2-9 July 2017 | LA PAZ
In July 2017, we spent a week teaching masterclasses and workshops, leading rehearsals, and attending performances at the Conservatorio Plurinacional de Música (CPM) in La Paz, Bolivia. This case study seeks to identify difficulties faced by the institution and offer potential solutions, and is based primarily on interviews that we conducted with CPM staff and students. We also consulted online sources and asked the Academic Director and Rector follow-up questions via email. The CPM is currently in a major transition period, and we hope that the timing of this case study may serve it well.
EL CONSERVATORIO PLURINACIONAL
El Conservatorio Nacional de Música de Bolivia, or the National Conservatory of Bolivia, was founded in 1907 under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice and Instruction. It was the country’s first music institution and from its earliest years included a choir and symphonic orchestra. In 1945, the latter would become the National Symphonic Orchestra of Bolivia.
In 1995, the Conservatory received a donation of instruments and other equipment from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency. Three years later it moved to its current location, in downtown La Paz, after the former building was evacuated to make way for the construction of the Plaza Consistorial; supporters of the Conservatory had collected 20,000 signatures to ensure its survival. In 2013, the Conservatory changed its name to Conservatorio Plurinacional de Música, offering for the first time an undergraduate music degree to its students.
The school is currently transforming as it becomes more institutionalized. As music has only recently been recognized by the Bolivian government as a professional degree option, the current teaching staff was not required to have music degrees upon hiring. These teachers are expected to be recognized officially as professional musicians after a two-year accreditation process led by the current CPM directors, Beatriz Méndez (Rector) and Sachiko Sakuma (Academic Director), and supported by the Ministry of Education.
While the CPM functions as a traditional conservatory, it actively facilitates social inclusion in the community. The socioeconomic circumstances of most of the students are lower than that typically found at peer institutions in Latin America and the Americas at large. Additionally, some aspects of the pedagogical approach and academic structure at the CPM allow it to play a greater role in student development than at peer institutions. For example, students do not currently receive an accredited degree, and they may study for an indefinite length of time in order to benefit more fully from the mentorship of the conservatory’s faculty. The conservatory is currently working toward accreditation of a pedagogy degree program, as a means of supporting social innovation in Bolivia through their offerings.
CREATING STRONG CONNECTIONS BETWEEN CONSERVATORY & COMMUNITY
The disconnect between the greater La Paz community and the conservatory population presents itself via a multitude of issues—lack of accreditation, isolation from the local musical performance culture, lack of opportunities to impact music education in the public school system—which together have the cumulative effect of isolating the conservatory from its surrounding environment. This disconnect presents significant impediments to the potential development of the conservatory and its students.
The CPM lacks accreditation as an institution of higher education because music has historically not been considered an official degree in Bolivia. While the conservatory strives to provide the highest quality education possible, it has had difficulty establishing itself on an equal footing with colleges and universities that offer significant career advancement opportunities through accredited degree programs. As noted above, the CPM is currently working with the Ministry of Education towards the institutional accreditation of a pedagogy program.