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‘German music schools are not developing German talent’

Plans to shut two colleges of music, announced today, have cracked open a debate on the quality and quantity of teaching institutions in Germany. We have received the following reflections from a well-known professor, who requested confidentiality:

 

trossi

 

Dear Norman,

As a civil servant I cannot say this in public, but there is absolutely no need for 24(!) Hochschule in Germany.

Every colleague I have ever spoken to agrees with me – every colleague with tenure, that is! The situation of the adjunct professors is abysmal, but that is not directly related to the number of schools but rather to the nature of their contracts.

The Hochschulen have 30% foreign students, mostly Korean and Chinese. This would be wonderful if they were even moderately gifted, but the general level is dismal mediocrity. By this reckoning Germany is supporting eight Hochschule for foreign students alone. They, as well as all German students pay no fees for studying – in their own countries they would be paying hefty fees – which means that the German taxpayer is paying for their education.

At the same time, everyone is bemoaning the general cultural level and the fact that there are relatively few excellent German musicians emerging – at least compared to other countries.

I hate the idea of Stuttgart, Freiburg and Karlsruhe plotting to close the other schools. If anything there should be a national reorganisation, which is impossible because the constitution delegates the cultural decisions to the States. The scandal is that the money saved by closing the Hochschule in Trossingen and Mannheim, should it happen, ought to be invested in music education in the public schools and in the schools which train young people before they go to the Hochschule. That’s unlikely. Were this to happen I think you would see a great consensus among professionals about using the resources more intelligently.

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Comments

  1. Fabio Fabrici says:

    I agree that more must be spent – not only money but also effort and continuous development – for the music education of the broader public beginning at Kindergarten age. “Jedem Kind ein Instrument” for instance is such an initiative that deserves nationwide generous support and development.
    http://www.jedemkind.de/englisch/index.php

    “Using resources more intelligently” is the key.
    Investment in music education is investment in the future prosperity of a nation and civilization. It’s the best investment a society can make.
    I disagree with the notion, that music schools have to focus on outputting excellent top artists. The top can ONLY develop based on a broad base. It’s a Pyramid, with a small top and a broad foundation. And that foundation is “mediocre” by definition.

    What ACTUALLY German music schools are sick with, are tenured professors who teach their students the dangerous illusion, the only carreer in Music is being a soloist. Go to a Musikhochschule and look at the singing classes and meet the arrogant students, full of their teacher’s nonsense, that singing in a professional choir is below them for instance, only a solo career is acceptable.
    German schools are full of these dangerous teachers that are disconnected from real life.

    There is a NEED for mediocre musicians, because only on top of their shoulders can an elitist group of excellent top artists develop. Teachers who think they should only educate top artists have not understood what their role is.

    • Im not an insider, but I think you have a point indeed. Some years ago, I happend to know someone who was at that time studying singing at a well known German Musikhochschule. A wonderful mezzo in my humble view. Being already close to her final exam, she decided not to pursue a career as a soloist but to join one of Germany’s top professional choirs. The insecure job perspectives for young soloists may have influenced her decision, too, but her main point was: “I’d rather be a a member of an excellent choir and make music on top level than being a soloist at a mediocre theatre somewhere in the provincial backwaters.” A perfectly legitimate point, in my view, though I still think that there should be opera in the provincial backwaters as well.

      Well, the day she made her decision public, she lost a lot of friends at her Hochschule, and among her professors even more than among her fellow students.

    • Hartmut Lindemann says:

      This ‘Jedem Kind ein Instrument’ project has turned out to be a complete flop. It is the biggest waste of tax payer’s money. The idea might be alright in theory, but practically it is impossible to reach and teach too many children at the same time in a class situation.
      To put more money into primary school education through qualified music teachers, well trained to teach classical music and who don’t fill their lesson time simply with pop music, might be an answer.

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        That’s not what this project is about. It’s about individual teacher to student music instrument instruction and ensemble playing. Nobody suggests to teach children on instruments in class situations.
        It’s working great in Norway by the way, they are doing exactly that there. Norway pays for each child individual music lessons.

        • Steve Foster says:

          As someone who’s lived in Norway I can tell you that programs like that never “pay off.” The only purpose is to culturally enrich the child, not to prepare them for a career in music, which is what Hochschulen is for. And Norway mine as well pay for it with all that oil money!

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Steve Foster says:
            July 18, 2013 at 9:15 pm

            “As someone who’s lived in Norway I can tell you that programs like that never “pay off.” The only purpose is to culturally enrich the child, not to prepare them for a career in music”

            If that is the case, and the children are culturally enriched, then the program has “paid off”. The point of music education is not necessarily to make every child a future professional musician. Music education enriches children far beyond possible later career paths. Children who play music benefit from that activity in many ways. I know lots of engineers, doctors, and other academics who have played music since their childhood and who are all convinced that it has been a vital part of their overall development, emotional and intellectual.

