Part II: The Reaction From the Community, and Bringing People Together
So, with this new initiative coming, and with all of this forward-thinking stuff, what is the reaction from the Mannes community?
I think the reaction is as it should be. It breaks down into three categories.
There are those who hate it.
All of it.
And would like to run me out of town on a rail. And I kid you not – that might be a nice way to put it.
Then there are those who are open, and are just really curious as to how it has happened, and what it is going to mean for our community.
And then there are those who wish it had happened many years ago.
It’s natural, as it should be.
The older, more senior faculty members see this as a loss.
They see this as a loss of any notion of independence, they see the loss of this discrete building, and that we will become a “department” of music.
I can see why the older generation has a problem with this, because they are set in their ways and the old way is exactly how it has been for decades. But, there is a tremendous benefit in change.
Yeah, and you have to change. I have a very big philosophy – you have to look to the outside world.
Looking inward doesn’t make sense.
You have to look to the environment. What is the environment?
So the main philosophy for me in all of this is this: what do our graduates need to know and be able to do?
And so the minute you start bringing in a range new things and ideas, it upends the historic barrel cart. Mannes had a static curriculum for around 50 years. It was a point of pride, for the senior faculty.
That said, the world has changed. We are serious about ensuring our students are prepared for the world they are about to enter.
We don’t want to rely primarily on a center for those who opt-in. We want to convert our philosophy into a common practice.
And that freaks a lot of people out.
Part III. What Are the Real Skills Musicians Need, and What Is the Employment Outlook?
The thing is, so many classical musicians don’t feel that having a business savvy is necessary, for one illogical reason or another. How are you going to be able to provide these skills in such a way as to make the student body not only accept but also embrace what you are doing.
You have to make a commitment to figuring out how to bring the outside world in.
I did feel for a long time, having graduated Juilliard, having taught at the Manhattan School of Music, having gone to Mannes many years ago, I did feel there was a paradox in how the curriculums were structured.
Conservatories create professional performers, but in the larger world of practice, particularly when it came to policy and making it in music, these schools weren’t bringing the outside world in very much.
They weren’t discussing many practical issues musicians face.
It could be funding policies, it could be immigration policies, it could be labor management issues.
You are training someone, in the conservatory setting, to play in an orchestra.
But somehow or another you are not introducing to them what it is to be an orchestral player, the life of it, the kinds of things that they need to think about and know about it.
By bringing the outside world in, we see that there are so many more things to talk about than just performance.
You might have to negotiate a contract.
You might have to sit on a board.
You might have to do children’s concerts.
You might have to speak from the stage.
Traditionally, it has been an education in a vacuum. The more we bring in the outside world, the better it will be.
When students, musicians or otherwise, go to college, there is one goal in mind, which is a traditional model of employment.
And it’s just not there!
It’s not there in law, it’s not there in television, it’s not there in the automotive industry…
It’s not there in a lot of fields, but it is especially true about classical music. I mean, how many professional orchestras exist, and how many have good-paying job openings every year? It’s interesting how schools like yours are taking initiative now, as opposed to earlier.
We are talking about people’s lives.
And there’s another side to it.
I’m a big believer in this issue of intentionally thinking about how to provide the best well-rounded music education. I’m also big on a sound and basic overall education for those who will go on into other fields.
We are getting into strengthening language skills, business skills – we want to raise the standards of our liberal arts programs even higher.
We don’t want to water them down because we have “conservatory students.”
Many of these students will do something else, and I want to sleep at night feeling like we are doing our best.
And I don’t think these skills are mutually exclusive to music.
The stronger someone is at reading, writing, and communicating, the stronger they are at being musicians.
So, we are really committed to this duality of the best music education, and the best education.
And that’s also freaking people out.
Your thinking is a major shift in how we think about conservatories, because reading, writing, is important, yet often neglected in musical academia.
It’s completely basic.
What can you do if you can’t communicate at a high level today?
What field could you make it in?
In Part IV on the next page, we look to Leonard Bernstein, Mozart, and Groupmuse as case studies in musical versatility.