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Just in: German state to shut two music schools

There are five music colleges in the state of Baden-Württemburg: Freiburg, Trossingen, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Mannheim.

It is reported that the schools of Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Freiburg have secretly clubbed together and recommended to the state government that either Mannheim or Trossingen should close, or that Mannheim becomes Rock and Pop and Trossingen early music.

Many around Europe will not weep at the thought of German culture suffering cuts, albeit small compared to Spain, Portugal and Greece. Most, however, would agree that this looks like bully politics of the worst kind. We cannot see any justification for this muddle-headed piece of academic chicanery. The only basis for a rational decision is need. Are there enough students in waiting to justify keeping the college? Might it not be better to shut down Stuttgart (below), where costs are highest, and disperse its activities among the other four?

More here (auf Deutsch) and here.

This sounds like a repeat of the local fight over radio orchestras, where Stuttgart threw its weight around to save its orch at the expense of Freiburg. Add a dash of academic chicanery and the mix turns truly poisonous.

Your thoughts, as ever, are keenly welcomed. UPDATE: You can sign a petition here.



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  1. Fabio Fabrici says:

    “Many around Europe will not weep at the thought of German culture suffering cuts…”

    What is that supposed to mean? Why the hate?

    Still thinking Nationality has ANY real meaning when it comes to culture and humanity? Because nationality is just a construct to divide people. Some just like to play the dividing game – ultimately it’s just hate – I guess.

    • Halldor says:

      I read it differently; namely, that because culture in Germany is still so well-funded relative to the rest of Europe, cuts there are proportionately less damaging than they would be in eg Portugal or the Netherlands. I don’t think Norman was implying that anyone would take malicious pleasure in these cuts purely because they happen to be German.

    • Why? Because Germany is seen by many, rightly or wrongly, as the power insisting on the austerity policies that have led to such painful cuts in Spain, Portugal and Greece.

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        “austerity policies”.. funny that.
        In the old days it was called “only spend what you can afford” and was a positive value. Today it is called “austerity measure” and the connotation is negative. Crazy times.

        • Timon Wapenaar says:

          Logical if deficit spending is taken to be sensible (as it was in many European countries, for many years).

  2. Andreas Richter says:

    This is bad of course. But one has to see this is only a part of a bigger problem, most of the students of music in Germany having big problems to get a good job in an orchestra or a music school and we know many problems because of low income and ever lower pension are already very relevant.

    • Burkhard Möller says:

      Yes Andreas,this is bad.But why have students of music in Germany big problems to get a job in an orchestra or music school? Because thousands of jobs in german orchestras were eliminated in the past,almost 33 % since 1989.It´s the same situation with music schools.So what happens today is part two of a plan to destroy this kind of culture…

  3. Abigail Clifford says:

    Germany still is ncredibly supportive of the arts. The pay of a bog standard orchestra there is double that of a London one, and they work only half the hours,.

  4. Abigail Clifford says:

    Germany still is incredibly supportive of the arts. The pay of a bog standard orchestra there is double that of a London one, and they work only half the hours,.

  5. James Creitz says:

    Thank you, Norman, for reporting on this!
    We should all consider what the future will bring elsewhere if this state, one of the wealthiest in Germany, indeed one of the richest in Europe, not only halves the number of radio orchestras, but also reduces its music schools by 40%.
    Greece, Italy and the Netherlands will feel themselves vindicated, and many other states may quickly follow suit.

  6. The decision on the orchestras was taken by the SWR – you are making quite a dodgy connection between the Musik Hochschule in Stuttgart and the broadcaster. The fusion of the orchestras is terrible but it was taken by management and was not part of any ‘conspiracy’ against Freiburg. This ‘Stuttgart’ to which you refer – connecting Hochschule and broadcaster – is an entity without substance.

    Your idea to just ‘shut down Stuttgart’ is rather ridiculous. It is one of the best music schools in Germany and attracts some amazing staff (including Nicolas Hodges). Have you ever been to Trossingen or Mannheim? Can you imagine them offering the same experience as the massive purpose-built building in Stuttgart you depict above?

    I think the situation is sad but don’t make it worse by flinging wild ideas around.

    • Trossingen and Mannheim do offer 1. the same, 2. different and 3. in some directions more experience than Stuttgart! I’m working here in Mannheim at the muho and I know the music university landscape very well! The only thing is the difference of money: Stuttgart gets 30% more than Mannheim. So actually Stuttgart should save money as well as Freiburg!

