Music and 21st century education at CSUMB

By Yollette Merritt
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Monterey Bay Symphony at the Sunset Center, Carmel-by-the-Sea. Photo Randy Tunnell.

The most important skills to be acquired from a 21st century education – according to the United States-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills – are critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Note the word creativity. In his book, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Richard Florida proposes that during the 21st century, creativity will overtake technology and become the main driver of development.

University education is traditionally one of the premiere venues available to a person to garner the tools and resources needed to navigate life both professionally and personally. Among academicians – sociologists; anthropologists, psychologists, educators, etc. – the process is known as acculturation. Whether or not convinced, higher education is meant to expand knowledge base and cultural accoutrements. “Music, as well as the other arts, reflects society in space and time and therefore, of value,” states Sebastian Mireles, a second year student at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) pursuing studies in philosophy and human communication. “It is not necessary to accept or embrace a new medium or experience, but awareness can help open one’s worldview.”

The existence of music, as well as the other arts, has been recorded in early historic documents, and at times, restricted and not readily accessible due to restrictions based on privilege. That is not the case with the Music and Performing Arts and Theatre Arts departments at CSUMB which have a trove of available resources including recitals, concerts, workshops and lectures. Upcoming recitals and concerts take place on November 30, December 1, and December 8.

Going outside of CSUMB walls – or rather, the sand dunes – there are additional resources designed to enrich and expand one’s knowledge base. And good news, local organizations in the classic genre give special encouragement for students to attend. They include the Carmel Music Society, Carmel Youth Music Monterey, Chamber Music Monterey Bay, Hidden Valley Music Seminars, Monterey Symphony, Santa Cruz County Symphony, Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony and the Sunset Center.

“Our programs are designed to enrich the lives of all who attend,” stated Nicola Reilly, Executive Director of the Monterey Symphony, former CSUMB staff and invited speaker to music students. “We understand the importance of music and its impact even on cognitive development. For that reason, we at the symphony have a strong educational outreach program to all our surrounding counties, even up to Santa Clara. We would never want ability to pay to be a deterrent for anyone to attend a concert.”

Music in its various forms adds enrichment to one’s life. The recent Waves Concert by the Monterey Symphony is a case in point. Although not comparable with the architectural grandeur or acoustics of La Madeleine in Paris, the Royal Albert or Festival Halls in London, or the physical size of San Jose’s Center of Performing Arts, the Sunset Center in Carmel-by-the-Sea, initially designed as a school, was an appropriate setting for the symphony’s well-executed performance of Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, “The Great.”

The venue boasted a remarkable vaulted ceiling and architectural style that, along with the music, “evoked personal images of 18th century Spanish villas and community life,” remarked Mireles. Mireles also found value in the symphony’s customary pre-concert lecture, this time, given by Alex Berko, guest conductor who premiere his commissioned work entitled “Among Waves.”

Education is a gift to oneself. One does not need to be a music major or minor to enroll in Professor Richard Bains’s “History of Music” class, or attend any of the concerts or varied arts resources – on, as well as off, campus – that stimulate creativity. Does 21st century education exist at CSUMB? Each person alone is the architect of their own educational roadmap, in and outside of the classroom.

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