A recent article in the Chicago Tribune (Sunday, April 20, 2008 by Howard Reich) on the dramatic increase in music school funding caught my eye over the weekend. Several prominent music schools have new facilities either recently completed or in the planning stages, and the figures are pretty significant:
- $22 million – Oberlin Conservatory of Music
- $40 million – Indiana University Jacobs School of Music
- $80 million – San Francisco Conservatory
- $90 million – Northwestern University School of Music
- $120 million – Colburn School of Music (recently completed)
- $193 million – Juilliard School of Music
Why the sudden increases in funding?
Though these institutions certainly could use the facilities upgrade (see my post titled The Northwestern University School of Music is Falling Apart…Literally! for some up-close examples of their dilapidated music buildings), Howard Reich asks the question that was in the back of my mind when I first heard about some of these expansions and developments: why now? With ever-diminishing opportunities for music performance careers, why have so many individuals, universities, and foundations contributed funding for these ambitious new developments?
Don’t get me wrong–I think that these are wonderful developments. I’ve spent all of my college years at aging and ill-equipped facilities, with ratty practice rooms, scant ensemble rehearsal rooms, terrible soundproofing (Ever try to take a harmonic dictation with a jazz band rehearsing next to you? It’s not fun..), and no elevators. While quality faculty and a dynamic group of motivated colleagues are the most important factors in a quality college education, having state-of-the-art facilities really does make for a better learning environment.
Also, in a world with such a divided attention span (24-hour news, television, video games, satellite radio, broadband Internet and all the changes that brings about), seeing that a significant number of people still see value in music and in educating musicians gives me real hope for the future. Music (particularly the styles of music most frequently taught in collegiate environments) is something that takes time to absorb, and having an activity that doesn’t move at the speed of light and seeks to engage a person’s undivided attention is…well, a good thing!
But going to [gasp!] music school….is that a wise decision?
Reich gets into some really interesting territory in his conversations with various music school deans in this article. I’ve written several installments on the wisdom of pursuing a degree that has dubious direct practical application–check out Rethinking Music Performance Degrees for my detailed thoughts on this topic. Remember, I’m not against this (I have two such degrees myself, after all); I’m just interested in a student’s motivation behind pursuing a music degree, and whether they have good knowledge of what employment prospects are like after they graduate.
Indiana Music School dean Gwyn Richards explains that, though an earlier generation of students went to college with a specific profession in mind, current students see a college education as an education of the person, not as trade school for a particular craft. He puts forth that what one does as a student doesn’t have to end up being what one does professionally.
(image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anathalia)
Is this viewpoint that of incoming music school students?
I personally agree with this statement from Dr. Richards. After all, there were no courses in doing what I currently do now (blogging and podcasting) when I was in school. In fact, these two activities that consume so much of my time didn’t even exist when I was in school!
Is this why students choose to go to music school? Or is it to fight like mad for those precious performance jobs?
Past, present, and future music students: why did you choose music school? Let me know!