I believe elementary general music education should spark and develop the creativity in children. Children are excited to learn and love to learn. Children also come into school with a background in music. They know songs from the radio, they family members, television, movies, etc. Music educators should draw from student previous knowledge and interaction with music to create a musical environment will take them in a direction the students are interested in and excited to learn about.
I believe that music is a powerful instrument that touches people in unexplainable ways. As music educators, we have the obligation to invite students to express themselves through music and discuss the ways others express themselves through music.
I believe that music education, when drawing from student interest, can help provide students with a sense of self-worth and individuality, rather than feeling like a body in a seat that needs to be still and listen. If students can express their views, make their voice heard, and be educated about things they feel are important, we are going to have happier, vibrant students, and thus happy, vibrant parents and supervisors.
I believe that listening to music is a valuable way to interact with and experience music. I believe that music education does not need to teach children the “proper way” to listen to music, but rather explores the avenues that one can take when listening to music and increasing awareness of how individuals listen to must, and what they are hearing.
Emotions and Feelings are aspects of human learning that need to seriously be taken into account in our teaching. Educators need to access/stimulate feelings in our students in order for them to draw a connection to what they are learning. If there is no connection between the students and what they are learning, the students will not remember what they learn (there will be no residue). Reimer states in his A Philosophy of Music Education that “We must make room for, and give all due recognition to, what our students add to the experience from their own, individual perspectives.” Another Reimer quote that particularly made an impact on me is this: The “purpose of music education is to harness the power of music to enhance people’s felt lives. Music education attempts to enhance the effectiveness by which people are able to extend their musical involvements.” We need to be facilitating that in our classrooms. The first step is taking the focus/center off of the teacher and turn it to the students.
Each educational situation will be unique and each teacher must adapt and be flexible within at situation. Every year will bring new students. How can we stay stagnant in our teaching as if the students and settings are the same as were when music education began? In discussing teaching methods, Estelle Jorgensen says, “…there is really no such thing as the one high road to music education, notwithstanding that throughout history, music teachers along with their colleagues in other fields have sought one.” This mindset of “one way” has led our profession into trouble that Project-Based Learning and philosophers such as Bennett Reimer, David Williams, John Kratus, Janet Barrett, among others, are trying to amend. This idea of one way to teach, one type of music to focus on, one type of student to teach it to, etc has led us into the dilemma we see now where people don’t connect to music education and consider taking it out of our schools.
The majority of our students are going to grow up to be listeners of music- not performers or composers. The way we run our classrooms need to clearly show that we understand that, AND that we value listening as a legitimate way to experience music.
We also need to build the creativity of our students. Reimer states, “The obligation of music education to cultivate the most widely elected musical creativity would seem to be a core value for the profession, one that would receive a major amount of energies, resources, and devotion.” We need to constantly remind ourselves that we are teaching people who look to us to inspire and lead them in musical ways. Take on the role of the learner and get cracking!
“The picture of transforming music education that I have sketched challenges music educators to raise their expectation of themselves, their colleagues, their students, and their publics; to look beyond the ordinary; and to aspire to distinction in every aspect of their work.”
This quote is such a battle call to music educators who want to make a difference! I love the challenge she presents here. It goes right along with Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Being a changing agent in music education needs to begin with us individually. We need to change and adapt new outlooks and extend our classrooms beyond the expected norm. This is a challenge for us to broaden our horizons in terms of methodology, curriculum content, and prejudices of which types of music as “acceptable” for music classrooms. Jorgensen states, “transforming music education challenges music educators to significantly raise their sights in every area and at every level. School children can acquire sophisticated musical knowledge and demonstrate superb musicianship.” We need to acknowledge that our students, though they may be young, are capable of achieving great things in our classrooms. We need to be sure that we are not “dumbing it down for kindergarten.”
