. We chose to present the
postural attitudes that obtained the least probability to lead to a healthy one (Dubé et al., 2011). Table 1
presents the framework of healthy postural attitudes discussed in section Results.
Table 1. Healthy postural attitudes that were the most difficult for the piano teachers to describe (Dubé et
al., 2011).
Upper limbs
Shoulders – Placement of the scapulothoracic girdle relative to the thorax.
1. The scapulae is flat against the thorax (Papillon & Champagne, 2004)
2. The scapulae lie flat against the upper back, approximately between the second and seventh thoracic
vertebrae, and approximately 4 inches apart (more or less depending of the size of the individual) (Kendall
et al., 2005)
Elbows – Position relative to the body
A little bit in front of the torso (Brandfonbrener, 1997)
Forearms 1 – Position relative to the height of the keyboard
From the horizontal (Bros & Papillon, 2001) up to a little bit above the keyboard (Brandfonbrener, 1997)
Forearms 2 – Position in prono-supination
In partial pronation (Tubiana et al., 1989)
Wrists – Position in radial and ulnar deviation
In neutral position (Brandfonbrener, 1997; Sugawara, 1999) when the third digit is parallel with the
longitudinal axis of the forearm (Youm, McMurthy, Flatt, & Gillespie, 1978)
Hands – Position of the metacarpals
With the presence of a tranversal arch (Papillon & Chamagne, 2004; Mathieu, 2004), without the collapse
of the fifth digit joint (Mathieu, 2004)
Fingers – Position of the phalangeals in abduction-adduction
Respect as much as possible the alignment of the phalangeals and the corresponding metacarpals (Papillon
& Champagne, 2004)
Axial skeleton and Pelvis
Back – Normal curvature of the rachis
The normal curve of the spine consist of a curve that is convex forward in the neck (cervical region), a
curve that is convex backward in the upper back (thoracic region), and a curve that is convex forward in the
low back (lumbar region). These may be describe as slight extension of the neck, slight flexion of the upper
back and slight extension of the low back. When there is a normal curve in the low back, the pelvis is in
neutral position (Kendall et al., 2005)
Pelvis – Position in the frontal plane
1. The anterior-superior iliac spines are in the same horizontal plane (Kendall et al., 2005)
2. The ischial tuberosities should lie evenly on the seat, so that the pelvis is horizontal and the spine is in
the axis of the center of gravity of the spine (Green et al., 2000)
Lower limbs
Legs – Angle of the legs
Hips and knees should be approximately at a 90 degree angle (Kendall et al., 2005)
Example of descriptions not related to a postural attitude
A majority of descriptions about the elbows and forearms were not related to the desired postural attitude.
In fact, these descriptions could not help to establish a clear representation of the postural attitude
questioned. Instead of describing the placement of the elbows a little bit in front of the torso
(Brandfonbrener, 1997), many descriptions emphasized the importance of keeping this articulation relaxed,
which is more a physical sensation than a postural attitude. For example, one description was saying that
the elbows should be “without stiffness”. This type of description may be helpful to prevent PRMDs by
attempting to limit static or dynamic load at the elbows, but it clearly doesn’t show an understanding of the
basic position of the elbows to help prevent PRMDs at the piano. Furthermore, descriptive gaps about the
forearms position relative to the height of the keyboard were often not related to a healthy postural attitude.
The piano teachers were giving descriptions about the importance of relaxation of the forearms, or
explaining a movement the students need to acquire. While a description of a movement may help to clarify
a technique, it doesn’t explain a postural attitude. For example, a description like “They (forearms) move in
the direction of the keyboard” may clarify the movement required for the forearms during instrumental
playing, but it does not explain the healthy postural attitude of the forearms relative to the height of the
keyboard necessary while playing. Considering these descriptive gaps, the postural attitudes of the elbows
and forearm 1 may not be well enough understood by piano teachers. More research is needed to verify this
Examples of description indirectly related to a postural attitude
The answers given by the piano teachers for the positioning of the shoulder and the back were, for the most
part, indirectly connected to the desired postural attitude. First of all, many descriptions analyzed for the
postural attitude linked to the shoulder stated, “keep the shoulders low", probably because young students
often keep their shoulders high while playing. So, in advising the students to keep their shoulders low, it
may be helpful to have them closer to the physiologic position described in the Table 1. However, if the
students have the shoulders too low while playing without explaining to them the normal physiology of the
shoulder, it has the harmful potential, in our opinion, of promoting a practice that Chamagne (2000)
observed in some injured advanced musicians. Those injuries involved a voluntary looseness of the muscles
that kept the scapula flat to the thorax while playing. In fact, medical specialists advise musicians to keep
their scapula flat to the thorax for good reason: it helps to (a) support the weight of the arm elevated in front
of the body and (b) resist the pressure produced at the hand and fingers (Chamagne, 2000).
A similar observation was made when we analysed the answers regarding the postural attitude of the back.
Many descriptions advised keeping the “back straight”, probably because young students have the
tendency to hunch their back while playing. In fact, it is possible that telling them to keep their back
straight could help students adopt the healthy postural attitude described in the framework. However,
considering that the back is never really straight even in a healthy position, it will be difficult to produce a
physiological positioning of the spine with just this single description, if it does not include the importance
of straightening the head over the spine and a neutral position of the pelvis at the same time (Chamagne,
Considering those descriptive gaps, it may be important that piano teachers gain a clearer understanding of
the normal physiology of the shoulders and back in relation with piano playing.
Example of a description related to a postural attitude lacking precision
A majority of the descriptions analyzed for the hand were directly related to the postural attitude given in
the framework, but they were often less accurate regarding the vocabulary used to describe them. For
example, when the piano teachers say the hand must be “naturally round”, this description is actually
lacking in precision compared with the description of maintaining the transversal arch (Papillon &
Chamagne, 2004; Mathieu, 2004), without the collapse of the fifth digit joint (Mathieu, 2004). In our
experience, despite this lack of vocabulary precision, this kind of description can lead to a correct
physiological positioning of the hand if the teacher accompanies them with physical strategies. Therefore,
further research would be suggested to observe piano teachers while giving lessons to determine if they are
more precise in their actual teaching than they were in answering the questionnaire.
Postural attitudes for which teachers gave no descriptions
A majority of pianists gave no descriptions about (a) the forearm in prono-supination, (b) the phalangeals in
abduction-adduction, (c) the wrist in radial-ulnar deviation, (d) the pelvis in frontal plane, and (e) the angle
of the legs. Some hypotheses may explain this absence of descriptions. First, the piano teachers probably
think prono-supination of the forearm and the abduction-adduction of the phalangeals are technical means
to play piano. Therefore, they would not be aware of the correct physiological position of the forearm and
phalangeals. Furthermore, it is possible these piano teachers never considered the importance of keeping
the wrist close to a neutral deviation, which could be harmful if the student is playing with an important
deviation at the wrist. In addition, as many piano teachers sit at the right of their student during a lesson,
they may not observe and teach the postural attitude that is not in their field of view, for example, the
physiological positioning of the pelvis visible only in the frontal plane. Finally, the correct angle of the legs
might not be understood by a majority of the teachers. However, the students can have a good postural
attitude of the legs if they are correctly instructed on other factors such as the height of the seat, the
distance between the seat and the keyboard, and the positioning of both feet. Further research would be
necessary to see if this apparent lack of knowledge is affecting the preventative role of the piano teachers
regarding PRMDs.
The scope of the results obtained by this study deserves to be moderated. First, the results provided
information regarding the ability of piano teachers to clearly describe different postural attitudes they
consider relevant to be included in the instrumental playing of their students. As such, they are not
necessarily representative of the postural education that piano teachers actually offer during a lesson.
Moreover, the qualitative approach used for this study cannot lead to a generalization of the results
obtained, and thereby, limits the conclusions we can draw from them. In fact, the data analyzed required a
great flexibility in the interpretation of the pedagogical language used by the piano teachers in light of the
theoretical framework. In addition, although the researchers have thoroughly discussed the results of our
analysis, it is possible that this work of interpretation had some influence on the final results. It should also
be noted that piano teachers typically verbalize postural attitudes on a body in motion during their lessons.
But, for this study, they had to describe them on paper and without the physical presence of a student. It is
therefore possible that this aspect could have some impact on the content of their descriptions.
However, the descriptive gaps found in this exploratory study combined with the recognized educational
role of teachers in the area of preventing musical injuries with students (Barrowcliffe 1999; Burgel and
Foxman 2006; Nübling and Hildebrandt 2004; Medoff 1999, Redmond and Tiernan 2001; Wristen 1995)
fully justify the need for further studies regarding postural attitude from a pedagogical angle. For example,
it would be relevant to study the postural education of piano teachers to measure their ability to diagnose
and correct postural attitudes in the playing of the student. In addition, what aspects are lacking in piano
teachers’ knowledge to enable them to work more effectively towards the prevention of PRMDs? How do
instrumental teachers identify postural attitudes in the playing of their students? What are the intervention
strategies they promote to guide postural learning of their students? These are just some of the many
questions raised by this study warranting further investigation.
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Raising the bar
Annie Mitchell
Southern Cross University, Australia
[email protected]
Raising the bar reports on the creation, facilitation and implementation of a professional development
workshop for practical music teachers to develop best practice in teaching practical music through group
classes. The objectives of this workshop align with CEPROM’s mission to “foster the recognition of the
many modes of educating and training musicians” (ISME, 2011) and, in accordance with CEPROM’s
seminar aim, address “issues faced by professional musicians and music educators reflecting the powerful
role of … the increasingly rapid pace of change in 21st century life”. The aims of this project were to
identify best practice teaching strategies used in group practical music teaching, develop expertise in these
strategies in teaching staff, facilitate the delivery of curricula in practical music units through these
strategies, ensure an equivalence of standards and practice in different studios, integrate current technology
into delivery and learning environments, and to analyse and publish the learning outcomes and implications
for music education and music educators. Results from this research are embedded back into curriculum
development and contemporary music pedagogy.
Recommendations for music education include using a diverse range of teaching styles to accommodate
different learning styles, identifying and implementing best practice teaching strategies, integrating the
course curricula into practical music units including group classes, meticulous planning of lessons,
integrating technology into practical music education, and continuously analysing and evaluating pedagogy
to contribute to the research into group teaching. Implications of this workshop are the application of best
teaching strategies for teaching practical music in group classes to other music education courses such as
sound production, computer laboratory classes and small group classes in other disciplines.
With conservatoire style delivery being threatened by the introduction of more group music classes, music
educators need to develop high quality practices for teaching music in groups. The desired outcome is for
students to receive excellent quality music education in a range of learning contexts, delivered by highly
qualified and trained teachers who are skilled in best practices and who underpin their pedagogy with upto-date scholarship, and for music education institutions to provide continuing professional development to
enable their teaching staff to meet the professional demands of a dynamic and changing educational sector.
By aspiring to these outcomes, my pedagogy aligns with the ISME theme of Paedeia, “the kind of
education that aims at the development of enlightened minds” (ISME, 2011).
Key Words: Pedagogy, professional development, group teaching
Theoretical/pedagogical background
The conservatoire model of teaching music is under threat due to the expense of individual tuition. An
analysis of research related to replacing individual practical music tuition with group classes highlights the
critical nature of this issue in current music pedagogy. “The times are ripe for a new musician profile … the
master-apprentice model at conservatoriums has proved surprisingly persistent in the training of musicians.
But it is no longer enough for the new job profiles” (Djupsjobacka in Kuusisaari, 2007). New Australian
models for teaching practical music include Lebler’s “community of practice model”, Daniel’s “small
group model” and “peer assessment in musical performance methodology” and Liertz’s “holistic training
strategies framework” (Liertz, 2007). These models focus on shared learning, peer assessment and selfdirected learning in an holistic learning environment. However, they assume a level of technical ability,
musical expertise and knowledge of performance criteria that the student brings to the learning
environment and on which the student builds.
Changing the focus of practical music delivery from individual tuition to small group teaching was
introduced in 2009 in Southern Cross University’s revised Bachelor of Contemporary Music degree. The
performance component of the Contemporary Music degree consists of practical study in one of the
following studios: voice, guitar, bass, drums, keyboard. Practical studies units are now delivered through
group classes in each studio area for first year. Students majoring in performance in second and third year
will, from 2012, be taught through one fortnightly individual lesson and one fortnightly group studio class,
plus a weekly group studio workshop.
This research reports on the content and delivery of a professional development workshop conducted with
music teachers aimed to identify best practices for teaching practical music through group classes and to
implement these strategies into delivery of practical music units in the Bachelor of Contemporary Music
degree. The paper outlines best practices identified through this workshop, discusses professional
development for music educators and concludes with recommendations for improved pedagogy in music
education. The creation of this professional development workshop aligns with the aim of the 30th ISME
World Conference to “foster understanding and cooperation among the world’s music educators” (ISME,
2011). It addresses the CEPROM themes of music careers, professional identities, music curricula,
institutional cultures and leadership, and technology in music education.
Aim of project
The aims of this project were to identify best practice teaching strategies used in group practical music
teaching, develop teaching expertise in these strategies in the Contemporary Music staff, facilitate the
delivery of curricula in practical music units through these strategies, ensure an equivalence of standards
and practice in the different studios, integrate current technology into delivery and learning environments,
and analyse and publish the learning outcomes and their implications for music education and music
educators. Other outcomes expected from the workshop were the identification of best teaching strategies
for managing difficult learning situations, such as lack of motivation, conflict resolution and the diverse
abilities of class cohorts; sharing of expertise between teaching staff and mentoring of less experienced
staff. Some resistance to group teaching by teachers who traditionally teach music by individual tuition was
also expected.
