Thursday, February 14, 2013

Week 6: The Final Countdown

      Survived the group presentation on Wednesday and turned in my final paper on time!!!! One more day until I'm officially finished with History & Philosophy of Music Education and this 6 week madness. Instead of discussing the last philosophical question (when?), I would like to use this post as a course evaluation. Enough hours were spent working on those questions, and my brain needs a break from the philosophical realm.

      After complaints and issues with previous courses, I believe this class was a great improvement for the instructor and curriculum. Although this is an extremely intangible subject area, I believe we made substantial progress through readings and group discussion. As is the theme with most VanderCook classes, the student can really only get out what they put in. I think that the material was presented clearly and effectively, and we were shown countless resources to check out on our own time. The final paper served as a great outline for the class, and hopefully got these kids thinking about their personal philosophies on education as they head out into the real world.

    One of the greatest improvements in this class compared to others, was the use of Graduate Students as group leaders. This helped break the large class down into smaller, more manageable discussions. I was lucky to have an outstanding group where everyone contributed and did the work on time. It put the Grad students in a leadership position, and kept them involved in the class. I think it also positively affected the undergrads performance, as they had someone to hold them personally accountable. The coursepack was a useful tool for keeping the syllabus, project criteria, and useful resources all in one place.

    I'm still on the fence as far as the overall usefulness of the weekly blog. I understand the need for incorporating technology and keeping up with the times, but no real reply or response came of them. It was like keeping a journal that no one read (or very few), and seemed to be blown off by many of the students. Other than 3 points participation credit, I don't know if the student gained much from the experience. My recommendation would be turning in printed copies either to the teacher or Grad group leader to comment on. Feedback, criticism, and discussion were the most beneficial parts of the class.

  Overall, I thought the class was most productive as an open forum, and brought out many great ideas and opinions.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Week 5: Why?

Job interviewers, parents, teachers, colleagues, and even students are continuously asking the hardest question in our profession; “Why do we teach music?”. As music educators, it is important for us to have a prepared response and subsequent defense, and one that highlights all of the positive aspects of learning the art of music. Our own philosophies come from lifelong influences, such as previous teachers, parents, books, and society. They are our self-justification for our very existence. We must develop a personal philosophy of music learning, and answer the questions of Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?    
    Every individual has a different core philosophy on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. My philosophy is that music education lies right on the border between progressive necessity and preservation. I believe that music is necessary in our society for humans to maintain creativity, spontaneity, and art. It keeps us moving forward, as we strive to find better sounds, mediums, and styles to create something fresh and different. Music educators give students the tools they need to build these innovative ideas. On the other hand, music education serves to preserve classic art forms. By studying the masters and the evolution of popular sound, we hold on to traditions, cultures, and techniques that may otherwise fade away as generations pass. Because of the accessibility of recordings, students do not know how to play an instrument to enjoy music. My overarching philosophical question is why?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Week 4: Where Should We Teach Music Education?

    Another important facet of Music Education is the Where? Where in America should we be teaching our children music, who deserves it, and who needs it? In my opinion, many middle class-affluent school programs see music as a luxury, not a privilege. All schools should have a sound music and arts curriculum, but it should not be taken for granted. The more affluent schools usually don't have to worry about the arts funding being cut, compared to those in struggling neighborhoods. I feel very strongly that it is the lower socioeconomic groups and urban/impoverished schools that need music programs the most.
    Music programs, from general music classes to after school programs, offer students in low-income areas opportunities and alternatives that may benefit their lives. Joining an ensemble will give them more reason to come to school, practicing/learning an instrument will keep them busy and out of trouble (for the most part), and performances can give them a sense of pride and self-esteem they might otherwise never acquire. Even basic music classes lay the groundwork for students to build off of and create their own garage bands, solo recordings, or music production projects. It may inspire them to become more involved in community groups as well, such as church choirs or community orchestras.
    There is a great deal of research out there that proves that joining a music program will improve their academic life as well. According to a NAfME article:

 "Students in high-quality school music programs score higher on standardized tests compared to students in schools with deficient music education programs, regardless of the socioeconomic level of the school or school district."

