One of the things I have been thinking quite a lot about lately, besides having no power at home for the third time since July (four straight days this time), currently resulting from Saturday’s somewhat bizarre snow storm, is the quite odd dichotomy between my work in K-12 and my work today in higher education.
In K-12 it was so often an issue of shoehorning arts education into the school day, extended or traditional. So much of the work evoked questions of how to get a seat at the table, strategies to incentivize the embrace of arts education, skillful ways to integrate the arts into other subject areas and throughout the operation of the school community, and much more, including work on changing policies that tend to keep the arts out.
Running a music conservatory, even one that is part of a larger, progressive university with lots to offer across all sorts of subject areas and activities, is in so many ways the flip-side. How do you shoehorn all sorts of other subjects into the school day? How much practice time is actually needed? What skills and knowledge do students need to master in order to be fully prepared for the world they enter today, as opposed to five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years ago? Should we add more credits, (which is related to the K-12 should we extend the school day)? What is core, what do we value? How do we make change? How do we integrate non-musical subject matter into the traditional core?
An interesting point of convergence between K-12 and higher education resides within the ways we define and defend quality. There are and always will be those who will take issue with arts integration because they believe it shortchanges a quality, sequential arts curriculum. And, of course, as you would expect, in a conservatory there are those who fear that anything we do that takes away time from the historic core of arts instruction, including practice time, major lessons, theory, ear training, etc., will fear the shortchanging of what comprises quality musical training. In K-12 and higher ed, they may very well ask you the very same thing: without rigorous arts instruction, what good is it?
It’s not all that far off from the Jerry Seinfeld’s Bizzaro World, which was originally born out of Superman, Lois Lane, etc.