The project aimed to benefit participants by enabling them to gain specialised expertise in teaching
strategies for the delivery of practical music group classes. They should also benefit from assistance and
mentoring by senior staff qualified in training adults as teachers. The project aimed for the Contemporary
Music students to receive the greatest benefit, as they will be the recipients of best practice teaching
strategies by teachers who have been trained in this specialised field of expertise, and who understand the
scholarship behind these teaching strategies. The ultimate aim of this project was to create a professional
development program that may be used as a training model for other tertiary institutions if, and when, they
introduce more group teaching in their courses.
This phase of the research project consisted of a two-day professional development workshop for staff in
the Contemporary Music Program involved in teaching practical music units. Six workshop sessions were
run over two days, covering the following topics:
1. how students learn music: kinesthetic, aural, visual and writing-based learning styles
2. Learning environments, teaching contexts, learning styles: studio, ensemble, workshop, group
classes, best practices, worst case management, conflict resolution, motivation
3. teaching strategies: content delivery, skill development, checking for learning, accommodating
diverse abilities, group lesson activities
4. planning and preparing for teaching: curriculum design, lesson planning, time management,
integrating curricula into teaching
5. assessing student achievement and performance: studio standards, marking, moderation,
performance examining, giving and using feedback
resource development and integration of technology
In this workshop, participants contributed to the:
• analysis of pedagogical issues related to group delivery of practical music lessons,
• identification of best teaching strategies employed in the delivery of group music practice classes,
• evaluation of learning environments and learning outcomes created through group teaching
• reporting on implications of group teaching delivery for practical music education.
The second phase of this research will require participants to implement and evaluate best practices and
teaching strategies that have been identified in this workshop into their studio, ensemble and workshop
teaching in 2012.
Summary of main ideas
University instrumental or vocal teachers usually obtain positions based upon their performance ability and
expertise in the music industry. These teachers mostly have relevant academic qualifications but no formal
teacher training. Professional development of university staff in teaching and learning is generally oriented
toward lecturing and on-line delivery. To assist the practical teachers in the Contemporary Music Program,
I created a professional development program to address difficulties in teaching music in groups and to
ensure curricula was taught to a high standard through this delivery medium. This program aimed to
support the careers of the participants and to educate them for a sustainable university teaching career in a
constantly changing institutional environment by diversifying their teaching strategies, thus enabling them
to effectively teach practical music in a variety of learning contexts. This workshop was underpinned by
research about music pedagogy. Participants in the workshop are undertaking on-going research about the
implementation of findings from the workshop. The careers of these practical music teachers are expanding
to include the academic rigour of scholarly enquiry, and with the application of this scholarship back into
their teaching practice, the breadth of their pedagogy should be much improved.
The professional identity of some teachers has been challenged by the concept of teaching music through
group classes. Most of these musicians have been educated via the conservatoire model of masterapprentice relationships between teacher and student, while a few participants were self-taught. The
individual lesson was considered the standard and preferred mode of delivery. Changing half of the
individual lessons in the Performance units to small group delivery forced studio teachers to reconsider
their pedagogy and also possibly the relative roles of teacher and learner. There were issues related to the
concept of teaching music through group classes, the quality of programs that conducted group music
classes, and the impact of this upon the professional identities of staff. The delivery of curricula through
this medium must be of the highest standard and quality to maintain the reputation of the program and to
reflect the good practices of its teachers.
During the workshop considerable time was devoted to interrogating the curricula. In Music Practice units,
all delivered by group classes, teaching to a cohort with diverse musical abilities and checking to ensure
that learning has taken place (by regular questioning of students and getting them to demonstrate
instrumental/vocal skills) have been the greatest challenges. As the delivery of studio teaching is changing
in the Performance units, it was essential to investigate the curricula of these units to ascertain how to teach
group classes. Staff identified which areas of the curricula were most easily taught through group classes,
generally by distinguishing content from skill development. They then planned the unit delivery so content
delivery and communication of information was mostly done through group classes, and skill development
and learning of repertoire was taught in individual lessons. However, aspects of skill development such as
learning technical work and the application of scales for improvisation can be taught through group classes.
Studio teachers were also asked to maximise the potential of their studio instrument in group teaching, eg.
vocal studies using four-part harmony, guitar activities being divided into improvisation, lead and
accompaniment roles, keyboard classes utilising several keyboards simultaneously (piano accompaniment,
string pad, horn lines).
Best practices
Best practices identified in studio teaching included teaching no more than three concepts in one lesson,
with concepts relating to each other. Another strategy was to video student performances so they can
critically analyse their practice habits and self-assess, taking some onus off the teacher of being the
messenger of negative comment. Teaching students how to practise was considered crucial, such as
dissecting pieces into small manageable tasks and getting students to practise small sections repeatedly
rather than the whole piece. Similarly, when teaching a new co-ordination skill, break this into specific
tasks, demonstrate each task, and correct co-ordination issues at this time. A motivational strategy was for
teachers and students to present their extra-curricula musical activities to the class, so that their engagement
in the music community or industry could be related back to studio learning and curricula.
The integration of real life, industry-related stories is also a motivational learning tool in workshops,
infusing humour into the learning environment and creating an inspiring atmosphere for students to engage
and perform in. A good practice is for students to keep a practice diary/research log where they record their
research and analysis into new musical genres, artists and repertoire, and record questions to ask at their
next lesson. “Question time” in workshop was a recommended good practice, particularly when themed to
a relevant curriculum objective. Ideally, the workshop teacher should be sufficiently experienced to
interpret room dynamics and allow some flexibility in the workshop content if relevant, new information or
enquiry is exposed through group discussion. Open discourse and peer-assessment should be encouraged.
Students were advised to observe the teaching strategies modeled by the workshop teacher. The use of
guest lecturers and visiting artists was also highly recommended.
The group dynamics of ensemble classes is extremely important. Creating a co-operative, productive
ensemble culture is fundamental to the successful operation of ensemble classes. This can be achieved by
starting the units with an introductory lecture about group dynamics, responsibility for own equipment,
learning own parts, each person’s role within the ensemble and the importance of the singer and how their
ability influences the choice of repertoire. To achieve best practice in ensemble teaching it is essential to
address the issues of creating sounds authentic to the genre being performed, managing volume in
relatively small rehearsal spaces, equivalent contribution of effort and enthusiasm by all band members,
and how to practise in contemporary music genres with authentic stylistic nuances.
The introduction of group music classes has challenged the institutional culture of the Contemporary Music
program by requiring teachers to adopt teaching practices and delivery methods that were not their
preferred practice. As Course Coordinator of the Contemporary Music program, I exhibited leadership by
creating this professional development program in response to the needs of the teachers for upskilling and
the expectation of students for quality teaching. A characteristic of the institutional culture was studios
working in relative isolation. As facilitator of the professional development workshop, I had to exhibit
leadership by trying to develop a team where participants worked collaboratively to develop good teaching
strategies, shared ideas, contributed to the research and accepted a collective responsibility to create a
model of best practice through group music teaching. There was need to ensure that the standards, practices
and assessment of all studios were equivalent. Each participant identified the best and worst aspects of their
teaching, then a group discussion of suggested methods to improve areas that were deficient was facilitated.
It was important for the facilitator to create an environment of trust and honesty for this activity to be
accurate and beneficial. As several of the teachers have taught in the program for many years, leadership is
needed in supporting them changing to teach the requirements of a new course with its different modes of
delivery, and in ensuring that the content and skills of the new curricula is being taught in their studios.
Technology in music education
Teachers espoused the benefits of YouTube for its rapid access to a vast range of repertoire. This tool is
increasingly used in studio, group and ensemble classes to view performances of songs, gain familiarity
with the repertoire of a particular artist or genre, to obtain lyrics and observe the stylistic and performance
nuances of selected music genres or artists. It can also be used as a resource for comparing different
interpretations of songs.
An electronic drum lab is currently being installed, consisting of a master drum kit and five student kits.
These are connected electronically and the teacher has capabilities to hear each student playing via
headphones or playing together in small groups. This new technical facility allows students to practise
through headphones, thereby reducing noise spill and enabling a group of drummers to work in the same
room together, whilst practising different rhythms. A virtual practice room has also been installed. This
facility can accommodate an ensemble of drums, guitar, bass, keyboards and voice. The instruments are
connected electronically and each player has headphones to hear themselves and the other ensemble
members. Again, this reduces noise spill and allows student ensembles and bands to practise in rooms next
door to a classroom without disturbing the learning environment.
Students studying the Bachelor of Contemporary Music, particularly those in the Performance major, aspire
to careers as performing contemporary musicians. To be successful in this industry, musicians need to have
specialised, up-to-date equipment and ideally a unique personal sound. Students need to acquire industry
standard equipment and develop proficiency on this to create an identifiable personal sound. Guitar
students not only require a professional standard guitar, but also suitable amplifier, pedals and effects.
Keyboard students must have at least one electric keyboard that includes a diverse array of sounds.
Importantly, they need to develop proficiency in accessing these sounds quickly during a performance, and
in creating their own bank of favourite sounds. Ideally, they should also become proficient on organ,
different keyboards (such as a master controller with sound module) and various small keyboards (mini
Conclusions and implications for music education
The aim of this professional development workshop was to develop a model of best practice for teaching
practical music through group classes, to provide specialised professional development to practical music
teachers to improve their group teaching strategies, and to underpin the professional development by
relevant research into teaching music through group classes. The conclusions drawn from this activity
• the importance of incorporating diverse teaching strategies into practical music classes to
accommodate different learning styles,
• implementing best group teaching strategies into all practical music learning contexts (studio,
group classes, workshop, ensemble),
• the necessity of discerning which curriculum tasks are best suited to group teaching and which
tasks are best taught through individual instruction,
• the requirement for practical music teachers to meticulously plan all lessons,
• the value of current technology in accessing repertoire, contributing to contemporary music
sounds and creating a silent classroom,
• the importance of ensuring equivalent standards and practices across all studios
• the need for continuing analysis and evaluation of teaching practice to contribute to research and
literature in the scholarship of group teaching,
• the applicability of best group teaching strategies to other areas of music education and also
comparative practices in other disciplines, and
• the usefulness of a practice journal and self-assessment as assessment instruments, particularly in
learning contexts such as group classes which increasingly rely on peer or self-assessment.
Recommendations from this workshop are to continue research into group teaching methods used in music
education to create a best practice model in group teaching supported by associated literature that can be
accessed through the music education discipline to improve the quality of teaching via this medium.
Recommendations for music program leaders are to create a professional development program for
practical music teachers in their institution that improves the pedagogy of the music teachers and addresses
educational challenges in the teaching contexts in which they work, and also fosters team approaches to the
development of new pedagogy. Such professional development should be rigorous and underpinned by
research, and sufficiently flexible and dynamic to accommodate emerging challenges as they arise.
Continuous monitoring of the effects of the identified good teaching strategies is incumbent on each
individual music teacher in regular consultation with the program leader. Student, self and peer feedback
about the effectiveness of the teaching strategies should be a moderating instrument to constantly improve
group teaching pedagogy. With conservatoire style delivery being threatened by the introduction of more
group music classes, music educators need to develop high quality practices in teaching music in groups.
The desired outcome is for students to receive excellent quality music education in a range of learning
contexts, delivered by highly qualified and trained teachers who are skilled in best practices and who
underpin their pedagogy with up-to-date scholarship, and for music education institutions to provide
continuing professional development to enable their teaching staff to meet the professional demands of a
dynamic and changing educational sector in the twenty-first century. By aspiring to these outcomes, my
pedagogy aligns with the ISME theme of Paedeia, “the process and result of the kind of education that aims
at the development of enlightened minds” (ISME, 2011), and serves “humankind in a way that will elevate
it to higher levels of self-awareness” (ISME, 2011).
I wish to thank the participants of this professional development workshop: Dr. Barry Hill, Leigh Carriage,
Jim Kelly, Bob Howlett, Dave Sanders, Sam Shine, Steve Russell.
Kuusisaari, H. (2007). In a Spirit of Pluralism. Finnish Quarterly Magazine, 1, 8-17.
Lietrz, C. (2007). New Frameworks for Tertiary Music Education – A Holistic Approach for Many
Pyramids of Excellence. Proceedings, 8th Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference,, accessed 14th September, 2011.
Conservatoire cultures of performance specialism:
perspectives from an ethnographically-informed case study
Rosie Perkins
Centre for Performance Science, Royal College of Music, UK
[email protected]
It is now widely acknowledged that professional classical musicians have portfolio careers requiring
flexibility, diversity, entrepreneurship and a careful balancing of many and varied musical pursuits. Higher
education institutions of music thus have a responsibility to prepare students for the sorts of professional
roles that they are likely to undertake, yet we know relatively little of the extent to which such institutions
support the development of broad musicians in their curricula, practices, values and priorities. This paper
addresses this gap through exploration of the ‘learning cultures’ of one UK conservatoire. Working with
the notion of vocational habitus, reflecting the orientation of learners to a sense of the ‘right person for the
job’ of musician, the research comprised an ethnographically-informed case study conducted over ten
months. Drawing on interviews, documents, participant self-documentation and observations, the research
sought to illuminate key features of the conservatoire’s learning cultures. Four such features were identified,
of which one—cultures of performance specialism—forms the basis of this paper. Within this theme,
findings reveal evidence of practices preparing students for specialised performing careers and,
concurrently, practices preparing students for broad and diverse careers. Using the notion of vocational
habitus, the paper shows that the conservatoire’s practices appear to idealise highly specialised performers,
positioning breadth and diversity as ‘necessary’ and ‘important for employability’ rather than as
intrinsically valued, respected and celebrated. The implications of this finding are discussed, arguing that it
is imperative for the conservatoire, and others with similar cultures, to continue moving away from the
narrow and specialist in favour of the broad and diverse.
