My Pretend Music School

I’m not employed by a university. I perform and compose music. That’s my job. So it’s easier for me to speak out in an unfiltered way about music schools, their curriculum, and why I think it should be different. No one can fire me for speaking my mind, so I’m going to let it fly. Here it goes:

“That’s how we’ve always done it.”
“We can’t lose who we are as an institution.”
“We have expectations that we need to meet.”

These are all answers I’ve heard from real life music school deans and professors when asked why music schools haven’t evolved. They always get a little uncomfortable when I ask questions like, “Why is the curriculum the same today as it was 50 years ago?” “Shouldn’t we evolve with the changing culture around us?” “Why is the orchestral repertoire so highly studied while the popular music genre is completely ignored?” These questions can sometimes push people’s buttons. I once was asked, “Well, if you think things need to change, what would YOUR ideal music school look like?”

I’ve thought a little bit about this, and have come up with some ideas. Here’s what my pretend music school would look like:

  • Every student at my pretend music school is required to take a class in Audio / Visual production: How to operate a camera, sync recorded audio to video, learn about aperture / brightness / editing / splicing / etc. Why a required A/V class? Other than playing live, online videos are currently the biggest platform for reaching new audiences, which is critical to a musician’s survival. If this means I omit a semester of music history from my pretend music school’s curriculum, then so be it. IT’S THAT IMPORTANT. Just look at Evan Monroe Chapman, a perfect example of a musician / videographer / completely awesome and creative person. Evan has created a platform to showcase his music skills because of his video skills. Since we don’t live in the same area, I might not know how sweet Evan is at percussion if it weren’t for his awesome videos. Now, I follow his career and own his record. I’m a fan. At my music school, every student will develop these skills and graduate with a basic online portfolio, including a YouTube channel, SoundCloud page, and a website.
  • Career Counseling: Every student at my school will have frequent meetings with career counselors. This will be more than just a one time meeting to discuss interview skills like “make your weaknesses your strengths…” It will be a comprehensive plan to figure out student goals, and more importantly, actively doing things to reach those goals, while in school. By the time a student graduates, they should have already planted seeds to build their career. This could mean releasing a solo album, commissioning a fellow student composer, starting a band, creating an outreach program at inner-city schools, or taking orchestral auditions while in school. My career counselors will also be active in the field of music. I want my students to get advice from people presently doing things in the field.
  • Less large ensembles, more chamber music. Given the amount of orchestra & concert band jobs currently available, why does a music student have to take so many semesters of large ensembles? While certainly important historical and pedogogical genres of music, the amount of time typically spent in these groups doesn’t equate to the amount of jobs actually available in those fields. Last time I checked, the amount of chamber groups are growing while the number of orchestras are decreasing. Shouldn’t a school’s curriculum adjust to meet these changes? My pretend school will have large ensembles, but will have a focus on chamber music; string quartets, quintets, rock bands, jazz combos, mixed ensembles, ukulele band, whatever. Maybe my students will be in charge of choosing what their chamber group is like; what genre they play, what music they play, where they play, their instrumentation, etc.
  • Music Theory: Composing & Arranging. Having experience composing & arranging can create supplemental sources of income for musicians, i.e. marching band arrangements, chamber music arrangements of larger works, and even writing your own music, which gives you your own voice as a performer. Just remember, when someone asks you to arrange Sia’s Chandelier for piano and cello for their wedding, you should be able to do it. I mean, why not have that skill and make some extra income? Maybe this means we axe that last semester of atonal theory in favor of some more practical theoretical skills that we can immediately utilize in our post college lives.
  • My pretend music school will have pour over coffee and ice cream readily available at all times. These things make people happy. Ice cream.
  • Classical music will be a focus at my school, but so will other genres of music. For example, students should know how to play and improvise in many different styles. Don’t turn down gigs because you “don’t play rock”. You do want to make money, so you should have the skills to do so in many different musical contexts.
  • Which is why students will all improvise! Yep, that liberal arts class you hardly ever go to will not exist at my pretend music school. Instead, you’ll go to a class focusing on improvisation and creativity. (Not that liberal arts classes are a bad thing! It’s good to be well rounded, but if your liberal arts class has absolutely nothing to do with what you want to be doing, you probably shouldn’t be paying for it.)