            Saying only kids who will become professional musicians later should get music education is like saying only kids who will become professional athletes later should play sports – because playing sports and exercising clearly has no value if you can’t make a career out of it…

  2. The music departments in German universities teach only academic subjects like musicology. Performance studies are relegated to the Musikhochschulen – the German word for conservatories or in the USA, School of Music. Twenty-four conservatories for a population 82 million isn’t especially high. That’s one music school for every 3.4 million people which is close to international norms.

    The geographic distribution of Hochschulen is also in line with Germany’s admirable tradition of cultural regionalism – which represents a 1000 year-old history. To eliminate 8 conservatories (as the professor indirectly implies) would create a much more centralized system – something that Germans have long abhorred, especially after having experienced its negative effects during the Reich. It is very important for Swabs, Saxons, Prussians, Bavarians, Hessians, Franks, and all the others “tribes” to preserve their regional identities, musical concepts, and dialects. And it is very important that they train their own local musicians for the own local cultural institutions. This regionalism is the very essence of German culture.

    The professor should also note that all the major music schools around the world have a large representation of Asians. Juilliard (sometimes known as Koreiard,) the London Schools, and Vienna’s University of Music are all examples. It would be very short sighted not to appreciate the political, diplomatic, cultural, and humanistic results of hosting these students. How many billions in trade does Germany have with China? How are those economic and cultural bridges built? Those students return to their countries speaking fluent German and deeply versed in German culture. The long term benefits are obvious.

    The cosmopolitan atmosphere created in the schools is also very enriching for German students. To apply fees to foreign students and thus put them in a secondary category would quickly reduce Germany’s conservatories to a provincial status.

    • Exactly! Thank you!

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      You make many good points, but there is a sensitive balance that is out of order.

      When the taxpayers in Germany in fact are financing the higher education of Korean house wives (slight polemic but you get the point)
      and BECAUSE OF THAT (and here lies the problem) there is no money left for financing better general public music education from Kindergarten age and up, then the resources available are not used wisely me thinks.

    • I’m unconvinced that 24 conservatoires for a population of 82m is “about right”.
      By comparison, the UK has 8 conservatories (Scotland, Manchester, Birmingham, Wales, and four in London), and a population of 70m – and there’s plenty of spare capacity for foreign students, let alone the issue of too many performance students emerging without jobs to go to, and too many at a low and mediocre level of playing.

      • The educational system in the UK is organized differently. Several universities have music departments where students can study performance and composition. Also, conceptions of regional culture are very different in the UK. You have about 5 major ethnic groupings, but Germany has somewhere around 15 and a long tradition of regionalism in education and culture.

        • I have the impression that Universities in Germany also offer music courses – mainly academic. The same is true to a large extent in the UK. (At least, there are very few university courses that offer practical performance tuition that is worthwhile in comparison to the conservatoires, or which teach students of the same playing calibre or to the same standard.) The two are very different, and the better of the university courses are more academic in nature. It doesn’t seem to me that there is all that much difference between a German conservatoire and a British one, but for sure there are more of the former.
          Of course, this tells us very little anyway – more interesting might be the number of conservatoire students per head of population, since the number of conservatoires says nothing about their size.

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        And who says that Britain is in any way a benchmark in this? Britain with it’s class divisions and lack of public arts funding should in no way be a role model in the arts for any other part of the world. They don’t even have a proper concert hall in their capital.

        • Another preposterous comment from a self-discrediting source. The UK has maintained a higher level of public arts funding than most European states and has easier regulations for private arts giving. London has three large concert halls that are acoustically flawed. It also has to outstanding chamber music halls – Wigmore and King’s Place – two major opera houses and half a dozen fine venues on its periphery.

          • Alexander Hall says:

            Norman, you could also have mentioned Cadogan Hall for both symphony (RPO plus visiting East European orchestras) and chamber ensembles.

          • Quite right.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            my little provocation worked. :)

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            So what is the level of arts funding in the UK? I had been under the impression that it is quite low, too. Does anybody have some numbers on this? I seem to recall that I read in Guardian Online that the city of Berlin spends more money on the BP than the British government on all its orchestras – but I may recall that incorrectly and I don’t have access to the computer on which I bookmarked this article at the moment.
            And, because it is public funding of a form of cultural heritage, too, how much money do they blow every year on the “royals”?

        • If by “proper concert hall” you mean “concert hall with first class acoustics”, you have a point.

          However, how many cities do?

          Ill informed, sneering comment.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Anon says:
        July 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm

        “I’m unconvinced that 24 conservatoires for a population of 82m is “about right”.
        By comparison, the UK has 8 conservatories (Scotland, Manchester, Birmingham, Wales, and four in London), and a population of 70m – and there’s plenty of spare capacity for foreign students, let alone the issue of too many performance students emerging without jobs to go to, and too many at a low and mediocre level of playing.”

