Music dept. gives students well-rounded music education

It seems as if there are as many music genres now as there are social media websites. From dubstep to horrorcore, and even Korean pop, music genres are constantly evolving as musicians are learning new methods of expression.

“It’s weird,” said Shannon Barteau, outreach manager of Musicians Institute. “We’re starting to see a real odd merge of country and rap, and people dj’ing over heavy metal.”

In order to be effective, music educators must be able to create a relevant curriculum for the modern-day musician.

The music department at Santa Monica College has taken steps in order to nurture artists of all musical interests, not only focusing on traditional methods of classical instruction.

Earlier this year, the photography department at SMC received an overhaul to its curriculum in an effort to better prepare students future careers in the field.

SMC music department chair James Martin said similar changes may be in store for his department.

“We will probably follow [the photography department] down that road because we have to prepare people for the jobs out there,” he said. “That’s certainly a consideration,” said Martin.

Additionally, there may be future plans to build a recording studio for the music department at the Academy of Entertainment and Technology satellite campus.

The faculty in the department takes into consideration the wide variety of interests in the approximately 650 music majors on campus.

“We teach both classical and popular," Martin said. "About half of our students are classical, and half are popular. The emphasis that we use is to assume everyone has to have some classical training and classical language.”

But what if a student wants to go into sound production or become a rapper?

“We don’t have a class in rap, but we do have a class in improvisation.” Martin said “Even a rapper would benefit from finding his way through our classes.”

In addition to SMC, James Bergman also teaches at Pierce College and California Lutheran and is able to track trends in music education.

“By the time a style or trend gets to where they’re teaching it in college, there is already something new,” Bergman said.

At the beginning of each semester Bergman asks his students if they can play an instrument. In the last few years, “not a whole lot raise their hands,” he said.

Bergman then asked his class how many had ever played an instrument.

"A few more raise their hands,” he said. “The nature of it has evolved."

The SMC music department transfers students to the University of California Los Angeles, University of California Berkeley, University of Southern California, and The Julliard School. However, Bergman said even a degree from Julliard will not guarantee instant employment after graduation.

“They’re trying to teach entrepreneurship to musicians,” Bergman said. “The best music school in the country is telling you you’re going to have to find your job.”

"The classical jobs are out there, but not nearly enough to take care of everybody,” said Martin. “Where the basics are concerned, people need to have good ears and they need basic skills.”