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The future of music education

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by pmolsonmus, Apr 2, 2012.

  1. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Active Member

    Ok, as most of you regulars know, I'm a high school choral director, jazz and classical vocalist, jazz pianist and a vocal coach and have been doing all of the above for over 20 years now. Recording is merely a hobby and I'm a self-described hack compared to real audio engineers (many of whom are my fellow mods here at RO)

    Just returned from a convention in St. Louis focusing on future trends in music education. Lots of great, intelligent educators (primarily college professors and their grad students) presenting to curriculum people who are shaping their courses for colleges and secondary music programs. Much of the talk (as it relates to the RO community) centered around 21[SUP]st[/SUP] Century musical skills and exactly what those skills were and if schools had a responsibility / role to play in the development of those skills.

    An example of the skills were the mash ups, multi-tracking, music-by-ear, layered composition, dub-step things that a variety of people used on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” posted all over Youtube. This was contrasted in another session exploring college music curriculum today versus 1959 and then again 1880’s. As you can guess, there was VERY little change in the preparation of musicians in readiness to be a part of orchestras, community bands, etc… that dominated the performances of the later part of the 1800s compared to their preparation today. How many of THOSE jobs will be around in 20 years?

    My question is where are we headed? Is there a place for band, orchestra, chorus in the future? If so, what role? While live musicians can certainly be replaced with recordings for theatrical and perhaps even classical type performances, is that where we are headed? Should be headed? I can accept and recognize that classical/ART music requires a disciplined approach and years of study to reach the virtuoso levels that modern performance practices require is THAT what we should be teaching the youth of today? If so, why? They suggested that 4 conservatories in the U.S. could likely meet all the live classical musical needs 30 years from now. What about the RITUAL of performance that is a part of folk/ vernacular music in every culture? How about the ritual of classical ensembles? Is the ritual of performing with a group of value to the future? Is that a part of the new trends of virtual community?

    My concern is that we lose the “soul” of music when we only work on it by ourselves. I can “compose” a piece but it doesn’t become music till it is performed- even if only performed by myself. Is everyone just learning to write scrolls for player pianos? Neat, but dancing pony mentality.... Are we creating anything of lasting value? Even if we collaborate nowadays often times it is done virtually. Is there a real soul to “popular” music, is there room for anything else in this commercially driven world?

    I’m interested in the RO community’s thoughts. Especially those who work in both the classical, pop and education fields?
  2. Serpentarius

    Serpentarius Active Member

    Professional opera singer
    Gothenburg, Sweden
    It's interesting to find such a question asked on a forum like this, and I feel I have to try to respond with at least reflections, if not outright answers to these complex questions.

    First of all, like I said in my introductory thread, music is and will always be an acoustic experience because ultimately sound Waves need to travel to our ears through the air and this is only possible in the "analogue domain". It's literally a physical experience. Humans are analogue beings. We have always been, and always will be, no matter how much "science" lusts after making us become machines. It will never happen and their hopes are futile and childish.

    That depends on whether educators such as yourself and professional musicians decide to pass on the competence needed for those jobs, and whether they actually have that competence themselves in order to be able to pass it on.

    In short, a resounding yes. How else would we be able to listen to Bach, Mozart, Verdi and Wagner? Are we willing to sacrifice their music because it's a hassle to learn the technique necessary to play their music and it takes many years?

    It is the teacher's duty to show students things they would not be likely to find themselves. We are always told we live in the age of information. It is so easy to find information these days: just go to the World Brain (the internet) and you can find anything, they say. However, very few people I've met actually do that. In fact, more people today than ever before have never looked up anything on the internet, let alone read a book. Sure, they use the internet everyday, but not to educate themselves but to entertain themselves. In the best case scenario they inform themselves. However, information is not knowledge. And knowledge is not necessarily wisdom.

    So, "21st Century musical skills" such as "mash ups, multi-tracking, music-by-ear, layered composition, dub-step things that a variety of people used on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” posted all over Youtube" should in my opinion not be a part of the responsibility of the musical educator for the reason that it is "posted all over Youtube". In other words, the student will very soon come into contact with it anyway—whether they want to or not—, so no need for the teacher to spend much time on it. In any case the teacher's primary focus should not be this. On the other hand, how likely is is that a student today, living in today's digital-virtual world will come into contact with live music in a theatre, such as for example opera? Most young people's notion of an orchestra—if they even notice and register it—is via film music, which is not at all the same thing as listening to a Mozart symphony live in a concert hall.

