Music courses are 'too crammed'

January 9, 1998

The average university music course in Canada is having a difficult time stretching the musical canon over its curriculum.

Although most music stores now carry a plethora of genres and cultures and the odd university will teach rock'n'roll and music therapy, most professors still find themselves in a quandary if they try to attempt to bring works of, say, female classical composers, blue-grass techniques or Hindustani music into the department.

Teachers find themselves cramming as much as they can into a music history course. There is only so much you can teach in 14 weeks, according to Marc-Andre Roberge, a professor at Universite Laval in Quebec City and the French editor of the Canadian University Music Review.

Anne Hall, past president of the Canadian University Music Society and dean of Wilfrid Laurier University faculty of music, says expanding the curriculum is a big topic at the annual meetings.

One of the most significant changes to the music landscape has been the legitimisation of jazz studies. Further changes are appearing slowly, says Ms Hall. York University has brought in more world music and feminism.

Richard Lawton, McGill's dean of the faculty of music, the largest in the country, with 700 students, said: "McGill's music programme, like others, has been trying to keep an eye on the changing job market. It has been teaching a couple of sections on sound recording and composing music for film and computer software."

Peter Hatch, who teaches composition at Wilfrid Laurier, does not see the lack of specialisation as a bad thing. "Students primarily interested in jazz, others interested in Mozart and someone else with an interest in world beat will all be in one class. When you isolate these students you lose some complementary aspects."

McGill's dean Lawton says that what seem like major changes are in reality small differences and can be taught with the vocabulary available in a university music programme.

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