  • Of course, there are private lessons with really great faculty members at my school. You have to be really good at your instrument! Scales, arpeggios, technical exercises, standard repertoire for your instrument, etc. My band member Patrick Laird, who is one of the most accomplished rock cellists I know of, says he wouldn’t be able to do what he does without the strict classical training he received from his private teacher at Eastman. So yes, you still have to practice and be really good!
  • Eurhythmics: Eurhythmics is required. If you can’t walk, clap, and sing in time, you don’t deserve a degree from my pretend music school.
  • Required Music Business classes. Do I even have to explain this one?
  • Standing Room Only Concert Halls: Yes, my school will have standing room only concert & recital halls, with a bar readily available. Cheering will be encouraged. Have a good time. Music.
  • On that note, my school will have a bi-weekly open mic night to encourage student performances. None of this one-recital-a-year business. If you’re at a music school, you should be performing all of the time, on a regular basis. That’s how you get better at performing.
  • My music school will be located somewhere where the weather is perfect. Perfect weather!
  • The DMA: I’ve thought long and hard about whether my school would offer a DMA degree. OK, maybe I didn’t think super hard about it, but I did think about it! I started thinking about the amount of DMA graduates currently in the world vs. how many jobs are actually available. It is scary to think about. Do I really want to send even more DMA graduates out into the world and encourage even more national student loan debt? Put them in a position where they potentially start their lives with what amounts to a mortgage in a job market that is mainly producing adjunct jobs with no benefits? Sorry for being dark, but it seems the education system in this country has developed a “must have” DMA protocol for acquiring any sort of college teaching job, even at the community college level… That’s CRAZY to me. Maybe not to you. But it is to me. It’s also especially startling when I think about the fact that none of my former college percussion teachers have DMA degrees. None of them. And they are all wildly successful, master teachers and performers, and essentially shaped the landscape of classical percussion music. But times change, and since colleges are in the business of selling degrees, they want you to have one. I guess that makes sense. I guess…perhaps a blog post for another days…For grins, let’s pretend my pretend school has a DMA program. Here are three things it would focus on:
  • Performance: If you graduate with a DMA from my school, you damn well better be a beast at your instrument. If you’re not, how will you compete with your beastly peers from other schools? My pretend school’s DMA’s will be beastly performers.
  • Teaching: If the purpose of acquiring a DMA is to teach at a college, shouldn’t your degree be less about the academics outside of your field and more about the stuff in your field? (I’m not sure a DMA candidate should spend months on end studying for a test that is mostly irrelevant to their end-goal.) Shouldn’t it be about bettering yourself as a teacher? Building a sustainable studio & program? Focusing on your field of study; repertoire, teaching pedagogy, lesson plans, etc.? My pretend school will focus on the actual stuff you need for your job, which ultimately leads to becoming a great teacher, which should be the definitive end goal of a DMA program. My pretend DMA’s will be beastly teachers and educators.
  • Recruiting / Outreach is the third thing my DMA program focuses on, and probably every degree at my school. What does that even mean? Well, why would a college hire you if you can’t fundamentally rally people behind your cause? Once you get a job, you still have to get students to want to study with you, to want to come to Such and Such college to learn from you. If you can’t keep the numbers up, your job could very well diminish or get cut altogether. If you don’t have the personal skills to get out there, meet people, community build, and inspire people to want to study with you, then it will be hard to land a job, or worse, keep a job. So maybe some of those irrelevant tests and courses are replaced with seminars and classes in interpersonal skills and community building. My pretend DMA’s will be beastly interviewees and community leaders.
  • Ice cream and coffee. I know I said that already.
Of course, there are schools out there starting to break the mold, which is great! I for one extremely value my education from Eastman School of Music, as it’s always been a school aware of the pulse of our industry and one that encourages creativity. (Bands like Break of Reality, Alarm Will Sound, Jack Quartet, and Sound Exchange all started at Eastman, so that says something to me. And yes, I called them bands.) Mannes School of Music has updated it’s curriculum significantly, which is awesome! So it’s happening, but I would love to see it happen at a much faster rate across the country.