        You have to take into account though that there are a whole lot more orchestras and opera houses which offer well paid full time employment to singers and orchestral musicians in Germany than there are in the UK. Whether or not the number of music academies and students being trained at any given time is “about right” in either the UK or in Germany, I can not say – but it must be kept in mind that it is not easy to predict how many of the music students will become good enough to fill the vacancies that come up in orchestras.
        So while there are always more students and graduates than vacant positions at any given time, especially the better orchestras often have a hard time finding young musicians who are good enough to fill their ranks, in particular when it comes to principal positions.
        As an extreme example, one of the two principal horn positions with the Berliner Philharmoniker has been open for several years now – and that’s not because there are no horn players looking for jobs.

        • In Britain, you pay thousands of pounds to go to music college, and the foreign students – well, in theory, pay a lot more if they are not EU students, unless they are funded by millionaires at home, or win a scholarship There are about 40% of Chinese and Korean students at the Royal Northern College of Music in the piano department, according to a recent BBC programme I heard, and that means the colleges have more money to fund the place – you see what I mean. The colleges are full to bursting, and so little work out there to be got.

          We do not have the situation here that you are a second-class singer if you sing in a professional choir or opera chorus. In fact, it is quite presigious to do so, and lucrative. Not everyone can be a soloist. There simply isn’t the work out there. If audiences are not willing to pay realistic prices to go to concerts – that’s if they go at all – then they can’t afford to increase the fees.

      • Don’t forget that in UK conservatoires students pay high fees (9.000 GBP for a home/EU student and over 18.000 GBP for non-EU students). International non-EU students in the UK not only are not a burden for education in the country, they are, with their high fees, sustaining UK’s conservatoires and helping local economy. Think t this way: as a psotgraduate (MA)piano student in a world leading conservatoire in London an asian student pays c.20.000 USD for c.24 90-minute 1-to-1 lessons, some coaching for chamber music (c.6 hours shared with other students), one masterclass a year (lucky if two), the use of the facilities (limited practise romos, library…), a presentation in performance class (with all other master students), examinations, and a couple of public recitals in one of the schools smaller rooms. Please, since non-EU students are not allowed to work they need to bring all the money for their living expenses from their home-countries.

        Perhaps Germany should consider if they should charge higher fees to non-EU students.

    • Marguerite Foxon says:

      Why aren’t foreign students paying.??? I studied in the US and not only did I pay, but I paid more than the US students. No wonder the German program’s are full of foreign students!

      • Nicholas Hancox says:

        Slightly disturbing short sighted comments regarding foreign students in higher education. It is one of the strengths of Germany (and this goes for any field, not just music) – because of the quality of education and the low or non existent study fees they attract some of the best students from all around the world. Many stay, work in Germany and contribute to the society there, many leave but as said above, the cultural values of this exchange are obvious.

        I studied as a foreigner at a German Hochschule, now I work as a professional musician, I’m paying my study fees now (taxes are significantly higher in Germany)

  3. Alexander Hall says:

    More always means worse, as Kingsley Amis once observed. But try telling that to politicians who decreed that one-half of each cohort had to go to university. Now these people are forced to take on menial jobs in retailing and the laughably named “customer care”, if they can get them. Far better to restrict all places in conservatoires and universities to the really gifted. However, imagine the howl that would go up from all the professors and teaching staff in media studies and the like based in places such as the University of South-East Yorkshire. The same applies to the German teaching staff who enjoy low teaching loads but high levels of pay as civil servants. Turkeys are never going to vote for Christmas.

    • The music colleges in Britain, when I went in the 70s, was a place for the gifted. My year’s allocation wasn’t met. But in order to keep the places funded, foreign students are coming with lots of money, so from the college’s financial point of view, a Korean will be more valuable than a Brit – just because of the money the former pays in comparison. But make no mistake, it’s not cheap for a Brit to study at a college of music in Britain.

      • I also meant to say though, that I don’t mean they take an inferior Korean. They don’t!! I have heard some amazing players in this country from China and Korea. I hesitate to say Asian as that implies for us Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi, which are few and far between, if at all.

  4. I disagree with the point about chinese and korean students.

    There is a law, that states the facts about the minimum number of students a teacher, full time professor or visiting professor is supposed to teach in a semester.
    If the so called ” general level (is) dismal mediocrity ” of these students is such a disgrace for the german musikhochschulen, why are we not considering the positive effect: That the level of playing is gradually okay and the teachers and such well-known professors have something to work. Otherwise the level has to be put way, way down OR the school gotta be closed, in fact more than 8 schools!

