Didactic concept: four cornerstones of educational excellence
The didactic concept of the programme is based on four cornerstones, which are strongly interconnected and which form the basis of the bachelor’s and master’s courses.
Professional musicians must have an individual musical voice, appeal, and the ability to directly communicate with the audience. The cornerstone Artistic individuality and performance focusses on these qualities by looking at creative and high-quality performance, conducting, and composing in dialogue with an audience, either as an individual or in a group context. “Performance” refers also to the ability to create and perform in a result-oriented way. Artistic individuality and performance therefore covers the formation, development and performance of a well-founded, individual musical vision. To achieve this, good, efficient study-habits, which are driven by passion and perseverance, are necessary.
Students focus on this cornerstone within their principal subject, within their elective courses and via their projects, concerts and extra-curricular activities, such as the interdisciplinary Common Ground week, for example.
Excellence and substantiated expertise is conventionally strongly developed during the bachelor’s and master’s study and accompanies the student in his or her path to mastering all technical aspects of his or her discipline. This is relevant for the job of performing, interpreting, conducting, improvising, and composing, and amounts to the acquisition of musical expertise.
This cornerstone is represented in the study programme in the principal subject lessons and in masterclasses. Harmony, Analysis, Harmony and Counterpoint, Ear Training, and General Music Practice, which are offered within the subject General Music Training, provide the structural, musical-theoretical foundation.
To support this cornerstone, the subject Physical Awareness was added to the programme offering. In this subject (which is taught by grouping students according to playing postures), students learn how to avoid repetitive strain injuries by adopting a more conscious physical posture, specific muscle training and sufficient warm-up and cool-down exercises.
The cornerstone Collaborative learning stems from the concept of “collaborative intelligence”, where the musician is positioned as a link within an “ecosystem”, within a larger group of artists and within society. The interaction and dialogue between artists gives synergy to the group and helps it to collectively develop artistic concepts and creative solutions. Collaborative learning allows the music student to participate in musical, multidisciplinary, or multicultural encounters and to play a proactive and meaningful role.
In the study programme, these skills and attitudes are worked on in chamber music/combo, choir, big-band, ensemble and orchestra, and in professional placements. Specific subjects such as Musical Project, Creative Project and the Common Ground week encourage students in establishing and organising their own artistic (multidisciplinary) collaborative projects. Within lessons, too, collaborative work forms are used, such as peer-teaching, group lessons and group assignments.
Awareness relates to the entire set of competencies whereby students gain knowledge of the cultural, historical, societal, and social context of the artist within the artistic vocation. Music history and cultural history give students knowledge of the historical and contemporary artistic landscape and the socio-cultural professional world. Students thereby acquire a broad and individual glimpse of the artistic vocation. In the master’s course, we teach a sense of entrepreneurship and an independent attitude and we make students confident in the artistic/philosophical framework of the artist. Organisational matters (project management, communication, promotion, and public activities) are also addressed as part of this cornerstone.
Reflection is focussed on gathering information oneself and making adjustments based on self-analysis and from third-party feedback. This research-oriented cornerstone is not a goal in itself, but a means used to form the student into a fully-fledged musician: it equips the student with the capabilities to make conscious and well-reasoned choices about artistic performance practice and to be able to articulate and show these in a clear and substantiated way. Competencies in and attitudes towards research are specifically offered and coached, and are also integrated into other course units (such as Analysis in Classical Music, and Technique in Jazz).
Awareness and reflection is the pivot of the General Cultural Courses discipline, and along with the other cornerstones, it is a common thread running throughout the curriculum.
Connections in the curriculum
At the deSingel Arts Campus, students are immersed into the international music scene on a daily basis from day one of the study. Concerts and presentations by major international musicians mingle seamlessly with the lessons and the bridge with professional life is never far away.
As part of the curriculum, collaborative projects are in place with partners from the profession. These collaborations take the form of orchestral projects, ensemble work, masterclasses, teaching trips, professional placements, events or project work. Students are supported in their development of networks within a broad range of music practice (historical to contemporary), and they receive artistic coaching via partnerships with professional arts centres, orchestras, music theatre ensembles, opera houses and stages, choirs, ensembles, and production houses such as the International Arts Campus deSingel, the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Koninklijk Muntschouwburg, the National Orchestra of Belgium, Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, the Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie, Music Theatre Transparant, the Flemish Radio Choir, Radio Klara, Collegium Vocale Gent, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, ChampDaction and HERMESensemble (ensembles for contemporary music), the wind ensemble I Solisti del Vento, the Spiegel string quartet, the Apotheosis Orchestra, HETPaleis, the Koninklijke Muziekkapel van de Gidsen, the Jazz Middelheim Festival, A School Called, Zonzo Company, Collectief STAU, and Rat Records.
The building up of a professional network and the ability to work in an entrepreneurial and creative way are focus points of the study programme.
The music programme has collaborated for more than twenty years on an interdisciplinary basis with the dance and visual arts programmes, both in terms of interdisciplinary artistic creation as well as artistic research (for example, research into injury prevention). Since 2010 when the music, drama, dance and corresponding teacher-training courses were housed on the one campus, this basic collaboration has grown into a far-reaching and dynamic cross-pollination between all artistic disciplines. The cross-discipline collaborations initially took place between the artistic programmes of the AP, but more recently there have been collaborative projects taking place between other programmes within the college of higher education.
The programme aims for a strong sense of interaction between education, research, and artistic practice. By involving teachers in the research groups and researchers in the teaching process, the last ten years have witnessed a growing interplay between the Music programme and the third cycle of study. The course unit Research, the institution’s research activities, and reflection ensure that the institution keeps its finger on the pulse. Research is centered on four research groups, each being actively focused on a specific aspect of artistic theory and practice.
Working in tandem with the research function, there are two active performance practice work groups: the Workgroup for Historically Informed Performance Practice (WHIP) and the Workgroup for Contemporary and Current Music (WHAM). These are focused on the production of artistic projects, and inspire and build further on research results, amongst other things.