Inside out (Van binnen naar buiten)
An investigation into the dynamics of musical development
By Tet Koffeman, commissioned by the lectorate Communicating Music professorship
HKU Utrecht Conservatory, January 2014
In this unpublished essay, Tet Koffeman, singer, coach and former head of studies at HKU, describes the experiences leading to the development of the Musician 3.0 curriculum at the HKU Utrecht Conservatoire in 2011.
Koffeman begins by explaining how, in her interactions with students, she was moved by their passion for music and desire to make it their profession. At the same time, she observed a dependency and fear of mistakes among them, limiting their room for creative experimentation. The students appeared disconnected from their sources of inspiration, the urge to create new things or visions for their careers, leaving her to ponder the impact of this mindset on their future success. As a teacher, she struggled to interest the students for her learning objectives. However, she reports how her role as a teacher became transformed the day she decided to adopt as her guiding line the question: 'What can I mean for you today', instead of what can I teach you today. '[All of a sudden] the initiative lay with the other, with the student', she writes. 'I put my expertise, my experiences and my overview at the service of the other.' From then on, her role became that of a facilitator whose goal was to motivate students to become reflective and curious, and to figure out themselves what they would like to learn and how. For this she would need to create an environment in which students could move autonomously but where they would feel connected and safe to do so.
Exploring her observations theoretically, Koffeman discusses music education can under the optic of Swanwick and Tillman's spiral of musical development. The theory proposes that musicians go through cycles of exploration and consolidation in their artistic journey, influenced by four key concepts: value, expression, material, and form. Value refers to the personal and cultural significance that a musician attaches to their music. Expression refers to the ways in which musicians convey their emotions and ideas through music. Material refers to the technical and practical elements of music, such as melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. Finally, form refers to the structure and organization of music, such as the arrangement of sections, themes, and motifs in a piece. This cycle repeats as the musician continues to grow and evolve in their craft. Koffeman suggests that traditional music education tends to focus on the social and conventional side of the spiral, placing an emphasis on traditional knowledge, experiences, role models, and value judgments, which may discourage students from developing their own internal motivation and investigating their own personal fascinations and frustrations. She concludes by suggesting that a study program may wish to explore ways to emphasize the individual side of the spiral more, encouraging students to explore and experiment with new styles and techniques, re-evaluate their values and priorities in music, find new ways to express themselves and their music, explore new materials, and experiment with different forms and structures to create unique and original music.
Koffeman's insights have been instrumental for the creation of the Musician 3.0 curriculum at HKU Utrecht Conservatory. In the text, she describes the initial concerns of the new programme and ends the essay with some advice on what a curriculum should include:
* Emphasizing practice in communication lessons, including core reflection, giving and receiving feedback, conversation techniques, critical response, cooperation, and group dynamics, to ensure the quality of communication is guaranteed.
* Providing refresher courses on communication skills for teachers and coaches to ensure professional communication.
* Encouraging dialogue with students about their fascinations, frustrations, sources of inspiration, ambitions, and learning questions to create a deeper understanding of the student and allow their own resources and imagination to remain available.
* Incorporating creative manufacturing processes in the curriculum by inviting students to make connections between artistic and craft competences based on their own learning questions.
* Allowing room in the curriculum to respond to current questions from students to foster student ownership of their own development.
* Facilitating peer learning initiatives to develop and share expertise among students.
* Ensuring students from different fields of study meet each other in reflective and practical lessons to foster cultural awareness.
* Encouraging students to map out their own development in a portfolio or reflection file to establish a connection between the assessment criteria of the program and their own learning questions.