What if your school isn’t evolving? That doesn’t mean you can’t. Host your own open mic night, write some music even if you don’t know what you’re doing, start a band, hire a public speaking coach to work on your interpersonal skills, or start a YouTube channel.

Got anymore ideas for an ideal music school? Speak out and share them. Maybe if we create enough noise, we can at least turn some heads and create more self-evaluation from the schools we invest our time, energy, money, and futures in. That’s what I’m hoping for.

  • Ivan Trevino, Sept. 20, 2014

106 thoughts on “My Pretend Music School

    1. Really, though. Check out the Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music program and the Media, Writing, and Production Major.

  1. This was a very interesting, very passionate, and very controversial read! I enjoyed reading it! You’ve brought up points of which I’ve never thought before!

    1. I attended Berklee for a year as a trumpet player and classical vocalist. I transferred out of there because though it fed many of my needs, it DID NOT have any (of the three I tried) voice teachers able to provide its students with a strong technical background. Berklee needs to upgrade its attention towards the equal importance that classical music shares with jazz and how they both need each other to thrive. I don’t know any successful jazz vocalists who can’t sing coloratura etc, and that stuff just is not being taught to the voice students at Berklee.

  2. This is superb! I completely agree with you, especially when it comes to music business and tech courses. As a sting player, improvisation is a nonexistent expectation, yet any recording gig I am offered requires the skills to improvise.

    I would throw one class into the mix: Extended Technique class. If musicians are too scared to perform contemporary classical music because they don’t know how to play it or appreciate it, we will continue this vicious cycle of ignoring our modern day composers.

  3. Yes to all, emphatically. Also, pretty much all of this is in play at Berklee, where I did my undergrad (that’s not to undermine your point at all—the world needs more institutions like that, so sign me up for your faculty when I finish my Masters in another couple years! Please!).

  4. Fabulous, Ivan! These ideas really hit home, especially in raising a musical teenager and trying to get up to speed on the A/V piece myself. A huge ditto for the Extended Techniques class idea. And one other addition: chocolate! 🙂

  5. Well Said! As long as schools of music keep treating the study of something like 15th century Burgundian chanson as being more important than teaching basic music business skills, music students will literally continue to be chained to the past.

  6. Interesting article. As someone who has spent time studying/teaching/performing at many universities I have found that all of the courses/focused you mention (expect ice cream and coffee + bar at recitals) are readily available for music students however they are not encouraged to take these courses. If you are an instrumental performance major your teachers would tend to wears the idea that spending as much time on your instrument as you can is the only objective and primary way to improve enough to become a professional musician. Therefore I hypothesize that the problem lies withint the educators not the “system.” Any major university has a recording facility, business classes, video classes, etc but many of these courses exist outside of the music school which to many profs is a waste of time and energy that you could spend “learning about music.” The other problem which I experienced firsthand as a student at the University of Miami, is that students tend to be lazy when it comes to taking courses outside of the music curriculum. It’s a chore to take an advanced course outside of music and I knew several great musicians who routinely failed simple courses and wouldn’t take advanced courses because the priorities the school
    lays out for you are misrepresented. If you are a student at a university it’s up to you to seek out these other courses, because they are available for you. Just my two cents, cheers!

  7. I left a comment on fb, but since you asked, I will leave one here too!
    I LOVE this- thank you so much! My mom runs a Music and Arts Conservatory, my sister was the concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony, my brother is a cellist, and I was a little piano prodigy until I discovered singing and words. I have never looked back.

    After receiving a gazillion letters from every day teachers who were using my songs in their classrooms, I put together IaBPm. The piano parts are fun to my songs (to get kids to practice), the vocal lines help kids learn to sing more fluidly, and the lyrics, I am told continually, “save their lives!” Kid you not. After a group of urban kids outside Detroit and their teacher sent me videos of what their class was doing with my songs, I got together with their teacher to co-create units any teachers can use. But it’s funny, as you point out it, I have received much more enthusiasm from NON music teachers. Things are starting to open up, as I write things down for the music TEACHERS haha. Now they are more interested! But doesn’t that seem backwards somehow?

    Thank you for writing this. We need to begin somewhere. I record kids on my wisdom tunes and make videos with them pitching in ideas. Then they go off with skills- so they can do their own! SO true we need to include the modern world when we teach music.

