Hip to be square: where the street meets academe

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Mitchell, AK 2014, 'Hip to be square: where the street meets academe', in G Carruthers (ed.), Relevance and reform in the education of professional musicians: Proceedings of the 20th International seminar of the ISME commission on the education of the professional musician, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 15-18 July, International Society for Music Education, pp. 118-129. ISBN: 9780994205513.

Available on Open Access


The message of Huey Lewis and the News’ song “Hip to be Square” resonates through the career decisions facing professional musicians who enter the formal music education establishment; i.e. from the street to the academy. This paper, “Hip to be square: Where the street meets academe,” aligns with CEPROM’s seminar theme “Relevance and reform in the education of professional musicians” and sub-themes of institutional cultures and leadership, and becoming and being a musician. The research addresses issues of relevance: of higher degrees to professional musicians, of doctorates in music to creative industry professions, of professional musicians to academia; and issues of reform: research philosophy and practice, research paradigms to include creative works, of program design, curricula and pedagogy. This research reports on the renewal of the PhD degree at an Australian regional university, recently relaunched with a focus on creative work/exegetical formats. Seven case studies illustrate different identities and careers of musicians, their creative knowledge and skills, aptitudes for experiential learning and knowledge transfer, and effects of participation in higher education on their well-being. The transferability of attributes of highly educated professional musicians to creative industries and knowledge economies provides a global perspective on the relevance of education for professional musicians.