At my alma mater, DePauw University, the hottest topic of music school gossip was the new developing curriculum. The 21st Century Musician Initiative, or 21CM, is the brainchild of Mark McCoy, the dean of the DePauw School of Music since fall of 2011. This weekend, I got the chance to talk to Dean McCoy about the goals and state of the program.
McCoy describes 21CM as “a holistic effort by the music school to create the musician of the future instead of the musician of the past.” The program seeks to make DePauw students into “more flexible and entrepreneurial musicians” through increased performance opportunities, contact with professionals in the field, and a revamped curriculum of brand new courses. McCoy notes that it is hardly possible to be a “single-career musician” anymore, and that everything a music student does through the 21CM program will be geared toward giving them experience and expertise in a variety of areas necessary for a classical musician in the 21st century.
The 21CM curriculum includes three required courses. State of the Art, similar to Longy’s Future of Classical Music class, encourages students to examine current events in classical music such as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra lockout and the crisis at the Metropolitan Opera, and challenges them to find ways to defend against this kind of predicament in their own future careers. An entrepreneurship class focuses on the basics of musical entrepreneurship and independent audience development. The third class, a “practicum” course, gives students the opportunity to apply those skills in an outside setting. All three courses are offered as electives this year to test the structure, but next year they will become required for every DePauw music student. McCoy also described a rotating set of electives, such as grant writing, arts business and management, and psychographic research, which would be different each semester to give students more choices about the areas of 21CM about which they want to learn more.
Outside the classroom, other facets of 21CM give students exposure to professionals and audiences. The Green Guest Artist Series, named for donors Judson and Joyce Green, brings forward-thinking classical musicians and ensembles to perform for and interact with students: McCoy mentioned the trios Time for Three and Project, the a cappella choir Voces8, and the string quartet Ethel as examples of “cutting-edge groups in classical music today.” In addition to short-term visiting artists, DePauw invites an ensemble to be artists in residence, hosting workshops and master classes throughout the year in addition to concerts. On the audience side, student musicians are given performance opportunities in Greencastle in places like a restaurant, a coffee shop, the farmers’ market, and the senior center. Larger ensembles have started touring internationally, including the chamber singers’ tour to Mexico last year and the upcoming orchestra visit to Vienna, as well as domestically. DePauw also gives music students opportunities to teach, both in conjunction with Greencastle Middle School and through a preparatory program for private lessons. All of these additions provide students with real-world experience to help them become better 21st century musicians.
The positive response to 21CM from within the music school is remarkable. “It’s going unbelievably,” said McCoy, “in that we actually got an entire school of music faculty to agree to change the curriculum, which is very rare.” Responses have been less positive from students and outside sources, mainly because of misrepresentation in the media and some people’s difficulty in understanding the goals and efforts of the school. However, the program has been mentioned by reputable news sources such as Diane Rehm on NPR and Larry King on CNN and in Robert Freeman’s new book The Crisis of Classical Music in America.
When asked about suggestions for other schools that want to find ways of gearing their curriculum toward the future, McCoy replied, “I think that all music schools in America are asking the same question. We’re just trying to figure out what’s the best set of answers, and for us at DePauw we felt that the best set of answers was to make this a no-sidelines effort: Everything we do is about creating the 21st-century musician.” He wishes luck to any school of music with similar goals, no matter what size changes they want to make to their courses and programs, and hopes that the world of music education will find the best way to address the changes happening in the business of classical music.