In order to succeed in today’s musical society, and also for the sake of a vibrant and diverse arts scene, it is important that musicians are conscious, curious and autonomous. Life as a musician involves continuous reflection on one’s musical directions: where do I come from, and where do I want to go next? Artistic identity is thus not a stable quantity; it changes as the musician develop and gets new musical experiences in a reciprocal relationship with an ever evolving modern music industry of which the musician is part. The artistic identity or musical profile is in flux, and today’s musicians need skills and routines to be able to regularly consider and review their choices and in which direction they are heading. To support students in becoming robust and flexible practitioners, it is important that the education involve critical thinking regarding possible musical crossroads. What am I really interested in right now? Why and how am I interested in this? What do I want to explore on my next projects? What different directions have I looked into so far? How can I contribute musically in a way that feels meaningful?
This autumn CEMPE (Centre for Excellence in Music Performance Education at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo) is starting a pilot project with a digital Core Portfolio for performance students. The Core Portfolio is designed to be a tool for students’ artistic development where the student writes texts and engages in conversations with peers and teachers concerning issues directly connected to her playing. Furthermore, it is intended to work as a tool for reflection where the student builds awareness and reflects on her overall direction and artistic identity as well as a tool for communication with and between teachers on the student’s musical development.
Students as active partners
At the first year of this pilot, we want to keep the project flexible and open to adjustments. The project has been planned and organised by two students together with the undersigned. The two students are part-time employees of the CEMPE management team, and their ideas and input have been important for how the pilot project has been progressing so far. The Core Portfolio is tested on three different digital platforms so that the project is not restricted by the framework and limitations of a single platform.
Looking over, back, ahead and in
The Core Portfolio aims to give the student an overview of her learning trajectory by looking back and looking ahead and through reflection gaining an increased insight in her own artistic development. On the Core Portfolio front page the student creates a presentation of who she is, including her academic and musical background. This allows her to look back: who am I, and who have I been so far in my musical life? Every semester the student lists all her music performance work in the portfolio (list of works, specialisations, concerts/gigs, bands/chamber works, projects etc.), thus creating an overview of her musical development both for herself and for her main teachers. The Norwegian Academy of Music finds that students are participating in numerous different small and large projects both inside and outside the academy, and the Core Portfolio will help chart the student’s experiences.
An important part of the Core Portfolio project is the follow-up through assignments and discussions, supervision and colloquiums. The students write short texts where they reflect on their development and crossroads so far and look ahead at future directions and opportunities for exploration. These texts are discussed further with a supervisor and/or a student group.
Room for reflection
Through assignments and discussions, the students are required to give grounds for their musical choices, which is an essential part of being a conscious and robust musician. The Core Portfolio also serves as a supplemental arena to the instrument classes: the students will get other and different inputs than their main teacher alone can give. They get several people to play ball with and meet a breadth of experiences, thus stimulating reflection and independent development.
Several portfolio projects over the last few years have focused on entrepreneurship: the protean musician needing to know how to get on in a global freelance market. Although this is an important aspect also of the Core Portfolio pilot project, the focus is on the reflective process students undergo while working on it. Core Portfolio is therefore not about the final product, but rather a starting point for a life of continuous reflection on and development of an artistic identity.
Ingfrid Breie NyhusDeputy Director, CEMPE
Institution: The Norwegian Academy of Music, Centre of Excellence in Music Performance Education