Music Education Must Shift, Part 2

As further clarification and to elaborate on a previous blog post, I offer this post:

Some relevant background information:
1- I've been teaching students (to read) music for 19+ years. It's the primary thing that I do for a living.
2- I do this within the context of a public school system
3- I am aware that, statistically speaking-even in districts where music is strongly supported,
there are still large numbers of the student body who are not involved with music (on the secondary level especially).

What I'm specifically addressing is the need for a paradigm shift-away from the Band/Chorus paradigm to a more Universal approach to music learning in secondary schools. Band and Chorus have an important place in school music programs but in the context of a school system -in these times, in particular- enrollment numbers speak to School Boards. Never mind that the Band gets Superior ratings at all festivals. Never mind that the Chorus was nominated for 'Best State Chorus'. It increasingly comes down to numbers for School Boards and Superintendents. It begins to seem elitist when students who don't play a musical instrument, can't carry a tune or read music are excluded from music programs. Where's the equity? How do we justify costs?

Yes, music is a specialized subject. Music teachers are, indeed, specialists. This distinction could be problematic if the specialization was on only one instrument or voice and on only one type of music (western). Music teachers (myself included) need to consider breaking out of our comfort zones. Why? Because of the current financial state of our country and because Globalization is real. All musics in an age of globalization are valid! It used to be (and I'm afraid still is) that music teachers would plan a concert program and leave space for a little "world music" (usually an African-based piece re-written in a Western style by a Western arranger).

So, back to my initial proposition: I believe that right here, right now, music education programs need to teach music differently. First, we need to continue teaching the reading and performing of music to band and choral students. But we must expand the repertoire of these groups to include authentic music of a variety of cultures and countries. Second, we need to teach all non-band/chorus students to experience, analyze and to create music-whether they can read it or not. This can be achieved in a variety of ways...from drumming to the use of software to create loop-based compositions. I believe that music education is becoming closely linked to media education and we must begin teaching both! No matter what pathway students are involved in, they must become music content creators as composers, improvisers, arrangers and performers.

As I have written before and point out here, when music programs achieve high levels of student involvement outside band and chorus, justifying music programs is a much simpler task when budgets dry up. The next blog post will raise the question of whether music teacher ed. students are prepared to embrace this shifting paradigm. I'm reading: Music Education Must Shift, Part 2 Tweet this!


Rhoda said...

Amen, Andrew! We are in a crisis of relevance in music education. To move beyond that crisis, change needs to take place at multiple levels: in the ways that we teach and think about music in our public schools, in the ways that we train music educators in our colleges, in the ways that we advocate for music education with our principals and administrators, and in the ways that we advocate with our communities and on the national scene.
I agree completely that a reconceptualization of what music is and what musical experience can be is essential to working through this crisis and making music education more meaningful and more relevant in the 21st century.

B. Rabuse Blog said...

The growth of the guitar program in our own district speaks volumes to your point. Here are students who came to music late(9th grade instead of 4th grade) but have passion and desire to create art. Isn't there a place for them?