    IN the reality the general term of asian students being “dismal mediocrity” it is striking out that there are as well german students even less than “dismal mediocrity”.
    Very funny thing, that a racial issue is being pursued. I think the german legislation is very clear about the “Bildung” in Germany.
    “so called “Regelungen” were tried out before (Leipzig: “Hey, foreigner! you have to pay! http://www.sz-online.de/sachsen/ministerin-ermahnt-leipziger-musikhochschule-wegen-studiengebuehren-2550348.html )

    IF the teacher is that good, superior and his reputation spreads around the world, people from nearly everywhere are trying to study in his or hers class and the fact, that you don´t have to pay as much as in the U.S.
    What a shame, that an international, human language, the music itself is now considered more likely as a product to sell, especially to “Ausländer”.

    In a youthorchestra, like the junge deutsche philharmonie, the mixture of students international backgrounds was always an inspiring and highest standard-perfomance guarantee, because the “german” way of music and accuracy made so many different students to one whole orchestra.

    There exists such a thing like “Bildungsauftrag” and “fachspezifische Hochschulen” are not really the deciding weight in german “Hochschullandschaft”. The little, petite percentage of moneysaving with music academies is likely to be compared to the atrocity in the symphonyorchestra SWR Baden Baden/Freiburg. “tropfen auf den heißen stein.”
    Have a look at Airport Kassel-Calden. That is a hot stone. And a german one.

    Oh, is it shocking, that more than half of the full time Professors are not german? should they be paid now less than german professors?

    The problems or “scandals” of the Hochschulsystem is not made by the asians. German politicians, Intendanten like in the scandalous SWR, are responsible for the loss of cultural identity in Germany.

    The whole world admires Germany for its music tradition, composers, orchestras.
    But ironically most of the germans have no clue, who Beethoven or Schumann or Brahms was.
    I dislike this racist comment about Chinese and Koreans. The so called “well know Professor” should think about performing in a “german” and “asianfree” way, maybe that is his or hers absurd level.

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      I think there is nothing wrong with charging foreigners higher fees, since they or their parents did not contribute by taxes to the German tax financed education system.
      In the US you have to pay even higher fees, if you study at a school in a different state!
      We in Germany have to invest more into our cultural education, particularly from early ages on. Only then will our school for higher education have enough students from Germany itself that can carry on the great tradition.
      And let’s get rid of that stupid American (sorry) “the winner takes it all” mentality that only 1st places and top excellency and “winning” are relevant values in music.
      They are not. Music and art in general are the celebration of the highest aspirations of humanity. We need as many as possible MEDIOCRE musicians. Because the more we have, the more top athletes errr…. musicians we will being able to “train”.

      • What? “And let’s get rid of that stupid American (sorry) “the winner takes it all” mentality that only 1st places and top excellency and “winning” are relevant values in music”
        I NEVER felt that while studying in the US. In fact it is more the opposite.
        I did however come up against Russians and Italians (yes!) who don’t want to bother with lesser talents, only those who can reap glory for themselves as teachers.

      • But, Fabio, if we should all be aspiring to nationwide, cultural greatness in music and art, as the “highest aspiration” etc., why should we care where the exponents come from? We’re happy to pay to hear foreign orchestras and artists when they tour to our cities, so it’s hardly a larger step to say shouldn’t we fund any gifted music or art student, no matter where they come from?
        If you are truly concerned with raising the level of music and art in your country, it doesn’t matter whether you are teaching your own nationals or not – to say it does matter is to block off a wide sphere of possible influence, learning and inspiration, and to artificially restrict your musical culture, no?

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Anon says:
          July 20, 2013 at 11:59 pm

          “If you are truly concerned with raising the level of music and art in your country, it doesn’t matter whether you are teaching your own nationals or not – to say it does matter is to block off a wide sphere of possible influence, learning and inspiration, and to artificially restrict your musical culture, no?”

          So if read this correctly, are you saying that those countries where foreign students do have to pay – for instance, the UK – are blocking off a wide sphere of possible influence, learning and inspiration, and they are artificially restricting their musical culture?

    • harold braun says:

      The sweeping,slightly racist comment on Korean and Chinese students is utter nonsense.In German Opera Choruses,
      we have to hire so many singers from this countries because they mostly are vocally better equipped and their German counterparts very often simply are not up to the requirements of the job(this goes especially for male
      singers).And best of all mostly are Russian singers!

  5. J. Marc Reichow says:

    [corr.] I wonder whether “the fact that there are relatively few excellent German musicians emerging – at least compared to other countries” can be verified at all. I assume it is a political construction.
    Any statistics?

    • Just one – and that is we recently had the world renouned BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, won by an American mezzo. There were all nationalities competing against the frighteningly high standard of singing, and particularly from a technical point of view. There was not one German competitor! Says it all.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        I agree. Cardiff *is* the center of the classical music world. Too bad that singers like Christine Schäfer, Diana Damrau, Anja Harteros, Gabriele Schnaut, Annette Dasch, Eva Lind, Christiane Oelze, Angelika Kirschschlager or Elisabeth Kulman (to name just a few German or Austrian female singers who come to mind spontaneously) are too busy with their international opera and concert careers to go and compete in Cardiff…

  6. In Switzerland there are yet no debates about closing music schools. But one can notice similar problems: Loads of untalented students, without any chance to be useful musicians, many of them foreigners and studying on taxpayers money.

