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Norm at CNMN Forum #5

Today was interesting again! We talked for an hour about education, not in a panel format but a much more open, less formal, round table style.

There were some really great ideas about how elementary to university education currently works and how our antiquated curricula keep new music isolated.

My favourite idea has become: What if our teachers called new music “normal”, and Beethoven was fringe music? Why do we keep calling new music strange when it’s been around so long! Why not just call it music, like we call Mozart music? Or call improvised or new music “music” and call Schubert “old music”?

My notes:

  • Musicians have to be more complete now than ever. They have to gain lots of skills: compose, collaborate, perform, program and administrate!

  • Is music training a vocational course or an academic course? Are we creating qualified musicial workers or artists?

  • Students need to develop independent thought, curiosity. Maybe curriculum should be up to the student? (many reacted with: no! How can you know what you need in life when you’re 19? And indeed, how can we teach everything in 4 years?)

  • Education needs to start early. (Conservatory/Suzuki is the problem) We need to encourage creative thought early. By University they'll be ready to go. To achieve this, we need to teach our teachers more completely.

  • University is a place for philosophical thought. Take materials and put them in context. Contemporary music is not that complex! The same things are at play through history.

  • How about a mandatory Canadian music history course? Or is that just another limiting construct?

  • As we think about education we have to be careful to not impose everything we wished we got from University onto our ideas.

  • What is normal? Perhaps the norm in music is what's happening now! Beethoven is specialized, not modern music.

  • Music is a personal practice, not a course or program. We need to teach it with this ideal in mind.

Contemporary music is not the broccoli! It's the brownie.

So that wrapped up our 3 days. As I had hoped, I’ve come home energized by all the thinking and talking, writing and laughing! It’s very comforting to spend time with such a capable, smart, creative community of Canadians. I made some new friends, and some new contacts that will be important to both suddenlyLISTEN and Symphony Nova Scotia; I’ve gathered some new ideas on how to market, program, and fundraise; and I’ve received a good shot of confidence from my friends and colleagues that both Symphony NS and suddenlyLISTEN are on a pretty good track, and that new and creative music has a stable footing in Nova Scotia! We don’t have fancy spaces, annual awards, or buckets of money, but we do have as much raw creativity, energy and imagination as anyone across the country. I’m confident we’re doing as much, (or more) with less support and infrastructure, than almost any musical community in Canada.

In conclusion:

Canadian artists are in great shape, and we are passionately busting our humps to make this beautiful and important music.

Please support us, so we can sustain our work. A little means, and does a lot!

Take a chance. Come to our concerts and events! I know you’ll be surprised by how you feel, having listened to expressions and innovations of today. You don’t have to like all of it, but I bet you’ll be transformed by some of it!

And, please let me know what you think about what I have learned. You can help me to figure out how to apply my new energy to sustain and build our Nova Scotian scene with your comments, letters, emails, FaceBook comments and (shudder…) tweets. I hope to hear from you!

Jan 28, 2014 at 10:35

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