  8. These are things I consider every day in my life as a private teacher and freelancer! You discussed so many of the things that are points of contention for me with our current system of educating musicians, and things I know have to change! As programs continue to drag their feet, they are going to be shocked when we reach a point in 10, 15 or maybe 5 years where they HAVE to make these changes. These are all the reasons I have decided not to get a DMA (which I previously dreamed of having for years), and to continue working, doing “my own thing”, which is not a career as an orchestral musician, but so many other wonderful things pieced together! Thanks for bringing this topic into the spotlight!

  9. If you start from the assumption that the sole purpose of a higher education is to secure future employment, then this makes a lot of sense.

    1. Ben, I think this is an important point that is often overlooked when people are critiquing university programs.

      The problem I see is that too many programs award the Bachelor of Music in performance, which is classified as a “professional degree”. A professional degree prepares you for a career by refining a specific set of skills, much like a Bachelor of Music in music education leads to a teaching license. This as opposed to an academic degree that focuses on history, theory and research in a given academic field, which is what many of these programs are actually doing.

      Too many of these “professional” programs are not doing the job of preparing students with the applicable set of skills for their chosen career. Any professional degree intending to prepare students for the real world of working as a musician should certainly take heed to the points made in this blog. A/V skills are necessary to just APPLY to many performance opportunities at this point. Programs that want to offer an academic study of music in Western culture with an applied component of performing on an instrument should be reclassified, because they are not serving the purpose of a professional degree.

    2. Great point Ben! And this is a hot debate in higher education today. While I love Ivan’s pretend-curriculum, you can count me as one who believes that higher ed’s purpose is BOTH to prepare students for successful careers…and make them intelligent, well-spoken, well-written, broadly aware citizens. Alas, if a school can’t do both, I might lean toward the broad liberal arts side. History has shown that it’s these people who are ultimately more successful.

  10. Enjoyed this article. At the community music school where I currently teach, students have the option of taking a class in turntablism.

    Piano Instructor, Regent Park School of Music

  11. Have you checked out New England Conservatory of Music’s Dept. of Contemporary Improvisation? Ir’s been around since the late ’60’s and has done all you are asking since then… Also, CalArts.

      1. Fantastic ideas, Ivan – thanks for putting them down in a blog post! And I second the Santa Barbara idea…you and A probably need to make a visit out here, just in case this dream becomes a reality! 😉

  12. Lots to think about here…but your dig on the liberal arts is EXTREMELY shortsighted, to say the least.

    You realize that music can be inspired by anything, right?

    You realize that creative people can (must!) find connections between disparate fields, right? Which isn’t possible if they never attempt to expose themselves to ideas outside their field?

    You realize that a musical entrepreneur needs to learn how to communicate with non-musicians, too, right? And that a broad-based education can make that happen?

    I could go on…but these points should be plenty to convince any thinking person of the value of,well, thinking.

  13. Great article!!! Its a humorous look at a serious problem. Just for the record, at the Crane School here in upstate NY the cello studio is expected to improvise!!! And they do! But you are right, music school culture leans heavily towards orchestra and large ensembles as a method of instrumental training. This whole project is sort of self sustaining and at this point needs a fairly large kick in the pants to change–but I think change is coming. WIthout elaborating too much, I think that demographic and cultural realities are beginning to make a dent, its just really really slow–but things ARE changing!!!

    Also, there are a LOT of folks in the music ed world concerned about this very thing! Glad to hear it again from a different source!! Bravo!

    Matt Wexler, Professor of Cello
    The Crane School of Music, Potsdam, NY

  14. I support a culture that doesn’t require debt for learning. I think College music is becoming a dead ball. I did two degrees in music schools and found that the best stuff I learned was after school. I support public education for sure, but I also support people majoring in other things until the climate for musicians improves.

  15. I like the thought, it would be nice if all this existed in a school. In regards to eliminating the Liberal Arts classes, as much as I hated taking these classes, too often musicians are terrible at writing or presenting themselves as intelligent persons. This is especially when writing content for websites, teaching policies, grant proposals (or Kickstarter proposals) or even very often blog posts (I promise I’m not insinuating anything here). These skills are important in life, even when the class is covering books we will never remember.

