Theory vs. practical skills, or, “We are the 19%”

Some of my readers recently sent me this podcast about the changing face of the conservatory. Richard Kessler, the dean of Mannes College, has redesigned the college’s core curriculum to incorporate required classes in entrepreneurship, technology, composition, and improvisation.

To make room for these, Kessler proposes lessening the requirements for music theory and history. I think some of my friends thought I would be outraged at this, since I teach a class in ear training as well as cello. But as I listened to the podcast, I found myself thinking that Kessler’s plan was a pretty good idea.

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Audience participation

Last night, I went to a concert by eighth blackbird where one of the works on the programme was Bryce Dessner’s Murder Ballades. Based on some American folk music of the nineteenth century, it appeared to veer between quotation from, and postmodern commentary on, some pretty foot-stomping material. At one point, the players actually started stamping their own feet loudly on the stage. I was sitting next to a young man who had never been to a classical concert before, and at this point, he started spontaneously clapping along with the beat.

No one else in the audience did.

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