El grado superior de música: la esperanza es lo último que se pierde / The higher degree of music: hope is the last thing to lose

By Elisa Roche and José Luis Turina (magazine Doce Notas, February 1997)


The article Horror in the hypermarket, accurately subtitled "How to build an educational conflict", signed by the director of this magazine and published in the last December issue, as a preface, in the Education section, to the interview with the professor of the Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid Almudena Cano, pointed out a series of events related to compliance with administrative regulations by the teaching staff of the Conservatories of Music as possible causes of the dismissals that occurred last fall within the General Subdirection of Education Artistic, which have fallen on the General Subdirector and the Technical Counselor for Music and Performing Arts, and that have caused the immediate resignation of the five teachers who, as Technical-Teaching Advisers, made up the team of the aforementioned Council.
The aforementioned article ended with an invitation to those previously responsible for the reform of musical education within the framework of the LOGSE so that "... from now on those who considered themselves obliged to remain silent due to the exercise of their activity can express themselves". Well, the truth is that, already formalized, at the beginning of January, the corresponding administrative dismissals, and the teachers of the outgoing Ministry team reinstated to their corresponding jobs in the Music Conservatories in which each of them have their definitive positions, nothing prevents to attend the friendly invitation sent from this magazine, in order to expose to the public opinion a series of considerations, for which the connection with the central services of the administration required the most elementary discretion.
In relation to this, the authors of this article, members of the outgoing Council, feel obliged to recognize, from these pages, that the weeks that have elapsed since the ghost of the aforementioned dismissals began to plan about the work they had been doing, have supposed to be a test of endurance for their patience, a test that they now consider to be well exceeded. The restraint that the most elementary ethics requires of the civil servants who occupy certain positions of the Administration, out of pure institutional respect, in the face of continuous criticism, unfounded disqualifications and gratuitous insults, is considered well used if it is in favor of a project in which they firmly believe, and for whose realization they have been designated.
Throughout the years that have elapsed in the performance of the corresponding positions, the team of the Technical Council of Music and Performing Arts has given ample evidence of an attitude not prone to stand up to the criticisms and disqualifications received. In the same way, we will limit ourselves here only to corroborate that, as indicated in the aforementioned background article, and as denounced by Professor Almudena Cano in the interview that followed, the change in the Ministry team has been motivated, indeed, due to the pressure exerted by an influential sector of professors of Madrid Royal Conservatory of Music, pressure of which the report published in the newspaper ABC last October was only one more element, quite revealing, by the way, that the reasons that inspire the sector are not in any way educational or pedagogical, but rather of a purely administrative nature, focusing on the fulfillment of the teaching obligations that, as civil servants, correspond to the teaching staff of the Music Conservatories.
In addition to the aforementioned dismissals of the General Subdirector and the Technical Counselor, the Minister's action in response to said pressure includes two verbal commitments, contracted with the representatives of the teaching staff and subsequently made public by them to their colleagues, in one of the numerous extraordinary cloisters held throughout the last quarter of 1996 at the Madrid Superior Conservatory. On the one hand, the development of a new legal framework for higher education centers -long demanded by the Administration by the outgoing team, on the other hand, as evidenced by the documents in the archives of the General Subdirection for Artistic Educatio -; and, on the other, the delay in the implementation of the higher degree of music education, corresponding to the new organization of the same in the LOGSE development, initially planned for the next academic year 1997-98.
Once released from the positions held in the central services of the Ministry of Educacion and Science, and given the interest aroused by all this unfortunate matter among the different sectors, both teachers and professionals, we consider this the ideal moment to start talking about the most characteristic features that define the reform that began with the approval of the Law in October 1990. And as this magazine is a publication of special diffusion within the Music Conservatories, we have considered it appropriate to refer first of all to the reform of professional education of music, and specifically to everything that refers to its higher degree, of whose meaning as a professional training section par excellence it is necessary to become aware, in order to understand in all its dimensions the contributions made by the Law and its development regulations in relation to this aspect of musical teaching.
The higher degree of music, still to be implemented, has occupied a very important part of the work of the Ministry over the last few years, which from the outside has been reflected in several drafts distributed to the Centers, has caused a large number of meetings with representatives of the educational administrations with competences, and has led to the undertaking of a series of measures related to the infrastructure of the existing centers, in order to be able to proceed with their implementation within the established deadlines.