    Mere love of art is not sufficient qualification to study music. The best service to such ungifted students would be to encourage them to learn something else and useful, and continue the music as a hobby. This is not done, because professors salaries depend on class size. So the game goes on until some economic scarcity and/or taxpayers protest will stop it.

  7. Berufsmusiker says:

    Soon there will be elections in Germany.

    No surprise that something like this comes up as political debate.
    It’s easy to sell to the “Volk” (The total amount of money involved is probably tiny in compare to the sums spent for joining US wars around the world or for instance the Greece bailout – but if there are cuts it will be most likely art or education )

    But I do fully understand any German pensioner who worked his whole life and has to live from an often shameful little pension shaking his head reading in the news that the German government obviously got enough money to sponsor a huge number of foreign students, worth tens of thousands of euros per student.

    I guess this “Musikhochschulen” matter is just the tip of the iceberg and the described situation probably true for all universities in Germany. Personally I don’t think that education in Germany today is better or even just equal to the rest of the world. It’s just cheaper, a big machinery based on quantity but not quality. Many of the foreign students come only to get a free education instead of paying huge sums at home or somewhere else. Many German students just study to kill time. All because it’s free.

    I agree with the comment above about the general level and the mediocrity.
    The level accepted for entrance examinations is ridiculous low. So you wonder if it might be more about giving work to the professors and keep the machine running than really offering a first class education to talented and “qualified” students.
    The result you can see at auditions later. You really ask yourself what those young people did during their study time.

    IMO a rich and developed country should provide free health insurance for all its citizens and take care about the old people. I think there should be free kindergartens and schools.
    But higher education?
    IMO talented students will be able to secure scholarships …and the untalented…well they should pay.

    I’m not sure if the closure of universities is the answer to all of this, but the situation itself is far from acceptable.
    Probably a bit of streamlining would not be so bad.
    Hopefully with the right result: less quantity and better quality (and some tax money saved).

  8. Shuann Chai says:

    The above letter states: “The Hochschulen have 30% foreign students, mostly Korean and Chinese. This would be wonderful if they were even moderately gifted, but the general level is dismal mediocrity…” Excuse me, but every student, no matter his or her national origin, had to play an audition to enter their conservatory. Therefore their level of ‘mediocrity’ was accepted into this institution, IRRESPECTIVE of their nation of origin. Closing Trossingen and Mannheim will not suddenly lift the cultural level of German music-making: and besides, there is no German conservatory that decides, ‘well, we’ve got all the talented Germans that we need, what shall we do… I know, let’s find some mediocre musicians -preferably from Asia!- on whom we can spend German tax money!…’ Every student in these institutions was accepted on the basis of their merit and their potential to improve as a musician. If the issue at hand is a concern over the lowering standards of German musical education, by all means build the system up, but to blame institutional ‘mediocrity’ on a high incidence of foreign students is just looking for a scapegoat in the most xenophobic way. It is incorrect, it is arrogant, and it is ignorant.

    • Yes, indeed – and it is racist.

      • Berufsmusiker says:

        Sorry but I totally disagree.
        It’s such a cheap and easy way to cry „racist“ if somebody mentions facts and problems regarding different nationalities or cultures: and of course the easiest way to avoid actually discussing or solving the problems. People like you basically say “there is no problem – all are equal – and if somebody insists that there is a problem then he is a racist”

        Always if this kind of debate starts it’s just a matter of time until somebody points the finger. Nothing new and not limited to conservatoires in Germany. Mr. Sarrazin can tell a story about that….

        Everybody on the ground at the “musikhochschulen” can confirm that the facts stated in the OP are spot on.

        So why, please why should foreign students (or all students for that matter) not be paying for their study? Of course it’s clear that there would be much less applications (foreign or local) if there would be study fees. Only people would study who really want to study. Meaning not enough work for all the professors. So the big lie has to go on at the expense of the tax payers.

        Some post here mentioned something like “sponsoring the studies to create housewives”. It’s the truth. No matter if you add “Korean”, “Japanese” or “German”. I personally know a lot of cases.

        And with all respect – without being a racist! – I do think that there should be a difference between German and foreign students – for the simple fact that the German parents paid huge taxes over many years to support the system – so it’s just a kind of tax return…
        On the other hand the system would be fair if German students could study for free in return anywhere in the world!

