Friday, June 03, 2011

Music Education Must Shift

In the last post, I suggested a new paradigm for music education in schools. This paradigm would become less-band/orchestra centric and would have as its base teaching non-band/orchestra/chorus students the tools for music creation, mixing and distribution. Traditional performing ensembles should always have a place in school music programs. Instrumental and Choral Programs are often the public face of music programs. They provide good PR but I think it's also time to embrace a much wider conception of what performing ensembles could be in addition to changing the nature and focus of the "General" Music Program.

Increasingly, students are coming to us with skills on (electric) guitar, keyboards and other instruments (mandolin has become popular recently because of it's use by some mainstream pop artists). Students who don't play instruments are coming to us with much greater exposure to music specifically because of pop culture influences (Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Glee, video games, etc..). A 6th Grade student recently asked if we could play the theme to Halo, a science-fiction video game. Why not? It's perfectly decent music. If we don't do it at school, students are busy learning it anyway , despite the school music program! This is NOT a position we in Music Education want to be in. Imagine students dropping music classes because they don't do music there (or at least music they know). Unfortunately this happens every day in music programs everywhere. I know a student who won the local 'American Idol' contest but dropped Chorus at school. She didn't see the relevance. There are, of course Music Directors who get it, the one's who understand that connection is more important than coverage. So, to further expand the paradigm shift I am suggesting, here's what I think *secondary music programs should include now:

  • A Music technology Classes (formerly called General Music) where students create, remix and share music (and, yeah, learn the basics, too)<---largest population of students. I suggest this for 100% of the school population if possible.
  • Guitar "Clubs"<---if don't play guitar, have your students teach you. They would love to teach you how to shred a solo.
  • Jazz/Rock-Pop Ensembles (any combination of instruments/voices)
  • (World) Percussion Ensembles (mallet instruments as well as djembes, bongos, congas)
  • Traditional Music Ensembles (Band/Chorus/Orchestras)
*Note that I am addressing secondary music programs, specifically. Elementary programs should, as most do, continue to incorporate movement, singing, Orff instrument playing, rhythm games and general "experimentation" with music.


Krista Easton said...

I couldn't agree more... the systems in place (by and large) in the public schools have barely changed since their inception, while the culture and technology around us are changing exponentially.

And you're right...students are already way ahead of the curve when it comes to using the technology available to them (as digital natives) to teach themselves music and use it in ways that are the most meaningful and relevant in their lives.

I already teach a lot of the courses you suggest... world drumming, guitar, 'swing' choir, etc. But I love the idea of creating a required Music Technology class! What a better use of time than requiring students to only choose between band or chorus (the only way in our middle school currently offered to fulfill their music requirement)

What courses do you teach? What kinds of success have you had with implementing student's imput and prior skills with these 21st century technologies and models of learning? said...

Krista is correct - we as a profession are slow to change and technology is not going to wait for us to catch up!

I am so glad my colleagues at have been working to contribute and stay ahead of the curve. At the Kore series teaches musical concepts in a sequential order on 39 instruments including voice.

We've embraced technology to teach music, what a novel idea! This curriculum is perfect for the music enthusiast studying alone or for the teacher in a music lab who wants students to be creative and at the same time learn the nuts and bolts of music.

Band, orchestra and choir programs have for too long put too much emphasis on performances, competitions, half time shows and holiday concerts rather than teaching music. There is a growing disconnect between these programs and the newer tech heavy courses currently being offered. That is a shame as what they SHOULD have in common is the language of music itself!

beatechie said...

I totally agree with this blogpost and infusing music technology, composition, and creativity within the school curriculum has to be the wave of the future. We need to go from "training" to "creating," and offer more opportunities to our general population student.

I really enjoyed reading your blog, preaching to the choir, well, technology choir.

joyfulnoise63 said...

This is ontime. Music Education has already shifted, but most schools in my district barely have any Music classes, let alone technology infused Music classes. There is also a shift in the delivery of education. Distance Learning is becoming more a norm than an exotic offering. Music Teachers must ride the wave and not get drowned by the undertow...