  7. Abigail Clifford says:

    the situation of the radio orchestras certainly can’ t be compared with Greece as none of the musicians in Freiburg are losing their jobs.

  8. J. Marc Reichow says:

    Many around Europe will weep, should this be the level of discussing cultural politics or even culture.
    Your rendering of the situation is somewhat sloppy, to say the least. Please note (or learn from the same media which you happen to be quoting from) that

    a) the radio orchestra fusion has – deplorably, don’t get me wrong – been decided on by radio SWR council; it is by no means a logical consequence of “Stuttgart (throwing) its weight around” and you can only put it like that as you have fallen into the trap of boiling that process down to a “local fight”, in your words, or sort of a competition among cultural cities.
    Do read your sources (auf Deutsch) less selectively and also take into account how the Stuttgart orchestra, equally unhappy about the fusion plans, describes the situation and how BW state minister Krebs insists on the autonomy of SWR’s decisions, belatedly answering a.o. the allegations of hidden political influence and/or silence surrounding those decisions;

    and b) that your polemic counter-proposal of closing down the Hochschule of the state capital and biggest and geographically central city must sound plain silly – the more so as you completely leave out the fact that a report of BW state audit office (Landesrechnungshof) including criticism on the overall spendings of the five Hochschulen had provided the initial reason and political pressure for restructuring plans of the state’s five Musikhochschulen; whether one finds the proposals (such as explained by minister Bauer in e.g. the following radio interview – part of a one-week special on SWR2 radio dealing with the very subject ) problematic or biased or a sign of cultural decay in general should be judged on the basis of proper research rather than just get summarized in phrases about academic chicanery, bully politics and secret clubbing, as those are the true ingredients of poisonous mixing.

    There are five music colleges in the state of Baden-Württemberg, by the way, not “Württemburg”, and nobody has come up with the idea to “shut”, as your header suggests, two out of the five colleges.

    And why not conclude my welcomed-in-advance thoughts (from Stuttgart, of all places) with at least the positive addition that the minister and the state colleges seem to have declined the Landesrechnungshof’s demand of introducing quota for foreign students and high study fees for non E.U. students.

    So much for “weep(ing) at the thought of German culture … cuts” !?

    • Jürgen Fenner says:

      The quota is declined, but higher study fees for non E.U. students are still a point of discussion.

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        In Germany, not only ont he music schools, high realistic study fees are long overdue for non E.U. citizens. Parts of the revenue could go to scholarship programs for worldwide students, given out strictly on evaluation of exceptional talent and achievements.

        Why German or Austrian tax payers should finance the higher music education and “European schooled” quality label of future Korean house wives is beyond me.

        • I agree with many things “Fabio” says here, but I do object to the talk of future Korean housewives. As a musician in a German orchestra I have had the pleasure of working with many excellent Korean instrumentalists, many of them female, who completed thir stuies in Germany and then went on to exemplary careers in Korea or elsewhere. Many opera performances in Germany depend on the contributions of fine Korean singers. The world of professional musicians has always been an international meritocracy. Misogynistic und racist insults will not change that.
          It is another matter entirely to discuss tuition fees for foreign students, which are customary in most countries, and in Germany would help to ensure that prospective local students are not priced out of the market.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            I apologize if my polemic comment offends you. It was a remark that I actually picked up from an (excellent) Korean student himself, who studied in Vienna and commented on the average backgrounds and objectives of his fellow Korean students from his perspective.

  9. James Creitz says:

    I think if Norman wants to report in a spirited fashion, it is his right, this being his blog.
    That is, in part, what keep us reading it.

    As pointed out above, the decision for the fusion of the two radio orchestras, and the present deliberations are two separate institutions, both in Stuttgart.

    As Norman reports, the directors of the Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Freiburg schools have been colluding and lobbying the ministry since 2011, knowing that budget cuts were eminent. Their reasoning is clear: if we get rid of two (usually friendly) competitors, we will have no budget cuts. It is truly remarkable that the ministry would accept and support this proposal without any consultations, oblivious to the state comptroller’s audit, and with no credible criteria. I have, in fact, already heard accusations of non-existent transparence and even incompetence.