    • I agree. These attitudes are racist. They hearken back to views like the Vienna Philharmonic’s exclusion of Asians. My wife has been a professor in Trossingen for 20 years. If anything, the standards of the Asian students are higher, especially in areas like piano and voice. Listen to trombonist Mayumi Shimizu, educated in Freiburg, and now a member of the SWR Orchestra, play Blue Bells of Scotland — and attired in a dirndl, of course:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdSvyigRCco

      I

      • It may well be a “racist” attitude in Germany, if it is true that the study of foreign students is paid for by the German government in any case. But it is a matter of simple economics in the UK, where foreign students (and, in music colleges, observably largely from the East) pay significantly higher fees than the institutions receive from domestic students. There is then a strong economic argument for accommodating perhaps more variable standards of playing (perhaps by seeking to measure incoming students based on a notion of future potential rather than current ability) in order to bring more hard cash in to the institution.
        (Of course, I don’t deny that many foreign students are exceptionally gifted players, they frequently are. There are a larger proportion than you might expect, however, who are not.)

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          So the German taxpayers pay for foreign students to study in Germany for (next to) free, and that makes it “racist”? So the German taxpayers pay all that money mainly for the privilege of being “racists”?

          Uh…OK…sure…

          • Hi, I don’t think he was referring to whether study should be free for foreigners. I think it was the bit where this professor implied that the 30% of Asians are somehow preventing German musicians from excelling, which is an illogical argument – how will closing so many conservatoire suddenly raise the standard of German musicians? – therefore it raises the question whether the professor has a hidden racial agenda behind this letter.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            @Eugene:
            True. This professor should ask himself what he does to raise the quantity and quality of national talent. Most of these types sit in their rooms – payed for by tax payer – and complain that the system doesn’t feed them the geniuses and top virtuosos their well developed egos deserve.
            As I said before. Many people are there when it comes to share the harvest. But who is going to sow?
            If you don’t sow your own children’s musical development and talents, then you have to sit in your ivory towers and take the fruits other more hard working cultures, e.g. the Chinese or the Koreans, bring you.

            Since Professors in German music conservatoires are only working about 7 months a year, but get paid all 12 months usually. I would suggest they come up with a program in Germany, where all music professors on top of their conservatory obligations have to work for 2-3 months on the front lines of music education, in the music schools and in public schools, sowing the interest in as many children as possible, what classical music is about.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        william osborne says:
        July 18, 2013 at 7:45 pm

        “I agree. These attitudes are racist. They hearken back to views like the Vienna Philharmonic’s exclusion of Asians. My wife has been a professor in Trossingen for 20 years. If anything, the standards of the Asian students are higher, especially in areas like piano and voice. Listen to trombonist Mayumi Shimizu, educated in Freiburg, and now a member of the SWR Orchestra, play Blue Bells of Scotland — and attired in a dirndl, of course”

        Fabulous – but players on the level of Shimizu are rare, no matter where they come from, from Asia, from Europe, or elsewhere. So that is not a representative example. Just like both current principal trumpet players of the Berliner Philharmoniker are Hungarians – but that doesn’t mean that Hungarians are all automatically world class trumpet players (although I do know a number who are – they must have a trumpet player factory there somewhere in Hungary…).

        • For something mind-boggling, check out this video of the Kodaira Dairoku Junior High School Band:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyZnIzoqjfA

          Or the Izumo Hokuryo High School playing the “Pines of Rome.”

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63igCAb5oT8&list=PLEC7FA77BBC201B7D

          Note all the girls on brass and especially low brass. The Japanese never got the memo girls aren’t supposed to do that – and especially not that well.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            Impressive, but let’s be clear that nobody is arguing that Asians can’t reach levels of excellency. You seem to engage in your usual straw man argument here.

            In German music schools every prospective students has to pass an entrance exam. There students are chosen based on artistic merits alone. If there are many Asians, it only means that there were not more Europeans and Germans who were better than them.

            Actually the equality all people on this planet enjoy when undergoing a German music school entrance exam is inspiring. “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” is a reality in German music schools.
            There are no national or racist discriminations.
            The problem is that these are happening almost anywhere else, namely the UK and the US with their very high fees for higher education, even higher for foreigners.

    • Steve Foster says:

      I’m sorry, but it’s just too easy these days to point at another and cry xenophobia to take the accusation seriously anymore. His intent was to point out the cultural differences which can distinguish Europid from Asians, and the need for a continuation of localized traditions.
      But what he failed to mention was that it really isn’t a specific race or creed that’s the issue, it’s the lack of talent which is simple to compare with to what was out there 30-40 years ago.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Yet the general level of orchestral playing today is significantly higher than it was 30-40 years ago. Today, many orchestras play on a level equal to and sometimes even better than what only few “top orchestras” delivered 40 years or so ago.

