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What Lessons can Higher Popular Music Education Learn from Art School Pedagogy?


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The first UK based Popular Music degree courses appeared in 1993 and there are now forty-seven different UK universities or institutes who run popular music degree courses (Cloonan and Hulstedt, 2012). Have these courses helped or attempted to develop creatively successful artists who have had an important impact on the popular music industry? From the 1960’s to the 1990’s one of the main academic pathways for aspiring musicians was through Art School (AS) education. These have produced luminaries such as David Byrne, Brian Eno, David Bowie, John Lennon, Pete Townsend and I have listed other key graduates (Appendix 1). This research is the first part of my PHD thesis, where I will ascertain whether there are elements of AS ethos and pedagogical practices that helped to develop this rich vein of creative popular music artists. The study will examine specific practices of AS pedagogy that appear to be key to the development of creative popular music practitioners, with creatively successful musicians being defined as those who have managed to sustain a career within music, while regenerating and maintaining a key voice in the culture. Are these practices and institutional ethos replicated in Higher Popular Music Education (HPME) and could they be developed and implemented within popular music departments? As outlined in the Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World: A number of the teaching and learning methodologies traditionally employed in Art Schools are transferable and mirrored in the process and production of pop – for example, practical studio-based, project-centred work, experimental approaches to media and exploration of the self, presented for critique by the peer group. (Shepherd et al., 2003: 153)
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