Balancing Innovation with Tradition: Maintaining a Relevant College Music Curriculum

Article excerpt

Technology is a cohesive bridge to the fine arts and often changes the context of study, creation, and performance of music. Personal computers, MIDI, synthesizers and software are changing the way educators present the fundamental principles of music. As college departments strive to maintain a relevant college music curriculum, technology is a compelling factor for change and can be the imperative crux of an evolving music program. Music hardware, computer aided programs, and internet connectivity inspires curricular modernization as well as projects based on technological innovation. Lecture based instruction is shifting towards teaching strategies based on principles of student discovery and collaborative problem-based learning. This paper will address some of the projects, challenges and changes brought on by the infusion of technology. Recommendations based on a model program at Bergen Community College will be considered and may be useful in contemplating existing or absent parallels at other institutions.

The relatively recent advances in technology have had a profound impact on college music courses. The 1958 Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and Robert Moog's analog synthesizer (c1960) were two innovations that paved the way for the merger of personal computers, digital synthesizers, and MIDI keyboards of today. The first-generation of software, created on large mainframe computers during the 60's and 70's was costly but proved the feasibility of Computer-Based Music Instruction (CBMI). The first music software leaders of CBMI included Fred T. Hofstetter's GUIDO ear-training curriculum and Don Bitzer's PLATO system. (1) By the 1980's, analog electronic music keyboards had given way to digital synthesizers, and the development of Music Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) protocol which united computer and synthesizer technology. The stage was then set for interactive music making among musician, keyboard synthesizer/sampler and computer. (2) As pricing eased for computer, software, and synthesizer, collegiate music departments around the nation embarked on courses in electronic music, computer-based recording, and other technology based music courses supported with CBMI software.

For the past decade, the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), an accreditation agency for music schools in the United States, has included technology as one of the six critical competencies necessary for Baccalaureate Degree graduation. The NASM expectation describes that, "each student must acquire the ability to use technologies current to their area of specialization." (3) It has been further explained, "Students should be made familiar with the capabilities of technology as [it] relates to composition, performance, analysis, teaching and research. (4) NASM sets a standard that two and four year colleges strive to emulate. Educators, like Deal and Taylor, have taken the time to examine this mandate, consider and delineate what is essential to all undergraduate music majors. They recommend six components in technological mastery for the undergraduate music major:

* Knowledge of computer basics including, but not limited to, file management and storage, document process ad printing, operating systems, database management and spreadsheets.

* Knowledge of the fundamentals of computer-based instruction (CBI) and of software available, especially in the areas of teaching and the testing of basic musicianship skills.

* Basic knowledge of notation programs, sequencing programs, and MIDI, as well as a more advanced knowledge of one notation program

* Knowledge of the fundamentals of multimedia including hardware, software, and basics of courseware development.

* Concepts and techniques of Internet access

* Knowledge of and experience with software designed as interactive or automatic accompaniments to performance. (5)

Although each individual institution determines the definition of competency in technology, the model above seems reasonable for college programs to consider. …