  16. As evidenced by the comments, I think you’ve set up a straw man music school so your ideas seem radical. In reality, as you mention at the very end far from the catchy headline, a lot of schools are doing exactly what you propose. Instead of patting yourself on the back for ideas that literally dozens of schools have already incorporated in some fashion, why not do some actual research and commend the schools that are getting it right as a model for the others?

    1. I think the short answer to your question Brian is that while some schools are getting it right, a far greater number aren’t. Sure, one could dig up data, interview faculty and staff, crunch numbers, etc. But that would be (in my opinion) pointless when the vast number of music school grads who are either unemployed or have switched careers very clearly points to a systemic problem.

  17. Great post Ivan—thanks. It might interest you (and others) to know that I recently lost my job (yes, LOST MY JOB) at a major university after 3 high-performing years because of an article I wrote (which you already read Ivan—others see link below). My article focused on orchestras, and was mildly critical of music schools for leading students to believe they might have a career in a professional orchestra—which most won’t due to the lack of jobs and, more importantly, lack of professional orchestras. (I also criticized the current audition system for orchestras, which is hopelessly broken…but that’s a different issue.)

    The fact that I lost my job over this critique (in which I never even mentioned the university where I was employed) is a sad testament to the myopic and hopelessly outdated view of many university music schools. It also points to the relentless pressure many music school deans are under to recruit and graduate students.

    I agree to an extent with EMMAMAD’s comment above that liberal arts are important (as well as everything else you mention). After a long career outside of music (marketing and communications), I’m often struck by how, well…”limited” many of my musician acquaintances are in terms of their experience and knowledge of the world. Talk about music and they can go for hours…but step over to politics or science or philosophy, and they become deaf-mutes. (As EMMAMAD suggested, more knowledge outside music only helps us as musicians!)

    Finally, I’d add one vital course to the pretend-curriculum: I’d call it “Originality 101.” It would be an intensive study of just how vastly repetitive the music world is—how much of what is composed and performed (in any genre) is, in fact, not unique or original at all…but just endless restatement. Granted, some say all art is restatement, but “Originality 101″ would be about going beyond convention in any genre and (at least) creating music that is less obviously derivative of some other previously-existing music. 🙂

    Here’s the link to the article I mentioned above:

  18. I truly hope that your pretend school can exist with free tuition and board for very qualified student! Just a few suggestions: language classes, especially if you are a singer; pedagogy, if your beastly DMAs are to teach instead of performing (you seem to contradict yourself); and an affiliated large hedge fund that is willing to loan $ at low interest rates for students to be able afford good instruments! Please include something about a vocal and conducting program!

  19. I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the response to my blog post. In the past 36 hours, “My Pretend Music School” has been read over 20,000 times. I realize my pretend school isn’t perfect, but I’m glad it has struck a nerve and created dialogue.

    I’ve received feedback from people all across the country, from college graduates who completely relate to the post, current students who are realizing the landscape they live in, and folks who have opposing views. All good things.

    I’m sorry I didn’t mention the dozens of schools that already have a forward thinking curriculum. I applaud them all! My blog post wasn’t about those schools. It’s about the hundreds of schools with antiquated curriculums. That’s a serious problem and exactly why I wrote my post.

    So grateful for the response and I hope it continues to create dialogue and change within the college music curriculum.


    p.s. thank you Amanda! Our late night conversations about the music business kind of turned into something, huh? Lucky to have you, your brilliant ideas, and your amazing salsa <3

  20. I attended CalArts in the ’70s, and got an education pretty close to the one you’re describing. When the school opened, the program was not very defined, which left students and teachers free to do what mattered to them. (Interestingly, at first nobody wanted to take theory and nobody wanted to teach it, so it didn’t happen until somehow the realization dawned that maybe this was a necessary subject.) My bassoon teacher, Bill Douglas, was an improvisor, so I got a little experience with that. Some students formed jazz groups, even though there was no formal jazz program at that time. Some of the best and biggest influences on my learning were faculty musicians from other cultures: West Africa (I played and danced and sang a lot of that music), North and South India, Java, Bali. I played lots of new music, lots of chamber music, quite a bit of Baroque and earlier music, and not a lot of the standard repertoire. The school was small, so we could just barely put an orchestra together. That was lucky; orchestra didn’t dominate. I sang in the choir. I tried making some electronic music. I composed for dance pieces. And all around me people were making all manner of non-standard music, drawing on lots of different traditions and energies. There was even a fledgling business-of-music class, but I didn’t take it.

