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Overview of Professional Music Training System in Canada Source

• Don McLean, Dean of the Schulich School of Music – McGill University • Nicolas Desjardins, Directeur-Général par intérim du Conservatoire de Musique et d’ art dramatique du Québec.

Latest update

October 2006

In general

Professional music training in Canada takes place in three broad ways: musical instruction in private studios, instruction in conservatories or other subject-specific industry-oriented institutes, and study in university-based schools of music. The first situation is not subject to any regulation, but can produce exceptional talent, particularly at the level of professional finish. The second situation is usually privately funded but can be partially public funded (and therefore partially regulated), with the exception of the Conservatoire system in Quebec (which is wholly funded by the provincial Ministry of Culture). The third situation is based on the comprehensive university music school model: academic training in music and other disciplines (usually arts and science subjects) complements professional musical training on the principal instrument and in ensembles. Developments in reaction to/since the Bologna Declaration 1999 Canadian universities are just beginning to react to Bologna. In some respects, organizations such as CUMS (the Canadian University Music Society) and CAGS (the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies) have been more proactive in approaching the opportunities and challenges of Bologna than have individual universities themselves or the provincial education ministries to whom they report. Though atypical of music studies, there is a strong general tradition of university exchange between Canada and the UK or Australia and other countries of the British Commonwealth. Similarly there is a strong history of exchange between Canada (more specifically Quebec) and France as well as other countries in the francophonie.

Total number of institutions

A response to this question requires considerable nuance. There are approximately 40 universities across Canada that offer programs in music that include practical instrumental instruction at varying levels of sophistication. Several of these institutions have comprehensive professional music training and scholarly research programs located in administrative units (variously called faculties, schools, departments). Others have smaller programs (music majors and minors) within Arts faculties or departments, with more limited opportunities for sustained professional level instrumental and ensemble experience.


The six larger university-based music schools, between 300 and 850 students, include: the Schulich School of Music of McGill University (Montreal, QC), 1'Universite de Montreal, University of Toronto, the Don Wright Faculty of Music of the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario), Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, Ontario), and the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC). These are closely followed by a number of schools with enrolments of 150 to 300 students: the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Alberta), Brandon University (Brandon, Manitoba), the University of Calgary (Alberta), Concordia University (Montreal), Université du Québec à Montréal, Dalhousie (Halifax, Nova Scotia), Memorial University of Newfoundland (St. John's, Newfoundland), Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario), 1'Universite de Sherbrooke (Sherbrooke, Quebec), 1'Universite Laval (Quebec), the University of Ottawa, York University (Toronto, Ontario). The remaining university schools have quite small enrolments in their music programs, though they may still service their university populations through minor programs in music, non-professional community ensembles, or general interest courses for nonspecialists. Even these smaller schools occasionally have areas of specialization (composition, jazz, interdisciplinary studies, etc.) with reputations for high quality. The diversity in the Canadian situation is further explained by the presence of colleges and conservatories that offer high-level programs in music. The colleges provide pre-university or first (and sometimes second)year programs (akin to the American junior colleges) that are quite developed in some provinces (notably in British Columbia and Alberta, but also in the Quebec Cegep system). These schools can offer high-level professional training as preparation for continuation in university music programs. (There is some political movement at present for several of these in British Columbia [e.g. Kwantlen College, Malaspina College], Alberta [e.g. Grant McEwan College, jazz], and Ontario [e.g., Humber College in Toronto, jazz] to expand to offer full four-year degree programs.) The conservatories situation is also quite complex. The Conservatoire system in Quebec is dealt with more fully in our parallel study for that region. The Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto, Ontario) is a venerable institution with an extraordinary national outreach through its affiliated teachers network and graded practical and theoretical examinations system (somewhat like the Trinity College or Associated Board examinations in the UK). Through its community programs the RCM reaches more than 500,000 Canadians annually, a market penetration that has, overall, had significantly positive and unusually national impact on musical culture. However, apart from the excellent professional training that takes place in some RCM studios, its professional training division, the Glen Gould School, has only about 130 students, and is a relatively new entity on the Canadian scene. On a more modest scale, independent conservatories like the Vancouver Academy of Music, or the Mount Royal College Conservatory of Music (Calgary, Alberta) have small young professional programs on top of large community service programs (e.g., for Mount Royal, an elite program for about 100 students


sits atop a community program that reaches 5000). Several regions have strong community conservatory outreach programs, and their local universities (e.g., McGill, Montreal, Memorial, Lethbridge, etc.) often have affiliated community or preparatory school divisions that play an important role in the artistic and educational life of their communities. Recognizing the difficulty of finding consistent and reliable information, the Canadian University Music Society (CUMS) has been undertaking a survey of programs in its network of 40 university schools of music, with extensions to some of the colleges and conservatories. Total number of music students


