The Music Performance School of the Future: Shifting to a decentralized structure.
Whew, lad! It has been certainly far too long since I have written anything! I apologize for this. May was certainly a busy month. At least for a bit I’ll be home long enough to keep up with the business side of Murphy Music Academy a little more. On that subject, however, let’s talk about how the Murphy Music Academy Performance School, the music school of the future, should be structured.
I’ve written now multiple times about some ideas I’ve had about rebuilding professional music education from the ground up, preferably after burning down the current system once it has inevitably gone to rot (please no one think that I’m seeking to actively destroy our institutions. I think, if you offer enough competition, they’ll quite easily collapse on their own). In one of my earlier articles I put forth the idea that a school should perhaps return to the more ancient idea of the Akademia, wherein a group of dedicated learners gathers around a single master, forming a school of thought or a community of learning. I still hold this to be the most important base for one’s education, but I also would put forward that this can be put under the umbrella of a new, decentralized institution. Here’s how.
Let’s say I would be the master of a group of violin students. The students would each pay me a reasonable amount (let’s say $5,000 for a 36-week school year) and I would be completely responsible for their growth as a musicians and artists. This means I would be involved in much, much more than giving them a lesson and studio class once every week, as opposed to the current model. My job would be to take complete control of their journey in becoming professional performing violinists. I would be more than a teacher, but instead a constant mentor. Depending on the student, I might need to spend several hours each week with each of them. Some of this would be done individually, and some of it in groups. I would have to help them not only with learning violin, but also in setting up their own performances, networking, and how to go about making a way for themselves as musicians in the world. It wouldn’t be my job just to give them necessary information, but to take the time and care to make sure that that information stuck with them and that they had the full understanding of it. I would have to take the time to guide them through each struggle, helping them learn how to help themselves. For some students this will take more time per week than others. It will be up to my own discretion how to care for each and every student.
This is the function of the teacher/mentor in the music school of the future is really a very old model, hearkening back to the Platonic Academy. How this would then fit under the umbrella of a larger institution (i.e. the Murphy Music Academy) would be to have multiple such mentors, each working out of their own space, connected as a community, all sharing the same goals. This is the decentralization I spoke of at the beginning. The small administration of the entire Academy would be involved in such things as promotion of the school and gathering students, making connections with performance venues and artists, but would play a very limited role within the actual artistic direction of the program, because there is no artistic direction of the overarching program. Instead the artistic direction is within each little satellite school led by their individual instructors. Here’s a graphic example.
As explained in the graphic, the administration would function as a small organizational body providing additional resources so that each private studio has the freedom to function in whatever way the mentor sees fit. All of the studios have the connection of the Academy, and so form a larger community, but also have their own autonomy and community within themselves. This prevents micromanaging from the administration, who’s primary goal is facilitation and accountability. It also creates a much better ratio of administration to teachers. This minimalist size and decentralization help keep down tuition cost. The lower cost, along with the guarantee of the efficacy of the Academy’s education (for more on that idea, read this), will help ensure this ratio is maintained and is a ward against reckless spending by the institution, making an institution who’s true goal is the development of the student, not the maintenance of the institutions power.