In the way great teaching artists are good listeners, those educators who would create more great teaching artists should listen to the current ones. Ask what they need, what has helped them. Ask again in a decade, and keep asking.
That theme resonated throughout a daylong forum called “Transforming Arts Teaching: The Role of Higher Education,” held on May 11 at the Metropolitan Club in New York City. Some 150 arts leaders, heads of colleges and conservatories, and those who fund and support them listened to one another and to working teaching artists during the event, and found plenty to talk about during the breaks between panels.
The forum, on how teacher education colleges, conservatories, fine arts colleges and other higher education institutions can better prepare those who teach the arts to young people, was sponsored by the Dana Foundation. Weighing on the participants’ minds were several changes that have occurred in recent years in the teaching of all arts to youngsters.
Most prominent among these changes have been the loss of teaching time for the arts as schools focus on math and reading (so their students can show more progress on standardized tests), and the small percentage of students who receive arts instruction from arts specialists.
David J. Skorton, president of Cornell University, who played jazz to support himself during college, opened the session by describing the “creativity, teamwork, planning, improvisation, and joy” of producing art, and made his point by playing excerpts of music from classic jazz to a new composition by a Cornell student.