Laurier launches one-of-a-kind music program

Graphic by Alan Li

Next year, Wilfrid Laurier University’s faculty of music will be launching a new bachelor’s level program called community music. This bachelor’s program is the first of its kind in the world. The community music program originated from Europe and the U.K. where it was a stem of music education. As a discipline, community music arose to be an idea that music instruction would take place outside the formal school setting.

Laurier has been offering a master’s program for community music for a number of years. The undergraduate program will be focused on facilitating music and music making in various settings.

“When we are looking for a new program here, the philosophy took hold very strongly and we launched the first bachelor’s of community music in the world. This is the first of its kind so the world is watching. The international society of community music is watching what we’re doing,” Kevin Swinden, dean of music, said.

Community music focuses on the process over the performance, whereas traditional music programs are about performance and the perfection of music at a very high level.

“In the community music program, you get all those transferable skills, and performance is in the background. But it’s not really about the perfect performance, but the heartfelt performance, but all the music students get those transferable skills that make musicians employed.”

Swinden believes that community music will fit in well with the culture Laurier has created.

“The Laurier music program has got ourselves a reputation as the music program who cares. Laurier as an institution embodies it, the fact that Laurier has a thriving music therapy program and it became a natural fit that we at Laurier focus on social justice which is community music.”

“We study music from the Western European colonization period, you have to play a musical instrument that is appropriate for the symphony orchestra of that classical extraction, which does not look a whole lot like Canada,” Swinden said.

“There is a social justice piece to community music that is if we are a university in Canada we should serve Canadians that are multi-cultural.”

“If you play the Chinese pipa and you play it well and want to engage the world we will find a place for you here. This is completely multi-cultural. It is not genre based; it’s the study of music with community engagement.”

The philosophy of community music focuses not solely on classical music but music that engages and enhances a community experience. There is no specific instrument or style of music they are looking for, but music that is presented in a creative fashion.

“They need to audition just like any other music program. We’re looking for different things and different skill sets. We’re not looking to restrict you to a certain instrument, we are looking at you to perform at a certain skill set. If you come to community music we expect you to present a creative portfolio and present yourself whatever is most appropriate,” Swinden said.

“If you are passionate about music and want to engage the world through music and you have studied music, it doesn’t matter anymore if you have a European symphony orchestra experience. If you play rock guitar and you play it well enough and are creative enough, there is a place for you to study music possibly at Laurier.”

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