Innovating with Conservatorium Maastricht

How can a Conservatorium prepare musicians and artists of the future? What kind of musician/ artist will be needed in an era of constant and fast-page change? How does the Conservatorium itself need to re-defined? In the search for answers, institutions cannot continue business as usual. They need to develop their educational and artistic DNA.

While innovation has become a buzzword under which all kinds of developments can be consolidated, for Conservatorium Maastricht, it means a wide range of reforms and renewal, artistically, curricular and organizational. The following four examples illustrate this.

The Conservatorium takes an active role in the newly founded Maastricht Center for the innovation in classical music, MCICM, together with Maastricht University (UM) and philharmonie zuidnederland. The centre aims to study the dynamics behind changing classical music practices and their societal contexts and to actively shape classical music futures. To do so, the MCICM combines academic research on innovation of performance practices with artistic research to renew classical music practices and music education in artistically relevant ways.

Since 2018-2019 a complete re-development of the curriculum for music theory is under-way in the Classical department. Moving away from its previous linear and sequential structure of classical music theory lecture-style classes in subjects like analysis, ear-training and music theory, the new curriculum follows an integrated approach. Contents of subjects are taught in a combined fashion to small student groups in workshop-style lessons. Several skills like sight-singing, dictation and analysis are integrated into the lessons. Students are encouraged to use methods like composition and improvisation to familiarize with the contents. In the later years the curriculum will offer a variety of elective subjects allowing students to follow on their own learning path and encouraging students to take charge of their artistic development and career.

In 2019, the Conservatorium started a project on the innovation of opera teaching and training on a European level, the EOALAB. This Project finds its overall framework in the European Opera Academy (EOA), a cross-border collaborative initiative launched by Conservatorium Maastricht in 2016 which includes 14 Academies of Music in Europe. Based on the innovative concept of shared education, the vision of this project is to trigger innovation in the opera field in Europe and beyond. EOALAB aims to reinforce the link between education, training and the market through innovative student-centered teaching and learning approaches, by strengthening cross-border collaboration and exchange of best practices to make opera training laboratories for artistic experimentation and employability both for students and young professionals.

Last but not least, 2019 marked the first edition of the Award for Innovation in Music (AIM), Conservatorium Maastricht’s first award for innovation in music. How can music performance be made relevant for 21st century audiences? Who are these audiences and what music is relevant for them? AIM is the creation of a new opportunity for students who wish to expand the traditional boundaries of music performance practice. AIM works with a different focus and theme each year that challenges students to conceive of music performance and its audience in new and relevant ways. At the 2019 award finals, five finalists performed, mostly in collaborative settings, at various exhibition spaces of Maastricht’s museum of contemporary art, the Bonnefanten Museum. The donors of the award have committed to fund the award for four more years, thereby enabling to let the idea of innovation grow in the student community of Conservatorium Maastricht.