• Jeffrey Nytch

What If Wednesdays are here!

Earlier this month I was fortunate to help lead the College Music Society's "Summit 2.0: Re-imaginging the Undergraduate Music Curriculum." One of the sessions we had offered a rapid-fire presentations of provocative "What if...?" questions. Each of us had only 90 seconds to deliver a "radical" idea, something that would be a fundamental game-changer for our current music curricula. I got to deliver five of these, and my colleagues David Cutler, Mark Rabideau, and Jennifer Snow have also graciously allowed me to share their What If questions as well. So we're going to start a new Thing! And if you have a provocative question you'd like to pose here, let me know! Here we go with the first one: What if we eliminated our linear curricular structures?


We all know the sequences: there’s the theory sequence, the aural skills sequence, the history sequence. Even within existing courses, curriculum is designed in a linear fashion that leads, inexorably, toward The Final Goal. The entire length of our musical education is a series of steps, each one building on the last. But here’s the problem: this unidirectional structure presumes that all students are seeking – and needing – the same things, that they all want the same outcome for their studies and, by extension, their career. This renders our curriculum shockingly ill-suited to many – perhaps even most – of our students. But what if we eliminated our linear curricular structures? What if what we determine to be the core, baseline, needed-by-all content were scaled back significantly, so that students could establish their baseline competency and knowledge and then pursue any number of subjects and experiences, led only by their interests, passions, and personal goals? Rather than being like a one-track, one-directional train that takes all students on the same route from beginning to end, what if our undergraduate curriculum were like a portal with an infinite number of doors going to different places and in different ways? What if, rather than looking at our degree plan as a set of straight lines, we looked at them as an exquisite web?

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