Keywords: Learning cultures, vocational habitus, conservatoire, ethnography
It is now widely acknowledged that the professional lives of classically-trained musicians comprise
portfolio activities that stretch far beyond solo performance (Bennett, 2008; Smilde 2009). Indeed, research
shows that while the majority (96%) of alumni from one UK conservatoire work in music, performance
will be just one part of a portfolio that also includes teaching, administration, examining and composing
(Mills, 2004). Those seeking a career in music need to be flexible and diverse (Burt-Perkins, 2008a), to
demonstrate entrepreneurship (Beeching, 2006) and to balance depth and breadth within their expertise
(Burt-Perkins & Lebler, 2008). As such, higher education institutions such as conservatoires have a
responsibility to prepare students for the sorts of professional roles they are likely to undertake. Indeed,
many conservatoire students seek a diverse employment profile (Burt-Perkins, 2008b) and strive to balance
their in-depth work in a specialism with a wide range of musical activities and goals (Burt-Perkins &
Lebler, 2008). Yet, we know relatively little of the extent to which conservatoires support such endeavours
in their curricula, practices, values and priorities; or in other words, the ways in which conservatoire
‘learning cultures’ shape certain expectations of what it means to be a professional musician. Taking
‘learning cultures’ to be the practices through which people learn (James et al., 2007, Burt-Perkins, 2009,
2010), this study seeks to address the ways in which the practices of one UK conservatoire shape certain
expectations of what it means to be and become a professional musician.
In aiming to understand the nature of conservatoire learning cultures and students’ professional preparation,
the paper makes use of Colley et al.’s (2003) notion of vocational habitus. This notion builds on the
thinking of Pierre Bourdieu, whose large body of work posits—in brief—that ‘habitus’ is a set of
dispositions that develop across the life course, and that affords a “practical sense” for how (or how not to)
act in different cultural situations (Bourdieu, 1998, p. 25). Habitus manifests itself in the ways that people
act, think, feel and respond to the world around them, offering insight into the differentiated and inherently
hierarchical cultural practices of social spaces. Vocational habitus, then, reflects dispositions towards
career, or in other words a practical sense of what being a musician means. According to Colley at al.
(2003) “a central aspect of students’ learning appears to be a process of orientation to a particular identity, a
sense of what makes ‘the right person for the job’” (p. 488). This ‘sense’—or vocational habitus—includes
culturally constructed idealised and realised images of what makes the ‘right person for a job’ in music (p.
489). In short, an idealised image is that which the practices of learning cultures construct as ‘ideal’, while
a realised image is that reflecting the lived realities of working and surviving within any profession. In this
paper, vocational habitus is used as a basis for exploring the ways in which the learning cultures of one UK
conservatoire orient learners towards ‘ideal’ and ‘realised’ notions of working in music.
Driven by the study’s focus on cultures, the research is located within social constructionism, seeking to
generate constructed knowledge about fluid, context-specific realities as they are experienced and lived by
participants. Within this framework, an ethnographically-informed qualitative case study was conducted at
one UK conservatoire over ten months in 2008/09. The ethnographic approach placed importance on rich
and contextual data that aimed to ‘‘'get inside’ the way each group of people sees the world” (Hammersley,
1985, p. 152) in order to understand cultural practices as they are constructed and played out in the
Within the case study, a family of four data collection methods was employed. First, thirty-eight semistructured interviews were undertaken with a diverse group of students, teachers and
managerial/administrative staff. The interviews sought to understand the dominant cultural practices of the
conservatoire, gathering information on the “actions, dispositions and interpretations of participants”
(James et al., 2007, p. 143). Second, loosely-structured observations were undertaken of both formal (such
as concerts, speeches and master classes) and informal (such as the canteen, entrance hall) contexts within
the conservatoire. Third, a form of student self-documentation was employed in order to capture the
detailed cultural practices of four case-students, bringing the perspective of individual learners into the
overarching case study. Finally, documents representing the conservatoire’s organisation, curricula, vision,
external ‘face’ and day-to-day working were collected and sampled.
Working across the resulting dataset, analysis sought to illuminate key features of the conservatoire’s
learning cultures, drawing on thematic analysis of cultural practices as well as in-depth synthesis of
individual learners and learning within these practices. Four emergent features of the cultures were
identified, of which one—cultures of performance specialism—forms the focus of this paper.
Cultures of performance specialism: findings and discussion
Within the ethnographically-informed nature of the study, results are presented and discussed as emergent
overarching themes. In part one of this section, evidence is provided for (1) practices preparing students for
specialised performing careers and (2) practices preparing students for broad and diverse careers. In the
second part of the section, vocational habitus is used to explore the ways in which these apparently
divergent sets of practices in fact serve to privilege the development of highly specialised performers.
Given space restrictions, evidence from the case study is synthesised and where quotations are offered
these are indicative of a wider body of data.
Practices preparing students for specialised performing careers
Across the case study, strong evidence was found of practices preparing students for performing careers.
The organisation of the conservatoire and the function of its many departments show a practical emphasis
on performance, a point reinforced by the overwhelming use of the conservatoire’s physical spaces for
practice and performance. Such structural features are also reflected in the attitudes of conservatoire
What I think of as the reason that this [conservatoire] exists, is to produce musicians who can
go out into the profession and play their instruments and sing at the highest level, and
communicate with audiences, that is it for me, that’s why we have a music college, that’s
what a conservatoire’s about. Professor (P9, emphasis original)
This instrumental teacher (professor)’s viewpoints are further reflected in the conservatoire’s mission
statement. Noticeable by its absence, the word ‘musician’ does not feature here, giving way to an explicit
focus on educating and training ‘performers and composers’ (a point also made by Davies, 2004). Indeed,
such a finding is consistent with previous studies, captured for example in Nettl’s (1995) observation that
“performers regard themselves as the central portion of the school” (p. 57).
We can unpack this theme further through considering how performance is positioned in the conservatoire
and, crucially, what is positioned as different from performance. Evidence was found, for example, that
members of the conservatoire tend to draw distinctions between ‘practical’ and ‘theoretical’ approaches to
music, with consensus that a conservatoire is the institution of choice for those wanting to ‘do’ music: “the
whole academic side of the [institution] it seems to be at loggerheads with the thing about producing
performers” (Professor, P8). That ‘doing’ music is seen as distinct from activities not ‘doing’ music is
made clear, also, through the ways in which participants discuss their identities. Members of staff, in
particular, feel a need to think of themselves as ‘performers’ even when a large proportion of their work is
spent elsewhere: “Because I have a job with a desk, a lot of the instrumental professors see me as part of an
[administrative] community that I don’t feel 100 per cent comfortable being a part of, ‘cos I also see myself
as sort of one of them ‘cos I do freelance playing” (Staff, St12). Taken together, and necessarily reduced for
the purposes of this paper, practices such as these provide support for the conservatoire’s emphasis on
professional performing careers.
Practices preparing students for broad and diverse careers
A second set of practices, however, appear to orient learners towards the development of broad careers that
move beyond performance specialism alone. This theme manifests in a range of curriculum options
designed to introduce students to the many varieties of a career in music, as well as in staff viewpoints:
They [students] should take away with them the belief that there are diverse career
possibilities in music, and that while, hopefully, performing will play a role in that, and,
hopefully, a large role in that, it’s not the only thing that they can do, and, if they don’t do
very much performing, they shouldn’t feel that they have failed in their aspirations. Staff
Indeed, despite an explicit focus on ‘performers and composers’, it is to ‘musical life’ rather than
‘performance life’ that the conservatoire’s mission statement refers. Senior staff, furthermore, make their
position clear, telling students that “a real sense of context is really important for any successful
musician…that will take you well beyond the practice room” (Student welcome speech 2008). Other
practices evident in the data include those designed to develop student self-confidence, to empower
students through encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zone, to facilitate student
communication and administration skills, to offer students a ‘transformative’ learning experience and to
build students’ skills as educational leaders and teachers. As one professor summarises, “I try to broaden
their outlook on what they are, what they’re like” (Professor, P7). Here, importantly, the emphasis is not
necessarily on specialised performance, rather encompassing a wider range of skills and attitudes required
for a lifelong career in music.
Vocational habitus privileging performance specialism
At first glance, then, there appear to be two somewhat contradictory learning cultures at play within the
conservatoire: one privileging specialised performance and the other privileging musical breadth beyond
specialism. Which prevails? How do the learning cultures of the conservatoire—the practices through
which students learn—position these different types of musical career? In this section, we explore how
cultures of performance specialism are positioned as ‘ideal’ within the conservatoire, so that the ‘right
person for the job’ of musician, as defined by the culture, remains predominantly a performer.
First, there is a sense in which while preparing students for specialised performing careers is an end-point
in itself, preparing students for broader careers is a means to an end: employment. Here, we pick up on
what Ford (2011) terms the ‘discourse of employability’; the need and desire for conservatoire graduates to
be employable and the recognition that employment in the music profession does not always come in the
shape of specialised performance: it thus becomes important for students to be educated “to do things that
over the course of their life as a musician they’ll have to do, not just one set of highly honed performance
skills” (Staff member, St12, emphasis added). Nevertheless, however, the overwhelming majority of
assessment is in performance, students study one-to-one with an instrumental teacher whose remit is to
educate them as performers, and students who win prominent prizes as performers quickly gain kudos
within the conservatoire. In light of such continued focus on performance specialism, it appears that
breadth at the conservatoire is viewed as necessary (realised) rather than as an intrinsically valuable facet
of developing as a musician, so that performance continues to be positioned as ‘ideal’.
Second, and linked with the first point, is evidence that many activities beyond specialism at the
conservatoire are often in fact geared towards making a performer more employable: learning how to
compose a CV, design a website, write programme notes, manage self-employed finances, organise
concerts and so on. In other words, activities that move beyond specialism can be oft-thought of as
activities to in fact support specialism. This point is reinforced through the way in which research appears
‘permitted’ within the conservatoire so long as it informs performance:
I think the word research…to your average [institution] violinist doesn’t mean very much
until they get to a point where they can see how useful it is. So I mean it’s all very well to say
to students ‘you must go and look in the museum because organology’s interesting’, but if
you can actually show them a process that starts with looking at an instrument and ends up
with, say, playing some sort of repertoire written for that instrument, and how you go about
using different pieces of evidence to create your performance, then they can see the whole
reason for it. Staff (St12)
Furthermore, activities that allow students to specialise in activities beyond performance, such as teaching,
arts administration, music therapy and so on, are absent from the conservatoire’s practices. While students
can get a taste of such activities, or use them to inform their specialism, they cannot choose to ‘major’ in
them; specialised performance continues to remain dominant.
What then, does this mean in terms of vocational habitus? Certainly, there is a sense in which the
conservatoire’s practices idealise a highly specialised performer: a ‘doer’ who performs music. This
idealisation, indeed, is magnified by the practice of bringing in renowned performers, composers and
conductors as both teachers and as ‘masters’ leading master classes. These musicians appear to act, in many
ways, as figures to aspire to: in this conservatoire, the ‘right person for a job in music’ remains a
specialised performer. Yet, as we have seen, such idealisations are set against increasingly strong debates in
the conservatoire field as to the purpose and function of a conservatoire education. Indeed, Bennett (2008)
argues vigorously that the word ‘musician’ should not be assumed to mean ‘performer’. Thus, a more
realised image of the broad musician has (or is beginning) to emerge within the conservatoire, that—
although present in the culture—appears to be in something of a dominated position; it is (in the main)
realised rather than idealised, perhaps in part because of practices that, in privileging tradition, do not yet
engage fully with changing and shifting musical fields. Breadth and diversity still appear to be positioned
as ‘necessary’ and ‘important for employability’ rather than as intrinsically valued, respected and
celebrated. Despite the nature of the musical field, then, the vocational habitus at play within the
conservatoire appears to orient students predominantly towards honing their skills as specialised performers.
That a culture of performance specialism appears to remain ‘idealised’ in this particular conservatoire
carries with it a host of implications. Indeed, such a situation does not seem restricted to the case-study
conservatoire, with others reaching similar conclusions (Froehlich, 2002; Kingsbury, 2001; Musumeci,
2008; Nettl, 1995; Sloboda, 1996; Weller, 2008). Certainly, the body of emergent literature encouraging
conservatoires to broaden their remit and locus of attention corroborates the findings of the current study
(for just two recent examples see Burt-Perkins, 2008; Smilde, 2009), and brings into focus the need for a
widening of conservatoire priorities and practices. As Renshaw (2009) puts it:
Musicians are now expected to have the knowledge, skills and attitudes to engage effectively
and creatively in a number of related roles—e.g., performer, composer, teacher, instrumental
tutor, workshop leader, mentor and creative producer. Increasingly they have to work
collaboratively across art forms, disciplines, cultures, music genres and different sectors
within a wide variety of networks. Any creative response to such changes necessitates the
development of new working processes, new modes of learning, new connections and new
organisational models (p.5).
In other words, cultures prioritising performance specialism emerge as somewhat out-dated. In a landscape
where there is much vulnerability—in higher education, in classical music, in conservatories—it seems
imperative for the conservatoire, and others with similar cultures, to continue moving away from the
narrow and specialist in favour of the broad and diverse.
There is scope, then, for a widening of the ways in which the conservatoire engages and supports students
in their learning. Working with the notion of creative teaching and learning, Triantafyllaki and Burnard
(2010) argue that the ‘walls’ between creativity and learning can and are being broken down, with
education becoming about knowledge-creation rather than knowledge-transmission. In such thinking,
Burnard (2010) calls for pedagogies which enable creativity though giving learners choice and ownership
of their learning, that allow time and space for reflection, where risk-taking and innovation are fore fronted
and where imagination and intentionality are central (see also Craft, Cremin, Burnard, & Chappell, 2007).
Such creative teaching and learning—increasingly present in wider educational agendas—is worryingly
lacking in the learning cultures identified in this study.
