Wendelin Bitzan

Wendelin Bitzan

Educational Goals of Music Universities

When I finished university in 2010, I was inclined to think that the goals of academic education in music would never change, and that institutions would continue to produce hundreds and thousands of highly-qualified graduates, preparing for a professional profile that had long ceased to be a standard: permanent full-time positions in orchestras and at theatres. I believed that administrations of music universities were uninterested, or even incapable, to thoroughly observe the occupational field and the conditions and requirements for career starters, as they obviously ignored the fact that the vast majority of music graduates were expecting patchwork careers in a precarious environment, characterised by short-term freelance jobs and hybrid working conditions. In particular, the numbers of available study places for artistic degrees compared to those qualifying for teaching in (music) schools were in a severe disproportion. So, in all likelihood, there would be a continuous and increasing mismatch regarding the goals of professional music education and the demands of the job market—that seemed to be the only predictable future.

However, after the experience of the past few years, there is at least some hope. Many music universities have reacted to the challenges of the quickly developing field, implementing self-management and career advancement courses in their curricula, and sometimes also offering professional development options for students and graduates. Of course, there are yet many issues and structures to improve at music universities (some of which still appear deeply rooted in their nineteenth-century traditions and routines). The most urgent desideratum seems to be to question the need for artistic elitism, and to focus on pedagogical expertise as the foremost aim of professional training in music. In a noteworthy VAN Magazin interview, Lydia Grün, the new president of Hochschule für Musik und Theater München, outlines some administrative measures to be taken at her institution, and demonstrates a remarkable openness and readiness for change. Hope this will yield some emulation, or at least incite appropriate thoughts in the boardrooms of other institutions.

Pro Musik Magazine Launched

The new online journal Pro Musik Magazin, hosted by the Pro Musik association of freelance musicians, has been launched yesterday with a set of articles, interviews, and podcasts. I am happy to collaborate with my dear colleagues of Harfenduo, Laura Oetzel and Daniel Mattelé, on the editorial board. My first contribution is an interview with conductor and pianist Hans-Christian Hauser, in which we discuss his conception to rethink professional music education and develop an initiative for a new music university. A worthwhile read for sure!

The magazine is looking for more authors and welcomes new contributors. So if you feel like writing an article or producing a podcast on topics relevant for the freelance music scene, please get in touch.

DTKV Federal Delegate Assembly

Here is a short report from this year’s federal delegate conference of Deutscher Tonkünstlerverband, held on 5 November 2022 and hosted by DTKV Bremen. Confidently chaired by Christian Höppner, the event took place in a collegial and basically productive atmosphere. However, the most important professional topic of the last month, fee standards and fair payment of freelance musicians, was not allowed enough time on the agenda, and the corresponding press release had not been sufficiently coordinated with the DTKV state associations. The delegates and board agreed to schedule another assembly day for the next year in order to enhance content-related discussions. Due to opposed communicative attitudes of the board and some of the state associations, the exchange prior to the conference had been unfavourably unilateral, which meant that the delegates needed to deal with formal and financial issues more than necessary. In addition, it became apparent in some of the ballots that there is still much opposition towards changes and innovations within the association.

Besides the indispensable revision of its structures and communication policy, it would seem desirable that the Tonkünstlerverband developed strategies for a sustainable and member-oriented representation of interests. These should result in significantly increased and professionalised public relations work as well. The new website of the federal association shows some promising approaches in that regard.

Scriabin and the Sonata

This semester I am teaching a music analysis seminar on Alexander Scriabin‘s sonata conceptions at TU Dortmund University. The covered repertoire will range from the early sonatas of the 1880s to the Poème de l’extase, Op. 54, including solo piano music, the three symphonies, and the piano concerto. Since the group of participants is a bit smaller than expected, I will gladly accept some guests—please let me know in case you would like to join. The seminar is taking place every Thursday, in alternating on-site and remote sessions.

Teaching in Dortmund

It is my pleasure to announce that I will begin teaching as a visiting professor in music theory at TU Dortmund University, Department of Music and Musicology, as of next week. Very happy to accept this new challenge and collaborate with a diverse and proliferous faculty, and glad to be involved in what I consider the most relevant field in professional music education: the training of future music teachers.