4. Make Improvisation a Seriously Pursued Requirement
Musical improvisation is not just a cool skill jazz musicians understand better than classical musicians in today’s music schools.
Improvisation is the ultimate genesis of comprehending composition.
All music you have ever played, written, liked, or sang along to started off as someone’s improvising.
All music ever created by humans ever was once improvised!
On top of that, improvisation has been shown in some studies to be central to the enjoyment of playing music.
If you are a musician like me, there is no way you can understand how music can be enjoyable without improvisation. When you don’t include improvisation in a curriculum, a core element of expressiveness and individuality in music is not being fostered.
And in its place we have sheet music written by composers centuries ago in Italy, France, Austria, and Germany. These Eurocentric minds and feelings are being expressed just fine in today’s American conservatories.
What makes jazz so successful and interesting is the fact that musicians can be expressive and in the moment with live improvisation.
What makes non-classical American music so successful is that musicians almost always will be able to effusively improvise in the moment. Even if a musician is following a chord progression, playing along to a melody, and abiding to very clear structural elements in the work, the improvisation element can always become an integral factor of his performance.
And this is not an isolated phenomenon in just a few musical genres – this is a technique used in almost all music of all cultures throughout the world.
Isn’t it time we expand the palette of musical ability by having students learn the art of improvisation in our music schools? That would certainly help remedy the state of pervasive Eurocentricity.
3. Promote Collaboration Between Classical Musicians and Non-Classical Musicians
Collaboration is the lifeblood of music. Music is a social art.
Classical musicians can learn a lot about music from non-classical musicians; Classical musicians can gain valuable skills performing in the recording industry, performing in atypical concert venues, working in film and television sets as musicians, and conjuring new perspectives on music that can inform their future ability to make multiple revenue streams in music in their futures.
Collaboration in different genres is also a distinctly American ideal, whereas in a traditional Eurocentric ideal, preservation of a pure genre is the status quo.
With collaboration between classical and non-classical musicians, a once Eurocentric-based education becomes informed with ideas that can provide students a modern repertoire of tools that will aid in their future’s as professional musicians.
2. Music Schools Should Teach Students How to Make Money In “Downtown” Venues
A class I always had wished I was able to take during my undergraduate degree was “How to Book a Gig and Make Money Doing So.”
After all, this is such an essential and obvious practice for making money as a musician. We perform at a venue that invites an audience, and we get paid in the process of doing so.
Unfortunately, I was never offered these kinds of classes in my undergraduate, and neither are most musicians…
Instead, I was able to take fifteen music theory courses throughout my education as well as five hours of choir every week.
With such a Eurocentric education, my family’s hundreds of thousands of dollars must have been put to good use…right?
Well, you get where I am going with this.
By teaching students how to book gigs in downtown venues, music schools have the ability to impart a very American-originated ideal that could benefit the futures of a musician with educations rooted in both conservative and modern traditions.
1. Translate the American Dream Into an American Musical Reality
Thankfully, the promise of the American dream is much different than the promise of Eurocentricity.
In the American Dream, we see people taking their own lives into their own hands, with the ability to access upward mobility using a diverse set of valuable skills in order to succeed.
It isn’t about getting one specific job with their music degree and advanced training.
It’s about providing someone an education that can draw upon the unique skill sets of who they are as a person, about teaching them how to bring their skills to a market that will invest their money into their value-bringing talents.
Some will say that there is absolutely no way these ideals can be taught in a major music school…
This is an utterly negative statement to which I passionately disagree.
Many music schools are already making the change. Mannes is initiating a new program and school-wide philosophy that will help students learn to become more entrepreneurial with their talents.
Lawrence University is encouraging their students to think outside the box with a 21st-Century Initiative.
Many schools like UNC Wilmington are creating in-depth music business programs, and the University of Southern Carolina has created a SPARK lab, a program that places more emphasis on careers and finances of a 21st century musician than Eurocentric traditions.
But this is just a handful of schools that are starting to do this. More schools need to catch on to this modern day trend that positively places emphasis onto the individual musician working in America.
I truly believe more schools actually will catch on. Eventually.
Regardless of where you go, you can simultaneously acknowledge European roots of classical music while embracing the ideals of not just American music, but music of other cultures.
By embracing musical ideas outside of just Eurocentricity, you open up yourself to so much more knowledge about music, which will lead to more opportunities for you in your creative life.
Can you imagine how positively you will feel when you have learned so much as a musician that you will be able to draw upon your richly varied education to create artistic and financial success for yourself?
Sounds like an American Dream coming true.