Raising the bar in the way Jorgensen describes in Transforming Music Education seems intimidating because it requires a change. Change is never easy. Jorgensen states it this way: “the discomfort the philosopher brings to people satisfied with the status quo, the pervasive human tendency to resist the transformative action for which he or she calls, and the courage the philosopher must have in the face of concerted opposition.” Humans like consistency. We like to get comfortable and cling to the surety of the known. However, this can be detrimental to the music education that we have come to be passionate about.
I wonder what the next few years have in store for us. As young educators we bring to the table a wealth of knowledge and, hopefully, a willingness to jump in and initiate change. We understand that this change was a long time coming, and, in places, under way. Making education applicable and relevant to students is the recurring theme. Treating students are musicians with valuable musical experiences and insights to offer makes so much sense. Much of the resistance, I fear, I will come from more seasoned educators who are fine with the way things are, and reluctant to make the change because they are inching closer to retirement. Education is hard work. Not only is it physically demanding, but also it is also mentally tasking. Adding to that this new change… won’t be easy. But we must have a positive attitude and remember what we are doing is worthwhile for our students and our profession.
What are students lacking in their music educations today? I believe the answer to this question in relevancy. They have no understanding of why they are learning, and therefore no drive to continue learning, or remember what has been taught.
Jorgensen warns that, “There is no room in transforming music education for laziness and lack of carefulness, anti-intellectualism and lack of learning, narrowness and rigidity of thinking, opportunism and lack of professionalism.” This quote clearly states that the transforming is going to be hard work. We know that humans don’t love hard work, especially if that work seems to be brought on as a change/challenge to what has been previous accepted as sufficient.
As professionals, Jorgensen calls upon us to apply ourselves and take on the role of the students as well as the role we are so accustomed to- teacher. When we are willing to learn and explore, we are opening educational doors for our students. By increasing our comfort in our musical unknowns, we are leading our students by example to become life-long musical inquirers.
As the world changes, it just makes sense that education should change accordingly, Jorgensen stands behind her challenge for transformation, though change is always daunting and uncertain. She says, “…the ideal of transforming music education challenges and benefits not only individuals but the societies of which they are a part, and I must follow the idea where it leads and whatever the consequences.” We need to stick to our guns and insist upon what we know to be true. This musical revolution will have a profoundly huge positive impact in the lives of our students. We need to assure that we are on board.
How will teaching in this manner affect the way students view music for the rest of their lives? How can it affect the way music is being assessed?
“Understanding the benefits that amateurism could make to transforming musical culture underscored the importance of elementary education in music for all people.”
As an elementary music educator, it is important that I have a possible end in view. Until recently that view has been that my kindergarteners would grow up and play in band or orchestra. We are trained and, in a sense, brainwashed to believe elementary students need to grow up learning to read the staff, sing American traditional songs, dance, and study music of other cultures. Even other music teachers will tell us that the purpose of elementary music education is to prepare students to participate in the upper level ensembles.
I am very appreciating of Jorgensen’s stance on elementary music education. Of course, I understand that is not realistic that all students will grow to be amateur musicians, but the acknowledgement that amateurism is a valuable goal for our students to attain would be of great worth if ALL music educators were on board. So ingrained is the idea that the pinnacle of success for music educators is a school where all the students are in band, orchestra or chorus. Certainly that is not a bad dream, but it seems to be a vain one. It is for our own vanities that we want our students to succeed in our programs. We search in vain for the “true” or “best” method to teach our students the proper skills they need to know if they are to be contributors to our school music programs. Jorgensen suggests that “there is really no such thing as the one high road to music education, notwithstanding that throughout history, music teachers, along with their colleagues in other fields have sought one.” Jorgensen claims that there is so much to take into account when considering education. She states, “…reason, intuition, and imagination play important roles in teachers’ and students’ decision making.” After all, teaching needs to focus and exemplify student interest in a way that is relevant to students. No, one way of teaching will be applicable to all situations, even if teachers were teaching, heaven forbid, the same exact content to the same age of students on the same day of the year in the same city. Jorgensen goes on to say that this “ambiguity [is] a strength in that it provides space for teachers to devise their own solutions to the particular challenges they face. Instead of being technicians who unthinkingly employ the ideas and approaches of others, teachers have the opportunity to act as professionals in creating instructional situations that meet the particular needs of their students.”