Yet, others in the sector are increasingly beginning to apply such thought. Smilde (2009), for example,
argues a need for “space for informal learning in non-formal contexts within formal learning environments”
(p. 259), where improvisation is given a more central role in conservatoire education. Indeed, Smilde and
her colleagues have pioneered what they term an artistic laboratory, where emphasis is on cross-arts
practice and artistic experiment (Kors & Delfgaauw, 2011). In such a laboratory, creativity is fore fronted
in the form of artistic experiment, with conservatoire students working alongside visual art students to
‘search, observe, experiment, creative, shift the focus and recreate’. Here, the one-to-one lesson, the
classroom, the formality of the conservatoire is taken away through a location separate from the
conservatoire and a flexible, participant-led programme, allowing students the opportunity to explore their
art in new ways, in a new setting and with new people. In this way, a space is created where risks can be
taken, where students can engage in learning without feeling judged, where creativity takes centre stage
and—crucially—where notions of performance specialism become widened.
Certainly for the conservatoire in this study, the increased use of such spaces appears to be both necessary
and highly relevant to shifting conceptions of the ‘ideal’ musicians of the future. Indeed, given the move in
higher education more generally towards creative teaching and learning, the paper proposes that
conservatoires may have much to learn from adopting a more creative approach to the education of
professional musicians.
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Educating Musicians to Teach in the 21st Century: A Case
Study of Piano Pedagogy Training That Prepares Musicians to
Teach Synchronous Piano Lessons Online
Pamela D. Pike
Louisiana State University
[email protected]
Using technology to enhance teaching is commonplace in music instruction. Many teachers avail of video
cameras, still cameras, compact discs and MP3 technology to analyze performances and body positions for
instructional purposes. Recently, there has been increased emphasis on facilitating music instruction
through the use of music software, web applications that can be downloaded to mobile devices, and digital
keyboards and computers. Synchronous distance teaching has been utilized with increasing frequency and
success in recent months. One of the most promising advancements in online piano instruction has been the
development of Internet MIDI, an economical music software program that allows digital and acoustic
pianos to transmit outstanding audio via the Internet. If future teachers will teach lessons synchronously
online effectively, pedagogy students in university pedagogy programs should gain experience teaching in
this technologically enhanced medium.
This case study sought to observe a small group of graduate pedagogy students (N=4) as they were
sequentially and systematically introduced to online teaching. The subjects taught online piano lessons
using Internet MIDI software, Yamaha Clavinovas, Yamaha Disklaviers, and Skype video conferencing.
The researcher sought to understand the experience of these student teachers as they practiced and gained
familiarity with teaching piano online. As synchronous distance teaching is incorporated into pedagogy
curricula, pedagogy programs may be informed by this data. Each subject was observed in person and
researcher field notes were triangulated with video taken of the teaching sessions, subject reflections,
interviews with the subjects and their online students, and by member checks. The constant-comparison
method of analysis was used to identify common themes exhibited by the pedagogy student teachers.
Common themes that emerged included: initial reticence about using the technology for teaching piano;
fear of interacting with the technology and of technology failure; concern about online presence and rapport
with the students; initial reliance on visual cues; struggle with balance between talking and musical
demonstration; development of contingencies and strategies for dealing with technology snags;
development of rapport with the students once teaching began; and, ability to help students listen musically
and refine technique and musical interpretation as a result of online instruction. A synthesis of findings
along with implications for teachers wishing to teach music online will be provided in the paper.
Educator preparation, online teaching, technology
Much has been written about how technology has changed the way in which our students engage in music
(Partti & Karlsen, 2010) and about how it has altered their basic learning characteristics, expectations and
needs (Roberts, 2006). Daily encounters with technology, by even the youngest children, are commonplace.
The term “21st century learner” has been proposed to describe the student for whom technology is at the
center of interactions with information and learning (Rodgers et al., 2006, p. 1). It has been noted that by
the time those born after 1982 reached university, they had spent more time using cell phones, playing
video games, emailing and using computers than they had spent reading traditional books (Oblinger, 2004).
Graduate music and general education majors are finding themselves in teaching situations that are more
diverse than ever before (Pittinsky, 2003). At recent music conferences, teacher trainers have been
discussing ways in which to prepare future teachers for teaching environments that have yet to be devised
or developed (Litterst & Kirk, 2011; Pike & Reimer, 2008). In the academy, the basic building blocks of
music have remained relatively constant and the “essence of graduate school is specialization” (Cahn, 2008,
p. 3). However, in an age where the pace of technological advancement and student expectations change
rapidly, pedagogues must grapple with how to prepare their students to teach in ways and contexts that may
look very different from our own careers (Beeching, 2010).
During the past decade, online learning has become commonplace with distance instruction offered in all
academic disciplines (Palloff & Pratt, 2007). In the United States, over half of universities and colleges
offer online graduate courses and in 2008 20% of full-time undergraduates were enrolled in at least one
distance course (NCES, 2011, p. 120). Using technology in teaching music is routine. Teachers employ
video cameras, still cameras, audio-recording devices, compact discs and MP3 recordings to help students
analyze performances and body positions. Additionally, teachers are using music software, web
applications and computers to assist with asynchronous, or time-shifted, instruction (Fisher, 2010; Gore,
2011; Lazarus, 2011; Lyke et al, 2011).
In the piano realm, one of the most promising advancements in online instruction has been the development
of Internet MIDI, an economical software program that permits digital and acoustic pianos to transmit
outstanding audio, via MIDI data carried across the Internet (Litterst & Kirk, 2011). Internet MIDI has
enabled meaningful online synchronous, real-time piano instruction (Pike & Shoemaker, 2011; Sheftell,
2011; Shoemaker, 2011). Future educators need opportunities for supervised online instruction if they are
to become competent with the current technology and thus, able to adapt to future developments in this
educational arena. Piano pedagogues must incorporate online teaching experiences, with purposeful
feedback and assessment of learning, into the traditional pedagogy curriculum (Heibert et al., 2007).
This case study was designed to introduce synchronous online teaching to four students earning a master of
music in piano pedagogy degree. The purpose of the study was to understand the experience of initial
distance teaching interactions of these graduate students. The distance teaching that took place during this
study was synchronous (live, in real time) via the Internet. While findings from case studies are not
generalizable, it is hoped that results of this research might prompt more research on this topic and inform
future pedagogy practice in higher education. There were two phases to this case study.
Phase 1
Subjects were introduced to synchronous long-distance teaching through assigned readings, videos of
distance teaching and in-class discussions. Then, each of the four subjects experienced an in-house online
session so they could become acquainted with the online teaching environment, ask questions as they arose
and familiarize themselves with using the technology in a real-time situation. During the next month the
subjects each taught three long-distance lessons to an undergraduate piano student in a college that was 877
miles away. Each subject worked with the same student weekly so that rapport and teaching routines could
be established. The subjects taught three different score reading examples to the students. Score reading
was chosen because it could be broken down into manageable 15 to 20-minute teaching segments, allowing
subjects to gain experience in the online environment without overloading them with lesson preparation.
The following technology was employed for the teaching sessions in phase one of this study: Yamaha
Clavinova digital pianos, Internet MIDI software and Skype (see figure 1). The piano was connected (by a
MIDI to USB cable) to the computer. The computer was connected to the Internet and the keyboards
communicated via the Internet MIDI software, which permitted high-quality MIDI sound to be relayed
from one location to the other. Figure 2 shows a sample of the student’s computer screen with Internet
MIDI software. When the student at the remote location played, the sound was transmitted to the teacher
via her own digital piano. Additionally, the computers were connected via Skype to facilitate spoken
communication and visual cues throughout the lesson. Internet MIDI is designed for use with Skype or
other readily available video-conferencing programs.
Phase 2
Upon conclusion of phase one of this project, subjects participated in another in-house online interaction,
this time using MIDI-enabled acoustic pianos. For the initial interaction the subjects connected online via
an acoustic Yamaha Disklavier piano, an acoustic Boston piano that was retrofitted with PnoScan infrared
MIDI technology, Internet MIDI, external cameras that permitted a side-view of the keyboard and Skype
(see figure 3). When a student in the remote location played his instrument it sent MIDI signals to the
subject’s Disklavier, which signaled the MIDI device to depress the keys and pedals on the subject’s
instrument. The performance was heard with minimal latency on the subject’s own acoustic piano. For
phase two there were two simultaneous Internet (Ethernet T-2) connections: one for the acoustic pianos;
and, one for the computers. During the three subsequent weeks, each subject met with an undergraduate
piano student at another remote location (a university 1,011 miles away) to teach a 30-minute lesson on
early-advanced repertoire.
For both phases of this study, subjects wrote a reflection of the experience immediately following the
lesson. Within 24 hours subjects watched video of the lesson and were provided with feedback from the
researcher so they could plan for the subsequent lesson. Students at the remote locations completed written
reflections as well. These were shared with the subjects between lessons.
Data collection
All lessons were videoed using an external video camera and screen-capture software. The researcher was
present for all teaching, taking field notes and reviewing video subsequent to instruction. Subjects were
interviewed twice throughout the study and upon conclusion of the online teaching. Data was triangulated
from researcher field notes, subject reflections, subject interviews, video of the lessons, student reflections
(from off-site universities) and through member checks. The constant-comparison method of analysis
(Creswell, 1998) was used to identify common themes. When no new themes emerged the data was
considered saturated.
Common themes at outset of online instruction
All subjects in this case study were concerned and preoccupied with the technology at the outset of this
research. They expressed fear of forgetting the sequence of steps in setting up the technology and with the
flow and sequencing during the lesson due to a preoccupation with the technology. These anxieties were
reported even though subjects had been trained in appropriate lesson planning and sequencing and had been
provided with a “tip sheet” for teaching online, which was on the piano while they taught. The music
technology employed for synchronous piano lessons was different from that which they used daily. An
additional source of this anxiety stemmed from the fact that apart from the initial in-house online
interaction, these students had only experienced piano instruction in a traditional face-to-face environment.
Communication and online presence
All subjects reported apprehension about developing rapport with the student due to lack of physical
contact and presence. They were worried about the flow of communication; specifically, subjects were
concerned about a two-second microphone cancellation feature of the software program that prevented
feedback due to latency issues with data carried over the Internet. All subjects anticipated that
demonstration and modeling for the student would be limited due to the lack of physical presence in online
interactions. Indeed, initially the subjects spoke too much, spending far too much time talking about what
they wanted rather than demonstrating or asking the student to listen to musical examples.
Common themes as online instruction progressed
Communication, lesson sequencing and modeling
After just two distance-teaching sessions, the subjects were more precise and concise with verbal
instructions, they were demonstrating more frequently, they were more confident in their interactions with
students, they had developed a rapport with the students and they were more confident with the sequencing
of their instruction. This case study revealed that poor teaching is magnified online. If a subject had not
prepared or rehearsed the lesson plan adequately, it was obvious to both the researcher and the online
student. The two subjects who were not adequately prepared for the third week of online instruction came
prepared to every subsequent lesson. If subjects did not have more than one way of explaining or working
on a concept, this problem was exaggerated in the online environment.
Finally, by the conclusion of this study the subjects understood that synchronous online lessons were not
about one-way communication. Rather, current software and technology permitted interaction,
demonstration and feedback between the teacher and student. Students, as a result of this Internet
instruction, exhibited some excellent examples of listening and musicianship.
Contingencies and forward thinking
By the end of this study, the subjects had developed contingencies and coping strategies in case of
technology glitches. They were thinking more broadly about how they would address technology trouble in
their future studio policies or syllabi and they were exploring asynchronous teaching tools that they could
create and place on their teaching websites. Based on their online lessons, these subjects created
asynchronous tutorials that their students could avail of online between lessons.
Technology receded into the background
The subjects began to navigate the technology with ease as the study progressed and they were not
distracted by it after just a two sessions. The researcher noted that when outstanding teaching was
happening and when the technology was functioning correctly, the technology receded into the background
permitting the student to learn from the teacher, which is arguably the goal of any piano lesson.
While results of case studies are not generalizable, this particular research yielded some recommendations
that are worth future consideration. If pedagogy professors are interested in providing their students with
practical online teaching experiences, the following recommendations might be studied as they were
valuable in this particular case study: provide students with short, initial on-site interactions prior to actual
online instruction; set up short teaching segments of a musical component such as sight reading,
harmonization or score reading for the first several online teaching experiences to limit cognitive overload
and to maximize benefits of advance lesson planning; provide student teachers with an opportunity to
reflect on their teaching experience immediately following each online encounter; provide opportunities for
teachers to watch video of their teaching within 24 hours of the interaction; provide student teachers with
formal feedback, specifically highlighting one or two issues that should be improved or addressed at the
subsequent lesson; encourage student teachers to demonstrate more; encourage teachers to find ways for
their students to listen critically and respond during the lesson; encourage student teachers to practice short,
succinct verbal instructions; encourage teachers to use the two-second microphone cancelation time (a
feature of the current software) to formulate specific instructions for the student; break music into shorter
practice chunks for efficient online rehearsal and communication; create short-hand for communicating
with the student; have agreed upon means for getting the student or teacher’s attention (e.g., playing a
broken chord in the upper register of the piano); set up Internet MIDI to change camera views remotely;
have contingencies for communicating if there is a technology glitch (e.g., play “call and response” phrases
on the piano or use “text message” tool in Skype); and, practice, preparation and rehearsal of the lesson
prior to the online meeting are critical when teaching online is unfamiliar.
Since subjects in this case study expressed interest in employing either synchronous, asynchronous or both
technologies in their future teaching careers it may be important to introduce current technology to our
pedagogy students more systematically. At the very least, they will be acquainted with the technology and
will be able to field queries about its use from future students and parents. Should they choose to engage in
online teaching in their own studios, our graduates who have been adequately prepared will be equipped to
master the current technology and to explore future technologies as they become available.
The author would like to acknowledge Mike Bates and the Yamaha Corporation of America for their
assistance in acquiring a Yamaha Disklavier for this investigation.
Beeching, A.M. (2010). Beyond talent: Creating a successful career in music, 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Cahn, S. M. (2008). From student to scholar: A candid guide to becoming a professor. New York:
Columbia University Press.
