I recently wrote some posts on “creative teaching” and suggested that systematic teaching methods can be very limiting and ineffective (Read them here and here).
But just as teachers should implement “creative teaching,” students should implement “creative learning” – particularly at the undergraduate and graduate level.
At the core of all post-secondary institutions, are systematic, formulaic, linear, rigid and uncreative conventions. Though, they usually have some degrees of flexibility and some schools are more flexible than others. But music institutions can’t broadcast this, so students are rarely aware of it.
For example, back when I was an undergraduate, I told administration that I wanted to take classical counterpoint. They told me this was not possible because I didn’t have any of the classical theory prerequisites. On another occasion, I told them I wanted to take private lessons with a teacher who wasn’t on faculty. They told me that wasn’t possible either.
As it turned out, it was possible! I just had to use creative, unorthodox means to make it happen. I spoke to many different people, looked for guidance, looked for approval, wrote letters, asked for references, created course outlines and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Yes, music institutions impose shackles, but in my experience, those shackles proved to be much smaller than I originally thought.
My advice to students who are trying to navigate their way through post-secondary school always revolves around this: Take initiative; be creative! This sounds like common sense, but I find it rarely applied.
If you’re currently a student and find yourself in a less than ideal situation, do something about it! Talk with your teachers, understand their reasoning and see about optimizing your experience. If you still find yourself unreasonably shackled and unable to negotiate, then quit, go somewhere else or study privately…whatever! Just don’t rot and complain.
If you’re a prospective student, do your research! How much control will you have? How big are the shackles? How much are you willing to compromise your learning experience for a degree?
Whatever you do, take initiative; be creative!