I wonder what education would look like if music educators were able to put aside with pride and look at each group of students as a group of individuals who are capable of being musical and exploring those students’ musical interests. What would be like if we embraced this freedom we have to explore the musical standards in such a variety of musical experiences? How much more supportive of music in schools would our country be if music education fostered this idea from the start?
There is a change that needs to occur in our thinking. We know that what we offer is of value and can have a profound impact in the lives of students. We acknowledge that, dare I say, everyone loves some kind of music. This acknowledgement that amateurism is a worthy achievement of our students, provides us a wonderful opportunity to stray from the idea of “amateurism” even in the classical sense (amateur violinists, clarinetists, etc) and broaden our scope to include and the non-classical music that our students cling to, encouraging students to delve into rock & roll, hip hop, techno, country music, etc. All the great thinkers in music education seem to come back to that question… why is music education so glued to classical music when it not relevant to our students? The goal of teaching students that grow up to be professional musicians is a sure-fire road to depression. At this point in history, it’s just not going to happen. Some students may grow up to be professionals, and that is fantastic. Some students may grow up to be amateur musicians that rock out on open mike nights every other Thursday with their buddies, and that is fantastic. Some students may drive around listening and singing along to music in their cars, and that is fantastic, As educated musicians, we need to be realistic and flexible in our teaching so that every student can come away from our classes with knowledge that is useful and applicable to them.
“Instead of being technicians who unthinkingly employ the ideas and approaches of others, teachers have the opportunity to act as professionals in creating instructional situations that meet the particular needs of their students.”
p. 17 Transforming Music Education
“Notwithstanding that music is made in a myriad of different ways around the globe, all those who make it share a common humanity and invoke music to celebrate, to mourn, the encourage, to pray, and to remember their lived experiences. In many cultures they do not even think of what they do as music viewed through Western eyes as separate from other aspects of their lives. This shared humanity is a powerful connection between the music makers and takes of the world.”
p. 14 Transforming Music Education
As I read about Contextualism and Universalism I found myself being really convinced by each argument.
On the hand of contextualism, it seems so logical and true that we do not even understand our own culture’s music, so how much justice can we do by attempting to understand the music of another culture. Music and culture are connected that it is unwise (not to mention impossible) to try to take it out of its cultural setting and experience it. Contextuals argue that it is disrespectful to a foreign culture’s integrity to think that we can genuinely understand their music.
On the other hand, Universalism maintains that “Music is a primal way for human beings to behave in the world,” and that all humans have a “capacity for and need to create music as an essential component of their lives.” They would agree with the phrase we have been hearing in class…”music is music is music.” They also state that “music is always out of the ordinary and by its presence creates the atmosphere of the special.” They are saying that music is so special and unique in and of itself, that the cultural of a particular kind of music does not make it less or differently special that music you know and experience in each person’s respective cultures.
For the record, I don’t fully agree with each agrument 100%, but I do think they their stances are valid. Reimer suggests a synergistic approach.
It is hard ground to tread- Multicultural in the classroom. We hope to understand as much as we can, and expose our students to as much as class time allows. But if music is so related on culture, how to do we go about teaching our students the music of a culture that we do not fully comprehend? How to do we choose which cultures to study, and how to present that them, or what music of that particular culture to highlight.
If music and culture as so integrally knit together, and our own “American Culture” is so vast, then where do we start in school choosing the music that we teach from our own country?