        • Fabio Fabrici says:

          True when ti comes to technical skills. Not true when it comes to music making.
          Technical skills are higher than ever. Musical skills are declining. One reason I see for this is that singing as the most basic form of music making was common with the masses until it got almost extinct with the introduction of electro-acoustic music reproduction. Since much of the phrasing and articulation in classical music is based on vocal paradigms over the centuries, the human voice being pretty much the ideal for any instrumental music playing, the lack of singing experience makes for bad musicianship.

  9. Rosalind says:

    Why on earth are the non EU students not charged appropriate fees for their education? Money which could then be invested back into the institutions.

    Am I right in thinking that they do have to pay quite substantial sums (more than EU students) if they choose to attend a British conservatoire – or university for that matter?

    • Luciano says:

      You are right Rosalind, non-Eu students have to pay substantial fees to study in the UK (though nothing like the fees in the US). The German approach of allowing all nationalities for free (or close to it) is not uncommon in Europe though.

  10. I find this comment about Asian students very racist! Everybody has to pass an entrance exam in order to get a place to study in Germany without paying fees. If most of the Asian students aren´t good, it would just mean that all the others aren´t any better.
    Does he seriously want to divide the students into two groups, the one who has to pay and the other who doesn´t have to, -depending on where they come from?

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      Well, I don’t like that either, but it is the reality in many countries, namely the US and the UK, that foreigners have to pay substantially higher fees for their education.

      There is one aspect that should be discussed int his context though.
      Anybody who has participated in entrance exams as a jury member can confirm, that many professors choose prospective students based on how much they like them, how much they can see them as their own students. Often the word makes the round: “do you want to teach him/her?”
      Asian students often expose the typical features of their culture, they come across as hard working, technically very skilled, modest or even submissive attitude toward respect persons as professors etc.
      The kids of the “post-enlightenment” cultures as in central Europe on the other hand often are less “easy” and technically not as perfect as their Asian counterparts, yet often more promising when it comes to creativity. That is not racist, that is the reality, cultural difference very much DO exist.
      And that means there is often a bias toward accepting a student who promises to be an “easy” student for a professor.

      • Stereotypes come from somewhere, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at every individual free of prejudice. Spouting age-old stereotypes like Asians are technical and hard working but have no deep feelings and so on only serve to propagate prejudice. That’s an attitude that is very harmful for society.

        In the violin world for example (it’s my field so I feel most qualified to speak only about violinists), in my opinion many of the most technically perfect players are not Asian. One of the candidates I’m thinking of is female, American, has the same first name as a famous female US politician, and is technically perfect and cold as a fish (for my tastes). Stereotypically Asian if you will. I call her the ice queen….

        One famous male Greek (Greeks are lazy right?) is probably one of the most technically perfect violinist of all time. He’s proven himself to be a deep-thinking musician as well, not just a Paganini wiz.

        • Fabio Fabrici says:

          Let’s not fall for logical fallacies here. We are talking about averages, not individual cases.
          Me as a European, grown up in the acoustical and musical womb of my immediate surroundings, will have a hard time as an adult to dive into the finer nuances of Chinese or Korean folk songs, their phrasing and articulation. And vice versa. Since most of classical music up to the mid of the 20th century is based on European music tradition, it is just normal that a certain familiarity with it is hard to acquire, if you haven’t been breathing it since your childhood.
          Having said that, today’s commercial mass pseudo-culture equalizes much of the older cultural foundations into one big shallow muddy pond of triviality, European, American, Asian, anything, and only kids who grew up in niches of society, parents who specially cared and provided for off the mainstream intellectual and cultural development, have a chance to find access to the deeper foundations of European classical music.

      • Simon Johns says:

        This is a fair comment Eugene. One drawback to standard in the UK is that they have to take a large percentage of non UK students as the pay far more. This often means that that a person of lesser talent might get the prized place as he or her or most probably the parents pay major $$. This would probably be the same in Germany too, if it came to it.

        A large percentage of the Korean/Chinese crowd really do not help their own cause, as they never learn the language and join into the everyday college life. It nearly aways correlated that the foreign students that blended in and leant the language were the most talent and hard working students. I don’t think this is being racist but just factual.

    • Just be careful who you call Asian in this blog. American and European definitions are not the same. Best to be specific to the country rather than to the continent to avoid any misunderstanding.

      Fabbio – The kids of the “post-enlightenment” cultures as in central Europe on the other hand often are less “easy” and technically not as perfect as their Asian counterparts, yet often more promising when it comes to creativity. That is not racist, that is the reality, cultural difference very much DO exist.

      I agree, the above comment isn’t racist. It’s reality if you teach in a post-enlightenment culture, and see what goes on, even at the highest level. I could learn an Indian Song with all the right notes, pronunciation and the right clothes, but it probably wouldn’t sound Indian. No point in keep telling people they are racists when they make valid comments.

