It’s been another good week for music education articles and my favourites have largely fallen into a theme of ‘the purpose of music education’. The articles this week talk of advocacy, the contribution of music to the development of one of the world’s biggest technology companies, putting aside school systems and the importance of relationships.
Peter Greene: Stop “defending” music education
This article seeks to tackle the growing prevalence of defending music education by pointing to the benefits it provides to other subjects. At least once a week, I see an article proclaiming that ‘music makes you smarter’ and I’m inclined to believe that there’s at least some shred of truth in that. It seems a shame, however, to argue that this is the reason to have music in our schools. I’m guilty of this myself, having often argued that music is a huge business and its presence in education is justified by its contribution the economy. It is nice, therefore, to read an article that shouts about music deserving a place in our schools for the simple fact that it is music.
Miguel Helft: How music education influenced Larry Page
Helft’s article is quite the counterpoint to Greene’s in that it ties music to non-musical benefits. Larry Page, Google’s CEO and co-founder, tells us of how his music education gave him obsessions and perspectives that led to some of Google’s key features (speed in particular). Anyone who has ever used a sequencer with awful latency will know of the importance of a computer responding immediately to a key press. Page seems to believe (but only in hindsight) that his musical training gave him an obsession with the speed at which a computer responds to user input. It’s hard to believe that Google would have been horrendously slow if Page hadn’t been a musician but it’s good food for thought. As an extra plus, this article will give you some great quotes to put on your classroom displays!
Jane Werry: Cutting some slack
Jane Werry made it into last week’s ‘reading highlights’ too, so she’s clearly on a roll! This time, it’s her own MufuChat inspired blog post rather than an article in Music Teacher Magazine. I followed Jane’s development of her assessment strategy with interest and I was lucky enough to have the occasional chat with her about it. This post, however, tells us of how she’s thrown that to the wind for the last weeks of the academic year so that she can focus on what she describes as “teaching – without the teaching stuff”. It’s nice to hear that Jane, despite championing a system that she knows works well, acknowledges that she can put it to one side and still deliver great lessons.
Abigail D’Amore: Relationships matter
Pulling together pretty much all of the ideas in the other posts, Abigail D’Amore talks about the importance of relationships in music education. She describes moments that were clearly magical during her recent work with Musical Futures Canada. Much like Jane abandoned her assessment system, Musical Futures often throws out some of the common ‘teachery stuff’ as this quote reveals:
No directions had been given, no worksheets handed out, no music leader stood over them until they got it right, instead two people instinctively connected and communicated through the shared experience of a musical activity.
A story of people building relationships through music seems a suitable way to connect the themes of music education advocacy, the extrinsic benefits of music and the need to put school systems to the side. It think it’s this last point, putting systems to the side, that I think I will keep front and centre of my mind for a while.