On Education, Drumming and Strumming

Christina Kobb

Christina Kobb studied piano and pedagogy at the Norwegian Academy of Music before shifting her focus to historical performance practices. Her doctoral research on 19th-century piano playing was featured in the New York Times and grounded her 2017 Carnegie Hall debut. Christina works freelance and lectures at the Norwegian Academy of Music.

by Christina Kobb

Music & Practice, Volume 3


As we saw in the survey above, scholars, musicians and representatives of European music institutions have shared their thoughts on future musicianship and present educational practices. Many of the authors had taken the opportunity to read the article by Esther Bishop and Martin Tröndle which we present in this issue, ‘Tertiary musical performance education: An artistic education for life or an out-dated concept of musicianship?’ In a study by Bishop and Tröndle, more than 300 graduates with performance degrees on orchestral instruments from German conservatoires were interviewed about their initial aspirations, the curriculum at their respective conservatoire and their career development. The results clearly reflect the hiatus between present educational practices and future musicianship.  Reading the students’ replies should interest us all, as musicians’ job market is changing in most countries.

To some extent related, Brit Ågot Brøske and Jon Helge Sætre conducted a study aimed specifically at ‘exploring professional work placement’ during the Master’s programme in music performance at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Their article, ‘Becoming a musician in practice: a case study’, discusses how professional work placement offers the students realistic experiences of their prospective future and may help them form a clearer understanding of their career options. For some students, this experience even prompted reflections on their “reasons for becoming a musician, and what kind of musicians they would like to become” (article quote). Turning more actively to performance, we are happy to include in this issue a thought-provoking and well-written text on the study of performance from a performer’s embodied experience. Notably both a drummer and an editor of Journal of Popular Music Education, Gareth Dylan Smith is in the rare position of possessing performance and pedagogic – as well as academic – expertise in his field. In his writing, the ‘Embodied experience of rock drumming’ oscillates between scholarly presentation and excerpts from his own ‘drumming diary’ of performance reflections. Smith thus develops, in full knowledge of all the theoretical challenges involved, an autoethnographic approach to drumming, and invites his readers into a world normally ignored by scholars examining rock music. Putting ‘the direct experience of the performer’ in the centre and not the listener is the advantage and novelty of this approach.

Finally, the composer Hector Berlioz and his remarkable Symphonie fantastique anchor this issue of Music & Practice in history – perhaps all the way back to the Paris conservatoire and Berlioz’s four attempts at winning Prix de Rome. The interesting question, however, is the extent to which Berlioz himself depended on historical models and methods. In ‘Fantasizing at the guitar: Remarks on the compositional practice of Berlioz’, our editor-in-chief, Erlend Hovland, discusses the intriguing genesis of this work. The article is a fascinating example of how closely instrumental practices may be knit together with compositional practices.

Finally, we would like to thank all authors for sharing their knowledge, insights and research, and for trusting us with the presentation of their ideas and their work. We would also like to thank Harald Jørgensen, Celia Duffy, Anne Danielsen, Stephen Broad, and Per Elias Drabløs who have provided invaluable advice in revising the peer-reviewed articles (Section 2) in the earlier stages. Finally, thanks are due to all authors who sent in articles for consideration, together with all peer reviewers and our editorial team.

On behalf of Music & Practice,

Christina Kobb