Whenever I hear debates over different music education philosophies or approaches, particularly among Sistema advocates, it seems that the practitioners under discussion are often reduced to one of two factions: the stodgy, elitist, arrogant, stiflingly inflexible guardians of the Western European tradition, and the socially-conscious, democratizing, innovating, free-wheeling, passion-producing proponents of el Sistema and other social music initiatives. I’m guilty of this too, quite frankly: comparisons require generalizations, and this one is particularly easy to make, invidious though it might be. As Kipling said, East is East and West is West – or in this case, North is North and South is South.
But the twain do meet, more often than we might imagine, and they did for me at the school where I completed my undergraduate degree, the University of Victoria in British Columbia (pushpin 2). My time there stands as one of the few experiences within academia I had where I felt that the school existed for the students, not for faculty, that new ideas were welcomed and encouraged, and that the intention of the institution was to build artists, not technical automatons. When I think of the kind of teacher I want to be, I remember my mentors there.
So it is with a great sense of privilege and honour that I can announce I will deliver a guest lecture there on October 31st, at 10:00am as an invitee of the Music Education department. I’ll be speaking on Sistema, naturally, with a particular focus on the implications from macro to micro levels. (Added bonus: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is speaking that evening on campus.)
Then on November 1st I fly to Prince George (pushpin 1), in the northern interior, to prepare a concert with the Prince George Symphony. This is a remarkable orchestra, one whose very existence is a strong statement from a very geographically isolated city about the community’s values and aspirations. If you’ve visited my artistic activity page recently, you might have noticed a growing list of major orchestras for which I’ve recently auditioned, but I consider being shortlisted for the position of Music Director of the PGSO a particular honour. The performance is November 5th at Vanier Hall. If you come, please take a moment to introduce yourself as a reader of the blog.
And then on November 17th there’s the previously mentioned conference in Montréal (pushpin 3). I’m happy to say the full program of the day’s events is now available right here. Richard Hallam, the driving force behind the UK national initiative, will do a special presentation on partnerships (he wrote an excellent article in IJME on the topic), and Dr. Ruth Wright of UWO will start the morning with a sociological perspective on Sistema. I’ll cover some provocative concepts in teacher training from Sistema, and a variety of panels with some very interesting leaders in different but important areas of the arts, public policy, etc. will round out the day. Please come! Registration information is available here.
See in you Victoria, Prince George, or Montréal?