Impressive Conservatory Program (s)

I recently returned from a trip in the Netherlands, where I had been invited to experience and comment on programs and research being conducted in a Dutch Lectorate (research group) within the Prince Claus Conservatoire in the Hanze University in Groningen.  The leader of the lectorate, Rineke Smilde, is a long-time friend and colleague. 

I came away deeply impressed by a number of factors.  One, the professors from Hanze demonstrated incredible commitment to their own learning and the learning of their students.  Two, the already-created programs and research are innovative and from my perspective, refreshingly “unstuffy.”  And three, the discussions about the future of the lectorate’s activities were wide-ranging and bold, consistently focused on the connections between the arts and the immediate society in which they live. 

Check out the Joint Master’s degree program being offered at Prince Claus: (

We in the US could learn from this example.

After leaving the Netherlands, my wife and I traveled to northern Belgium (Flanders).  There was a newspaper in our hotel room with the headline, Art School Revisited.  The article reported reforms that have been proposed to expand arts education for all citizens (!).  The head of the education ministry, Pascal Smet is quoted, “Part-time arts education has a double social mission…the organization of artistic education both at an amateur level and in preparation for higher education and the promotion of arts and culture education in pre-school and primary and secondary schools.  As many children, young people and adults as possible need to be given the chance to take advantage of what’s on offer in order to develop their artistic talents.  Artists have always been the pioneers of our society, showing us the way forward.”

Ah, to have that kind of leadership in the arts in this country! —


About the author

James Undercofler

Jim has been a Professor at Drexel University since May, 2009. His previous appointment - since August, 2007 - was as the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Jim was Dean of the Eastman School of Music from 1997 to 2007. He has played a prominent role in musical arts and music education throughout his career. Before joining Eastman in 1995 as associate director for academic affairs and professor of music education, he was an active, performing chamber musician as well as first horn in the New Haven Symphony. Jim serves as board president, American Music Center; advisory board member, Arts Education Policy Review; board member, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, New York State Association of College Music Programs and American Symphony Orchestra League, and is a founding member, NETWORK of Performing and Visual Arts Schools and Mercury Opera of Rochester.

Read James Undercofler's blog [l=]here[/l].

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