Do Musicians Need Writing Courses?

My husband and I recently hosted a dinner party for university colleagues, and at one point we started chatting about students' writing skills.   We all agreed that writing well is crucial to students’ future careers.  Yet with increasing budget cuts and restrictions on credit hours, writing classes never make top priority in course offerings.  Earlier this year the Washington Post printed a persuasive article by Fareed Zakaria, author of In Defense of a Liberal Education, titled "Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous."  I was intrigued to learn that Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, makes his top administrators compose multi-page memos, because he feels that “full sentences are hard to write."  Zakaria believes that since the beginning of democracy, our most important skill is critical thinking.  Learning how to learn and how to process complex information comes only with a well-rounded humanities education, grounded in writing.

There is not a day in my professional life as a pianist and as an artistic director (of CU’s Pendulum New Music program) that I do not depend on my writing skills.  My sentences are a lens through which colleagues, students, administrators, concert producers, and audience members view my ideas and assess my credibility and my creativity.   Writing is also the gateway through which I interact with my community at large.  Today, I am writing a memo to a dean, a description of my seminars, a plethora of emails, and this blog.

This fall, my elementary-school child will study a curriculum called Institute for Excellence in Writing.  This will be her third year of using it, and my first in being her coach.  Looking through the textbook, I am intrigued at how much I didn't learn about the English grammar during my formal education.  I wish I had had this exciting opportunity 20 years ago…  Your thoughts?  What can we do?

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