Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Future of Music Education? BRIGHT!

"Walking to the Sky" by Jonathan Borofsky 
Nasher Sculpture Garden
Dallas, TX
-Never before in history have we had such a wealth of information available at our fingertips.

Amongst all the doom and gloom there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of music education...if you know where to look.  Here's why we think so.

Technology and Information Delivery
What an exciting time we live in!  I choose the news I want to read before even getting out of bed in the morning.  My HTC phone has the web and my bookmarked sports pages are a simple click away.  And it's usually just moments after the alarm clock goes off.

Never before in history have we had such a wealth of information available at our fingertips.  Some estimates say that Google has indexed over a trillion web pages and receives several hundred million queries each day through its various services. This is how people are accessing their information and with the increase in popularity of hand-held devices, they are getting it when and where they want.  The internet is ideal for relaying information and both teaching and learning music is perfectly suited for this medium.

-Future music educators are going to question the norm and
we'll be a stronger profession for it.

The Feisty Spirit and Creativity of Future Teachers
Our future teachers are products of a connected community.  They expect their favorite restaurants, apparel lines, or yogurt shops to have websites and facebook pages. They want to know what the latest developments are and they want to feel in some way 'familiar' with their chosen brands. Likewise, these folks are not going to settle for 'business as usual'  in their vocations; whether it be music education or micro-economics, all disciplines are changing right under our feet. 

When I was at the University of Hartford's Hartt School of Music, I had a chance to see Bruce Springsteen, 6th row - Hartford Civic Center, (not admitting the year!).  Let me tell you, this is like hitting the lottery for a kid from south Jersey. However, the concert conflicted with a 'mandatory' saxophone quartet recital scheduled for the same evening.  

To me this was a no-brainer; play the concert like a good student, not letting down the other members of the quartet , or skip out and have a once in a lifetime chance to get this close to Bruce and the Big Man.  No problem, Bruce played for 4 and half hours including the solo to Badlands on the chair in front of us, and Clarence was spot-on during his solo on Jungleland.  I still have no idea how the saxophone trio fared that evening. 

The point is, I, like many college students, have no fear of breaking or at least questioning rules and norms that we deem to be suspect. Right or wrong, this spirit is inherent in all of us and it's most likely not going away. I have faith that future music educators are going to question the norm and we'll be a stronger profession for it.

-It's up to us to produce quality materials that meet the growing demand 
and expectations of learners everywhere.
Expectations of Learners
Where do you go to find a new place to eat in your area? Where do you find out how to make a meal with what's leftover in the fridge, or get help with a minor medical issue? The web? Me too, I love me some Google. 

Music learners (and by that I mean ALL music makers, not just 12 to 18 year-olds) are increasingly turning to the web for help. They're using YouTube and sites like Discover, Learn and Play  to get the information they want and accessing it on their terms. Traditional methods of teaching and learning are being questioned and we're finding that there is indeed more than one way to 'skin a cat'. It's up to us as a profession to embrace new methods and produce quality materials to meet the growing demand and expectations of learners everywhere.
-people of all ages and talent levels are discovering the fun 
and proven benefits of playing music.
The Market for our Product
Have you seen the stats regarding music industry revenue lately? These numbers reflect sales from record labels, music publishers, recording artists, performing artists, composers, concert venues and merchandise companies; includes revenues from sales of physical recordings, digital music services (online and mobile), music publishing and live music. Here they are:

2006 ($60.7 billion), 2007 ($61.5 billion), 2008 ($62.6 billion), 2009 ($65.0 billion), 2010 ($66.4 billion), 2011 ($67.6 billion)

That's a whole lot of interest in what we do boys and girls! This years NAMM show had the largest turn out in its103 year history and prompted this from Joe Lamond, president and CEO:  "I believe that we are now on a path of recovery and future growth as more people of all ages and talent levels discover the fun and proven benefits of playing music."

Yes, the future is bright. And we look forward to getting there!