It is not possible to get accurate information at this time. With respect to the six larger schools, the total number is probably around 4000 students, with about 2500 of those in cycle 1(bachelor's) programs, and about 1500 in cycle 2 (master's), and about 250 in cycle 3 (doctoral) programs. To review. Funding for higher education in music (as well as visual and performing arts) comes from the provincial ministries of education. The Conservatoire in Quebec is the exception to the rule, as it is funded directly by the Quebec Ministry of Culture. To a lesser extent, the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto is partially funded by Heritage Canada. All universities in Canada are publicly-funded (most would say publicly under-funded), with low to moderate tuition ($2000-$7000) and incidental fees levied from the individual students (sometimes offset by scholarship or financial aid programs) in conjunction with provincial operating grants, and supplemented by occasional philanthropic support from individual or corporate/foundation donors for academic programs, student assistance, or infrastructure development (facilities and equipment). According to the Canadian constitution, education is a provincial jurisdiction (there are 10 provinces and 3 territories 1 ), though the federal government contributes transfers of funds to support universitylevel education, particularly university-based research (through 3 major research councils 2 ). On the other hand, support to arts organizations and to individual artists comes from the federal, provincial, and municipal granting councils connected with ministries of culture (e.g., the Canada Council for the Arts through the federal ministry Heritage Canada/Patrimoine Canada, and provincial arts councils such as the Ontario Arts Council [OAC], Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec [CALQ], etc.). Tuition fees from individual students are differentially weighted according to whether students are resident in the province of the institutions, are Canadian citizens from other provinces, or are international students. At McGill, for example, these fees are approximately $2000 for

1 Canada's ten provinces, from west to east, are: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador; the three northern territories, from west to east, are: Yukon Territory, the North-West Territories, and Nunavut. 2 The major research councils are: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [SSHRC], the National Science and Engineering Research Council [NSERC], and the Canadian Institute for Health Research [CIHR].


Quebec students, $5000 for Canadian students, and (recently increased) $15000 for international students. The ministries of education supplement the monies raised through tuition by direct grants to universities, the grants approximately double the provincial tuition levels in most cases. Note: in all regulated programs, the government, not the universities, receives the differential amount between inside-of-province and outsideof-province tuition levels. Curricula

The curricula for professional music training in higher education are indirectly controlled by the State. Canadian universities and conservatories are largely self-regulating. They report to the provincial ministry of education (exceptionally the ministry of culture) with respect to program approvals, and are subject to cyclical (multi-year) review and peer-associational program review/approval/support (e.g. CREPUQ, la confĂŠrence des recteurs et principaux des universitĂŠs du QuĂŠbec; AUCC, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada; and CUMS, the Canadian University Music Society). But the curricula are generally developed by the institutions themselves in response to internal vision, educational mission, and market opportunity, and are approved by the academic governance processes in place in the institutions themselves. The ministries do retain, however, the power of approval and closure of programs, with the peer associations playing a major advocacy and regulatory role.

Academic Year

The academic season is normally divided into two semesters of 12 to 15 weeks (24 to 30 weeks in total), from September through December, and January through April-May. Many universities also have one or two summer session semesters in May and June.

3-cycle system

Canadian universities generally use the British model of three-year undergraduate degree (cycle 1, baccalaureate), but with a four-year degree (honours baccalaureate) as the typical model for continuation to graduate studies (master's, cycle 2). This produces a typical 4+1 (technically often 4+1.5) or 4+2 two-cycle model rather than the preferred Bologna norm of 3+2. However, as the typical Canada-EU interaction involves year- or semester-length exchange within cycle 1 or continuation of study at the beginning of cycle 2 (or cycle 3), such variants are generally not considered prohibitive. Though there are considerable variations between individual institutions and provinces, the programs of university-based schools of music are integrated into the general university system and therefore use the same two-cycle structure, with a three or four- year (general or honours) bachelor degree program (variously called a Bachelor of Music, or a Bachelor of Arts in Music, or a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music) and a one-to-two year master's program (usually called the Master of Music, though sometimes the Master of Arts in Music). There are only a few cycle three doctoral degree programs available in Canada in music (the degree usually called the Doctor of Music, but sometimes the Doctor of Musical Arts). The preceding degree programs summarize the situation for professional level training in composition and performance, but general music degrees, as