    The proposal is to reduce Trossingen to 100 students in the faculties of Early Music and Elementary Music Pedagogy. Mannheim would become a Pop Hochschule. The minister said that if this is not accepted, the 2 schools would be closed. The comptrollers noted that all 5 schools are working very well, and that none should be closed. They also noted that Trossingen was the most efficient of the 5, ie. lowest cost per student.

    It has been documented that in the 5 years 2008-2012, Trossingen (the smallest of the 5) had, along with Stuttgart (the largest), the most prizewinners, more than any of the other 3 Western schools. Apparently the percentage of their graduates who win gainful employment in their field is also the highest. Are there other more important criteria than quality and efficience which should determine allocating of public funds? And, if so, why aren’t they being discussed publicly?

  10. Normally there is usually a good bit of solidarity and collegiality in Germany’s cultural world. That the Hochschulen in Freiburg, Stuttgart, and Karlsruhe are working to shut down Trossingen and Mannheim in order to cannibalize their assets is very unusual. The treachery of the administrators at those three schools should be carefully noted and remembered as a part of their character by all who have future dealings with them.

    Baden-Wurttemberg has 2500 music students for a state population of 10.7 million. This ratio is in line with the other 15 states in Germany. So there is no reason to close the two Hochschulen, expect that their colleagues want to liquidate them to steal their assets.

    The Rechnungshof (like the German GAO) has noted that all five schools are efficiently operated (i.e. not wasteful) and that they bring important services to their communities and local economies. It recommended that all five schools should continue.

    If Trossingen and Mannheim are closed, the three pirate schools will quickly demand more funding for all the new students they have to handle. Through various tricks, the 4 million saved will quickly be reabsorbed by the back-stabbers. From an economic point of view, the whole thing is an exercise in treacherous futility unbecoming of Germany’s music world. And of course, the real losers are the students. They should carefully remember the names of the administrators in Stuttgart, Freiburg, and Karlsruhe who made it a policy to destroy music schools in order to appropriate their assets.

    • James Creitz says:

      Yes, Bill, and of course the plan waiting in the wings the next time there are budget cuts will have Stuttgart and Freiburg throwing Karlsruhe under the bus. Stuttgart at that point will be big enough to gobble up Freiburg. Indeed, I have heard, but don’t remember who told me this, that there is a plan to concentrate all possible resources in Stuttgart to create a counter-pole to Berlin. This is unconfirmed.

      • And as a counter-pole to the Musikhochschule in Colgne which has 1800 students and is reportedly the largest in Europe. I comment more on this centralization in Norman’s most recent blog which is here:

        • Fabio Fabrici says:

          Nobody with at least half a musical brain would consider the size of a music school as correlated to it’s quality. Actually the opposite is a trend. So that argument doesn’t make any sense.
          The quality of a music education depends on the quality of the main teacher and his dedication to his students first of all. School size is a relatively irrelevant picture in this.
          If a great musician and teacher works at a certain school depends on three factors,
          1.) the pay (depends on the state, not the city)
          2.) the reputation of the school
          3.) the quality of life in the host city

          • The issue isn’t size, but centralization, which runs counter to Germany’s long and beneficial traditions of cultural regionalism. See the link I list above.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            Which is why we need better public music education for all children, not only the obvious talents with the parents who can afford it. The tradition in Germany is that children can access a music education with relative ease
            1.) geographically, many smaller schools and teachers being available “in der Fläche”
            2.) economically, education being offered for free or heavily subsidized small fees. Instruments on hire etc.

            If we change that system and centralize and segregate even more by economic status, then we loose the great tradition in Germany. If the administrators in the big schools in BW can’g see this in their greed, then they are culture destroyers.
            This whole “Leuchtturm” debate in Germany has a very problematic back side of the medal, actually the backside might be bigger than the front.

            Last but not least: It’s definitely NOT the objective of music schools to develop top “stars”. These exceptional individuals always and traditionally find their way outside and beyond the music school system. The music school’s job is to develop MEDIOCRE well educated musicians that are able to carry on and nurture the broad musical culture of our civilization.
            The delusion of many teachers that their objective is to raise stars is actually DANGEROUS, since it damages the foundation of the system.

            We are in the problematic situation, because nobody takes care of the foundation of the house, but everybody wants to be at the top of the column.

            For a beginning I would pay ordinary music teachers in music schools more and give them long term perspectives and better contracts. The system has to be healed from the bottom, from the foundation.