– NAfME Journal of Research in Music Education, Winter 2006, vol. 54, No. 4, pgs. 293- 307

 Another report shows how keeping students occupied with music, practicing, and performing, can keep them off of the streets and away from harmful substances;

 "Secondary students who participated in band or orchestra reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances (alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs)."

 – Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report. Reported in Houston Chronicle, January 1998

 Not only will this change the students life, but music programs can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the community.  "Lauren Kapalka Richerme, a doctoral student in music education at Arizona State University, published an important piece, “Apparently, We Disappeared,” in the September 2011 Music Educators Journal. She emphasizes the value of sharing ideas within the broader community that lead to action. Richerme states: “Music educators must alter their practices by implementing the ideas generated from their dialogue with various constituencies. Words are not enough; we must change our actions as a result of these exchanges. Combining advocacy with exchanges allows music educators to promote and improve their programs and build a better relationship with their communities.” ( ,2/3/13)

    Advocacy should be a huge part of our jobs as music educators. It will help us build successful programs that reach out to the people who need it most, and positively impact the lives of everyone involved. 

"When presented with the many and manifest benefits of music education, officials at all levels should universally support a full, balanced, sequential course of music instruction taught by qualified teachers. And every student will have an education in the arts."

- National Association for Music Education

Week 3: What Should We Teach in Music Education?

The question of what we teach in music education is the source of much debate. Music teachers are often divided between teaching classical repertoire and teaching contemporary popular music. Band directors tend to favor the contemporary, as their discipline has only been around since the 1800’s. Orchestra teachers are often in favor of the classical masters (Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, etc.), because the orchestral genre has been around so much longer and stood the test of time.
    My philosophy is that a hybrid balance of classical repertoire mixed with contemporary music should be taught in our schools. As long as they piece presents a platform to teach music fundamentals, it should not matter what year it was written. Great teachers can infuse the culture of musical history into lessons, while relating it to modern day pop music to keep students interested. There is little chance of students in low-income urban areas relating to Mozart or any of the dead European composers. A teachers job is to differentiate material to different learning styles, through the best possible medium.
    Music must have a function in education and be adaptable to the environment. According to McCarthy & Goble, “functionalist approaches to music education emphasize teaching music in a way that supports the social, physical, moral, and intellectual development of a student in a community or society” (2002, p.9). I agree with this approach because it takes into account the demographic of the student. This is probably why Mariachi bands, Steel drum groups, and drum circles have become so popular; because the student can identify with the culture. I still believe that they need a fair amount of the classics, just to be introduced to a broad spectrum of musical styles.
    In the Philosophical Tenets of Aesthetic Education, Leonard & House state that “Music education should be cosmopolitan, employing all kinds of music and giving recognition to the value of all kinds of music” (Coursepack, p.41). This reinforces the idea that music education should not be focused on single styles or genres. In my own teaching, I will try to emphasize musical exploration, and model appreciation and acceptance of all styles. The concept of 4/4 time remains the same whether it is played by Mozart or The Beatles.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Week 2: How should people be taught music?

       In our second week of history & philosophy of education, we covered several areas of metacognition, and touched on different elements of the who, what, where, when and why of music education. We split into groups to define the Core Philosophical Points of View (Functional, Aesthetic, Praxial, Sociological, and Cognitive). More small group work was done in relating the previous readings of Plato and Aristotle to the Housewright Declaration. My favorite quote from the declaration is the opening line that states; "Whenever and wherever humans have existed music has existed also". My small group had the topic of "when?" in relation to the early European Philosophers as well as the Housewright Declaration. The consensus was that all people should have a sound, balanced music education all the way through their academic career, to establish the basis for a lifetime of learning, hearing, and appreciating music.

      A large part of this week's discussion revolved around technology in the classroom; the biggest argument being for/against the usage of laptops in our own History & Philosophy class. This debate split the room roughly 2:1 in opposition. One student brought up the convenience of being able to type up notes and then immediately/easily transfer everything to their blog. Some students complained that they write much slower than they type, and it would be more efficient to type things up on their laptops. In general, I believe the whole debate was a waste of class time, and showed the immaturity of many of the undergraduate students. Clearly for some it was just a ploy to be able to use Facebook and email during class. Speaking as a student on the other side of the laptop screens, it is tragically apparent how short our generation's attention span is, and how much time students waste in class not paying attention. These students have been babied throughout their undergraduate career, and I honestly feel bad for them when they try to get a job in education and the reality check that will undoubtedly hit them.
    My reason for exasperation over the laptop usage was simply because it was set out in the classroom rules from Day 1 by the teacher. As future educators (possibly), these kids need to see that a teacher should not have to bend the rules to appease the needs of the students.
     We also discussed how humans have gotten along up until this point without needing to type everything or be connected to the internet at all times. Someone brought up the fact the many schools no longer require kids to learn cursive! This led to a much more relative discussion on what should be taught in schools and how it relates to music education.

