On song with research

February 26, 2015

Although it is possible to have a residual sympathy for David Oldfield’s assertion that lecturers in the arts and humanities spend too much time researching rather than teaching (“You’re here to teach. Save the trainspotting for the weekend”, Opinion, 12 February), I wonder whether I would have been interested in studying at a university of teachers.

I went to the University of York in the early 1970s because I had read the books of Wilfrid Mellers. He was, I believe, the first academic in an influential position to allow his students to write about popular music. He was an inspirational lecturer whom we didn’t expect to see on a daily basis but were happy to see writing books and having his music performed.

At the conservatoires of music, it is expected that visiting professors are engaged in the “real” world as performers and composers. I am sure that Janis Kelly’s students at the Royal College of Music would have been inspired to see her perform a major role in Philip Glass’ opera The Perfect American at the English National Opera in 2013. The problem that musicians have is justifying performance and composing as “research”, but I know that many music students from all over the world come to UK universities and conservatoires to study with teachers whom they already know through publications and recordings.

Paul Robinson
Composer and part-time professor Royal College of Music

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