Creswell, J.W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among the five traditions.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Fisher, C. (2010). Teaching piano in groups. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gore, K. (2011). “A piano teacher north of the border creates her own flashcard app.” Clavier Companion
3(2), 60-61.
Heibert, J., Morris, A.K., Berk, D, & Jansen, A. (2007). “Preparing teachers to learn from teaching.”
Journal of Teacher Education, 58(1), 47-61.
Lazarus, P. (2011). Yes, the iPhone can be an instructional device.” Clavier Companion, 3(2), 61-62.
Litterst, G. (2011). A window into my teaching world. In Lyke, Haydon & Rollins (Eds.), Creative Piano
Teaching, 4th edition (pp. 191-196). Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing LLC.
Litterst, G. & Kirk, S. (2011, October). Long distance, real-time instrumental music instruction: The
current state of the art. Paper presented at the Association for Technology in Music Instruction National
Conference, Richmond, VA.
Lyke, J, Haydon, J. & Rollin, C. (2011). Creative Piano Teaching, 4th edition. Champaign, IL: Stipes
Publishing Company.
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Oblinger, D. (2004, October). Educating the net generation. Keynote address at Educase 2004, Denver, CO.
The paper is available at
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Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Partti, H. & Karlsen, S. (2010). “Reconceptualising musical learning: new media, identity and community
in music education.” Research in Music Education, 12(4), 369-382.
Pike, P.D. & Shoemaker, K. (2011, August). The effect of distance learning on the acquisition of piano
sight-reading skills. Poster session at the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, Chicago IL.
Pike, P.D. & Reimer, M. (2008, August). A conversation between piano pedagogy and music education:
Preparing our music education students to teach in the 21st century classroom. Paper presented at the
Group Piano & Piano Pedagogy Forum, Norman, OK.
Pittinsky, M. S. (Ed.). (2003). The wired tower: Perspectives on the impact of the Internet on higher
education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.
Roberts, G. (2006). Technology and learning expectations of the Net generation. In Oblinger, D & Oblinger,
J.L. (Eds.), Educating the Net generation (pp. 17-23). Raleigh, NC: Educase, Inc.
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paper is available at
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Teaching, 4th edition (pp. 181-190). Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing LLC.
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Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, Chicago, IL.
Undergraduate Students’ Experiences of Music and Learning
during University Outreach Activities
Angeliki Triantafyllaki, Andromahi Melissari, Christina Anagnostopoulou
Department of Music Studies, University of Athens, Greece
This paper focuses on students’ musical experiences while participating in community outreach placements
during a five-year Musicology degree. Part of a term-long university module, the placements took students
beyond the walls of their university course, providing them with valuable opportunities of coming into
contact with new ways of making and using music with hard to reach populations (patients in drug and
psychiatric rehabilitation and Roma children). A research investigation undertaken in Spring-Fall 2011
sought to explore the benefits of engaging in such activities to students involved, employing focus group
discussions and documentary analysis of student written work. Findings reveal perceived shifts with
regards to students’ relationships with others; with their self; and with music as their disciplinary focus.
Findings presented and discussed here focus particularly on students’ changing views of the use of music
during the activities and their own musical learning when engaging with student peers and community
participants. Implications for university curricula, particularly the critical role of higher music education in
encouraging and facilitating prospective musicians’ participation in outreach activities, are discussed.
Keywords: Student learning, community outreach, university curricula
Background and Aim of the Study
The changing reality of the music profession requires of students to possess unprecedented skills of musical
and intellectual flexibility, enquiry and reflection. Vital also are wider conceptions of career opportunities
to those that are currently available to performing arts graduates. A contemporary musician is expected to
function as a performer, composer, leader and teacher, applying these roles to diverse contexts (Bennett,
2008). There is now growing evidence that increasing numbers of performing arts students are devising
alternative approaches to gaining vital work experience, using their creative practice in new ways that
benefit their communities as well as their own career goals and personal development (Gregory, 2005;
Kushner, 2002). Such experiences are not only limited to the commercial sector; public and third sector
organisations are often very willing to work with students in the arts, and value them for their subjectspecific skills with benefits for all parties involved (Ball et al., 2010).
Performing arts curricula can provide multiple opportunities for students to apply their learning in a variety
of non-profit settings via placements and/or performances within the framework of community work. In
such settings, the boundaries between what is classed as voluntary work and what is classed as work
experience are often blurred and relate to intention on the part of the worker rather than job role per se (Ball
et al., 2010). The opportunities provided through these experiences could encourage the development of
broader conceptions of professional careers and identities, expand existing views of disciplinary boundaries
and possibilities and promote personal reflection and an inquiry stance to learning.
The wider study on which this paper is based builds on a growing body of research around higher music
education teaching and learning and student employability (Odam & Bannan, 2005; Weller, 2008; Bennett,
2008; Brown, 2008), drawing also on the continuing discussion of developing entrepreneurship and workrelated learning in the broader field of arts higher education (Ball, 2003; Ball et al., 2010). It is grounded
also in initiatives that support student involvement in community outreach work during their undergraduate
studies, as key to their overall development as musicians within a global community, with benefits to all
parties involved (Carruthers, 2008). We drew also on theories of experiential and situated learning in
generalist education (see Brenan & Little, 1996 for an overview) as well as informal learning theories in
music in particular (Green, 2008, Folkestad, 2006). Much of this literature moves away from approaches
that focus on developing individual skill levels and reproducing a canon of work to approaches where
group work and the creation of original pieces and new forms of expression are encouraged.
Furthermore, while we do not underestimate the significance of formal learning environments for a
discipline such as music, we believe that informal learning is a powerful complementary way of acquiring a
set of skills necessary for any musician and musicologist. More specifically, informal learning experiences
often take place when musicians are working together, away from formal educational environments, on a
more or less equal basis, listening to and imitating each other (Smilde, 2009). The acquired learning is
often highly applicable to the contexts where the musical activities took place (p. 75). Renshaw (2006)
refers to the related notion of ‘context-based learning’, where knowledge and skills are acquired in a
communal or collaborative setting, generating a shared sense of belonging and knowing within a particular
context (p.12). Experiential and situated forms of learning arising from such collaborative communityrelated experiences often result in a deep sense of personal engagement and ownership, as well as the
development of professional autonomy and voice (Triantafyllaki & Burnard, 2010).
The aim of the wider study was to investigate such forms of learning that undergraduates experience while
participating in community outreach placements. The benefits to students of engaging in outreach activities
as part of a university course of study have for the most part been tacitly discussed rather than the specific
focus of a research investigation. In the context of the current paper, we specifically explore the ways in
which undergraduate students’ perceptions regarding the use of music and their own learning shift, having
engaged with active music-making in informal learning contexts with hard to reach and often
disadvantaged populations.
Description of the course and placements
The module discussed in this paper forms part of a five-year theoretical Musicology degree at the
Department of Music Studies, University of Athens. During this module, students attend weekly classes
and visit their chosen placement on a weekly basis. In the class sessions the multi-disciplinary theoretical
background is discussed: Apart from the focus on music theory and analysis, emphasis is also given to
approaches to community music, music therapy, cognitive, social and clinical psychology, sociology,
education, informatics, and selected topics from psychiatry. Consideration is also given in class on issues
that arise from the practical work during placements, including discussions on various problems the
students might encounter, evaluations, feedback and preparation for future placement sessions.
The placements are related to psychiatric rehabilitation (mainly people with psychotic syndromes), drug
rehabilitation (teenagers and young adults), and multi-cultural day centers (such as immigrants and Roma
children). Hence, students are called upon to respond to the situational requirements of a completely novel
environment that they would not have otherwise encountered, using music as a tool for communication.
Students form small groups of three or four, and visit their one chosen placement weekly. Their aim is to
encourage musical creativity and general musicality, as well as the development of cognitive, emotional
and social skills of community participants. The musical activities involved include all types of musical
games, improvisations, song writing, musical theatre, and others, depending on the participants’ interests,
needs, abilities and background.
Research method
Drawing on the learning goals of the seminar itself, the objectives of the wider study, on which this paper
was based, were to explore the changes occurring with regards to (a) students’ relationship with music as a
field of study and their career choices; (b) collaboration with peers and community participants and the
types of knowledge and skills that developed as a result; and (c) personal and professional identity
We were interested in tapping into group perceptions of learning experiences, in accordance with the
structure of the placements. As such, five focus group interviews, each hosting between 2 to 4 students,
served as the primary data source for this paper. Each focus group consisted of the actual group that took
part in each placement. The participants had completed the module and their placements and submitted
their final essays. The involvement of the researcher was kept to a minimum, encouraging students to direct
the flow of conversation amongst themselves. The emergent data is a negotiated social construct rooted in
the understanding of participants themselves (Kitzinger & Barbour, 2001 in MacDonald & Wilson, 2005, p.
Data analysis initially involved open coding by breaking down, examining, comparing and categorising
data (Strauss and Corbin, 1990). Data was analysed in accordance to the three broad learning goals of the
course – ‘music’, ‘other’, and ‘self’. As student reflections varied across these three ‘themes’ we sought
common sub-themes across students by collapsing codes and conducting data reduction. As we reached
consensus as a research team, we identified critical shifts in students’ views in relation to the three themes
as a result of their engagement in the course. The current paper presents data relating to students’
experiences of the use of music in particular and processes of learning in general during the placements.
There was significant discussion across groups regarding how they used music in the communal musicmaking activities. In this section we initially explore some of the ways in which students conceptualized the
use of music, and then present findings relating to the characteristics of learning that students’ discuss as
taking place through their placement experiences.
The Use of Music during the Placements
Collaboration/Communicating with the group
Music, as a tool for enhancing collaborative activity and communication within groups, was cited by the
majority of students: “When we went there we were two groups, but when we played we became one.
When we were singing, playing, using the instruments, there was a communication that wasn’t there before
or after”. (Group 3, Psychiatric rehabilitation, 3.13)
Working with sensitive populations would often entail restrictions with regards to issues of verbal and
emotional expression. As viewed in the excerpt below students relied on music for communicating with
The music was an extension of ourselves. We were all in a circle and music was in the middle.
We were restricted in what we could say, not to get too attached, not to ask something we
shouldn’t, how to deal with something they’d say. So there was nothing else, besides getting
together and exchanging sounds. So, how each of us played, how we improvised on the
instruments, how we built the melody, that was our communication, where we got to know each
other, through what we played and did. Nothing else. That’s why the children called this musical
communication. (Group 5, Drug rehabilitation, 6.5)
Students expressed feelings of great achievement by collaborating with group participants who had no prior
knowledge of music:
Feeling you can communicate with anyone through music, exchange feelings and thoughts,
being on-your-toes all the time, following your neighbor, who might not be listening to you and
is playing something else, and then following him and creating something entirely different to
what you initially thought. We were able to play with people who didn’t know what rhythm was
and how to make sounds with the instrument they were holding. (Group 2, Psychiatric
rehabilitation, 2.4)
As these quotes suggest, group interaction and communication are encouraged through improvisation, by
creating more musical awareness through ‘tuning in’ to an idea, by copying, adding and responding to
changes in the music (MacDonald &Wilson, 2005). In the placement contexts, music-making was
conceptualized as a space for creative collaborative expression, where students could come into contact,
often for the first time, with sensitive and hard to reach populations developing as a result high levels of
social and moral commitment.
Inclusivity/Breaking down musical barriers
During the outreach activities, traditional conceptions of musical learning were challenged; notions of
“talent” and “excellence” within students’ formal music education environments were particularly
Student 1: There is no right or wrong in this. Each and every one of us will do her best, whatever
that is, and within this she will come into the group and music will become our music. Whoever
you are, you can create music together with other people, in a group.
Student 2: There are no boundaries in music, at least in what we did during the placement. My
viewpoint has changed so much – you don’t have to be the world’s best musician to create
something musical, and as a group I think we proved that. Whatever you think of, you can make
it into music. (Group 1, Psychiatric rehabilitation 1.10)
Furthermore, students witnessed how different populations, not formally trained, were able to reveal high
levels of participatory musical engagement, which encouraged them to re-think their prior ‘high art’ ideas
of music:
My views changed so much. When people engage from such a young age in a particular culture,
with music, it gives a different temperament. The way the children dealt with the activities and
their relationship with music was amazing…especially their rhythmical abilities, but also music
as melody, as movement. We would put music they didn’t know and ask them to move around
the room, so they became familiar with the music. It was easier for them than for us, for all our
education. (Group 4, Roma daycare centre, 6.5)
The placement experiences offered novel opportunities for students to broaden traditional connotations of
music. This was achieved through the realization of the key role of participants’ cultural backgrounds in the
music-making processes; in the case of the excerpt above, music is re-conceptualised by students as an
embodied act, a set of relationships between people, music, history and the larger culture (Small, 1998). For
undergraduates, feelings of belonging and of group identity developed as a consequence of negotiating
music making with a wide variety of individuals from different backgrounds.
Perceptions of learning
The type of musical knowledge essential for students’ participation in the collaborative music-making
activities was often discussed as consisting of very basic elements. These basic elements of music-making
were contrasted with the more traditional and universal values of music and academic knowledge regarded
highly in their university studies. Students emphasised the contrast between musical excellence and
virtuosity with a more personal, situated and context-specific view of music that promotes group cohesion
and interdependency, as well as personal creative expression:
It taught me to play music quite simply. Something I did before, but it just gave you a different
boost, that you can make music with the simplest of materials, something we musicians
sometimes loose…personal expression is sometimes lost with virtuosity, as is collaboration with
others. I mean the idea that I am able to play music with anyone, anywhere. (Group 2,
Psychiatric rehabilitation, 2.4)
First of all, music was about enjoying yourself. You learn how to like music. What can be more
simple? But we completely forget about it in our days. You learn to like to explore body
percussion, with simple means, to express yourself through that sound. (Group 5, Drug
rehabilitation center, 6.5)
A fundamental element of the experience involved students responding and adapting to the physical and
social spaces in which they found themselves, exploring new ways of experimenting with musical ideas,
forms and structures, using very basic tools, such as body percussion. In doing so, personal enjoyment and
fulfillment were prioritized (Green, 2008, p.56-58). Interestingly, those students that had received formal
musical training from a young age had the most difficulties in adjusting to the requirements of collaborative
music-making in the community settings:
Student 1: It just happened in the moment. We played together. Musical knowledge was not a
Student 2: We didn’t prepare, like going to take exams. There was no one to judge me.
