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Open letter about the standard of 3rd level degrees

A chara / dear friend


I am just flying a kite here. I am very unimpressed with the quality of music degrees in recent years from third level colleges all over Europe and the USA. I find more and more degree and post grad. musicians coming to me asking can i teach them how to compose or ‘write’ music or about the most rudimentary elements of form etc. I know that since the 1960’s a lot has been ‘modernized’ but it does sometimes seems to me as if the baby went missing with the bath water. There seems to be a lot of ‘nice’ or ‘enlightened’ approaches with more involvement of the other arts and of modern
technology but at the expense of actual practical basic skills. I certainly would not deem a bridge constructed by an engineer taught in the parallel same way, as being safe to drive on – I would fear the structure as being unsound.

I do not mean to be an old fart about this but there really are a lot of young graduates out there, who are feeling a bit desperate to find out how to actually ‘put music together’ and feel that they lack some very basic skills.

It was easier if tougher for those of us who qualified from the older system which might have been very pedantic but we did learn the skills and then, if interested, went on to acquire tech skills etc as we needed them – we had the horse and found different carts. It was just as tough or tougher for those who had to teach themselves and there are even fewer successful self-taught individuals who, from my experience had to be very bright, talented and ‘hungry’ to succeed as they did.

So I am wondering would any one agree with me?

I am thinking about some sort of international symposium run by several different music departments together to thrash this out and a publishing of all the papers delivered. My input is to get people interested and stay out of the way in the background. We have a voluntary charitable trust – Iontaoibheas Fodhla which could organize some of the work but I think this is a project for academia and ideally would be held in Ireland with an Irish University and say an US University with an appropriate team of high standing in the subject to draw it together and oversee the quality and standard of the contributions.

Do you have ideas on this subject?

Mise le meas
Peadar Ó Riada

P.S Can the same could be said for third level Art Degrees. I hear it is now quite common for students to get their degree in Art after some 3, 4 or 5 years works and to not have been shown how to mix paint!

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