Here I present a selection of courses and activities from the Bachelor Classical curriculum which directly address KonCon's desire to promote self-reflectivity, inquisitive and entrepreneurial skills, flexibility and/or development of one's artistic identity(ies), all qualities that will become central in the conservatoire's master curriculum, the Master Project. They include:
Start-Up! consists of a week of activities with presentations from the different departments, organised for the students to gain insight into how the Royal Conservatoire could contribute to reaching one's goals as a professional musician. Videos from the 2022 Start-Up! can be found here.
Tutoring helps students to reflect on their study and to monitor their study progress. Tutors are not the student's main subject teacher but someone who guides them throughout their studies and help them keep an overview over their goals and progress. Students are encouraged by their tutors to define personal goals, to design strategies to reach these goals, and to take initiative with regards to the realisation of their projects. The goal is to improve self-regulation and communication, and to better understand one's own learning and creative processes.
Educational Skills is a broadminded course with a variety of modules spread over a number of years and aiming at getting students acquainted with a variety of approaches to teaching, as well as making them reflect about the importance of art and artistry in an educational context.
Career Skills encompass a variety of courses and activities that are designed to help students take initiative in relation to their employment, reflect on and learn from their experiences in the field, and develop administrative and management skills related to their professional activities. Their purpose is to prepare students for the real world by equipping them with the necessary skills to manage their own professional careers. This includes:
Entrepreneurial Bootcamp where students are asked to create a performance outside of the school and to engage with all aspects of doing so;
Meet the Professionals which involve guests from a variety of musical professions who come to the conservatoire to share their career experiences with the students. This activity serves to 'de-idealise' the image of the succesful performance as a virtuoso touring musician only, and give tools to the students to imagine their own musical paths;
Preparation for Professional Practice consists in materialising one's artistic ideas into a concrete project –‘from dream to production’ – and reflecting on the process and results;
CDOS are activities that take place outside of the school and that help you with laying fondations for a working life outside of the school. Projects organised by the student are strongly encouraged but internships and performance periods with orchestras are also valid activities. (little film)
The Conservatoire offers as well specific opportunities for students to develop their skills and knowledge in a multidisciplinary and collaborative environment. BASSbook is a four-day activity offered jointly by the Classical, Early Music and Jazz Departments, and is open to all bachelor and master students of double bass and violone. The course also includes participation by teachers. The assessment criteria for BASSbook include preparation, dedication, positive participation, understanding of musical genres and styles, and collaboration with musicians in a professional environment. Another project-based course, BRASSbook, is offered jointly by the Classical, Early Music and Jazz Departments. The course allows brass students to visit one or two other departments in instrument groups such as trumpet, trombone/tuba or horn. Each department hosts the other departments to work on repertoire and ensemble playing. The assessment criteria for BRASSbook include focus and openness, cooperation and communication, receptiveness to feedback, technical facility, and stylistic awareness.crossdepartmental activity.
Historical Development and Organology is taught at the Conservatoire in a more practical and inquisitive spirit than is usually the case for this subject. The course
aims to introduce students to professional independence by training them in a critical approach towards information from the internet and other sources of reference. Students investigate topics relevant to their practice through their instrument, learning to translate research into their practice and vice versa.
Music History is a course developed in a transversal manner with respect to chronology. This course engages the student to reflect about broader issues and connect them to concrete aspects of their practice. It explores questions such as the role and impact of notation on the way we think about and make music, or the role of music in political debates. Students also learn about what a canon is and how it is constructed. The assessment criteria for this course include the ability to reflect on one's own musicianship in light of the topics discussed.
Extended Programme Notes Final Presentation is another creative component of the bachelor curriculum. The assessment criteria for this course include the ability to programme a final presentation in the form of a concert, reflect on one's artistic development, put the concert programme into a wider context and present the programme, its rationale and its context in an attractive way to a wider public.