Student 3: And let me add, musical production was improvisatory. It did not have to do with
notes, theory or anything else we studied to enter university. The goal was to create a musical
whole, through our own music, through the rhythm and the sound.
Student 1: I happened to discuss this with others and they found this very difficult, to simplify
things so much. They had learnt in a different way. It was difficult for some to play music
without the rules that their instrument required. (Group 2, Psychiatric rehabilitation, 2.14)
Students here consider learning during placements to involve (a) using simple tools, which enhanced
personal creative expression, (b) collaborating with others, (c) improvising as opposed to working with
notation and (d) aiming towards a holistic view of music that involved the engagement of the whole person.
Conclusions and implications
This paper presented initial findings from an ongoing study on undergraduate students' experiences of
music and learning during a term-long university module, which included outreach placements in nonprofit settings. Emphasis was given on some of the ways in which students engage with music making, and
how their perceptions about music as a discipline and about their own learning shift during these
experiences. The perceived shifts are summarised below:
• Music-making offered a means for collaboration between people from diverse backgrounds,
breaking down social barriers and promoting inclusivity during music-making activities.
• This collaboration was possible between individuals with no formal musical knowledge.
• Related to the above, students start to challenge standard notions of excellence, virtuosity and
talent, which dominated conceptions about good music making during students' university studies.
• Often disregarded in formal education, musical learning was about fun and enjoyment as well as
personal fulfilment and expression.
• Engagement with and observation of community participants would often lead to new knowledge
of the ways music is understood and practiced by groups with different cultural (and musical)
backgrounds. The notions of embodiment, participation, belonging and collaboration were
foregrounded in students’ understandings of how music was used during placements and in their
own perceptions of music learning.
The above points seem to imply that the inclusion of such a module into music curricula could be beneficial
in expanding traditional views of music and learning during undergraduate education. Through such
activities, the focus of attention seems to shift from academic forms of knowledge, universal values and the
acquisition of specific skills towards how, where and when music is learnt, as well as what motivates
musical learning in both formal and informal learning situations. To this extent:
(1) University music departments can assist students in recognising the importance of diverse learning
experiences, affording opportunities for building community placements and outreach activity into
music curricula.
(2) Raising awareness within Departments of the benefits involved in student participation in musicmaking outreach activity in challenging and novel environments. This requires a wider cultural
shift with regards to valuing and facilitating student engagement.
The study is on going and will include an exploration of the changing conceptions of self and career
outlook, as well as the development of personal and professional skills and knowledge through engaging
with outreach activity during higher music education.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the students who participated in this study. It is
noted that the university module is set up and taught by the third author of this paper, including guest
lecturers, and has been inspired by a similar module taught at the University of Edinburgh by Nigel
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Live music and the bands culture in Victoria, Australia: An
exploratory study of education for the professional musician
Amanda Watson
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria Australia
[email protected]
David Forrest
RMIT University, Australia
[email protected]
This paper is an exploratory study of the provision and development of live music with a focus on the
contemporary performance bands’ culture in the Australian State of Victoria, and framed with the support
given to performers by Arts Victoria, Small Business Victoria and Music Victoria. The paper addresses the
seminar’s sub-theme of ‘Music careers: educating musicians for diverse and sustainable careers’. The
central focus of this study is the identification of the issues and challenges of running a successful music
business, which in turn leads to a contemporary performing musician being able to build a sustainable
career. Excellence in musical skills alone is not sufficient for a musician to achieve and sustain financial
security from a career in the music industry. More recently it has been documented that performing
musicians now recognise the need to be entrepreneurial, with a professional approach in their promotion
and associated businesses.
Actual support from government in the area of career development and cultural support for the
contemporary music industry is unexpected. Through the provision of government grants, Arts Victoria
(the State Ministry for the Arts), Music Victoria (the contemporary music industry peak body for Victoria)
and Small Business Victoria (a section of the Victorian Government Department of Business and
Innovation) musicians playing in bands and contributing to the live music economy have access to business
skills training and career development support. Vocational Education and Training (VET) pathway courses
are offered in schools, including the availability of music business, however, the focus at the school level is
on performance and technical production. Music business courses are a feature Technical and Further
Education (TAFE) and more recently in Higher Education.
This study highlights the success of the government financial activity that supports the contemporary live
performance bands’ culture in Victoria. In 2009-2010 the live music industry contributed more than
$AUD500 million to the Victorian economy. The government has supported a suite of programs such as
FReeZA, Contemporary Music and Live Development, Face the Music conference, a small business
festival and targeted mentoring for musicians playing in bands and their businesses have all played a
significant role. These programs have contributed to the development of sustainable practices for
performing musicians.
contemporary live music, music industry, business skills, employability skills, professional development.
This paper is an exploratory study of live music centred around the performance bands’ culture in the State
of Victoria, Australia, framed with the support given to performers by Arts Victoria (the State Ministry for
the Arts), Small Business Victoria (Department of Business and Innovation) and Music Victoria (the
contemporary music industry peak body for Victoria). The focus of this study is to identify issues and
challenges of running a successful music business, which in turn leads to a contemporary performing
musician being able to build and maintain a sustainable career. Musical skills alone are not sufficient for a
musician to achieve financial security from a career in the music industry. More recently it has been
documented in the literature that performing musicians recognise the need to be entrepreneurial, with a
professional approach in the promotion of self and associated businesses. The paper builds on Forrest
(1999) in which links between music education and music industry were discussed, and Watson and Forrest
(2004) where aspects of VET music courses were highlighted. The excellence of contemporary band
musicians in creative artistry, vocal and instrumental technique, originality in song writing composition,
improvisation and interpretation of covers are particular steps for band members to etch out and sustain a
performing career. All band members need a knowledge of business skills, the ability to plan, build and
operate a business — and if the need arises to exit a business. These are vital necessities to support the
employment of a musician.
For any activity or process to be sustainable, the approaches and systems that guide it need to be constantly
adaptable to change, allowing a focus on maintaining the important aspects and qualities and introducing
new growth. Careers in music must be first developed and then sustained. Although a trained level of
musical skill and technique is clearly important, the ability to generate an ongoing income level to live,
through the demonstration of musical skills has become a critical factor when discussing careers in music.
Excepting those who obtain fulltime permanent salaried employment in teaching, orchestras, musical
theatre and military bands, many musicians who are able to pursue a career in music, supported by a
reliable livable income need to operate a small business. Some will be the sole operator whilst those who
are part of the live contemporary music industry and play in a band will be in a business partnership.
The research topics of career development and employment skills training that are focused on the needs of
the musician — in the many specialist fields of practice associated with being a musician — have become
quite specific. Ongoing research has addressed two broad areas associated with needs of the student
musician moving from being a participant in higher education music programs to life as an early career
musician, and the needs of those with experience in the workforce as a musician. Writers who have
expanded and described these issues in more depth include Beeching (2010), Bennett (2008), Burt-Perkins
(2008), Cook (2008), Constable (2005), Huhtanen (2008, 2010), Johnsson and Hager (2006), Triantafyllaki
(2010), and Weller (2004, 2008). The contributors to the symposium, Life in the Real World: Expanding
the Purview of Music Careers (including Beeching, Bennett, Burt-Perkins, Carruthers, Hannan, Huhtanen,
Smilde and Weller) addressed the aspects, attributes, challenges and skills of building and supporting a
sustainable career as a musician (ISME World Conference, 2010). Referring directly to musicians who
have established a successful career, Comte (2010) posed the question “What advice would you give a
pianist who wants to embark on a performance career?” to pianists interviewed for a book on aspects of
pianism (p. 11). Each of the 36 pianists interviewed provided a different response, many acknowledging
that career pathways are varied and uncertain. Similarly, with a focus on the musician in the workforce, the
Music Career wiki (developed by the Music Council of Australia) has gathered a range of information
about careers in music. The professional development section presents information grouped under three
headings — know your business, manage your business, and the musical marketplace.
Qualifications in Music Industry
The Australian Qualifications Framework (2011) is the umbrella under which courses are available to
students, varying in level of difficulty (and accomplishment) from level 1 (middle secondary school) to
level 10 (doctoral study). Vocational Education and Training (VET) pathway courses in schools for the
post compulsory years tend to focus on music (performance) and music industry (technical production).
The third arm of VET music courses, music business, is regularly offered in Technical and Further
Education (TAFE) and Higher Education. Under the National Music Training Package, the four
qualification options are Certificate III in Music Business, Certificate IV in Music Business, Diploma of
Music Business and Advanced Diploma of Music Business.
The documentation for each of the VET Music Business packages commences with an employability skills
qualification summary table describing the employability skills required by the music industry for each
qualification. This process is a requirement for all courses in the Australian Qualifications Framework. In
Australia the employability skills (also known as general capabilities, generic or transferable skills) have
been defined as:
1. Communication skills that contribute to productive and harmonious relations
between employees and customers;
2. Teamwork skills that contribute to productive working relationships and outcomes;
3. Problem-solving skills that contribute to productive outcomes;
4. Initiative and enterprise skills that contribute to innovative outcomes;
5. Planning and organising skills that contribute to long-term and short-term strategic
6. Self-management skills that contribute to employee satisfaction and growth;
7. Learning skills that contribute to ongoing improvement and expansion in employee
and company operations and outcomes; and
8. Technology skills that contribute to effective execution of tasks.
(Matters & Curtis, 2008, p. 5)
The core units of the four VET music business courses centre on: following occupational health and safety
procedures, implementing copyright arrangements, working effectively in the music industry, developing
and implementing a business plan including legal, risk and financial management requirements, and
planning a career in the creative arts industry incorporating applying music knowledge and artistic
judgment. Students select additional units to complete the qualification including from the specialist
competency group (e.g., creative process, e-business, marketing, and musical literacy) and non-specialist
group (e.g., diversity, event management, public relations and sustainability) (Australian Government,
Higher Education providers offer a number of degree courses that link business and industry skills, arts
management skills and the creativity of individual disciplines constituted as arts industries. One example is
the Australian College of the Arts, which from 2012 will offer a Bachelor of Arts (Creative Industries
Management) Music Business degree designed to “develop technical skills in organisational and financial
management, entertainment law and human resources and creative elements such as marketing and
communications, public relations and entrepreneurship”. Students study foundation units focused around
marketing and communications, the people, finance and economics of the entertainment and arts industries,
the consumer, critical thinking, and project and event management. They complete the qualification with
professional studies strongly tied to the entertainment industry including entrepreneurship, partnership
development, creativity and intellectual property, business strategies, structures and governance, publicity
and promotions, market research, ethics and cultural policy, music publishing, and a number of industry
projects with different foci (Australian College of the Arts, 2011).
Victorian Government support programs
A number of opportunities funded by the Victorian Government are available to contemporary bands to
support career development and the operation of small businesses. Access to these programs allows
musicians, as both sole business operators and in business partnerships to manage sustainable careers, to
benefit from and contribute to the cultural activity and economic return. The programs contribute to the
ongoing education of the professional musician and provide them with tailored professional development.
1. FReeZA, funded through the Victorian Government Office of Youth, was established in 1997. It is a
program that provides young people between the ages of 12 and 25 opportunities to attend affordable music
and cultural events. The youth members of each local organising committee develop decision-making and
leadership skills, and experience the option to explore education employment pathways in the music
industry. The events that they organise provide performance opportunities for local musicians and
emerging artists (Welcome to FReeZA).
2. Arts Victoria’s contemporary music funding program Contemporary Music and Live Development
(formerly Victoria Rocks) offers grants to emerging and established artists in three categories: career
building, touring and sector development. The program “aims to support the creative growth and viability
of the Victorian music industry”. Career building has two streams with funding priority given where there
is evidence of a career progression. The two streams are recording (demo and master recordings), and
presentation (including CD manufacture, marketing, website development, digital and social media
initiatives). Music touring has two streams: touring projects for established artists to tour in regions,
interstate or internationally, and professional travel for managers or musicians to attend music conferences
and business meetings outside Victoria. Sector development has a key focus to provide access, education
and innovation for musicians to further their careers. Typical funded activities include access for emerging
musicians to professional skills, mentoring and performance skills, regional touring and performance
opportunities, and adopting new technologies (Arts Victoria Contemporary and Live Music Development,
3. Victoria's Small Business Festival is an annual small business month comprising an extensive program
of free and charged events aimed at providing the inspiration, ideas and information to start, run or build a
business. The Victorian Government coordinates the festival, through Small Business Victoria, and
collaborates with industry groups, businesses and agencies across the three levels of government to deliver
the events. The workshops are open to all registered businesses in Victoria and the theme for 2011 was ‘add
one more skill’ (Small Business Victoria, 2011).
4. In March 2011, Music Victoria in conjunction with Small Business Victoria developed a project to
provide business skills support relevant to musicians and music businesses and specifically for musicians
playing in bands, through seminars/workshops/mentoring programs. A web-based survey was used to invite
interest from the contemporary music industry. Among the information sought was the role of participation
in the music industry (musician/performer, music management, promoter/booker, record label, music venue
owner/manager, media/publicity, other role); interest in a music business mentoring session; workshop
topics (starting business, business planning basics, marketing basics, market for growth, understanding
financial statements, budgeting and forecasting, networking, business planning, get your business organised,
your online business – optimising your potential, getting and keeping the right staff, improving cash flow
and profitability, financing your business, what bankers want, exiting your business successfully, other
topics) (Music Victoria survey).
