Jazz and classical slowly taking backseat to more mainstream genres

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Mozart and Bach. String quartets and flute sections. Jazz standards and scales.

These are some of the images that may come to mind when you think of university music schools.

However, this is starting to change, as music academic institutions are starting to gradually shift to modern musical values.

Focus on classical and jazz

Mount Royal University’s conservatory continues to offer a place of jazz, classical, choir and group ensemble programs, with no mention of anything that would traditionally sit in someone’s popular music record collection.

Paul Dornian, the head of the conservatory, said, “the difference in the disciplines in the performance end with modern music, whatever genre, are musicacademicsPaul Dornian, a 40 year veteran of music academia and Mount Royal’s head of conservatory, believes that more emphasis on popular genres should be encouraged.

Photo by Brandon McNeildisappearing. Especially, if you look at some of the stuff going with experimental rock or indie rock…new music.”

Jazz and classical are still heavily relied on within the music schooling system because of their attention to detail when it comes to things like theory and harmonic structure.

“Traditionally those are the most complex forms of music so you see a lot of people who end up making their mark in pop music or various types of rock based things and so on…at some point, studying jazz music or classical music,” said Dornian.

A place for funk and heavy metal

However, the University of Calgary offers classes such as the History of Funk, History of Heavy Metal and a New Music ensemble.

Claire Carreras, volunteer music teacher for a Girls Rock Camp in Vancouver, said that there are many positive impacts for the blending of the two worlds.

“The ability to be a little bit more creative. If you could branch out, it would have tremendous benefits to the confidence of the individual. Also for the expression of the individual to work with their emotions,” said Carreras.

Dornian said Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA is a good starting point for conservatories looking to broaden their curriculum, as they have been offering these types of programs for quite some time.

guitarshotCanada’s schools are melding in more of the well-known music values; such as funk, new music ensemble and heavy metal. 

Photo by Brandon McNeilThe school has produced names like Lady GaGa, Aaron Abeyta (more popularly known as El Hefe, guitarist of punk rock icons NOFX) and guitar virtuoso Dave Davidson — of technical thrash metal band Revocation — as graduates.

In addition, Langley Fine Arts School (Langley, BC), Carleton University (Ottawa, ON), Bishop’s University (Sherbrooke, PQ) and Wilfred Laurier University (Waterloo, ON) — among others — are offering popular music studies to some degree.

For those conservatories out there that are looking to broaden their spectrum and start catching up with the times, Carrerras offers a helpful tidbit on how to make it work while still delivering a focus within the program.

“You could have your music as a class but then your elective or major within that and would have a chance to choose from many of the obscure genres and be able to make a focus out of it.”


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