The answer seems to be this: choose music that is relevant to the students’ lives. Whether their lives bring you to study Cowboy songs, Jazz, Rock & Roll, Hip Hop, etc. Students need to feel a connection to their education. I think it’s safe to say that most students disconnect music their learn and study in school with music of the real-world. That is one of music education’s biggest downfalls. If students don’t feel a connection to their learning, they will not be attentive and/or erase their brains as soon as they leave our rooms. That is not the musical residue we want to leave!
Reimer shares that we should not be afraid to delve into popular music in our classrooms. He says this- “Here is music of great diversity, of delightful good humor, of pathos, of sassy attitude, of endless imagination, and, most important to me, of profoundly satisfying musical value. Sentimental, exuberant, honest, outrageous, joyous, gutsy, energetic, yearning, low-down, tender, the American psyche and experience are in this body of work exemplified, warts and all, in musical expression.” Popular music, in this sense, has all of the “qualities” and pull people to the classical music that we know and love. If our students will learn about musical expression through popular music, we should be “covering” popular music in our classrooms.
The problem with teaching popular music, according to Reimer, is that teachers try to teach popular music as if it were classical music. We need to take into consideration the culture, to context of the popular music that our students are listening and make it accessible in the classroom. If our students are the future musicians, plumbers, lawyers, taxpayers, principals, superintendents of tomorrow, the reality is that we need them to walk away with a connection to music that we are able to supply. As passionate educators, we want that anyway! :)
Reimer states that “Music means whatever a person experiences when involved with music” and that “Music is created and shared through the process of artistic/aesthetic perceptual structuring, yielding meanings language cannot represent.”
From these statements we can conclude that music is a personal experience that is unique to the person experiencing the music (regardless of HOW they are experiencing it…listening, composing, performing) and that those meanings cannot be expressed through language.
From THIS conclusion, we can expect that every child we teach will have a unique and likely indescribable/inexpressible (through words) relationship to the music they are presented. Our teaching needs to facilitate this kind of experience for our students. If music is such a different experience than other aspects of school education, how can we grade them as if they were the same as math, science, and reading? Reimer (or was it Dr. Campbell) parallels the inadequacy of words to describe music with the inadequacy of words to describe love. Unless you have experienced it, you won’t know what it is… and every person associates and experiences it in their own unique way.
Associating meaning in our classrooms will be most attainable if we are presenting material to our students that is relevant and applicable to their lives. Presenting facts is not going to leave any/much positive residue. If the students feel confused, puzzled, and anxious to learn more, they will carry their newly attained knowledge and experience with them after class/lunch/school/graduation.
People are naturally connected to music in some form. As music teachers, we have a responsibility to lead our students in directions and give them tools they need for their LIFE-LONG musical experiences/encounters. If we teach them in such a way that they are accustomed to hearing many types/styles/genres of music and they are able to listen with a critical and informed way, they will have more positive musical experiences (as opposed to someone who only listens to rock music and refused to listen to anything else whether it be country, pop… and forget about orchestral and opera).
It would be wise to remember that we have connections to our favorite and most meaningful musics because of our backgrounds, experiences, educations, etc. Our students are not likely to have the same musical preferences as we do. Reimer talks in chapter 6 about the important of including popular music into our curriculums. This is wise because we are much more able to relate to our students. We can still “cover” the same “stuff”. Our students will be much more engaged. :)
We talk about powerful music… this is definitely it. Powerful.. in a different sense of the word than the Mahler.
Quick plot… the woman in the dark dress is about to graciously leave her young lover (in the middle) because he has fallen in love at first sight (in a previous beautiful scene) with another woman (in the tan)… who is more his age. In the beginning of this trio he says “Marie Terese…” (don’t cry, but it’s the last time she ever hears him say her name… wahhh) he is young and confused and torn… and she realizes that she always knew this day would come and that she must let him go. The new woman (tan dress) feels a solemn/sensitive/appreciative/sympathetic air as all this goes down.
This video goes out to Greg Clark :) We were having a discussion tonight about people like this :) It’s funny… cause it’s TRUE haha
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