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Constructing popular music programs at Higher Music Education Institutions across Europe

Posted on 2022-09-24 - 12:08

There has been a steady increase in popular music programs at Higher Music Education Institutions (HMEIs) across Europe. However, what students actually are supposed to learn at popular music bachelor/master programs has remained largely understudied. Based on 12 in-depth interviews with leaders in higher popular music education, this paper addresses: (1) how popular music is defined and possibly canonized, (2) what the position of popular music programs is, and (3) how the content of popular music programs is constructed—at HMEIs. First, participants struggle to provide a clear definition of popular music. Therefore, they differ in how they name their program – as popular music, pop music or something else. Because there is little consensus over a canon of popular music, our interviewees work from a mini-canon of British/American popular music, add local music to the curriculum, use jazz as a basis and/or work without a canon. Second, despite their growing popularity, popular music programs still struggle to position themselves, particularly at HMEIs with strong classical music departments. Third, program leaders navigate between different approaches of content construction within the constraints of their institution: (a) craft-centered (top-down, teacher-driven, skill-oriented), (b) arts-centered (bottom-up, student-driven, creativity-oriented), and (c) market-centered (side-to-side, industry-driven, commercially-oriented).

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