Friday, June 03, 2011

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.


James Frankel said...

I really like your post, Andrew. Your graphic is terrific and right on the money IMHO. I hope that this post is seen by many, and that some productive discourse comes from it.

All the best,
Jim Frankel

Jaworsk said...

I love this graphic and I couldn't agree more. Bravo!

Rohaly said...

I am afraid that this level of thought may be detrimental to our prized music programs. Yes, in theory, it sounds great. The only way I see this working is if the district had enough money to hire ANOTHER faculty member to run a music technology course. As we all know, extra money is almost impossible to come by these days.

I see a slippery slope (I know, not the best of arguments) where a technology course tries to reach all students - as this article suggests - where the core music makers (band/orch/choir) will suffer from the teacher having to split their time. The quality that the teacher can devote to the ensemble students will be surely diminished if there is no extra help in running the music technology courses to the masses, as this opinion aims to do. TIME is everything. More music technology classes means less time devoted to group lessons or even ensemble time.

What is the value in assembling pre-recorded loops on a computer? That is a very "self centered" activity that is really no different than a child completing the task at home in their room. The band/orch/chorus model requires collaboration through human interaction (often led by the music educator) to guide groups through difficult pieces, to help solve balance issues, to give group/private lessons to further technique, etc etc. What does GarageBand have to do with developing those "extra skills" that ensemble students benefit from?

Rohaly said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ATG said...

Rohaly-Good Luck promoting that thought throughout your career. I have come to my present thinking after being in the profession (mostly as a Band Director) for 23 years. School Districts are under the gun financially right now and use very limited parameters to justify keeping or cutting programs.

Bottom line for most is ENROLLMENT. Exactly what you mention in your comments is what happened in my District..A position was reduced and suddenly, I am teaching two programs for the price of one. This is happening everywhere. Instead of complaining, I made lemonade out of the lemons given to me and I realized through the process--as "non-musical" students were creating music that there is a vast, un-tapped pool of talent among students who are NOT in the Band program. (I subsequently started a 'Guitar Club', also, as a result).

So, to post wasn't theoretical. It was based on reality and my own Teaching Practice. Would I love to JUST do Band again? Absolutely..the lesson program has been compromised by my having to teach both Music Tech and Instrumental Music. But so many other students have learned something about music (and sound production, audio processing, podcasting, film creation, etc) as a result.

Having spoken with many Music Ed. Professionals (including MENC President Scott Schuler), I know I am not alone in my beliefs about the current transformation within our profession. We live in a Global world. In the 21st Century. If the Music Class is the place that students are learning cherished '21st Century Skills' that bodes WELL for Music Ed. in the future. But not at the expense of Band/Chorus. I never suggested that. My graphic represents the reality of numbers. MORE students are enrolled in Music Tech than Band or Chorus. More of them-too- I might argue, may actually find work in a music/audio related field as well.

Anonymous said...

I love this conversation. I found myself nodding (yes) while reading this article. I teach elementary general music, to about 650 kids, who I then proceed to teach for their 6 years in elementary school. I take it upon myself to include some of the theater state requirements (since my students don't get a separate theater class). I'm torn between building their musicianship, singing, playing instruments, song playing, music listening, programs, as well as technology. I have been incorporating music video projects the past 7 years (to classical music). Eventually, with parent permissions and any other red tape I need to go through, I would love to share these videos online, so my students will have that memory, and that positive view of classical music as they have experience and created to it.

This summer my district is implementing a large technology undertaking for the teachers (including blogging, so thanks for having this blog!), and I'm extremely excited of what this could mean for my students. They are young, yet, but they can still experience other types of music, and get excited about different musical things, just from youtube. There are so many things through the years where I've said something like "the tuba can look different, and the euphonium looks like a tuba, but smaller." Now I can just go on youtube, or google images, and find pictures of people holding or playing these instruments, and they have a deeper more meaningful and more accurate experience.

I can't wait to see what else you have in your blog!

teganwilson said...

Very insightful post, I had to wait until higher education to learn any music technology, secondary education was all about recital and theory. As much as I've always loved music, I found my high school music lessons boring.

In a time where we have more than affordable PCs and open source software, it seems totally viable to me to run music technology programmes in secondary education, and I think a lot of kids would benefit from it greatly. I know I would have.