Winthrop Professor Jane Davidson, Callaway/Tunley Chair of Music, on an opportunity for vigorous debate over educational philosophy and its implementation:
Developing courses of study in preparation for the University's new course structure has provided opportunity for vigorous debate over educational philosophy and its implementation.
But for me, the two most exciting elements of the scheme are the broadening units and the opportunity for students to do community service.
Few would disagree that university life is about personal development across a range of areas, from the major program of study to social opportunity and experience. While some of the latter arises informally though participation in the Guild, sporting clubs, café conversation and so on, opportunity within the curriculum to explore connections between disciplines and savour new experiences can only be good.
During my undergraduate studies, I was highly focused on a career in music. I practised hard, loving musical performance and the scholarship associated with it. My university program offered excellent and ample opportunity to develop an understanding of music's forms and structures, and how best to communicate them in practice. After winning several performance prizes, I went on to preprofessional training in a prestigious conservatorium where I was able to refine my skills as an opera singer. I was then asked to consider applying for a Rotary International Graduate Scholarship to further my studies overseas.
At the selection panel interview, I was asked to talk about my experiences as a jeune fille au pair and my knowledge of French language and culture, as a volunteer worker in a day centre for people with multiple disabilities and as a project leader of a music, movement and dance project for children with hearing difficulties. I cannot recall my precise answers, but I remember discussing how my experiences gleaned from this work helped me to develop a greater sense of social, political, and spiritual awareness. I believe that the experiences I relayed in the interview helped me to win the scholarship. The activities I described were all extra-curricular, but I had also taken supplementary classes in philosophy and psychology.
None of the aforementioned activities were done to ‘improve my CV', but rather simply because the opportunities arose and I enjoyed them. These experiences were new and exciting, though their total relevance to my career development as a musician only emerged in process. Working with children who have hearing difficulties, for instance, gave me critical insights into how varied musical experiences can be. As I witnessed the children's satisfaction through engagement and achievement, this led me to refine my approach to preparing my own works.
Studying psychology eventually led to me undertaking research studies in the area and it is now my major research focus. The Rotary Scholarship was incredibly important for it enabled me to study in North America, where my music, general education and cultural experiences were deepened further. Not all scholarships have criteria comparable to those of Rotary International, but the types of broadening experiences I had encountered as an undergraduate certainly expanded my opportunity.
With confidence, I can say that I am a better musician by having learned to speak French. I am, and continue to become, a better musical performer by understanding that everyone perceives music in different ways and that I need to find means through which to communicate my music to them. Of course, the same can be said of my academic scholarship, and indeed my personal life. The knowledge that within the new structure, specialist undergraduate musicians will be given opportunities for excellence in performance, composition, theory and musicology is fantastic news.
But broadening experiences that will intensify practical and academic understanding of music also pleases me deeply. The advantage of the broadening is not only for the music student, as the arts bring breadth and depth of experience to us all on a daily basis: opportunities related to shared emotional and aesthetic experiences. Thus, I relish the opportunity for the science major to participate in a musical ensemble or to study music's role in culture and society. To Rotary and all donors and sponsors who support similar educational opportunities, I am profoundly grateful. I hope the broadening experience will deliver what I believe can offer students opportunities that will shape their future careers and lives for the better.