By Midori
As I am a musician, it is most natural for me to write from a musician's point of view. My comments may not necessarily apply to a more general arts education; nonetheless, there will inevitably be common threads of relevance.

Having said this, music education is still a very broad term. In the last decade-and-a-half, it has become synonymous with the teaching and learning of music for K - 12 students in the (mostly public) schools. However, music education - and funding for music education - should not be restricted to K - 12 classrooms. Music education, by definition, should encompass imparting knowledge of both broad and specific skills about music, as well as of how this imparting should be done. A conservatory education is also a part of the field, as is professional training and workshops for young musicians to acquire tools to engage audiences in various settings and ways. Furthermore, the nurturing and teaching that these workshop leaders/moderators do is an indispensible component of music education.

For a musician, playing the repertoire, discussing it, teaching it to a fellow musician, analyzing it, are interrelated yet individualized skills. All must be taught and learned. All are indispensible components of being a professional musician. Also, we must not forget that what music means and its relevance to one's life are critical awarenesses necessary for a healthy dynamic within the profession and to enable us to advocate fully for the art form.

What is a comprehensive music education for non-professional musicians? What are the necessary steps to take to be artistically cultured and educated? What does it mean to be artistically educated?

The answers to these questions are always in the process of evolving. Education, and particularly mandatory education, is an effective agent in the formation of an individual's tastes, preferences, value systems. As societal preferences and standards of living are re-formulated and re-defined, so should be the goals/definition of music education. What was sufficient in the past is no longer so in current times and what suffices today will be outdated in the future. For example, providing an opportunity for a group of children to audit a special concert was at the forefront of progressive music education a decade ago. Now, we have moved into sequential learning, prolonged impact, and multiple exposure. The tri-partite music education in the schools, which includes appreciation, performance, and theoretical skills, is currently the way to go. In this sense, more and more emphasis is being placed on the details of the art form than ever before. To "know" Mozart meant something significantly different for a 10-year old in the 1980s in underserved areas than it does today.

My point here is that thinking about music education is not so simple. In fact, it takes a myriad of players to achieve a successful music education program in a school. How well are we servicing/enabling the providers of these programs? How are we doing in terms of supporting the mechanisms (teachers, programs, internship opportunities) that can make the K-12 classroom education function better, both today and in the future?

December 2, 2008 10:27 AM | | Comments (1) |


Midori, you raise great questions, and your voice is so important in this conversation. As an aside, a thousand thanks for your contributions to music learning--you have inspired so many of my Juilliard students, and music students across the country, to expand their definition of being a 21st century musician, not to mention the thousands of learners and audience's lives you have enriched. In answer to your question about what a comprehensive music education might be for non-professionals, Howard Gardner has an interesting answer. He says it involves learning in four roles: the performer, the creator, the audience and the critic. The learning need not be deep in each role, but the balance of those four complementary roles teaches deeply, and the four have natural interplay as well as distinct skills. We tend to grossly imbalance the learning in those roles for the non-professional (and for the professional too--I think conservatory training would be much healthier with more balance). When I see kids or adults composing, and doing basic performing, and opening their hearts to fully enter a piece as an audience, and then using critical skills to understand music better, I see the beginning of comprehensive learning.

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