  11. Whoever is under the impression that German Musikhochschule are not training the next generation of outstanding musicians, whether soloists, chamber musicians, orchestral musicians, members of the great opera houses or choirs, etc. is absolutely delusional. I can’t speak for the Hochschule für Musik-Trossingen, but the major music schools in Berlin, München, Hamburg, Freiburg, etc. all have boatloads of talented, hard-working, and German speaking foreigners, who come in hopes of studying with the finest examples of their respective instruments, many of whom teach at these schools.

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      Exactly, but one anonymous “well-known” professor disagrees with you.

      Also even if there was no “need” for so many schools in Germany as there are (which I doubt).

      Every single alumni from a music school is a blessing to society, he/she has acquired culture and skills that can be given on to the next generation, even if it is only within the family.
      Music schools are catalysts for a culture. Training future professional musicians is only one aspect of their roles in a cultivated society. Yet the materialism is on the rise, everything is looked at in monetary terms, if it “pays off”.

      Every mediocre or even substandard music student who is graduating from a music conservatoire is of a MUCH higher value to society than any top talented investment banker who is setting out to destroy our culture with his parasitic activities.

  12. Michael Schaffer:

    “And, because it is public funding of a form of cultural heritage, too, how much money do they blow every year on the “royals”?”

    Only slightly more than Germany “blows” on a president that hardly anyone has heard of.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Really? The Bundespräsident gets €199,000 a year plus €78,000 for expenses. But he doesn’t have so many castles and doesn’t drive around in golden carriages and all that, and there are no “presidential weddings” and all these other massive occasions either. Yet you are saying they manage to do all that pomp and circumstances on a similar budget? Wow! That is very impressive.

      • Perhaps i should have made it clearer for you and used the phrase “net cost”.

        Castles and palaces tend to be maintained regardless.

        And what’s his name again?

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Thanks for your clarification. So what is the “net cost”?

          “The Sovereign Grant Annual Report states that net expenditure for 2012-13 was £33.3 million (including VAT of £1.9 million) compared to £36.5m in 2008-9.”

          Source:
          http://www.royal.gov.uk/LatestNewsandDiary/Pressreleases/2013/SovereignGrantAnnualReport201213.aspx

          I found this information on the “Internet” – a valuable resource if you know how to use it. You can also find out who the current German president is! And lots of other stuff.
          I do understand that your responses were just knee jerk reactions because my question somehow offended your feeble patriotism – still, I generally recommend checking the facts before replying so you don’t leave the impression that you don’t know what you are talking about…

          • You are highly adept at excluding factors which fail to support your argument. I’m sure you’re well aware that the financial impact of the Monarchy extends well beyond the figures contained in the report you refer to, which is very specific.

      • The budget for “the royals” is remarkably small considering the work that is done. (And as Colin alludes to, much of the expenditure would surely take place anyway, since the UK wouldn’t wish to lose some incredible historical architecture).
        Frankly, most British folk would probably feel that the cost is worthwhile, if only because it prevents the alarming scenario of a “President Blair” or “President Mandelson”.

        Since you ask, until 2010, the entire royal family cost a shade under £8m, paid for via the Civil List, which seems a fair bargain. Since reforms, there is no longer a straight payment, but they retain 15% of the income derived from the Crown Estates (etc.0, the remaining 85% going to the government.

        Do no underestimated the incredible work the Royal Family do, and not least for the arts.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Please enlighten us about that “incredible work for the arts” that they do.

          How about John Cleese as president?

      • Mr Schaffer

        ‘The Bundespräsident gets €199,000 a year plus €78,000 for expenses.’

        Does this cover the running of Schloss Bellevue and Villa Hammerschmidt?

  13. constantine says:

    This is the list of the “external expert group” who signed up this damn paper for saving 4millions a year with a price of loosing 2 hochschules, basically. We have to know our enemies in face.

    http://mwk.baden-wuerttemberg.de/uploads/media/Expertengruppe_Weiterentwicklung_Musikhochschulen_Baden-W%C3%BCrttemberg.pdf

    • Interesting that only one of the five “experts” (to use the term very loosely) works in B-W. I strongly suspect that they are very ignorant about the central role the Hochshculen play in these communities – and especially Trossingen. The Rechnungshof took more time to examine this, and that is why it specifically recommended that no Hochschulen be eliminated. Now we need the names of the administrators in Hochschulen in Stuttgart, Freiburg, and Karlsruhe who joined in this nonsense?

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Didn’t you suggest earlier there was some kind of conspiracy going on among local forces to carve up Trossingen and Mannheim for the benefit of he other three Hochschulen? Isn’t it better then if the commission is largely made up from people from outside B-W who nothing to gain or lose from the situation?

        • My post is clear and you are willfully misreading it, as usual. But to repeat and belabor the obvious, the outside experts should have taken more time to inform themselves about the Hochschule/community relationship, just as the Rechnungshof did. Forgive me if I do not waste my time answering any of Mr. Schaefer’s further posts.

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