    All of these discussions (vaguely) concerned how musical education should be taught. The Housewright Declaration summed it up, saying that the concepts must be preserved through time, while being kept relevant to new technology. I believe it is our duty as teachers to present material in the most up-to-date media format as is necessary and efficient. However, if students can get the same work done by using an old-fashioned pencil and paper, then by all means they should. Technology is an extremely useful tool, but it should never be a crutch. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Week 1: Who should be musically educated?

    Our first assignment was to read excerpts from the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. They offered differing views on whether music and the arts should be required along with the core academic subjects as a necessity in education. It was a very interesting reading, and I find myself agreeing with Plato's (or Socrates/Glacon's) musings.

Plato's Thoughts:
    Expressed as a discussion between Socrates and Glaucon, Plato emphasizes the need for an equal amount of music (which encompassed other arts such as dancing) and gymnastics to create a balanced, educated person. By learning both, students become "more civilized, balanced, and better adjusted in themselves, for rhythm and harmonious adjustment are essential to the whole of human life".
     Plato says that a man should be equally balanced in both disciplines, for if he is solely based in the arts, he may become soft and gentle, whereas a man devoted to gymnastics and physical strength will be hardened and savage. Some more great quotes from the Republic;

"Surely the fairest is the most lovable. Of course. The true musician, then, would love by preference persons of this sort, but if there is disharmony he would not love this".

 "And so your youths, said I, employing that simple music which we said engendered sobriety will, it is clear, guard themselves against falling into the need of the justice of the courtroom".

"Then he who best blends gymnastics with music and applies them most suitably to the soul is the man whom we should most rightly pronounce to be the most perfect and harmonious musician."

Aristotle's Thoughts
    Much more specific in detail, Aristotle set to outline the 4 most important fields of a public education. He believed that the State should provide a balanced education and that the "training  in things which are of common interest should be the same for all". Reading and Writing, Gymnastics, Drawing, and Music (which again includes dance, etc.) were the customary branches of education. In my opinion, it seemed that he was throwing in Music because it was already a custom/tradition, not because he believed it was useful.
  Aristotle raised the idea that Music should be done for leisure, for the relaxing after work was completed. Reading/writing, gymnastics, and drawing were far more useful and profitable outlets, and were necessary to society. His justification was not because music gives health or strength, but because a balanced education  in the arts is liberal and noble.  Music contributes to the enjoyment of leisure and mental cultivation, and the best man knows how to "leisure well". Here's some more quotes from Politica, Book VIII;

  "Learning is no amusement, but is accompanied with pain."

   "Why should they learn themselves, and not... enjoy the pleasure and instruction which is derived from hearing others (for surely persons who have made music the business and profession of their lives will be better performers than those who practice only long enough to learn)?"

  "The vulgarity of the spectator tends to lower the character of the music and therefore the performers."

 Class Discussion

Does Teaching imply Learning? To answer this question, we broke into groups to develop a working definition of Teaching. Here are some of those definitions:
  - Teaching is transferring knowledge
  -Teach, don't preach
  -Teaching can be measurable and assessed
  -Teaching is sharing and channeling knowledge between 2 or more individuals
  -Teaching leads to change towards intended goals

What are characteristics of a good teacher?
 - Genuine caring about students and their improvement
 -transfers knowledge efficiently
 - active engagment and differentiation
 -enthusiastic about content
 -challenges students to critically and actively participate
 -creates organized, systematic, structured environment for learning
 -has the ability to adapt and think on their feet

Learning does not always occur when teaching. Good teachers are able to hold themselves accountable, and find out why they are not getting through to particular students. If students don't learn, the teacher must reevaluate their delivery strategy, determine the students learning style, and make every effort to help.