    Because it takes decades—in many cases a lifetime—to become a master of one's chosen instrument, including voice. In this world of endless talent shows and fame-over-night the masses are being indoctrinated to believe that you don't require patience, hard work, determination etc. to "make it"—in short, you don't need to work hard to become good at what you do: you either "have it" or you don't. And if you think you "have it", then what have you got to learn? And if you don't have it, then you just don't and you'll never make it. Well, this is simply lying to the young. A famous actor said in an interview in front of Actors' Studio students that it's not enough to simply want to act. You have to need to act. In other words, you have to to have a much deeper seated motivation than just wanting something in order to achieve it. Shallow greed, envy and desire might bring you what you want, but at a cost not many would be willing to pay if they knew the price in advance. The kind of inspiration needed to achieve mastery of an instrument is way beyond the hunger for money, fame and fortune most people are being force-fed through the mass media today.

    Music teachers need to teach their students what music actually is and what its effects are:

    So if the above is true, then what we've been told over and over again over many decades is false, that is: that our music reflects the nature of out society. No, no, no: Society reflects our music. That means that the music that we listen to determines what our society will look like, its characteristics and inner driving force. If we contemplate this possibility, can we then start making a bit more sense of the cause&effect connection between gangsta rap, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears and the commercial, materialistic, violent, corrupt and degenerated nature of our society?

    I think our society looks the way it does and is the way it is, because educators in general—but music educators in particular—have actually abandoned educating the younger generations in music altogether. If they would return to actually educating their students instead of succumbing to commercial trends dictated by the industry, we musicians and professionals—as well as society and civilization in general—would be in a more favourable position. And I mean favourable not in the material sense.

    Well, it's really up to them. Do they want it that way? Or do they want it some other way? It's up to them to put their energies and efforts in preserving this profession as we know it, by promoting it, preserve the competence, cherish it, defend it, respect it and pass it on. Certainly, if they don't do anything it will end up the way they say.

    Genuine musicians really should not follow any new trends at all, especially not virtual ones.

    In closing, music has a much greater power than any of us can fathom. If we at least acknowledge that, we can start giving it the respect it deserves and stop debasing it on a regular basis, and in starting to protect it and care for how we use it, also start to respect ourselves. Just like a person who decides to stop eating junk food because it's poisoning his physical body, we need to realise that the music we listen to affect our mind and our very soul. Music is food for the soul, and if we should not poison our physical body, then we should certainly not poison our soul—our spiritual body. By respecting music we start to respect ourselves and in the long run actually start to uplift ourselves to heights we never thought of reaching.

    Kodály was once asked when should one start a child's musical education. His answer was:

    "A child's musical education starts 9 months before birth."
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2012
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Mathematician - Research area: partial differentia
    Blacksburg, VA
    I want to respond with a very narrow utilitarian answer to a much broader question. I feel that K-12 music education is a very useful teaching tool. It has certain educational advantages that few academic subjects have and has great advantages over other arts and activities like sports. How many other school activities combine the following traits.
    1. It is mercilessly meritocratic. Everyone knows who the best musicians are - minor disputes about seating aside. Excellence and talent are recognized and rewarded.
    2. All levels of talent are needed and challenged. The band needs third chair clarinet players. It's not easy for someone with very little talent to play the third chair parts correctly, but if they work and do it they can make an essential contribution to a beautiful piece of music. At the same time there are competitions that challenge the best.
    3. Quality (at least in general terms) is obvious to the layman. The Music Man notwithstanding, very few people are convinced that their offspring is a musical genius when he/she can't play a lick. You may not be able to tell if the glowing reports in ART or math or chemistry mean anything (at least until the flunk the AP test), but you can tell in music.
    4. Bands require team building skills at least as complex as any sports team. It's like getting the football, basketball, and track teams at the varsity, JV, and Freshmen level to get together and act with a common purpose. Again, the performance of all skill levels is important to the quality of the whole enterprise.
    5. All of the organization and work habit skills that are necessary in all disciplines (and walks of life) are revealed to all of your peers. No one cares if you don't do your history homework, but everyone cares if you don't bring your mouthpiece to the concert.

    So, at least at the basic K-12 level, I see music ed as having a lot of utilitarian value even if there are no more professional musicians in the future. (That probably won't happen, but I think we will look back on the mid 20th century as an unusual time where there were lots of middle class professional opportunities for musicians. That was not true earlier. Probably won't be true in the future.)
  4. RachelleJ

    RachelleJ Member

    I hope that everything discussed at the convention about the music education is true.
    I really hope for that.
    The fact is that music education now needs more attention than any other field of knowledge
    and that is true that it should be developed.

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