Dawn Elizabeth Bennett. Understanding the Classical Music Profession: The Past, the Present and Strategies for the Future

By Baker, David | Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Dawn Elizabeth Bennett. Understanding the Classical Music Profession: The Past, the Present and Strategies for the Future


Baker, David, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education


Dawn Elizabeth Bennett. Understanding the Classical Music Profession: The Past, the Present and Strategies for the Future. Aldershot, United Kingdom: Ashgate, 2008. 168 pp. Hardback. ISBN 978-07546-5959-4.

Dawn Bennett, Research Fellow at Curtin University of Technology in Australia, frames Understanding the Classical Music Profession admirably with a preliminary chapter outlining her research methods, aims, and technical terms. The latter, coupled with a list of abbreviations, will be particularly helpful as the text is intended for an international audience. Bennett's interpretation of the classical music industry is deepened by a research design using qualitative and quantitative methods.

Chapter two explores the scope of the cultural industries. A swift perusal of footnotes reveals that Australian circumstances take precedence here; although interesting, this emphasis is slightly disappointing. In chapter three, Bennett asks "What is a musician?" and provides a history of the profession from the Middle Ages onwards. The writing is appealing throughout the chapter and the referencing effective. There are merely a few bold statements that would benefit from cited evidence. For example, Bennett mentions:

   There have been a number of lawsuits triggered when women musicians
   secured principal roles during "blind" auditions--where an
   [orchestral] audition is conducted behind a screen to preserve
   anonymity--only to be demoted once the director realized her
   gender.

The statement may well be accurate but evidence is not forthcoming.

Chapter four addresses the nature of musicians' education and training. Elsewhere in the book, there is a slight accent on the recent Australian context at times, reflected in Bennett's choice of sources. However, this chapter will, undoubtedly, be of great interest to an international readership. Issues considered include how musicians perceive the status of performers compared to music teachers. Furthermore, readers are encouraged to contemplate the heavy weighting of performance training in higher education programs compared to other learning such as business skills and teaching methods. The author posits an imbalance in degree programs when evaluated against labor-market realities. On that point, Persson's remark comes to mind: we should not assume that roles of formidable artist and successful educator are interchangeable. (1)

This tale of a "gap" between music courses and the labor market persists in music education literature; it may reflect an inadequate rate of curricular transformation. It is an important story, nonetheless, with considerable support from research literature, yet far from novel. Mark recognized segregation between domains of performance or musicological studies and, in the opposing encampment, music pedagogy in Austrian universities. (2) After evaluating job opportunities more realistically, a solution could be found, he argued, "... when educational programs for music teachers overcome the historically and institutionally conditioned barriers between the disciplines...." (3) Attempts to remedy the predicament of limited student exposure to pedagogy surfaced in the United Kingdom some time ago. An initiative at Guildhall School of Music and Drama (GSMD) united conservatory students with music teachers. (4) The project was forged in partnership with Inner London Education Authority; GSMD students collaborated with the organization's peripatetic instrumental teachers. Whilst Kite recognized that the module was beneficial and not students' "staple diet," he also accepted its limitations:

   The main priority for a conservatoire has to be performance: that
   is how we select our students and that is how, finally, we evaluate
   them. It is also fundamental to the students' expectations of
   conservatoire provision ... and to the professional music world's
   expectations of the conservatoire "product. … 

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