    CalArts has developed and matured, and I suspect its program is more defined now, but I believe its intentions and focus have stayed pretty much the same. Lots of new music, lots of styles, opportunities to try lots of things, a big influence from world music. And now there is a well-regarded small-group jazz program.

    Maybe the most important single thing I learned at CalArts was an attitude toward music. A lot of the faculty performed music in a very expressive, communicative, colorful way. I can’t remember if they talked much about this, but one of the priorities was expressive character. I absorbed the assumption that the purpose of technique was to serve expression, and that a musical performance ought to have personality, individuality. This was true across all periods and styles.

    Even though I didn’t play much of the standard orchestra repertoire at CalArts, my chamber music and new music experience prepared me well to make a good part of my living playing in orchestras. Sometimes I found myself playing a famous piece that I had never heard, but it was okay. I had learned how to listen, how to fit together with other players, how to get on board with what a piece of music was doing. So I became convinced that musicians-in-training don’t need endless orchestra experience. And when playing new pieces with professional orchestras, I sometimes felt that I had an advantage: I had played extended techniques, complex rhythms, and strange melodies, and it seemed that some of my colleagues had not. (But you know what? They figured it out.)

    Even in those first years at CalArts, several built-in conflicts became clear: (1)There’s a tension between the need to spend a lot of time getting very, very good at something and the need to have a variety of experiences; (2)Structures like requirements and specializations can support learning, but they also limit possibilities; (3)It’s good to give students room to follow their own instincts and proclivities, but there are also valuable things that students don’t even know about; (4)Requiring a course has a way of sucking all the life out of the topic; (5)Many of the most valuable lessons come from unexpected, non-required activities; (6)Taking a course in something is not necessarily the best way to learn it; (7)None of us knows much about what will turn out to be valuable for ourselves, let alone anybody else.

  21. Ivan – This is fantastic! I have been a working musician for the last 21 years in the Boston area and think exactly the same way you do. I just posted something on Facebook last night asking for some feedback and two people referred me to this article/blog. The ONLY thing I somewhat disagree with is about the DMA. (I do not have one, so I’m not defending from that perspective.) The musical areas outside of your immediate field should be studied during this degree. The problem is (what you’ve outlined) too many schools are now requiring a DMA in order to get a full time position when those positions aren’t often available. So there is a glutton in the market of people with DMA degrees that can’t find a position. Is being an expert in and outside of your area of expertise necessary to teach? I don’t think so. So I think that the bigger issue is not what is taught on the DMA level (which varies greatly from school to school) it’s that a DMA is required for these jobs in the first place! There’s nothing wrong with a DMA and becoming an “expert” but now that’s not always the case. Since it’s often required in order to acquire a full time academic position (having the degree guarantees absolutely nothing) many schools offer easy DMAs in order to cash in on the need to have this degree. Simply stated – the DMA should not be required for many (not all) of these positions. (Which we’re both saying.) But I believe that if you do obtain a DMA you should study a wide range of topics, even outside of your immediate area of expertise, to become an expert in music. Sad part is, there are many people nowadays with a DMA – some are true experts and are worthy of the title “Dr. so-and-so” and many are not. The DMA has been dumbed down, in a sense, because it has been forced into being a commodity. There are some true experts with DMAs, some who are very close to me, but there are many others that got the degree only because it was a requirement for employment and/or got it from a school that makes it easy to get the piece of paper that states you have a DMA. Just my opinion.

  22. And there should only be about 10 music schools out there. Colleges are stealing money from students by offering degrees they have no business offering.

  23. I am in shock not just by the thoughts expressed in this article but by the amount of ignorance there’s around, judging by the article’s positive reception. This piece can only be the product of someone whose lack of information and culture is inversely proportional to his sense of entitlement. Anyone has the right to express his/her opinions but not a high dose of common sense is needed to realize that just having gone through music school does not make one an expert in curriculum development or provides enough experience to determine what a model music school should be. Grow up. Read more, listen more, watch art movies, go to museums, expand your horizons. Schools are NOT factories aimed at producing skilled workers. Schools should be centers for intellectual and artistic growth.

