Saturday, September 15, 2012

Professional Portfolio Class: A New System!

Orientation at the Royal Academy of Music is over, and yet the daily routine itself hasn't quite started yet; I'm in a limbo period, but the material we covered during that week is enough to keep me busy thinking for a month!  In my opinion, the highlight of the welcome period was the first of four "Professional Portfolio Classes," which introduce the possible structures of the Masters program at RAM.  I say "possible" because, believe it or not, the students actually have control over how their academic and musical life at the Academy will take shape.  I walked out of the classroom feeling incredibly inspired and could literally feel my mental motors running at a million miles an hour as I thought over the words of our speaker, the head of the RAM graduate programs, cellist Neil Heyde.

First of all, RAM follows a tutor system, whereby each student is assigned to an academic tutor, who works closely with the student in formulating a program that is, in a sense, customized to the needs of that student.  Furthermore, while flexible in its content, the program can take on certain "pathways," which is the term they use to describe the focus of the coursework and projects.  Concert Workshop, Analysis and Aesthetics, Contemporary Music Workshop, and Issues in the Economics and Business of Music are just a handful of the incredibly interesting and relevant topics to the 21st century musician.  To paraphrase Mr. Heyde, the purpose of this program is to identify, challenge, and expand each and every student's unique development goals, both on a personal and professional level.  In this way, the school serves the students by preparing them for their unique career paths, engaging in projects and assignments that are relevant to their individual goals.

WHAT a change from the academic structures I have known!  While some might feel concern at the thought of so much "freedom" in the system, I think it is brilliant in its ability to switch gears between the abstract and the specific - two fundamentally essential concepts if one is to achieve a holistic understanding of what it means to be a  21st century artist.  We live in a time when thinking outside the box is necessary, where all things conventional have been done before (perfectly, I might add), and a program like this really seizes the opportunity to expand our understanding of what is possible - as Mr. Heyde puts it, "you have to be willing to go over the cliff a few times before you really know where the edge is."

All I can say is, thank goodness I don't have to choose just one pathway!

All for now,

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