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Becoming a musician in the 21st century

Becoming a musician in the 21st century

I was asked to talk about some of my work and research relating to this topic for a convocation for all students and staff at the Minnesota School of Music at the beginning of their academic year. In this presentation I wanted to get across the ways in which collaborative learning can transform our pedagogy in music without losing our fundamental values or standards of quality in musicianship and performance. Reframing our pedagogy in terms of collaboration and creativity I think is key to supporting the development of our individual artistic voice, enabling us to create interactive relationships with our audiences, and making connections beyond our discipline and the conservatoire.

The presentation focused on the potential of improvisation work as a powerful way to build a shared creative space between teacher and pupil in one-to-one lessons, and as a way to support students in connecting with their personal artistic voice and taking responsibility for their development. Both these aspects, we know from research, can be problematic in the one-to-one context. I worked on some simple improvisation techniques with an oboe student, Jeff Marshak, on the stage who had never improvised before, and we'd never met before! Jeff surprised himself, I think, at how quickly this opened up a new field of musical experience for him, and certainly many people in the audience were struck by how quickly improvisation established rapport between us and a space for collaborative creativity.

I also looked at collaborative learning in group contexts in music, and at how it also underpins successful interdisciplinary projects across the arts and beyond. My conclusions are that creative collaborative learning is an essential part of developing core musical and craft skills and of being able to work effectively in diverse contexts in the professional world. It is something we need to embed throughout the conservatoire.

Before the convocation, I spoke with Professor David Myers, Director of the School of Music, and John Birge, in an interview for Minnesota public radio. Extracts can be found here.

 

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In a nutshell

So why should you be interested in Learning in and through the Performing Arts?

The collaborative processes of the performing arts open a pandora's box of possibilities for artistic, personal and organizational development. They are subtle and multi-layered, embodied practices that can yield much more than what individuals bring to them, creatively and in terms of human exchange. My work is about continuing to develop these processes for the twenty-first century, so that artists can adapt to their changing contexts and enable their work to take root as creative entrepreneurs, and so that the processes of the arts can be shared and enhanced through exchange with other disciplines and across cultural contexts.