ITALIAN CONSERVATORIES: WHAT FUTURE? (june 1997)
After the recent National collective agreement for School of 10/09/1996, Italian national Conservatories of Music are registering a big change in their educational system, approaching more and more to the University level of Studies, with the full institution of the Academic year, the introduction of specific departments, commissions and work teams for research, together with a clear regulation of the student participation to the academic activitiy project. An introduction of the tutorship, as already realized in the Universities, is also clearly planned starting from propositions to be made by the students themselves. That could allow last years or already graduate students, to draw up agreements with the administration in order to offer assistance to the developement of studies. Moreover teachers have got the right and duty to operate in cultural and artistic activities offering the students opportunities of deepening subjects beyond the sometimes strict limits of the school syllabus; in spite of a structure sunk into a dusty and obsolete bureaucratic attitude, they are at last able to claim their rights of musicians and to act as chief characters of the cultural context they live in. Our thanks to the legislator for it! But many questions still have no answer, and that is why a Reform of all the artistic educational system is now discussed at the Parliament, providing for the naissance of new structures of High-level artistic institutions called "ISDA" (« Istituti superiori delle Arti» ), to be located in each region of the Country. In the meanwhile, there is much discussion and polemics about Conservatories, even from influential representatives of Italian musical culture; on the other side, the press often is inclined to accentuate the controversies but doesn't take enough care of giving a correct information by consulting teachers or students within the Conservatories. Certainly, it is very difficult to pose the problem without a certain amount of technical information which is often out of reach for many people. But that is why it should have been much more useful for the press to report on the various european systems of musical studies, to make comparisons, to inquire into th e activities of the European committees for the uniformity of studies, which are probably already working to carry out the plan of equivalence of qualifications as established in Maasticht agreements. Unluckily the only model which is spoken about by the media is the French one, a very peculiar and centralized model, with only « two music Universities (may be a consequence of the French exclusive style of «grandeur») in Paris and Lyon together with a lot of primary and secondary schools of music all over the Country. But let's take into consideration the Belgian system: we have here seven- eight Royal Conservatories (see Universities of music) and a hundred secondary music schools for a population of ten million. Only in Brussels we have already t wenty Academies (public secondary schools) in which they teach all sorts of art, from music to painting, acting, sound and video-recording, comic strips and so on. In Italy, as in Belgium, we have a similar directive structure, called "Inspectorate of artistic education", in which the following institutions are represented, for the university level: Conservatories, Academies of fine arts (may be to distinguish from the rough... ones?), the Drama Academy and the Academy of Dance; the secondary level includes "school of Arts" and "High school of Arts", in which you can study painting and sculpture, but, in spite of all expectations, you are not allowed to study either music or dance or acting. It seems hard to understand why it has been like that for such a long time, expecially if you consider that those schools are part of the same "Inspectorate" of the above mentioned Conservatories and Academies. But look at the Italian arrangement: hundreds of private schools have been created for teaching music and dance (but not, of course, for painting or sculpture); only recently their teachers' engagement has started to be made sometimes by notice of competitive examination, and even conservatoire teachers do not despise to take that as a second job, according to law. But, obviously, even for private schools, state examinations were necessary, and the only state examinations you can take, are in the National Conservatories. As a matter of fact it has been possible for students never enr olled to a Conservatoire, to have access to state examinations; those external candidates, being practically exempted from seven to ten yearly examinations, without attendin g such subjects as chamber music, choir practice, orchestra exercise (all subjects whose attendance is compulsory in Conservatories) and without taking any« subst itutive « examinations for them, could obtain a Degree in few years with no possibility for the teachers to check their preparation beyond the programmes of the exiguous number of required examination. Even if the text of the reform at last seems to abrogate this practice, in the meanwhile we have no legal certitude to stop it by now; a letter has been transmitted to the Minister to have the question solved as soon as possible. At last we have the problem of representative functions, expecially since we have acquired the faculty of designating or at least proposing our Director by election; that is the most delicate aspect of the whole question about the future of Conservatories: some would like the Minister to designate directly the Directors b y the ascertain of great renown; that certainly moves from good intentions, but I tend to sustain, in the long period, the elective way (and the text of the reform does too). Nevertheless, the real problem is not who designates whom, rather which kind of candidate has to be proposed as Director of a Conservatoire; I mean the problem is to find a criterion to define somebody as eligible, to define requisites, to require artistic and cultural qualifications and competences similar to those required to a University Chancellor, to select people able to keep high level connections with european Universities and Conservatories, with cultural international institutions and with the productive world, without limiting their action to the local context, rather involving it in greater projects, leading musical research an d production to its natural and historical cosmopolitan dimension, holding themselves as far as possible to the risks of provincialism or, even worst, bureaucracy. Perhaps some managerial skills are to be wished, but at a very high cultural level , as requested by the specificity of the Conservatoire's leading role. The mere running of bureaucratic practice could only bring to a supine adaptation to a context instead of operating with authority and understanding, making it develop, by the fulfilment of the cultural leadership of the institution. The number of conservatories has increased in the last decades but not more than that of Universities; a considerable number of good musicians are still excluded from teaching; on the other side a great number of students are still excluded from the possibility of attending regular studies in consequence of a "maximum num ber" never even defined and are so compelled to address themselves to private les sons. That brings to the beginning; the last word about the future of Conservatories will not be soon pronounced.
Giuseppe Ficara, guitar Conservatory teacher. ( june, 1997)