the future of music
Since SVA began 5 years ago, there have been enormous changes in technology, the music industry and the world at large. We want to ensure that we are equipping our students not just for the here and now, but also for the future.
Let us take you for a moment on a whirlwind journey through music history (trust us, there is a point to this)...
In the days of the Baroque era (think Bach and Handel), musicians were Artisans - people who created music for the everyday life of their community. For example, many of Bach's much-loved pieces were created for church services at the local cathedral. Although respected for their masterful abilities, there were no "superstars" - musicians were simply another member of the community alongside the blacksmith and the baker.
In the Classical (Mozart, Beethoven and co) and Romantic (Debussy, Tchaikovsky and friends) eras, we began to see the musician as a Genius. Composers and performers emerged as cultural icons - people with whom the aristocracy desired a connection, in order to further their own social ambitions. Bad behaviour was commonplace and this rebellious streak combined with a truly impressive mastery of music helped to cement the Genius label.
In the 20th Century, as the music world evolved and began to take on a certain structure and formality, we began to see music as an industry, and those within it took on the label of Professional. Now working in universities, government arts departments, high-budget professional performance groups and large music corporations, musicians collected qualifications, awards, grants and stepped out into the world of capitalism.
We've now reached the era of the download, of YouTube and Facebook and Spotify. Musicians may spend upwards of $20,000 on recording an album, but they'll have to recoup it through selling t-shirts and baseball caps to their fans, because recorded music has become a disposable commodity for which the consumer pays very little, if anything at all. The working musician is now an Entrepreneur, a savvy businessperson who somehow uses their music to make a living in a saturated market, where everyone with a smart phone is hoping to be the next superstar who gets discovered on YouTube.
So why do we care about this at SVA?
Because this stuff is important - really important. Every week we have hundreds of students walk through our doors, and we need to be sure that we know what we're doing and why we're doing it. It's a responsibility that we don't take lightly. We also want our students (and their parents) to understand and be on board with the vision, so that together we can forge the future of music.
We've spent a lot of time thinking and dreaming about what the future of music looks like, and working out what we need to do to ensure our students are equipped for it. Understanding the evolution of music is important, because it helps us predict what is likely to come next, which guides our teaching philosophy and practice. Artisan, Genius, Professional, Entrepreneur. What's next?
We know that the role that comes after Entrepreneur is likely to be something of an opposite to it, because patterns in music history show us that the new is a reaction to the old. Maybe people will begin to tire of the overwhelming busyness of everyday life, the carefully curated social media feeds of our "perfect" lives and the enormous pressure to succeed (or to at least look like we're succeeding!) at any cost. Maybe musicians will stop trying to write commercially viable music and instead share the music that comes from deep within their hearts and minds. Maybe we will long for something more real, more connected and a culture where failure is celebrated as an unavoidable part of learning.
We think that in the future, the next role for musicians will be "Storytellers".
Through their authenticity and vulnerability, Storytellers will gently invite us into someone else's shoes for a moment, and give us a new perspective where all of a sudden things look different. We'll drop our defenses, lean in and listen, and we'll come away with an appreciation for the experience of someone else, and softer hearts. Combine the gentle power of stories with the incredible ability of music to evoke emotions, and you've got something that could truly change the world for good.
We see this emergence of Storytellers happening not only on big stages, but in homes, schools, hospitals and within families and communities. We see grandparents reminiscing about the day they skipped uni to go and see The Beatles, while they listen to the White Album with their grandchildren. We see mums singing songs from their own childhood with their preschoolers, and children composing songs to share with their families. Dads will bond with their teenagers at a live concert and friends will put down their phones to sit side by side at the piano and make music together. School teachers will confidently sing with their classes, and we'll have policymakers who know from personal experience that our communities need access to high-quality music.
Tim will tell you from experience that while professional recognition is nice, and singing on big stages to big crowds is a whole lot of fun, some of the most important and valuable performances a singer will ever give, will be away from the spotlight: The first song to your newborn. The farewell song at a loved one's funeral. The song of comfort for a troubled soul or maybe even a marriage proposal delivered in song (true story!).
This is the future that we're equipping our students for. We want them to have the confidence to sing fearlessly, the training to perform instinctively, the skills to perform without hindrance, the emotional intelligence to collaborate with others, the creativity to express what's in their hearts and the passion to see music used to impact lives in a positive way. This is an incredibly exciting vision - what a wonderful future awaits us! We will continue to develop and refine our programs so that our students are equipped with these skills in a way that is enjoyable, encouraging and efficient.
Undoubtedly some of our students will go on to a professional career in music, and we want to be certain that we equip them for this. We also believe that music will be an important part of the future for students who end up in very different occupations, and that regardless of whether in the future one is going to be paid to perform or not, every student deserves the chance to develop their skills to the highest possible level. Not only that, the meta-skills developed through learning music - tenacity, patience, courage, resilience, attention to detail and self-discipline - will serve students well in their future pursuits, whatever they may be.
It's a wild ride, and we're thrilled and humbled that we get to share it with our wonderful staff and students.
Will you create the future of music with us as we raise up Storytellers to change the world?
Tim & Lauren
(PS Some of our thinking has been informed by this article, which is a fascinating read for those who are interested to read more about the idea of Artisan / Genius / Professional / Entrepreneur)