Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why Choir?

I encourage all of you to read the following post from Byron Davis who teaches high school chorus at West High School in Knoxville, TN. He is a thoughtful music educator who has written an impressive post as he wrestles with 'justifying' his program to the school board this fall. We can certainly use a lot more music educators like him!

Byron's Post is called; Why Choir? (Part I)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Response to an AAJ Post

This post is in response to an article on the AAJ (All About Jazz) website. It seems that MENC (Music Educators National Conference) is coming to the rescue of Jazz Educators since the demise of the IAJE (International Association for Jazz Education). OK, enough with the initials already; on with the post.

It strikes me as a somewhat sad state of affairs that jazz educators need to be 'served' and the profession needs to be 'promoted'.

I might even argue that the profession of jazz educating doesn't exist in a traditional sense of the word. After all, what are the options for a jazz educator upon graduation from college? Either work in a traditional school system where one has few if any colleagues or opt to abandon education and/or music altogether.

The goal 'to advance music education by encouraging the study and making of music by all' is a lofty one. Perhaps MENC should contribute to a fund that goes toward teaching jazz educators business and entrepreneurial skills so they can band together and open schools in communities around the country.

Turning our attention to the health of the profession is a great idea. We should be as passionate about music educating as we are about music education. If the benefits of teaching music were as apparent as other professions, we wouldn't need to be promoted or served.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Music Education vs Playing Songs

I read an interesting post this morning by Jonathan Segel (enter Chris Berman to say Jonathan 'Livingston' Segel!). Jon was lamenting the fact that 'certainly in the past 15-20 years the market of guitar based music has changed massively and the quality of playing has declined in proportion to its popularity percentage. '

He wonders what might be the cause... 'U.S. schools?', the '
Market iconification of rock music'?

I think we can look at teaching for both the cause and the cure. Very few US schools even offer guitar as an option. And it seems that many private guitar 'teachers' have been neglecting basic musical concepts in favor of TAB and shredding techniques. Now we have tons of Gen X-ers, Gen Nex-ers and Guitar Hero aficionados who know 6 seconds of 4 songs but absolutely nothing about music.

Why not teach musical concepts on guitar just as we do on woodwind or brass instruments? I think too many 'teachers' assume wrongly that students will lose interest or think it's 'uncool' if they are not playing the intro to Stairway to Heaven in a few weeks (showing may age here).

Teaching traditional note reading, rhythms, intervals, scales and chords etc. will go a long way toward correcting this trend. It will also make for more well rounded musicians, music enthusiasts and music consumers. It's up to teachers to find the correct balance with each student and to provide music education, not song playing, as their core curriculum.

This is what we do at DSM and it's why software is designed to be a concept based curriculum - regardless of the instrument.

Kudos to Jonathan Segel for recognizing this slippery-slope trend in guitar education. When more musicians and educators become as enlightened, we'll all be better off!