There is new, long overdue attention being paid in our institutions of higher education to the use of directed practical experience as an essential partner to the classroom lecture.
Students are being encouraged to participate in co-ops, internships, service learning, field experience and research as part of their academic endeavors.
Chemistry and engineering majors, for example, can learn to connect their classroom lessons to experiments in corporate labs. Music industry majors participate in internships at record labels and recording studios. The music industry department at the State University College at Oneonta has such a strong belief in the value of practical experience that its majors are not allowed to graduate unless they have served an internship under the joint supervision of a qualified faculty member and an industry representative.
Many professors are realizing that their own professional development is greatly enhanced by visiting their students during the internship and sharing knowledge with industry experts.
Musicians, of course, are pleased that universities are finally embracing this combination of classroom and “real world” learning, but this is a lesson musicians have always understood. Reading books about Mozart or Van Halen won’t help anyone to play the music of Mozart or Van Halen. Conversely, playing Mozart’s or Van Halen’s musical notes without studying the musical style of these composers won’t result in a performance that matters to anyone. Successful musicians know they need theoretical AND practical knowledge to be effective performers.
Some people think that early days of playing an instrument are merely learning where to place the fingers to get from one note to the next. This is not true. In fact, the physical skills required to play an instrument or sing a song are only a small part of the early learning necessary to perform music.