Curriculum Development in Music Education

Conservatories have always had to relate to several forces: the professional practice for which they train students, an existing body of knowledge and teaching, the debate about artistic values, and an overarching educational system. These forces do not necessarily reinforce each other - that professional practice demands everything that education provides, or that artistic values relate harmoniously to nationally established educational profiles. As a result, subjects, instruction methods, relationships of authority and the distribution of the study load are actually constantly at issue. 

At most conservatories, the curriculum is based on a mixture of older and newer ideas. One of the older ideas is that the conservatory is part of a relatively well-defined musical universe (whether classical music, jazz or pop). Another older idea is that the curriculum should consist of a practical-personal part and a general knowledge part, and that in the latter part the "reading and writing" of music – ear-training, harmony, transcription and analysis - occupy an important place.

A newer idea is that musicians are entrepreneurs - a logical response to the dwindling or disappearance of traditional employers such as orchestras and music schools, and the cutback in cultural subsidies. Additionally, the focus on their physical and mental resilience has grown only in recent years. This development is related to the internationalization of the professional practice and the correspondingly increased competition in the work field for musicians; and it is stimulated by research into the conditions under which dancers and athletes achieve optimal performance without overexerting themselves. Finally, another newer idea is that research is a vital aspect of artistic practices as they are taught at the conservatory. 

Older ideas are not necessarily obsolete, just as newer ideas are not always groundbreaking. But ideas have a context, and it is important to take this into consideration. Anyone reading the above may notice that only the newer ideas (entrepreneurship, resilience, research) are contextualized. The older ones have not - they have been entrenched in conservatory education for years. There are methods, routines and trained teachers for their reification. But we do them a disservice if we consider the conservatory as their only context; for how did they ever come into the world? And how do they relate to contemporary reality? This is a question that underlies the historical research in this line of inquiry.    

Against what, through a historical process, has come to be known as "music knowledge," we see contemporary musicians search for knowledge relevant to them outside their own domain. They find that knowledge not only in the sports and movement sciences (see chapter 2), but for example also in social and evolutionary psychology (which can help them to improve the cooperation in an ensemble) and in the health sciences (which can help them to prevent injuries), and in the other performing arts. In addition, musicians themselves have broadened the knowledge base of their practice through their own artistic explorations. How can these developments find their way into the conservatory curriculum? That is the subject of the experimental research in this line of inquiry, in which interventions are developed and tested in educational practice.