5. Music Victoria hosts the annual Face the Music conference and music industry summit which provides
the Victorian music community with a platform for professional and creative career development through
presentations, discussions, networking and practical workshops. The executive director of the Association
of Artists Managers states, “attending panelists, discussion topics and artist presentations enable the earliest
beginner and the seasoned veteran to re-think and re-discover their love for the business of music” (Nicole
B-Z, Face the Music, 2011).
The live contemporary music industry and the Victorian economy: a summary of issues
Not all musicians are financially able, or have the time or consider it relevant to complete a music business
course of study but they continue to play live music in bands, on a full or part time basis, and contribute to
the financial and cultural base of the economy. For those who do complete qualifications they are often
participating as an individual, although enrolment in VET courses, industry placements and projects
provide contact with the real world and networking opportunities. The modules of each training package
are carefully structured and provide one avenue for a musician to gain career-building skills.
Musicians who take the opportunity to build their career with the support of government funded activities
are most likely participating as a band, with people who have the same values and interests. Those who are
members of volunteer FReeZA committees are often full time school and tertiary students, with more than
one member of a band being part of each committee. As individuals they build positive self-esteem,
communication skills, and engagement with their local communities. As a group they develop teambuilding skills and receive training in band bookings, lighting and production, and promotions and
publicity. Together they gain the benefits as event organisers and develop skills and knowledge associated
with event management and areas of the music industry such as rehearsals, playing live, CD manufacturing,
providing a taster for a career in these areas. FReeZA committee’s organise local band performances
mostly for their peers providing opportunities to network with local performers and encourage and nurture
The activities provided and promoted by Arts Victoria, Music Victoria and Small Business Victoria
contribute to supporting the creative and career development of the musician performing in the
contemporary music industry. And it is significant that diverse government departments cooperate to
advance this aspect of cultural growth. The Face the Music conference provides an opportunity for
developing musicians to meet industry experts and discover working life in the music industry. An
advertising email promotes it as:
presentations, discussions, artist development workshops, networking, live music, practical
workshops and the hottest tips and tools to give your music career the edge. Sessions explore
topics like: songwriting, self-management, audience development, touring, release
management, recording, stagecraft, international festival opportunities, booking agents,
independent releases and labels, distribution, licensing and publishing, funding opportunities,
career models and much more. (Face The Music, 18th and 19th November, 2011 @ The Arts
On the economic side, in 2009-2010, the live music industry’s annual economic contribution to Victoria
was $AUD501 million, resulting from an outlay through Contemporary Live Music Development program
grants to musicians totalling $AUD757, 951 (Rood, 2011). The report in which these figures were
published was commissioned by Arts Victoria “to analyse the economic, social and cultural contribution of
the venue-based live music industry in Victoria” (Deloitte, 2011, p. 1). This financial return to the
Victorian economy was considered an endorsement of the outputs of contemporary live music. In monetary
terms, contemporary live music has been a provider of employment and income for musicians, managers,
technicians, recording manufacturers, venue owners, security and bar staff, advertising, merchandising and
booking agents. Headline bands playing in regional country towns support the local business through
accommodation, meals, local produce and tourist attractions. Community wellbeing has benefited from the
strong social and cultural values brought by contemporary live music. Developed social networks and
connectedness leading to a reduction in anti-social behaviour, benefits performers, patrons and the general
The recommendations of the report (Deloitte, 2011) confirmed issues and challenges of current programs
goals supported with government funding, addressed in this paper. Although credentialed qualifications are
one avenue of gaining knowledge, workplace professional development and mentoring are more practical
and immediate processes that tailor learning opportunities and offer a more flexible approach.
In conjunction with the live music industry, developing and promoting to performers and managers a
common regional touring circuit, provides additional venues for performers outside the crowded
metropolitan area. This in turn invites larger audiences to hear live music resulting in increased door
takings and greater financial reward for the performers and the venue. Community wellbeing is also a
major beneficiary (Deloitte, 2011, pp. 47-48).
Improving the quality of live performers, in that their performances will generate a sizeable and returning
audience (their fan base) accompanied by a more rewarding financial return. The report recommends, “the
increased provision of mentoring and guidance on performance career development, from appropriately
experienced and motivated persons or parties, to ensure the timely and strategic development of Victorian
live performers” (Deloitte, 2011, p. 49).
There is a need for the industry to develop an education process to promote an understanding among
performers of successful ways to generate the demand for live performances that will yield a financial
return. The market place has become saturated with contemporary live bands seeking an opportunity to
perform and in their early careers bands provide free performances. Although they are gaining experience,
it has been observed that performers are not developing at a satisfactory pace to be considered to be
progressing in a career. Accordingly, the report recommends, “a need for increased professional
development courses and mentoring from suitable parties, where performers are taught to better manage
their own success and improve career trajectory” and “that performers are in many ways a business, and
that any business requires a minimum level of management skill” (Deloitte, 2011, p. 50).
This exploratory study of live music has centred around the performance bands’ culture in the State of
Victoria, Australia. It has highlighted the professional development opportunities that are available through
Victorian government departments and monetary grants, the endorsement of these activities by the Deloitte
(2011) report and the music business courses offered under the National Music Training Package. The
$AUD501 million contribution made to the Victorian economy by the contemporary live music industry
has clearly made an impact, compared with the actual financial input. Continual promotion of organised
workplace professional development and mentoring services that involve an ongoing conversation with the
participants, where the experienced support the early career performers, is an approach that will benefit the
career development of musicians and allied members of the live music industry.
Australian College of the Arts. (2011). Bachelor of Arts (Creative Industries Management) Music Business.
Retrieved from
Australian Government. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (2011).
CUS30309 Certificate III in Music Business. Retrieved from
Australian Government. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (2011).
CUS40309 Certificate IV in Music Business. Retrieved from
Australian Government. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (2011).
CUS50309 Diploma of Music Business. Retrieved from
Australian Government. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (2011).
CUS60309 Advanced Diploma of Music Business. Retrieved from
Australian Qualifications Framework. (2011).
Arts Victoria Contemporary and Live Music Development. (2011). Retrieved from
Comte, M. (2010). Australian pianists. North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing.
Bennett, D. (2008). Understanding the classical music profession. Surrey: Ashgate.
Burt-Perkins, R. (2008). Students at a UK conservatoire of music: Working towards a ‘diverse employment
portfolio’? In D. Bennett & M. Hannan (Eds.), Inside outside downside up: Conservatoire training and
musicians’ work. (pp. 49-60). Perth: Black Swan Press.
Constable, J. (2005). The hat collector? No, it’s the multi-skilled arts administrator. Orchestral Outlook,
12(2), 6.
Cook, J. (2008). National orchestral training pathways. Retrieved from
Deloitte Access Economics & Arts Victoria. (2011). The economic, social and cultural contribution of
venue-based live music in Victoria. Retrieved from
Face the Music. (2011). Conference & Music Industry Summit. Retrieved from
Face The Music, 18th and 19th November, 2011 @ The Arts Centre. Personal email.
Forrest, D. (1999). Linking music education to the music industry. In N. Jeanneret & K. Marsh (Eds.),
Proceedings of the XII National Conference. Opening the Umbrella: An Encompassing View of Music
Education. (pp. 54-58). Baulkham Hills: Australian Society for Music Education.
FReeZA. (2011). Welcome to FReeZA.
Johnsson, M. & Hager, P. (2006). Navigating the wilderness of becoming professional. Retrieved from
Huhtanen, K. (2008). Constructing a conscious identity in instrumental teacher training. In D. Bennett & M.
Hannan (Eds.), Inside outside downside up: Conservatoire training and musicians’ work. (pp. 1-10). Perth:
Black Swan Press.
Huhtanen, K. (2010). Towards creative entrepreneurship. In M. Hannan (Ed.) The Musician in Creative and
Education Spaces of the 21st Century. Draft Proceedings of the 18th International Seminar of Commission
for the Education of the Professional Musician, ISME. (pp. 72-76)
Life in the Real World: Expanding the Purview of Music Careers. (2010). Abstracts. 29th ISME World
Conference, Beijing China. (pp. 276-278).
Matters, G. & Curtis, D. (2008). A study into the assessment and reporting of employability skills of senior
secondary students. ACER. Retrieved from
Music Council of Australia. Music Career Wiki. Professional development. Retrieved from
Music Victoria. (2011). Music business skills survey. Retrieved from
Rood, D. (The Age 10 August 2011) Music big business in Victoria. p. 3
Small Business Victoria. (2011). Victoria’s Small Business Festival. Retrieved from
Triantafyllaki, A. (2010). Advanced music-training institutions as landscapes for performance teachers’
professional career development: The case of Greece. In Proceedings of the 18th International Seminar of
Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician (CEPROM), International Society for Music
Education (ISME). The Musician in Creative and Education Spaces of the 21st Century, 86-91.
Watson, A. & Forrest, D. (2004). Preparing Musicians to Make New Sound Worlds within School Music
Curricula in Australia. In O. Musumeci (Comp.), Preparing musicians for new sound worlds. (pp. 227-244).
ISME: Nedlands.
Weller, J. (2004). The whole musician: Journey to authentic vocation. In O. Musumeci (Comp.), Preparing
musicians for new sound worlds. (pp. 245-256). ISME: Nedlands.
Weller, J. (2008). Creating a life in music: Theory to praxis. In D. Bennett & M. Hannan (Eds.), Inside
outside downside up: Conservatoire training and musicians’ work. (pp. 149-158). Perth: Black Swan Press.
Poster Session Abstracts
Flow while Teaching and Learning
in Individual Tuition Settings
Francisco Cardoso
Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa / Institute of Education (University of London)
The experience of Flow while teaching and learning a musical instrument has already been theoretically
explored by researchers. However, no studies have yet been conducted to observe if flow experiences really
occurred while those activities were being held. The nature of teaching and learning activities is different
from the nature of the activities studied previously by researchers on flow and optimal experiences, which
might raise doubts about the possibility of flow experiences by teachers and students. For this exploratory
study, 14 teachers and 14 students were interviewed regarding Flow experiences during instrumental
lessons. Results suggest that flow-like experiences actually do occur while teaching and learning.
Participants’ descriptions suggest, though, that these experiences may have special features and may not
fully fit in the typical description of flow experiences.
The Role of Information Technology in a
Brazilian Higher Education Music Program
Hermilo Pinheiro Santana
Faculdade Evangélica de Salvador (Evangelical College of Salvador), Bahia, Brazil.
This paper’s aim is to provide information about the profile of the students studying Information
Technology Applied to Music at the Evangelical College of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Twelve students in the
Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education participated and answered a questionnaire. Through this
questionnaire we will know how they use the information technology in music education. Keywords:
Information Technology, Musical Education, Finale, Notation Software, Brazil.
What do young musicians think, listening
to a music performance?
Elisabetta Piras
University of Bologna, Italy
This study is focused on the intellectual effort implied in young musicians’ approach when listening to a
musical performance. There are many studies about performance, but there are not clear studies about the
aspects of analysis and consciousness in young musicians’ performance. Starting from the concept of
“performance” itself, Clark defines performance as a “concrete shape of a musical thought” (Clark, 2002). I
explore the nature of young musicians’ listening and thinking about music performance in order to
investigate and analyse, sensitive and conscious thought about music. Among the many important theories
about the thought implied in music performance, some scholar thinks that it could be an implicit process,
carried out in relation to previous musical experiences (Meyer, 1973); others think that complete analysis
involving all the parameters of the score is necessary (Berry, 1986; Narmour, 1988); while others believe a
mediation exists between these two aspects, as a sort of informed intuition (Rink, 2002; 2007). That
premised, some questions emerge: While the activities of performing and listening are different, could we
recognize one or more of these assumptions in a young musician listening to a performance?
What do young musicians know about the composition that they are listening to? What kind of analysis do
they operate in listening to a performance? What do they know about interpretative choices? How do they
are conscious, in general, of the analysis and of the expressive features of a composition?
To explore these questions a questionnaire was given to a large sample of music students, who play
different instruments in professional music schools. They are from 13 to 16 years old.
The questionnaire is articulated in two parts: the first is about the general concept of performance: different
aspects of analysis and interpretative choices linked to expressive features of the pieces. The second is
about the analysis and the interpretative choices linked to expressive features of a small piano piece
(Aufschwung from Fantasiestücke by Schumann) after listening to a performance of it. The results show
that Rink’s assumption regarding an informed intuition could be applicable in listening to a composition.
The paper will expose in detail the statistical analysis of the responses given to each question. Many
interesting data especially about the interpretative choices encourage us to study in depth the affinity
between analytic and performing strategies in young music students.
The Cultural Connotation of the Dulcimer:
International Features and Chinese Characters
Yanfang Zhao
Xiamen University, China
The author researched the history and present situation of the dulcimer in Europe and China. The dulcimer
is a musical instrument found in many areas of the world. In this paper, the author describes the dulcimer’s
history in different countries, exploring its current usage and the changes and innovations it has gone
through after it was brought to China. The paper also illustrates international features and Chinese cultural
characteristics of the dulcimer.
Author Biographies
Christina Anagnostopoulou is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Music Studies, University of
Athens, where she teaches music informatics, music psychology, and the music in the community module
described in this paper. She holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh in computational and cognitive
modelling of music analysis. She has taught at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and from 2002
to 2006 she was a lecturer at Queen's Belfast, where she received the University's teaching award. She is
the co-leader of the Music Informatics and Cognition Research Group at the University of Athens.
Dawn Bennett is Research Professor and Director of the Creative Workforce Initiative at Curtin University
in Perth, Australia. Research interests include the characteristics of work in the creative sector, the role of
identity development in student engagement, music education at post-secondary level, and the impact of
research frameworks on the academic workforce. In 2010 she became an Australian Learning and
Teaching Council Fellow, extending her work on identity development and student engagement to students
across multiple disciplines. A viola player, Dawn serves on several editorial boards including the
International Journal of Music Education. She is a member of the MusicCouncil of Australia and
a commissioner for the ISME Teaching and Learning Forum.