Unfortunately, in our opinion, the commitment taken from the Minister is only based, either on a lack of vision of the importance that the implementation of the higher degree has for these teachings, or on an effort to abort the future development of Royal Decree 617/1995, of April 21, which establishes the basic aspects of the curriculum for the higher degree of music education, and regulates the entrance exam to it, a question quite difficult to understand, if one takes into account that the elaboration of this norm was the object, since 1991, of repeated institutional consultations, and for this, the consensus of the different educational administrations, as well as the different sectors involved, was counted on.
As occurs in the other levels of the educational system, including the university, the purpose of said Royal Decree is to serve as a basis so that, based on what is established in it, each Autonomous Community develops its own higher degree study plan, of which the minimum teachings established in this standard must account for approximately 60% of the total. At the time of its cessation termination, the outgoing Council was about to start the preparation of the definitive curriculum corresponding to the MEC management realm, for which it had the abundant reports and suggestions issued by the teaching staff in relation to the different drafts of the same sent to the centers.
The aforementioned Royal Decree, in which, at the same time, the admission test to the higher degree of music is regulated for the entire State, supposes providing, for the first time in our country, the formative section par excellence of musical studies of a organizational structure designed solely and exclusively on the basis of its superior character. This supposes a revolutionary treatment of the degree, if it is taken into account that, in the diverse curricula that have followed one another throughout the 20th century (established in the Decrees of 1917, 1942 and 1966) there has been a lack of a truly superior training section, if we understand by such a level that is accessed after completing the studies corresponding to the Baccalaureate, whose entity is provided both by its duration -in no case less than four years- and by its academic arrangement, and at the end of which the maximum degree is obtained within the system (whether or not it is the University, as has happened for decades with the teachings given in the Higher Technical Schools).
This systematic lack has been camouflaged by granting professional effects to the previous training sections. Thus, although the current study plan (Decree of 1966) establishes three degrees for professional education (which leads to the understanding that these degrees -elementary, middle and higher- are intended to establish training areas that make up a career path of difficulty and progressive academic complexity), its development has not respected this logical sequence, by concentrating in the middle grade an excess of subjects, many of them of a clearly superior nature, to justify without a doubt the existence of the Professor's Title, with professional effect, obtainable at the end of said degree in a period of time similar to that established in the previous plans (between six and eight years, depending on the specialties). With this, once again, the norm blurred the profile of the higher degree, since the middle one, by absorbing the quantitative and qualitative essence of the former, left it void of content, and prevented the existence of properly superior Conservatories.
Because it is the degree that determines the professional teaching of music, the new configuration of these teachings is thought from the higher degree, as evidenced by the fact that the first draft prepared by the General Subdirection for Artistic Education and diffussed to the centers in in 1991, he treated it in special detail, as a basic reference to later establish the academic ordering of the preceding degrees. Academic organization, therefore, has been conceived from top to bottom, although the implementation of the teachings has occurred in the opposite direction, since that of the higher grade required a reform of the existing infrastructure, especially complex due to the secular mix of degrees in the same center.
Thus, the implementation of the new higher degree required not only a rearrangement of the physical spaces, in order to adapt them to a much more complex organization, but also a restructuring of the organic templates of the centers that would allow the release of the teachers in charge of their teaching -chairmen fundamentally- of the majority middle-degree students who were forced to attend. This has meant in recent years a notable increase in the hiring of teachers, which would allow the legal transformation of the four higher conservatories located in the MEC's management realm, and the consequent creation of new professional conservatories that serve the intermediate grade. All this has been possible thanks to the promulgation, in 1992, of Royal Decree 389, of April 15, which establishes the minimum requirements of the centers that teach artistic education, by virtue of which higher conservatories must only teach the highest degree of these teachings.
The aforementioned Royal Decree on basic aspects of the curriculum for the new higher degree, mentioned above, supposes the definitive consolidation and clarification of these studies and, with this, their assimilation to the planning criteria experienced with such success for decades in the main superior centers in Europe. If one takes into account that we joined all of this more than thirty years late, a measure that could lead to a delay of one or two years in implementation would be all the more incomprehensible, delay that is out of the scope of understanding of the authors of this article, unless all this does not pursue any other purpose than to occupy a place in the Guinness Book of Records: that of having been the last country in Europe to normalize its musical teaching, by entering into the 21st century with a plan conceived with 19th century criteria.