  11. J. Marc Reichow says:

    Getting back to the original subject of the discussion, I would still like to learn more about the facts which the above allegations of plotting, bullying, academic chicanery, intransparent lobbying, cannibalization, liquidation, theft, back-stabbing &cet. might be based upon – if only to remember the “treachery of the administrators at those three schools” more vividly.

    (The ministery, by the way, obviously avoids the term “closing” or “shutting” and dates the beginning of the discussions – “dialogue”, “intense discourse” – for preparing this concept-for-restructuring (sic) to February, 2013.
    see )

    • James Creitz says:

      None of the above were my words. What I reported, and have from multiple reliable sources, is that the directors of the Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, and Freiburg schools have been working on these plans since 2011 and have been discretely selling them to the Ministerium. On Monday there was a “Workshop” which was not one: the participants were presented with a concept and told “take it or leave it”. Dialogue and discourse were discouraged. The message to the two to-be-decimated schools was: accept this or you will be closed.

      Obviously, they don’t need to words like “closing” as those two institutions would no longer be conservatories, but would still exist in some vague form. Rest assured that Trossingen, with 100 students in Early Music and Elementary Music Pedagogy, would soon thereafter be closed, as the economics would be unsustainable.

    • @Reichow. Just be patient. The disgusting actions of these three directors will become more known unless they do some serious backpedaling or lying.

  12. James Creitz says:

    Breaking news! And you really put your finger on it, William, with your theme of centralization. Apparently (I have this on reliable source this evening, but not yet any independent confirmation) there IS a plan to centralize in Stuttgart. It is politics. Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Freiburg are the main sources of voters for the ruling Green party. (Interestingly Mannheim (SPD) also is part of ruling coalition, but not an important enough one). Trossingen and area is CDU (opposition). Need I say more?
    At that point, any discussion of relative merits, foreigners, tuition fees are food for thought, but will be irrelevant to the decision made.

    • You name it!

    • In years past, the political situation was exactly the opposite. When Erwin Teufel was the Minister President, Trossingen was protected. He was CDU and from nearby Zimmern ob Rottweil, so the Trossingen region was well supported. Overall, I think it is fair to say that the Greens have never been as supportive of Germany’s generous subvention of classical music as the CDU and SPD. I wonder what that bodes for the future.

  13. They’re Steamrollering Mannheim.

  14. Michael Hurshell says:

    While the idea of using more public funds for basic, universal music education in schools is very good, the idea of re-locating funds for this purpose from the Musikhochschulen will hardly work – e.g. in Saxony (where I live and teach), the Musikhochschulen get their funds from the Wissenschaft und Kunst ministry, while the schools are funded by the Kultusministerium. Try getting a ministry to shift some of its funds to another ministry… I do, however, agree that programs like “Jedem Kind ein Instrument” are needed, and should be expanded. The base of the Pyramid is, indeed, becoming too narrow… I also agree that fees for foreign students – modest fees, to be sure – would be appropriate (because their taxes do not contribute to the budget), and such funds could indeed be used for scholarships for gifted applicants etc. As for the professor who suggests there are too many Musikhochschulen – shame.

  15. J. Marc Reichow says:

    Although I have expressed my dislike for the exact words and the (no doubt intentionally) provocative tone used to trigger the above discussion, and even though I am not willing to follow or judge all of the conspiracy theories subsequently expressed, it is clear that closing down (or replacing) those two Hochschulen as a result of financial/political decisions must be seen as barbaric, short-sighted and ill-advised
    - no matter how closely we are involved.

    As somebody not affiliated with either or any of those Hochschulen, I would therefore like to bring to your attention the following on-line petition

  16. I am a former student of MH – Stuttgart. The rating of the school is increasing year by year, not only because of the teachers, but because of the good financing as well. It will be horrible if they shut down Mannheim or Trossingen. These towns will partly turn into the standard paradise – alike german village – deserts again, but it will also be extraordinarily destructive if they shut down Stuttgart.

    It is hilarious, how a small banquet of idiots called politicians rule the world. The amount they are going to cut is just a tinniest small little bit for the Baden Wuettemberg economics.

  17. great post, I Like music so much.Most of the students of music in Germany having big problems to get a good job in an orchestra or a music school and we know many problems because of low income and ever lower pension are already very relevant.

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