02 December 2012

Doctor Doctor

There seems to be an entire office at CalArts devoted to spamming students with links to opportunities which may or may not be relevant to them, but a recent missive detailing four faculty vacancies at the University of Northern Colorado School of Music caught my eye, first because it's a school I've attended, but also because while it is made clear that candidates with doctorates are preferred, only one of the four announcements (for a position in voice of all things) takes a hard line.

For all the handwringing over the perception that "you practically need a doctorate to teach sixth grade nowadays," it's hard to find evidence of this without being on the inside of the search process. I've never attended a music school that didn't have a significant contingent of undoctored faculty in some of its highest-ranking positions, and I don't think I'd want to. It will be very interesting over the coming decades to see if everyone's dystopian visions of a perfectly insular academic music world come true, and further, given the present "tough economic times" and dwindling private financial support and return on investment for endowments and the like, whether admission to the doctorate club becomes even more a matter of buying oneself in than it already is.

A final word here about CalArts, to my knowledge one of the exceedingly few Art Schools with a music department, and at that, an Art School with exactly one doctoral program, in music. That us musicians would need to create more and more credentials for ourselves to earn makes perfect sense considering that we're typically said to be valued below most of the other arts; indeed, if the proverbial aliens landed, it wouldn't be difficult for them to infer the rest of the valuation landscape simply by noting the size, prestige and rigor of the other graduate programs here. And while academic credentials are by no means universally admired in contemporary American society, they are far more universally admired than any given art practice, and as the only such concrete acknowledgments of our existence available, artists simply crave them. You can no longer prove your worth to the world by making Great Art, but you can still break the socio-political ice in conversation with a red-stater by mentioning that you have a degree in what you do. I've done it many times, often to my surprise. This dynamic in and of itself is not necessarily to be lamented, but the feedback loops it might create within the actual realm of art and art-making give one pause.

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