Following our discussion with Dean Chin in class almost two weeks ago, I spent a great deal of time pondering our charge to provide constructive feedback on Longy’s curriculum. As a student who has wandered Longy’s halls for almost six years--in that time weathering both the entire undergraduate program and over half of the Masters program--I feel that I am in a unique position to give specific feedback based on my own experiences. There are suggestions I have regarding additions and changes to the curriculum. However, there are aspects of Longy’s current system that I feel are absolutely indispensable and should continue to be top priorities even amidst a curricular overhaul. I have classified my ideas into the categories, “to keep,” “to add,” and “to change.”
- High expectations for musicianship training are necessary not only to produce great musicians, but to maintain Georges Longy's original vision for a European-style conservatory that fosters a thorough understanding of theory. The Fundamentals and Harmony classes are extremely challenging, but that’s why they’re worth the time and effort. As a Longy undergraduate program alum, I am proud of the hard work I did in those classes, and think I am an infinitely better musician for it. As classical musicians rightly explore branching out from concert halls into people’s living rooms and elementary school classrooms, it is more important than ever to seek a high-level understanding of our art. It is only through musicianship training that we can give the best possible performances and information to our communities. (This is not to say no good music comes of instinct; but the better you know your subject, the better you can share it.)
- Longy's Dalcroze Eurythmics requirement is worthwhile. My dalcroze experience was another transforming component of my undergraduate training. I feel that dalcroze complements Longy’s fundamentals classes, and that it helps you put music in your body. Rhythm makes more sense to me because of the work I did in dalcroze. I also became a better performer, not only because I learned how movement relates to music, but because I was forced to be brave enough to express my thoughts physically. Eurhythmics is also a helpful tool to have in your back pocket for teaching children rhythm.
- My first suggestion for a curricular addition is a Sight Reading and Practical Musicianship Seminar. This ideally would be mandatory for every student in their first semester at Longy--and during that semester, the students would not participate in chamber music or orchestra performances (resulting reduced enrollment in orchestra could be alleviated by having more chamber orchestra concerts in the fall semester). My reasoning for this addition is that I found it extremely challenging connecting my solfege and dalcroze training to my playing. It would be beneficial to Longy students, particularly undergraduates, to have an opportunity to work on musicianship in a hands-on setting. This might require some dividing up of instrumental groups so that string players, wind players, singers, and everyone in between can receive training specific to the peculiarities of sightreading on their own instruments. Late in the semester, the seminar should take the shape of a large, conducted ensemble. Learning to follow a conductor is a separate but related skill. I realize implementing this course could be logistically difficult, but feel confident that it would help to support Georges Longy’s original concept of a school that promotes a thorough understand of music.
- Dean Chin’s news of a possible songwriting course sparked a related idea for me. I feel strongly that it is important to step into the composer’s shoes at some point in your musical life; experiencing the creation of music for yourself changes the way you make decisions as a performer. I think this is potentially a wonderful offering and nominate Dr. Paul Brust as a potential instructor (especially as he already teaches the courses Drama in Song: Anatomy of a Theater Song and Words and Music: Analysis of Song). However, I think a broader step worth considering would be adding a composition requirement to the undergraduate and graduate curriculum. Three existing courses that could also feed into this requirement are John Morrison’s Composition for Performers, Peter Aldins’ Orchestration course (which includes some arranging and could be formally expanded to Orchestration and Arrangement), and Greg Hopkins’ Techniques of Jazz Composition and Arranging.
- Dean Chin mentioned the possibility of consolidating the Teaching Artist Program requirement to one semester. I think this course of action could be justified as long as every student still has real-world experience in Teaching Artistry during that one semester. I always found TAP interesting and thought-provoking. However, upon going out to do my project, I realized no amount information imparted in the classroom can prepare you for your first experience in the real world. Therefore, I propose holding approximately five informational classes at the beginning of the semester to impart essential and basic concepts. After those five classes, project planning should commence. One or two classes to try out ideas would be helpful, as would two or three planning sessions with a mentor. This way, the whole course could be accomplished in approximately a semester. For interested students, an advanced TAP course would be worthwhile after the introductory semester. This is another possibility Dean Chin mentioned in class.
- There are several worthwhile subjects that would be helpful for today’s musicians that I think should be mandatory at Longy, but in which I feel students don’t necessarily need an entire semester of study unless they deem it helpful for their particular career goals. For these things, I recommend Longy use the Department Seminars, and combine them into school-wide seminars a few times a year. Subjects I classify in this category include training in the use of music notation software, audio recording, video recording, video editing, website making, and resume writing (some of these subjects are currently covered in TAP, but this would help students learn these concepts while still shortening TAP to one semester. Also, most of these concepts pertain to self-marketing, which I don’t feel is appropriate to include in a class about how to teach and share music). These “primer” classes should recur annually, so every student is exposed to these skills.
Perhaps these suggestions are excessively ambitious or even impossible, but I make them genuinely in the spirit of the quality education I received as a Longy undergraduate. I believe the pursuit of Georges Longy’s mission is a worthwhile one, no matter the logistical trouble. To anyone who read this entire post, thank you very much for reading my thoughts. Happy music-making to everyone!