Diana Blom, Ian Stevenson and John Encarnacao all teach in the B. Music program at the University of
Western Sydney. A recent institutional change in assessment policy, to the use of criteria and standardsbased assessment, was the impetus for the paper. The paper adds to other published papers on assessment –
student-chosen criteria for peer assessing group music-making, rock and jazz, in rehearsal and performance
(Blom and Encarnacao, 2012), peer assessment of solo performance (Blom, 2004), and work on evaluating
creative work in digital musics (Stevenson, 2007).
Judith Brown is a Senior Lecturer at the Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music within
CQUniversity, Australia. She regularly lectures in piano, studio teaching methods, musicianship and
history. As a pianist, Judith has performed with some of Australia’s leading classical musicians and is also
an accomplished performer of music theatre and cabaret genres. In 2009 she was the recipient of the
CQUniversity Vice-Chancellor’s Teacher of the Year Award, and in 2010 she received an Australian
Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) Citation for outstanding contributions to student learning. Her
research interests include performance pedagogy and lifelong learning in the performing arts and she has
published internationally and nationally on these issues.
Francisco Cardoso is currently a teacher and lecturer at the Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa (Lisbon
Superior Music School) where he is a former co-head of the Community Music Department and currently
involved in the counseling department. He previously taught at Aveiro University for four years, and at the
Lisbon Conservatoire for ten years. He served one year as the Portuguese representative for ISME and
conducts life-learning courses for music teachers throughout Portugal. Cardoso holds a bachelor degree in
Music Education, a Master of Arts in Choral Education and is currently finishing his PhD at the Institute of
Education, London.
Glen Carruthers is Dean of the Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, Ontario,
Canada). He was Dean of Music of the School of Music at Brandon University (Brandon, Manitoba,
Canada) from 1998 to 2008 and prior to that he was founding Chair of the Department of Music at
Lakehead University (Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada). Carruthers’ dual interests in music education and
musicology are reflected in publications in both disciplines, in such journals as The Musical Times,
Canadian Music Educator, Canadian University Music Review, International Journal of Music Education,
Journal of Musicology and The Music Review. He has presented conference papers and guest lectures
across Canada and the United States, and in France, Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands,
Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Serbia, Italy and Spain. Carruthers is past-president of the Canadian
University Music Society and has served on the boards many regional and national arts organizations.
He has been a member of the ISME Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician since
Eddy Chong is an associate professor at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological
University (Singapore). A theory major, he teaches primarily music theory and analysis at the diploma,
undergraduate and postgraduate levels; he is currently developing a multicultural music theory curriculum.
His work as a music educator focuses on teacher education at the secondary level; he has served as
consultants on curriculum matters to both schools as well as the Singapore Ministry of Education.
Additionally, he takes special interest in the music pedagogical use of technology and Web 2.0 tools. These
researches have been presented at international conferences and published in book chapters and journals.
As a performing musician, Eddy is a piano accompanist, church organist and choir conductor. He serves as
a commissioner of CEPROM from 2008.
Erika Donald is a PhD candidate in Music Education at McGill University in Montréal, Canada, where she
received a master’s degree in Cello Performance (2008) and teaches as a Course Lecturer and Conservatory
cello instructor. She is affiliated with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and
Technology (CIRMMT) and has held the Weston Fellowship in Teaching and Learning in Higher
Education and SSHRC masters and doctoral scholarships. Her research focuses on movement and motor
learning in music performance, technology-enhanced feedback, and effective teaching strategies. Erika’s
musical and research interests have led to a variety of creative and research projects and collaborations.
John Drummond has been Blair Professor of Music at the University of Otago in New Zealand since
1976. He is a composer of opera (most recently A Schoolgirl Revolution for the Children’s Opera of Prague
in 2011), an opera director (most recently Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro in July 2012), and a music educator.
John has been involved with ISME since the 1980s, as a member and chair of the Community Music
Commission, as a member of the ISME Board, and as President from 2000 to 2002. John attended
CEPROM Seminars in 1996, 1998 and 2010. He has been a member of the Cultural Diversity in Music
Education Network for many years.
Francis Dubé earned his Ph.D. in Music Education on the Mnemonic Learning of Pianists at Laval
University in 2006. In the same year, he was named Assistant Professor of Didactic Instrumental at Laval
University. In the field of research, Francis Dubé is interested in Piano Memorization, the teaching of
Healthy Postural Attitudes in piano, and various themes linked to the training of the musician-pedagogues.
His research is subsidized by the FQRSC. In collaboration with Maité Moreno, he also has just obtained a
major grant for the construction of a Research Laboratory in Ear Training and Didactic Instrumental
(LaRFADI) from the CFI.
David Forrest PhD is Professor of Music Education at RMIT University. He is a member of the National
Executive and Publications Editor of the Australian Society for Music Education. He was Commissioner
and past Chair of the ISME Policy Commission, and a member of the Board of ISME from 2006 to 2010.
He has recently published The curator in the academy (2010), The Doctoral Journey in Art Education:
Reflections on Doctoral Studies by Australian and New Zealand Art Educators (2010), Journeying:
Doctoral Journeys in Music Education (2009), as well as three books on the Russian composer and
educator D. B. Kabalevsky.
Patrick K. Freer is Associate Professor of Choral Music Education and Coordinator of Music Education at
Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. He has authored over 70 publications in music education
pedagogy, research, and philosophy. He is Academic Editor and Chair of the Editorial Board for Music
Educators Journal, and serves on the Editorial Boards for several journals including the International
Journal for Music Education.
Michael Hannan is Professor of Contemporary Music at Southern Cross University in Australia. He is a
composer, keyboard performer and music researcher. His research interests include Australian
contemporary music, film music theory and analysis, the work practices of musicians, and the education of
popular musicians. He is the author of The Australian Guide to Careers in Music (UNSW Press, 2003), was
Chair of the Music Council of Australia from 2003 to 2004 and Chair of the ISME Commission for the
Education of the Professional Musician from 2004 to 2006 and 2008 to 2010.
Diane Hughes is a Lecturer in Vocal Studies and the Program Director for Contemporary Music at
Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Diane has an extensive background in singing pedagogy, and has
been an invited speaker at conferences and seminars on a range of issues relating to singing in popular
culture musics (PCM). She bases her pedagogical practice on understandings and research in voice science,
and views healthy vocal production as being essential for contemporary vocal artistry. Several of her
publications detail research findings, pedagogical considerations and strategies to facilitate the
development of vocal artistry in PCM. Her work includes artist development, recording and collaborative
Kaija Huhtanen is principal lecturer of music pedagogy in Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty
of Music. She studied piano in Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, and gained piano diploma in 1982. Her debut
concert took place in Helsinki in 1983. She continued her career as a performer in Finland and worked as a
piano teacher e.g., in Sibelius Academy and Turku Conservatory. Her post-gradual piano performance
studies took place in London 1988-1989 with Carola Grindea and Gordon Fergus-Thompson. After
working several years as a piano teacher Huhtanen returned to Sibelius Academy to work as a researcher.
She completed her Ph.D. in 2004. She publishes regularly articles and participates to conferences,
nationally and internationally. Her post-doc research interest has focused on musician’s professional
education, especially on identity formation. Her most recent research theme has been entrepreneurship
among musicians and other artists. Huhtanen has been a CEPROM commissioner since 2008. In 2011
Huhtanen was invited to be a board member of the Finnish Society of Music Education (FiSME). At the
moment she is working on her MA studies in church music, in Sibelius Academy.
Don Lebler is Deputy Director, Learning and Teaching at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith
University. He is an associate professor in popular and contemporary music and previously worked as a
drumkit player and rhythmic percussionist in a variety of contexts and as a studio musician and
programmer on television, film, advertising and recording projects for commercial release. Recent research
includes exploration of the prior learning of music students across a range of higher education cohorts, and
a series of studies of pedagogical innovations in a popular music degree program. Assessment in Higher
Music Education is the main focus for current research.
Maggie Melissari is a full-time music teacher in primary education, and a post-graduate student in
Cognitive Science at the University of Athens. She holds a degree in Musicology from the Department of
Music Studies, University of Athens, and a piano performance diploma from the Greek Conservatoire. She
also works in various community music placements, including psychiatric rehabilitation and Roma children
daycare centres.
Annie Mitchell is a Senior Lecturer at Southern Cross University, Course Coordinator of the Bachelor of
Contemporary Music Honours Degree, and was the 2010-2011 School of Arts and Social Sciences Director
of Teaching and Learning. Her research interests include third stream composition, jazz piano performance,
film score writing, contemporary music theory, composition and arranging, music pedagogy, adult
education and edutourism. In 2011 Annie received the Vice-Chancellor’s Citation for Outstanding
Contribution to Student Learning. She has a PhD in Music, Masters Degree in Education, Bachelor of Arts
(Music), Diploma of Education and is a Principal Teacher II (TAFE Queensland). A professional musician
and composer, Annie has worked as an entertainer, pianist, vocalist and hostess on many North Queensland
islands and resorts. Annie is double bassist with the North Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra and the
Lismore Symphony Orchestra and pianist with the Northern Rivers Big Band. Annie was a founding
member of the Tropical North Queensland Institute of TAFE’s Faculty for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Studies’ Contemporary Music Program.
Rosie Perkins is a Research Associate at the Centre for Performance Science, Royal College of Music, UK,
where she researches and teaches widely across music education and psychology. Following her BMus and
MA degrees at the University of Sheffield, UK, Rosie completed her PhD at the Faculty of Education,
University of Cambridge, in 2011. Rosie's current research interests include musicians' career development,
musicians' wellbeing and identity, the learning cultures of higher music education and the role of musicmaking in enhancing wellbeing. In addition to her role as a CEPROM commissioner since 2008, Rosie is a
member of the research group 'Lifelong Learning in Music and the Arts' in the Netherlands and regularly
presents her research at international conferences.
Pamela Pike is Assistant Professor of Piano Pedagogy at Louisiana State University, where she
coordinates the group-piano and piano pedagogy program. Pike has extensive experience teaching piano to
students of all ages, both privately and in group settings. In 2002 she founded the "Third-Age Piano
Program” for senior citizens to study piano in a group setting. Pike has been published in the International
Journal for Music Education, Music Education Research, Problems in Music Pedagogy, Clavier
Companion, and American Music Teacher. She has presented papers at conferences throughout Asia,
Europe, and North America. Pike is chair of the Adult Learning Committee for the National Conference on
Keyboard Pedagogy and is currently serving a two-year term as president of the Baton Rouge Music
Teachers Association. Research interests include distance learning, teaching older adults, group teaching,
and cognition and human learning.
Elisabetta Piras, pianist, teacher, and musicologist, began piano studies in childhood and has studied with
internationally renowned masters. She performs both as soloist and in chamber ensemble, obtaining
approval from audiences and critics. Along with performing, she teaches piano and music education to
children and adults. She graduated in musicology from the University of Bologna. Her research interests
include the psychology of music related to the teaching of music, with a particular focus on the
psychological aspects of musical performance, and music of the twentieth century. She regularly
participates in national and international conferences, and collaborates with various institutions, including
the Conservatory of Turin and the University of Bologna. Since 2010 she has served as the National
Secretary of SIEM, Italian Society for Music Education.
Hermilo Pinheiro Santana was born in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in
Composition and Conducting from Federal University of Bahia (2007). He earned a Master's Degree in
Composition from Federal University of Bahia (2010). He taught at the Federal University of Sergipe from
2010 to 2011 and currently teaches at the Evangelical College of Salvador (2011-2012). His orchestral
compositions were performed by the Symphony Orchestra of the Federal University of Bahia (2003-2006)
and one of his compositions will be performed in September, 2012 by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Minas
Angeliki Triantafyllaki completed her doctoral studies in Music Education at the University of Cambridge
in 2007. Since then, she has worked as a researcher in the UK on a range of projects in creative and
performing arts education. In March 2010, she joined the Department of Music Studies, University of
Athens as a Teaching Associate in Music Education and is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher on the EU
project MIROR at the same Department. Areas of research interest include musical creativity, teacher
identities and knowledge, musicians' careers and new technologies and learning.
Amanda Watson PhD is an Instrumental Music Teacher with the Department of Education and Early
Childhood Development, Victoria, Australia. She has taught Classroom Music at primary and secondary
levels and initially trained as an Early Childhood Educator. Her research interests include values education,
music and arts curriculum development in schools, and developing professional standards for music
teachers. She is a member of the Committee of Management and a former multi-term President of the
Council of Professional Teaching Associations of Victoria, a Board Member for the Australian Professional
Teachers Association and a Member of the Victorian Institute of Teaching Accreditation Committee.
Janis Weller, Chair of CEPROM from 2010-12, Chairs the Liberal Arts Division of McNally Smith
College of Music, in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she also teaches the Music Performance Division capstone
course, Creating a Life in Music, and woodwinds. She has developed and taught innovative courses in
career development and music business at the University of Minnesota, Augsburg College, and the
University of St. Thomas; and flute at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and MacPhail Center for
Music, where she is a former dean of individual and group instruction. She has presented workshops and
papers and published internationally and in the U.S. Her research interests focus on artist transitions,
performance wellness, and new technologies. As a flutist, Janis has premiered over 100 new works and
been part of over 30 commissions. She performs with Improvestra, the Crocus Hill Trio, and as a freelancer.
Yanfang Zhao teaches at the Xiamen University in China. She is the Dean of the music department and
chairs the Xiamen Dulcimer Society as well as the Taiwan Straits Yangqin Research Center. As a
distinguished yangqin player, she has performed numerous times with the Xiamen Philharmonic, and given
solo recitals and other major performances in various parts of China. Having founded the Xiamen Yangqin
Society in 1997, Zhao has led her students in performances at many international yangqin festivals and has
attended related international conferences in Europe, America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. She has
published three books and more than ten journal articles on yangqin, and frequently lectures on the subject
across China.
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