This is a comment I posted in response to an article highlighting my friend and colleague Rick Cherwitz’s excellent work in Intellectual Entrepreneurship at UT Austin:
Texas Tribune Article
Here is my reply:
Dr. Cherwitz was been a standard-bearer of the very reforms that our universities badly need. For too long, most areas of our universities have been the maintainers of the status quo rather than being the font of knowledge and innovation that was their original mandate.
In my area of specialization – music higher education – most colleges of music have been paralyzed by an accrediting process by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) that is pretty good at training our students to play well, but do little or nothing to address what they will do when they graduate or how they will add to our culture. Ironically, the problem with most university schools of music is in the faculty themselves – who live off of their self-aggrandizement as the producers of more unemployed musicians and crowing about the 1 or 2 students across their careers who actually achieve full-time employment in the field for which their curriculum is fashioned: to supply symphony orchestras with trained musicians, and sadly our students are asked to perform excerpts of symphony music in front of faculty juries for which they will never get to perform in their lifetime.
Dr. Cherwitz’s role at breaking down the barriers to much more meaningful education is breathtaking, although, again, at his University of Texas at Austin, their school of music received a sizable donation from the Butlers, promptly renamed their school for them, and then used it to hire more clarinet teachers to supply more clarinet students to perform in their concert bands rather than using that funding to do something innovative and substantive to help the moribund classical music world they are apparently supplying. I say “apparently ” because the only meaningful employment that concert band training can supply can only be found in U.S. military bands. If Douglas Dempster, Dean of the UT Austin College of FIne Arts, was asked whether the role of his school of music was to supply musicians to the nation’s military bands, what would he say?
So while the work that Dr. Cherwitz is doing is groundbreaking, we have a long way to go, even in Dr. Cherwitz’s own backyard. People fear what they don’t understand, and that starts with faculty understanding of the notion of entrepreneurship, whether is it business, social or intellectual entrepreneurship. Several years ago, not long after we decided to move to Austin, I arranged with a major bank thousands of dollars to underwrite an entrepreneurship symposium at UT’s school of music, and they never even returned my calls or messages.
Yesterday, I attended a recital/master class of a friend from a major symphony that was held at UT’s school of music. While I enjoyed the excellent performances and the masterful teaching that took place in a public forum, it wasn’t lost on me that this was attended by students that were wholly unprepared to use their applied field in the marketplace, and I lamented the parents of these students who were making huge financial sacrifices in order to send their student to a program that can’t even prepare them in any way to earn a living in the field that dominates their dreams; the irony is not lost on me that the garbageman that just came by my home has a full time full year job 52 weeks a year with benefits and earns more than the vast majority of applied music students from our colleges of music will every hope to attain as performers.
How badly we need Rick Cherwitz’s agenda and leadership!
Founder and Dean
The Drapkin Institute for Music Entrepreneurship