Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Other 80%

This is my response to a long and winding thread on Dr. James Frankel's blog Music Technology in Education. The original post was titled 'The Other 80%: An Industry Perspective' about how important technology is to the profession of music education and addressing the fact that academia seemingly ignores 80% of interested music makers by focusing on the K-12 demographic.

Fantastic discussion! As a music educator, software developer, and entrepreneur...(I know, your heads are exploding... but hang in there) I am delighted by and happy to address, design for, and 'sell' to the 'other 80%'. My colleagues and I have consciously tried to reach this group and find it baffling that the profession of 'music education' almost complete ignores such a large, enthusiastic, and frankly, financially sound demographic - especially at a time when 'band, choir, and orchestra' programs are being cut right and left.

We started the Dallas School of Music as a 'for profit' business, a place where people of all ages could access professional music education in a vibrant, modern, and state of the art facility. The school has been serving families in the DFW area for almost 20 years. When we first began, people (mostly family members and well wishing friends outside of music) told us to 'contact the schools' to let them know what we could provide. Their logic seemed sound, 'of course they would want to send their interested students to study privately at your facility?'. Academia could have cared less, but it became a blessing in disguise.

It didn't take long to learn that a bigger pool of interested, passionate music makers lie outside of the K-12 demographic. Of course, DSM does have classes for young children and we have many school aged kids in lessons each week. But we also have doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and average Joe's learning music for the first time (don't get me started on why many schools do not have guitar or piano classes!). The formula seemed to work and when the internet began to take hold we realized it was the perfect vehicle to take our approach to an even wider audience, so we began

Today, enthusiasts all over the world use our software and teachers have adopted our Discovery Series as part of their own curriculum. In May we will be launching a subscription service and a new 'Kore Series' followed by a Jazz Series (later this summer).

I hope that our success will pave the way for future educators to be innovative in their thinking, innovative in their teaching, and innovative in helping the profession seek more opportunities outside of the traditional classroom. Technology indeed has never been more important to music education, but if we strive only to reach that 20% - we will have sold ourselves very, very, short....again.