Berlin’s municipal music schools do something they didn’t do in quite a while: They are hiring permanent employees. Until recently, their quota of freelance teachers was at 93%, which is now being reduced to 80%. However, this will not change the fact that freelancers are in charge of most of Berlin’s music education. Apart from an awkward controversy between the Berlin Senate and musicians’ unions on how many FTEs this means, some more questions remain. Should the new positions be publicly advertised or only serve to the benefit of a school’s freelance staff? Is it acceptable if schools do not require applicants to hold a demonstration lesson? And finally: Why are permanent positions considered more important than a general discourse on quality management and sustainability of music education?
I have been invited by my Alma mater to introduce myself in the appointment procedure for a music theory professorship. This is, after my widely noticed withdrawal of last summer, something of a surprise. But needless to say, I will accept the challenge and prepare a cunning little demonstration lesson that will blow their minds. Let’s see how it goes. NB: I’m not revealing sensitive data here, as the names of all applicants to this position were publicly announced on the department’s notice board. Good luck to every of my competitors—may they succeed according to their personal ambitions and standards, regardless of their gender, race, class, or origin.
One shouldn’t consider it possible that somebody holds two professoral positions at the same time, particularly in a business as tough and competitive as classical music—but yes, two members of the teaching staff at Berlin University of the Arts’ Faculty of Music simultaneously occupy another post in Switzerland. Violinist Nora Chastain is also professor at Zurich University of the Arts, while clarinetist François Benda also teaches at Basel Academy of Music. Apart from challenging the necessity of a second salary at this level, one might question these persons’ ability to manage the teaching load associated with taking care of two instrumental major classes. Maybe they are lucky enough to be gifted with bilocation?
It is reported that freelance adjunct teachers at Bavarian music universities (Lehrbeauftragte) plan a general strike in November 2017 for a duration of two weeks, objecting to the State Ministry of Culture’s directive to have institutions check the part-time employment status of their adjunct staff (only 9 teaching hours per week per person are allowed to comply with the state law). While it is a good idea to organise, align together, and protest against the desolate working conditions, striking for so short a period might not turn out favourable. Universities will probably not even react to this, only the strikers will earn less and venture their future occupation. Instead, a bold demonstration of power and indispensability is needed. A strike during the exam period at the end of the semester could be way more effective, provided that freelancers have the support of professional organisations such as Deutscher Tonkünstlerverband and Deutsche Orchestervereinigung.
To me the most intriguing question is whether adjuncts will be dismissed due to violation of the 9 SWS limit, and if yes, what will happen next. Does this only apply to institutions within Bavaria, or are teaching assignments in other states also taken into consideration? Students and courses previously taught by freelancers need to be served by other faculty – will universities hire even more freelancers with smaller teaching loads, or will they advertise full-time positions instead? In this case, the current developments are not necessarily negative.