I am quite certain that I would not be a composer today were it not for having received an eclectic liberal arts undergraduate education, and I think there are plenty of young people out there now who, like my younger self, need something a bit different than the laser-focused, technical musical education one might receive at a conservatory or through some other types of programs.
When considering new directions in music education, examining how students are taught is important, but so to is developing ways to reach students who otherwise might not have the opportunity at all. Through El Sistema, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan musicians have been educated over the past three decades; El Sistema USA is now providing ensemble music lessons to thousands of underserved students throughout the US as well.
I think we have a duty beyond simply teaching the material. We must also justify it and show how the knowledge we’re imparting is vital, interesting, and beautiful. Yet while music theory, and the fascinatingly intricate way it interacts with actual music, is all three of these things, four-part voice leading exercises are often none of these things.
At first glance, the opportunity to take free online courses from some of the country’s most prestigious universities sounds great. But for some educational stakeholders, these classes represent a threat to higher education as we currently know it. So, what are the risks and what are the benefits for the music field?
The best teachers know that their truer calling is to engage aspects of musical experience that have become familiar and render them unfamiliar again. A great teacher must both illuminate the world for his or her students, and at the same time return parts of the illuminated world to a certain amount of mystery and confusion.
There is a deep, reverberating echo of history in composer higher education, and a palpable unspoken dialogue between current and past students, faculty, and guest artists. Today I continue to look for new ways to engage with our students, all the while drawing upon the words and wisdom of those who laid the foundation for my own pedagogy.
There is something invigorating about the diversity of Henry Brant’s career. But there is one corner of his catalog that doesn’t get mentioned much: his music for children. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Brant wrote three original scores for records produced by Young People’s Records and its successor, the Children’s Record Guild—some of the hippest children’s records ever made.
How would you feel if you heard your own or a colleague’s music mashed up with the latest Katy Perry or Kendrick Lamar track? Can you envision yourself video conferencing with a group of elementary school or university students who recently posted video clips of themselves discussing new music on YouTube or who admitted that they would like to try transforming a piece from the genre into electronic dance music? These questions hint towards possibilities that some may find problematic and that others may consider appropriate and beneficial for new music, musicians, and students.
Fresh learning methods have opened up exciting possibilities when it comes to advancing music education and introducing new ears to new work, so this week (September 23-27) we’ve invited our regular contributors plus some special guests to each pick up a thread in this huge concept and tell us about a piece of this story that’s important to them.