The 21st Century Music Program

I've written about it already: Music Education must shift (as most of what we do in Education must shift now). But I haven't given a prescription for the shift. I'll focus on music education first since it's where I've spent most of my career.

Once upon a time, as the world was changing and going digital, music was right out front as one of the game changers. Since people love music, they wanted music. As digital formats and broadband increased so did the possibility that music could be made available for next to free. A huge demand ensued. Enterprising individuals with some coding know-how made it possible for people to find music online. That's the beginning of the story and how P2P networking changed the world. The rest is known to us. Napster and other websites that allowed free sharing of music and other copyrighted material were targeted by the RIAA and the copyright wars began.

Now, new modes of distribution and consumption are in place, money is paid to the artists and the world is changed. Of course, the illegal stuff still happens and will continue to-until we radically redfine and de-criminalize file sharing. But it was larely a demand for MUSIC that inspired the whole digital-everything movement. And As Chris Anderson will tell you, once things are digitized, distribution costs are almost nill for a gizzillion copies of the same file (mp3, mp4, .mov, .avi etc..).

So where does secondary Music Education fit into this? Prominently, I think. Center Stage, if you will. Teens and music go hand in hand. They "do" music all the time. In these times, students are downloading, manipulating, re-mixing and listening to music daily. What happens when they come to music "class". What is happening in "General" Music Classrooms today? Do students ever hear "their" music? In a 21st Century Music
Program, they should. Do they use technology, loop-based composition software to make their OWN music? In a 21st Century Music Program, they should. Do they get to create and remix music the way they do in the real world? Do they get to download and keep their music as Mp3 files? In a 21st Century Music Program, they should. Is You Tube ever used in music class? i-Tunes? In a 21st Century Music Program, they should be.

It's an important shift because in a 21st century Music Program, there is potential for many more students to be part of the program--shifting it from the old Band/Chorus paradigm and justifying it solidly to School Boards. When you turn all students into Artists, it's difficult to cut a program. That's possible in a 21st Century Music Program.
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Thomas J. West said...

There will always be a place for the school performing ensemble, but I knew after my first three years as a high school band director that music education was a completely in-bred microcosm of the role of music in our culture. It is important for students to understand the skills associated with music performance, but a new kind of performing is continuing to evolve.

Andy said...

Performing ensembles aren't for everyone. While many students love to perform, and love to express music in this way, others don't. Through technology in music, we can help students who aren't wired to perform in front of an audience to express themselves as well. Many programs are set up to prepare students for ensembles. In many schools, there is nothing for the non-performer. Technology used in addition to ensembles helps music educators to reach as many students as possible. Awesome article!

amy campion said...

I agree with both of you. But consider the emerging trends that we see in shows like American Idol and Glee. Consider the sales of video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Popular song delivered in a contemporary format is huge. As a music educator, it's hard to ignore it. Now that so amateur musicians have (as Chris Anderson puts it in his excellent book "The Long Tail") "the keys to the factory" with software like GarageBand, Finale, FL Studio, Acid, and sites like, we are seeing quality music produced by non-professionals. I think it's great for our industry.

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