What is preprofessional?

September 19, 2008 at 9:21 am 2 comments

Our mission statement at Idyllwild Arts says that we provide preprofessional training in the arts.  It also says we provide college prep academic training in an atmosphere conducive to positive personal growth.  Recently, at our beginning of the year faculty orientation, we asked each other to consider that mission statement.  Not in a judgmental, revisionist way, but more in a “what does that thing mean to me?” kind of way.  We broke into small groups to discuss and I would imagine that the answers to that question were as varied as our colorful faculty is.

I had already pondered this question during the summer, more specifically, the preprofessional part of the question.  What is preprofessional training?  I felt like I did it everyday, but really didn’t know how to define it.  Does it mean that I’m providing the last bit of training that a person gets before they become a professional?  No, because most of my piano students go on to college or conservatory music training.  But when they go on to that other training does it make my training NOT preprofessional?  I don’t think so.  I think of the word professional as an adjective, not a noun.  I’m training my students in a preprofessional way.  Or even more accurately, a professional way.

As I was considering this topic I also happened to be reading the new Julie Andrews memoir, Home.  She recounted her early singing training in her teen years, with Madame Stiles-Allen.  Her teacher said, “Julie, remember:  The amateur works until he can get it right.  The professional works until he cannot go wrong.”  It was like the sun suddenly came out.  That’s it!  I thought immediately of the number of hours I’ve spent practicing a passage on the piano, one that I can play perfectly well, repeating over and over and in different ways, making sure that it will not go wrong in front of an audience.  It’s about building-in redundant systems.  It’s like an airplane.  Don’t we trust that the plane has redundant systems so that it absolutely won’t fall out of the sky?  I wouldn’t say that a failing artistic performance is like a crashing plane, but it certainly feels that way when you’re the one on the stage experiencing it.  You want your training to have supported an overabundance of perfection, not just enough.

It’s really all about the relationship between the vocational and avocational.  For example, I love to cook.  (My students are groaning now, they LOVE my food analogies) I whip up something in the kitchen and it’s usually pretty good, occasionally great or  okay.  Sometimes bad.  I move on.  But Julia Child made beurre blanc a million times until she knew American cooks could make the recipe perfectly every single time using American ingredients.  She had a different goal than most people.

So do our students.

Entry filed under: theories. Tags: , , , , .

September in Valencia More on preprofessional training.

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Hunt  |  September 20, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Doug, it’s so great you’re doing this. Congrats on the new position, and here’s to 3D!
    -Hunt P., Dance, 2005

    Reply
  • 2. Andrew Leeson  |  September 24, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    I never thought of it this way, but you are completely right. Being good enough is not good enough. We have to become instinctual, beyond confidence or anxiety. Our art has to become part of our animal, as well as our animate, being. Hmmm.

    Reply

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