1st spring retreat

April 25, 2008

Today I go to Malibu (May’s Landing) again for a retreat with colleagues from the Departments of Musicology, Ethnomusicology, and Music to discuss curricular ideas of a core offering that could work for all three departments.

The three departments were at war within one big department when I arrived in 1983 and finally divorced in 1989 into separate departments — musicology went to Letters and Science, the others stayed in the School of Art and Architecture.

First my theory was that we split because of title issues (performers couldn’t be professors), or from personality issues, but I’m of the opinion that we split because each area is really so different, and IMHO, it works better this way. Enter the Herb Alpert Foundation who will be giving us $30 million dollars over the upcoming three years, and we are still happy with our organizational autonomy.

At the core of this gift is money to help the student — scholarships, seed money for projects, facilities, and so on — but as far as the curriculum is concerned, money flows to projects and courses that involve interdepartmental collaboration. The process is really fun to watch, and today promises to be an exciting culmination of our work.

Our Director, Tim Rice broke the work group into teams of three people each, and each was to come up with their own proposal of how a core curriculum could exist involving the three departments.

Being in Malibu for these retreats is like those Doonesbury images of Malibu: it’s really like that. It makes for a very relaxing space to let your hair down and feel free to converse with your colleagues away from the office.

The retreat was a great success. Even the skeptics who didn’t want to haul their asses all the way to Malibu admitted that it was a great place to meet and that is was a productive retreat, Each group added something unique to the project and all felt valued. The opinions of what we are about to do ranged from the best music program in the world to dumbing down our curriculum, the majority leaning toward the former. It is always a risk embracing a new philosophy or weltanschauung and it can seem to some that we are abandoning the tried and true for the unknown. I, for one, am ready.

Now, at 5:30 in the morning, I’m driving up to Lake Arrowhead for my annual retreat with the committee for UCLA’S Office of Instructional Development. This time I have to remember to NOT speed down the mountain, you may remember last year this time I got a ticket for speeding back to LA from on up the mountain, listening to music and feelin’ fine when rrrrrrrrrr — the police pulled me over for going 85.

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