    1. Okay, then let’s try this. I’m a professional musician and teacher, in my mid 40s, who has taught at seven colleges/universities over the course of my career and has been fortunate to perform with world class musicians and ensembles in a bunch of styles, regularly. Many important things are offered in the college curriculums, where I have taught and where I went to school, to educate the students that matriculate at these schools, but the one thing that has been missing from all of them is practical, real world skills. No one knows what to expect when they get out beyond preparing for auditions for orchestras that are rapidly disappearing. A few of us, and Ivan Trevino is one of them, have been making a living in music. We have strong opinions about this because we’ve figured this out, at least enough to survive – but of course always know there is more to learn. You can educate students to the nth degree, but if they are unemployable when they graduate – everyone loses. Actually, that’s not true. The university got their tuition or the loan company is making waaaaay more than they ever lent to begin with…so I guess not everyone loses. We all need the education that many schools offer, but nowadays – with so many people doing the exact same thing – we need much more than that! But hey, if you are part of curriculum development then you are most likely a full time faculty member that, in many cases, doesn’t have to deal with the real world – because you’ve got tenure and a direct deposit coming in every other week. So it’s easy for you to criticize because much of what full timers teach is based on what they read and is based on theories. It all SEEMS to make sense to them, but it’s not what ACTUALLY makes sense in reality. You criticize Mr. Trevino and the people that gave him positive feedback for not having common sense?? Wow!! Really?? Common sense tells us that employable skills are necessary to survive! There are way too many educated people in this country that are doing nothing because they were never taught the next step. But you’ve got that steady paycheck, your self preserved position in academia and can throw all of the stones you want at the people that actively make this world spin. Make a living as a full time, working musician and then let’s have this conversation again.

      1. If higher education institutions cease to be the ones to shelter and nurture intellectual growth through the study of humanities and the arts, for instance, in favor of what you call “real world skills” (whatever “real world” means–this is so ridiculous it truly makes me laugh) then we are abiding to the complete corporatization of culture, which will be the main contributor to its demise. Universities should be cradles for human knowledge, research, creativity and innovation and not mere service providers who are in charge of training a labor force according to the demands of the market.

    2. “Universities should be cradles for human knowledge, research, creativity and innovation and not mere service providers who are in charge of training a labor force according to the demands of the market.”

      There are 7+ billion people on the planet today, a significant portion of whom live in utter poverty and malnutrition – if, that is, they have escaped death from starvation or murder over competing resources whether in global warfare or neighborhood gang violence. It’s easy to speak about they way things “Should be;” but shoulda’, coulda’, woulda’ doesn’t solve any problems. Chastising a young Ivan for brainstorming in a blog post about how to address real problems facing real students and real musicians certainly does not contribute to any real solutions.

      There are no sacred cows here: everything is up for consideration, review, and critique – including music curriculums. That is, after all, a cornerstone of a liberal arts education.

      Beyond this, I have to say, hungry people just don’t care about cradling the intelligentsia.

      What do I think universities “should” focus on? Free birth control for every human being on the planet delivered to every household on a daily basis.

  24. My art is theatre, but your dream school sounds a lot like mine. I hope, for the sake of performing artists everywhere, that your dreams are listened to. Especially the part about coffee and ice cream (though I prefer espresso, thank you.)

  25. YES, yes yes!

    Also should be on the curriculum and in the facilities: a required basics of recording / being recorded class, and further advanced recording classes if the students choose.

    And maybe have a ton more adjunct professors active in various music scenes teaching a bunch of different styles. So you’d have your classical lessons, and then choose to specialize in another genre. The second lessons can be switched at each semester, or go on to specialize.

    Some sort of requirement about performing, whether at these open mics, or elsewhere.

    It’d also be useful to have some sort of online matchmaking tool facilitating mixing and putting together musicians for projects, whether short term or long term. Maybe even alums could participate if they wanted to. This could also be a requirement, to put together different projects and try things out. This site could require you to load different samples of yourself, and maybe you could even audition for groups through it.

Leave a Reply