Music school is stuck in the wrong era

Kenny Bergle

As a (very busy) designer of K-12 and higher education music technology curriculum programs around the country, and as an alum of UT Austin, I find [the music school’s freezing of admissions to the music recording technology and music business programs] so out of touch with the current and future music culture as to be sadly humorous (and it clearly illustrates the administration’s lack of foresight). I am personally ashamed that the UT administration is so backward-thinking. Why cut out the ONLY music program a student has a chance of making a decent living in music with and force a 300-year-old dead music microcosm on our students (who blindly trust UT to show the way for their musical financial future)? Hate to say it, but classical musicians today are not moving forward, and many can never get well-paying jobs.  Yet there are myriad opportunities in the production, recording and music business industries right inside Austin itself!

Are the heads of the UT adminstration so archaic and old that they don’t realize classical music is an elitist dead-end in terms of job prospects? Taking away the Music Recording Technology and Music Business programs at the Butler School of Music to focus on classical music is like eliminating the business programs in the McCombs School of Business to focus on telegraph production and manufacturing techniques (yeah, telegraph!). UT was making good strides during the past few years in trying to catch up with the ‘80s and was close to getting there, e.g., senior lecturer Gary Powell’s Intro to Audio Recording class. 

With the discontinuation of the recording and music business program, UT has slunk back to the myopic and misguided focus of classical music only, a la the ‘70s — days when I played the harp and organ as a UT student because there wasn’t an electric or electronic instrument anywhere in sight (and forget recording back then — just like next semester. I guess that’s progress, folks, back to the ‘70s!). Maybe in the ‘20s UT can once again try to catch up with the ‘80s or even the ‘90s.

Even in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the music industry and recording industry are minimal at best, we have a thriving music technology program at the University of St. Francis that houses about 130 recording and music business students and another music technology/recording program at Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne, with about 80 students (also soon to unveil a master’s in music technology).  They mostly all get placed into decent jobs, with benefits!  That’s on the strength of the music tech and recording industries now, growing ever more present every day. Can you say iTunes? 

Does the UT administration not know what most people (read: their kids!) spend their time doing? Answer: listening to music or trying to listen to music (and very little of it is classical music)! All that music has to be written, recorded, mixed, mastered, duplicated (posted), distributed, marketed, sold and attached rights to, and somebody gets paid to do each step (not to mention the same job-inducing processes for all the hundreds of hours of new music daily on cable and web shows!). Since the UT administration has abolished the only truly forward-looking music degree program, UT Austin students will not be able to participate in the new music economy until UT administrators gets their heads out of the 18th century. So ironically sad, especially since it’s due to ambiguous “budget cuts” from one of the richest universities on the planet in the middle of one of the foremost music economy cities on the planet.

—  UT alumus Kenny Bergle, in response to Eleanor Dearman’s Monday article titled “Butler School of Music removes programs in response to budget cuts.”