well as degrees with specializations in music education, music history (musicology or cultural studies in music), and music theory, as well as the less ubiquitous specializations in areas such as music technology, sound recording, and music therapy are also found, in some cases with programs leading all the way to the cycle three Ph.D. degree. Duration of the cycles Cycle 1(bachelor's degree): 3-year or 4-year (honours) programs Cycle 2 (master's degree): 1-year, 1.5-year, or 2-year programs Cycle 3 (doctoral degree): 2-year residency is the norm; program duration 2-7 years Title of qualifications 1st cycle B.Mus., Bachelor of Music the norm for strongest music specialization B.A., Bachelor of Arts in Music B.F.A., Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Common specializations include: performance (instrumental, vocal, jazz), composition, musicology (music history, cultural studies in music), music theory, music education, and music technology. The Québec Conservatoire offers the Diplôme d'études supérieures I en musique at this level. The Diplôme I is recognized as the equivalent to the bachelor's degree for continuation to cycle 2 (master's) programs in performance and composition by McGill and other Quebec universities, but is less recognized in other jurisdictions. B.Mus./B.Ed., Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Education concurrent degree programs B.Ed. (music), Bachelor of Education, four-year programs with music specialization Training and certification of music teachers for the public school system. Teachers in the provincially-mandated elementary and secondary school systems must be accredited. This is normally accomplished through the acquisition of a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree with provincial teacher accreditation attached. Music teachers destined for elementary or high school employment now often pursue an integrated joint/concurrentdegree program (B.Mus.+B.Ed.) in music and education over five years, though the four year B.Ed. degree program with some (and sometimes limited) specialization in music also occurs. One year post-bachelor's B.Ed. teacher accreditation programs are prevalent in many provinces (being reconsidered in Quebec) and are still quite desirable as a path into teaching music in the school system, since the vocational calling associated with a public school career in music often matures somewhat later in the course of a musician's training and experience. Pedagogical training and certification expectations for music teachers in colleges and universities. Music teachers in the pre-university college (in Quebec, CEGEP) system do not require separate teacher certification, but usually hold a Master's degree, though they may also be professional


practitioners from the community. University teachers in the scholarly disciplines in music normally hold the Ph.D degree; though increasing numbers of performers and composers hold D.Mus. (or, more American, D.M.A.) degrees, this is not considered requisite where comparable levels of practical professional experience and expertise are found. University level teachers are not required to hold separate teaching certification. Entry requirements for the 2nd cycle

Entry to second cycle programs is based on competitive audition (or assessment of portfolios in composition), review of academic transcripts, and previous certification (degree completion) at the preceding cycle 1 level.

Title of qualifications 2nd cycle M.Mus., Master of Music M.A., Master of Arts in Music The Québec Conservatoire offers the Diplôme d'études supérieures II en musique at this level. The Diplôme II is recognized as the equivalent to the master's degree for continuation to cycle 3 (doctoral) programs in performance and composition by McGill and other Quebec universities, but is less recognized in other jurisdictions. Specializations (not exhaustive, to be verified): M.Mus. in performance, composition, and sound recording [McGill] M.A. in music education, musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology, music technology, music therapy [Wilfrid Laurier] % of students who continue with 2nd cycle

There is no precise data on this issue provincially or nationally, but estimates from various sources in the mid 1990s indicated that approximately one third of students who complete cycle 1 continue to cycle 2. In some performance programs the number is closer to half that go on to the next cycle. It is important to understand, however, that many students in Canada complete an undergraduate (cycle 1) program in music, even at a highly professional level, but then choose to continue their university studies in other disciplines (medicine, law, scientific and humanities fields).

3rd cycle

Only a few schools offer doctoral level studies, and only three do so in performance (McGill, Montreal, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia). D.Mus. (D.M.A.) in performance, composition. Specializations at the doctoral level in research areas include: Ph.D. in musicology, music education, music theory, music technology, sound recording. Universities with Ph.D. programs include: McGill, Montreal, Laval, Toronto, Western, UBC, and Alberta.

Credit points

Programs are normally designed to encompass 30 credits per academic year (i.e. 45 hours of total student load per credit). 1st cycle program are


thus generally 90 credits (three-year) or 120 credits (four-year), though some programs require additional credits. 2nd and 3rd cycle programs with two years of residency (course work) are generally 60 credits. Quality Assurance

Accreditation of university and college two-year programs is in place I Canada since 1989, and has been enthusiastically accepted by both the academic institutions and the business community. It is recognized that in a profession, we need to define a body of knowledge; require a qualification in order to practice the profession; and be accountable for our actions to a professional body. Certification of individuals was introduced in Canada in 1989, along the lines of the certification required for other professional bodies (e.g. medical, engineering, accounting). As part of that process, accreditation of educational programs began in 1985 at universities, and in 1989 at two-year colleges.