Against these, reflected in a higher degree such as the Decree of 1966, focused on two or three courses that are limited to the central subject of the specialty and three or four complementary subjects, the new order, in addition to considerably expanding the catalog of specialties (including some unprecedented in our previous academic studies, such as "Flamenco", "Jazz", "Instruments of traditional and popular music", etc.), proposes a global curriculum, in which throughout the four or five years of duration, all aspects that should affect the higher education of all professionals are addressed in depth, ranging from the domain of the specialty itself to the necessary theoretical and humanistic knowledge, passing through a mandatory dedication to the different vocal or instrumental ensemble groups.
The higher degree must not only attend to the training of future professionals, but, given its full integration into the educational system, it must also deal in a very special way with the training of teachers, which is reflected in the new specialty of "Musical pedagogy", which includes a double option: the "Pedagogy of language and musical education", aimed primarily at the training of teachers who will teach music in Obligatory Secondary Education and Baccalaureate, and the"Vocal and instrumental Pedagogy", aimed at the specific training of teachers in their respective specialties. For this reason, one of the most characteristic features of the new law is, together with the configuration of higher studies with an academic consistency typical of said training level, the guarantee of teacher training as an inherent responsibility of the public powers, at the same level as the qualification for the exercise of the other areas that are the subject of the higher degree: creation, interpretation and research.
If the aforementioned delay of more than thirty years that professional music education has had in our country in relation to that of the rest of Europe (let's not forget that in the 1970s, higher music studies, taught long before in exclusively higher centers, were equated to university in all Central Europe), we add what this would mean in terms of the qualification of future teachers, it is all the more unjustified to ensure that the implantation extends beyond the ten years foreseen by the Law. Is the current formula better, perhaps, of having a teaching staff who, in a high percentage, teach with an intermediate degree, and who simultaneously, in the best of cases, develope this professional exercise with their higher musical training?
Paradoxically, given such a complex situation, the question that most worries a certain sector of the teaching staff is whether 15 or 18 hours per week of class are taught to a maximum of 12 students, in the case of instrumental specialties, which have previously been scrupulously selected in an admission exam, and whether these hours can be condensed into the least number of school days possible, so that teaching does not disturb the normal development of a parallel professional activity.
In the case of Madrid, where the nucleus of the most important response lies, it is worth asking what is missing for the implementation of the new organization of the higher degree: the Royal Higher Conservatory of Music and the Higher School of Singing are two centers more than prepared to start the new studies of this degree: both have their own brand new headquarters, as well as cloisters that add a total of about a hundred teachers belonging to the Body of Chairmen, to which we must add almost about thirty professors belonging to the Body of Professors; The equipment is fully satisfactory for the academic needs, and the basic structure of the new study plan and the regulation, which is the responsibility of the Government, of the admission exam are already in place. What are we waiting for to start? What reasons are there to delay the implementation of a higher degree training consistent with the other higher education in the system? If we do not remember correctly, none of these aspects have been commented in the press, since all the statements made are limited to issues that concern only the working conditions of the teaching staff. So, does it all come down to a problem of status and timetable? Is the current working day considered a condemnation of forced labor, which prevents worrying about more profound academic issues?
In a quick summary, the consequences of not having had a true higher degree in previous curricula are: 1) a professional qualification at a clear disadvantage compared to what has been offered in other countries for decades; 2) the aforementioned neglect in teacher training, which has had a profound impact on the system; 3) a difficulty in recognizing an equivalence between higher education in music and university studies; and 4) an impossibility of homologation with the higher degrees issued in the countries of the European Union, with the consequent difficulty, at times, for the granting of scholarships and access to the different educational programs of international exchange.
Only now and like a boune, through the equivalences established in the LOGSE, have the degrees corresponding to the previous study plans -from a legal point of view, not an academic one- have been equated with the new degree established in the Law. However, this new title is obtained at the end of the studies of the new regulation -whose implementation, apparently, does not concern the authorities-, calling for academic requirements very different from the current ones, as can be verified by the Royal Decree of basic aspects already mentioned.
It will depend on the final decision that the current heads of the MEC, headed by the Minister at the helm, that higher music studies in our country continue sine die languishing in the arms of the 1966 plan, with its aftermath of frustrations and abandonments, which produce -as is well known- the exile to European centers of students who do not find in Spanish conservatories what a true higher study plan should offer them from the next academic year on.

Madrid, January 1997



Horror en el hipermercado / Horror in the hypermarket
By Jorge Fernández Guerra
Article published in No. 4 of the magazine Doce Notas (Madrid, December 1996)