Working Group Voice is a first-year course that features a strong peer learning element, with a lot of space for discussion and exchange. The course focuses on three areas: Finding yourself as a singer, Finding yourself as a learner, and Finding your way in the professional world. The course aims to develop students' approach to singing, their artistic and technical abilities, and their understanding of the conditions for learning. It also helps students become self-regulated by working with goals, practice reflection, and feedback, and focuses on management and networking strategies to help students navigate the professional world. According to students, this course is refreshing as it allows for open and honest discussions about the subjects and provides practical strategies for approaching them.
Elective subjects pointing at the same direction include for instance: Quality Practice, focused on self-regulation, Collaborative Music Creation, aimed at the development of an individual musical vocabulary and confrontation with new and unknown musical styles, settings and instrumental combinations; Music Around the Corner, where students play music and learn to communicate about it in a community context, in the less privileged district of Morgenstond; Proactive Diversity, a subject enhancing sensitivity to topical issues and the current social context, and a minor in Education for Creative Artists, which gives the students from the Classical department the possibility to minor in subjects offered by other departments such as Jazz or Art of Sound.
Although many of the subjects listed above stimulate the student's own initiative and creative, a glance at the list of exam requirements, especially those concerning the student's main instrument, shows that most exams are based on a relatively fixed repertoire, or defined by the main subject teacher. The final presentation/recital is one of the few moments in which the student has a real freedom to choose what to play.
When it comes to assessment criteria for musicianship skills, the artisty element
includes criteria such as creativity, vision, innovation, concept, personality and similar as well as so to say 'objective' criteria related to musicianship and instrumental technique. Musicianship at an exceptional level is demonstrated through a variety of criteria, including but not limited to: the demonstration of rare musicianship for the given level, original improvisation, exceptional accuracy in performance, fluency and confidence in completing assignments, exceptional application of advanced aural abilities, high levels of accuracy throughout, musical perceptiveness, confident responses in assignments, highly accurate notes and intonation, fluent rhythmic accuracy, and a deep understanding of musical concepts and aural awareness. Again here there is a coexistence of the wish for conservation of traditional skills and an original, highly personal engagement with the music.
During a recent staff study day dedicated to the discussion of exams and assessment criteria (Studiedag Toetsen en Beoordelen 13 april 2022), several topics were discussed. One main topic was the increase of the student's role in the assessment process and the concept of assessment as learning. This includes giving students more ownership for their own learning process, experimenting with alternative forms of assessment, and having students familiarize themselves with the practical assessment criteria. An example from the Singing department was given, where students are asked to write a self-reflection based on the assessment criteria and their personal goals for the upcoming period. Another topic of discussion was the concept of 'constructive alignment theory' which is a theory of curriculum design in which the learning objectives, assessment methods, and teaching methods are closely aligned. However, it was acknowledged that this theory can lead to a lack of flexibility and creativity in the classroom. Additionally, it was discussed that for students to take ownership of their own learning process, there needs to be a focus on self-evaluation throughout the study, involving tutors more broadly, and increasing language skills and familiarity with terms and assessment criteria. Effective feedback was also recognized as an important teaching skill. Furthermore, there were divergent opinions on whether the learning process of the student should be taken into account in the final assessment. Shall the result be all that counts or shall the way there be rewarded as well, even though the results that are shown are still passive of improvement? is an open question that concerns not only the staff at KonCon but in many of the institutions analysed in the first chapter, Models.
The Artist as Teacher program at the Royal Conservatoire aims to provide teachers at any stage of their career with stimulating learning experiences to increase their knowledge and skills in educating and coaching conservatoire students. The program covers core subjects such as the participants' views about teaching future musicians, how to provide feedback in teaching and after assessments, the strengths and pitfalls of the teacher-student relationship, the why, how and what of assessment, the professional perspectives for students, and research in the arts. Among the specific themes treated are the artist as teacher, the student-teacher relationship, student ownership in learning, conditions and foundations for learning, social safety in the learning environment, the power of constructive feedback, assessment, research in the arts, and the multi-faceted professional practice. The program includes 10 meetings, mutual lesson visits with colleagues, reflection, and writing assignments, and upon completion, participating teachers will receive the certificate Basic Qualification Teaching Skills for teachers in Higher Education.