Friday, July 04, 2008

Doctor, it's terminal!

A colleague in the Theater department is working on an interesting paper about what counts as a terminal degree in the arts. In doing so, he asked for feedback on the unique situation of music departments, which have a potential of three different terminal degrees: PhD, DMA, and MM. Since our university does accept the MM as a terminal degree for studio professors, my colleague was wondering why a musician would pursue the DMA. My interpretation is that music departments/schools/conservatories are very slowly transitioning from an old model of professional experience to the newer model of academic credentials, allowing many gradations within. Wikipedia claims that the first DMA program was started by Boston University in 1955, though I have memories of Eastman's Howard Hanson being involved in the creation. And here is some confirmation.
Hanson introduced the Doctor of Musical Arts in creation or performance (previously only given for musicology). “A doctorate in piccolo playing?” sniffed a critic. “That’s right,” Hanson agreed, “but only for good piccolo players. At least we won’t make bad musicologists out of good performers which should be a boon to both musicology and performance.”

Regardless, the introduction of a new degree takes time to gain acceptance. At this point, there are still many music professors who finished schooling before DMAs became widespread. But this isn't the only reason MM's are still accepted as terminal degrees. A premium is still placed on professional experience, often gained by musicians who had no plans to become university teachers and thus did not pursue the doctorate. This "doing" expertise is echoed by the MFA for Theater, Creative Writing, and Studio Art that is also accepted as a terminal degree.

How do you feel about the differences between a college professor who has a DMA versus one with an MM as the terminal degree? And what do you think is the future of academic credentials in music performance/conducting/composing? (I'm especially looking at you, if you aren't too busy remodeling your house and planning a wedding.)

3 comments:

Miss Mussel said...

I was a always confused by the DMA degree because I could never work out why a person who could play at that level needed to study further in an academic setting.

Surely you would want a professorial candidate to have extensive experience in the real world of performing when they arrive to teach the next generation of hopefuls.

A person applying for a DMA has likely been studying at university for 6 years already. If they can't teach themselves by that point or put together a few recitals then perhaps there are other problems.

It seems that the DMA is now the new terminal degree in the way that a BA is now the new requirement for entry level work that previously required only a GED. Everyone has one but it doesn't really mean anything anymore.

Also, from what I gather, the DMA is peculiar to North America. The conservatory system rather than university is the norm for practical study in Europe and they seem to produce some decent players without DMA'd profs.

So it seems the answer to your question is that if I were on the hiring committee, I would favour candidates with an MM and practical job experience over the DMA quasi-academic.

Daniel Wolf said...

Scott --

The degrees -- and I would add the MFA in music to your list, which is issued by a number of schools -- are here to stay, but the more critical question is whether academic institutions will continue to be flexible enough in their hiring practices to hire outside of strict degree requirements, recognizing professional experience outside of academe.

During my years of study (79-89), the MA was still a respectable terminal degree for composers and performers (and even some musicologists); nevertheless, I had two full professors who had no completed degrees at all. I have noticed a small, but encouraging trend among my younger colleagues not to continue onto a doctoral program, or at least not immediately after finishing at the bachelors/masters level and to try to make it on their own. When I have talked with some of them about this, I have encountered a very realistic assement of the value of the degree to artistic and intellectual development, the state of the academic job market, and the use of graduate students -- and the consequent inflation in their numbers -- as supplementary labor.

(For full disclosure, I ended up myself with a full set of degrees through a PhD, and I was treated well as a graduate student, albeit in a very small program. Since completing my degree, I went abroad and have never returned to academe except as a sort of hit and run artist.)

Eric Edberg said...

I cynically reached the conclusion years ago that the DMA (or sometimes just D.Mus, as Florida State , where I earned my performance doctorate,uses) serves two main purposes:

1) It created a large new revenue stream for graduate music schools, plus a source of cheap labor (doctoral performance majors working as teaching assistants). Think of all the applied faculty positions at graduate schools which would not be needed with out the doctoral students, and of the non-applied courses some applied faculty would have to teach if they didn't have doctoral students.

2) Jumping through the hoops of a program, which can be extraordinarily frustrating, especially if one already plays on a professional level and is getting the doctorate because it is required for so many teaching positions, is about as effective an enculturation into the Byzantine world of academia as there ever could be. If you can survive all the bullshit of a doctoral program, you are prepared for all the bullshit of teaching music in an academic context.

While some institutions, such as DePauw (where I, too, teach) don't require a doctorate for an applied position, it's pretty much a de facto requirement. Unless they have some extraordinary performance credentials, candidates without a doctorate are at a distinct disadvantage. I think we at DPU usually say "doctorate preferred" in our applied ads. Our applied MM hires in recent years have been middle-aged people with extensive performing and/or teaching experience. I can't imagine us hiring someone at the start of a his or career who didn't have a doctorate. And so many schools out-and-out require them--which is why I got myself one.

In a bureaucratic culture such as DePauw's, where we have meetings and meetings and meetings and meetings and reports and reports and reports and reports, those of us with doctorates seem to navigate the system with less severe frustration than those with MMs.

Enough ranting for now!