Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Best of All Possible Music Schools

After reading Eric Edberg's very interesting post about listening to the same audition pieces over and over, I started thinking about how I would run auditions and classes at my ideal music school.

Since I do not have any aspirations to become an academic musician in the conventional sense of the word, I feel free to think as far "out of the box" as I want. Because I am operating completely in the realm of my imagination, my school would provide tuition, healthy vegan-friendly food, and housing for all students without charge. Nobody would be able to stay longer than four years, so everybody would have to make the most of their time. There would be between 200 and 300 students in the school--enough for a symphony orchestra, an opera orchestra, a chorus, and enough pianists to keep everyone happy. The setting would be rural, but it would be within a half-hour's journey (either by car or by public transportation) from a major city. The faculty would be well paid, and they would be able to come in from the city if they choose, or they could live on campus. If they have late rehearsals or concerts, they would always have a place to sleep on campus.

The school would be supported by concerts put on by the students and faculty at the school, generous gifts from music lovers everywhere, and grants from a government that understands the importance of music in our culture and thinks of education as a priority towards achieving world peace (don't laugh, it's my fantasy). All the "work" on campus would be done by the students, except in the case of building repairs where a professional would need to be called in.

Students applying for the school would be expected to know the chamber music repertoire for their instrument. They could be students of any age who have finished high school. Auditions would be held year-round, and would consist of chamber music reading sessions with the faculty, playing an unprepared piece of music from that instrument's repertoire--something that the person auditioning should know anyway. In addition to playing chamber music with the faculty, students would have to have an understanding of music history, understand the origins of their instruments, and know the recorded legacy of their instrument. To prove their understanding of music, they would have to write several essays written on specific topics, but geared towards subjects that would be relevant to their instrument. These would need to be extremely well written and would need to show the kind of devotion necessary for a music student to stand tall in a world that is generally not interested in anything that matters to them. There would also be an interview, followed by more playing, if the person seems a likely candidate for the school, and there would be a waiting list.

The course of study would be varied, but everyone would have a daily hour of slow practice. The motto for this hour would be "no quarter notes over the speed of 60 beats per second," and everyone would develop a beautiful sound. Students could practice scales, exercises, or music, but everything would have to be slow. In addition to courses about music, there would be courses in literature, poetry, and art, and people interested in science and math could audit courses at a City university for credit.

Everybody would have to learn to teach, and part of the coursework would be for each student to go into the city once a week and hold an improvisation class with children who were interested in music. At the end of the school year (or maybe at intervals during the school year), there would be a city festival showcasing all the different improvisation groups. The students could also teach private lessons during their city day, but the money would all go to the music school. For their entire four years at school they wouldn't have to use any kind of currency.

In addition to teaching children, the students in the school would be expected to go into the City and introduce their peers to the joys of listening to music and going to classical music concerts. Maybe the idea would really catch on, and we could have schools like this all over the country.

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