This is a vast topic of great interest that would require much greater scope to develop. With respect to the creation and performance of music the profession continues to seek ad-hoc musical talent and capability without regard to an individual's path of training and certification, an artistic value that we will probably continue to cherish. As a result, however, there remains a challenging decoupling between higher education in music and eventual employability in the profession. The key factor for the musicians of today and tomorrow is diversification and flexibility, values not easily championed in our academically-constrained government-regulated institutional environment. Musicians need technical prowess and artistic depth more than ever, but they also require technological savvy, cultural breadth balanced by niche expertise, stylistic openness, business and social skills of a transformative nature, all in a continually changing environment, not only within our traditional training areas of classical music and jazz, but also within all domains of musical production and musical thinking. So that they can become the leaders who will shape the context of music's placement in modern, and global, society.


According to provincial education ministry policies, arts education (music, drama, dance, visual arts), including classroom and extra-curricular group activities, may be considered an integral part of the elementary school and secondary school educational experience throughout Canada. The reality, however, is that these programs are often eroding due to high costs and diversion of resources and expertise to competing ‘priorities’. Many in the artistic and educational communities are rallying (perhaps too belatedly) in support of arts, and particularly music education across the country. A number of regions, notably Newfoundland and other areas of Atlantic Canada, Quebec, parts of southern Ontario, northern Alberta, as well as several sparsely populated areas (southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia) have exceptionally strong musical and music-educational traditions and consistently produce musical talent at rates larger than population numbers would expect. Probably about 300 high schools across the country offer music


programs of greater breadth and focus, and it is these students who often go on to higher education in university music schools. In any case, students who continue to higher education in music at the professional level have invariably taken private practical (and often extensive theoretical) lessons in music outside the regular school system, whether through private instruction, conservatory community programs (including elite programs), or combinations of these. The Quebec Conservatoire system, which seeks out and cultivates talented students from an early age, is atypical, most other conservatory elite programs (RCM, Mount Royal, etc.) being more self-selective by students who have already reached the teenage/preuniversity stage of development. Several of the university schools of music have conservatory community programs that serve their local areas, but these rarely function as real preparatory programs for elite talent development. Apart from these community activities, the university schools of music are only now beginning to pay attention to the policies and practices that affect pre-university training across the country. Specialized pre-university music programs are offered by some colleges in British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec (10 public and 3 private [semi-public] institutions in the Cegep system), and by the network of seven Conservatoires in Quebec. Major concerns

Only a few current issues are briefly noted here. o

Culture values and relevance Institutions that, for the most part, specialize in the training of musicians and musical scholars devoted to traditional classical and jazz idioms need to reimagine and reinvigorate their role in touching the lives of more people in society. This can only be done this by rediscovering our creativity in programming and messaging, rather than by proselytizing or lamenting.


Program costs and levels of support Most of our jurisdictions continue to be challenged by the discrepancy between the real costs of higher education in the musical and performing arts and the available resources allocated, whether institutional, governmental, or private.



Academic and curricular renewal When broadly considered, most of our institutions have undertaken only marginal changes to core curricular design and methods of delivery in the past several decades, this despite the fact that music tends to be cutting edge with respect to technological developments. Renewal of staff is essential to this process. Professional links: much of the music profession is itself in considerable disarray at present due to the same kinds of artistic and economic pressures found in our institutions. It can no longer be assumed that traditional professional orders (orchestras, chamber ensembles, solo recital careers) will be the sole or even the best outcome for our graduates.


Research opportunities Music institutions will need to embrace interdisciplinarity in general, and scientific as well as humanities-based research in particular going forward. This is not just a matter of survival within the university context (a condition now associated with more of our conservatory-type institutions than has been the case in the past), but also because of the crossdisciplinary interests and capacities of the younger generation (who, as Mahler noted, are, so to speak by definition, always right).


Internationalism There are great opportunities at present to share the character of our musical expression and understanding with the global community, and to receive from others the best of their musical capacities as well. Mobility of artists, staff, and students is crucial to this enterprise and is one of the key reasons for those outside the EU community to support its efforts through such programs as ‘Mundus Musicalis’.

Canada - Professional Music Training System