Tuesday, October 2, 2007

music for public schools!

Today I met somebody who’s been teaching music in high school for years. As it turned out, there are public schools where it’s possible to graduate without having had any music lessons! That means that a few responsible persons don’t see any reason that music should appear in a student’s curriculum – whereas literature or physical education is considered to be worth teaching...

I wonder how many kids miss a great opportunity to get involved in music this way. And also, how many potential listeners to classical music are never reached? What every student should get during his time in school (everyone means not only the rich kid attending a fancy liberal art high school) is not the “classical” repertoire in particular, but more an overview over the phenomena of music today. Who doesn’t listen to any kind of music today? Even if we don’t want to, we have to listen to music in stores, to cell phone ring tones, to the guitar player in the subway station. Beethoven & Co doesn’t have to be the centre of music lessons in school, but isn’t it important to know how our music developed? For me it’s also important to make clear that music has always different intentions: is it a dance to make people move (minuet or tango?), is it an opera that entertains the audience, is it a pop song that makes young girls cry and crazy and buy lots of CDs?

I’ve made the experience that there is a fashion among 10-14 year old boys to HATE classical music. I think they want to avoid to be considered as well behaving and well educated human beings… Anyway, so being well educated means listening to Bach all the time. The easiest method to help them out of this point of view is: 1. to promise them that you don’t want to force them to listen to classical music, 2. to explain to them, in what kind of time Bach lived, for whom he composed and why he composed like he did. This can be well explained in easy terms. In the best case, they will actually become interested in Bach’s music. In a good case, they will see Bach as an important figure of his time and respect him. I think this respect is very important.

How many people never get in touch with classical composers and consider them as elite (because those people who are in touch with them represent the “higher society”), but would actually like to admit that they would like to listen to their music? (A lot of woulds) The easiest way to avoid these cases is giving kids the possibility to listen to Peter and the Wolf, Don and Giovanni, Porgy and Bess etc… I think students have to know, what cultural background they have (and here I speak about western music and literature, because that’s my personal background). It’s not about persuading someone to listen to classical music. The fact is that most people listen to pop-and rock music and it would be inadequate to want to change that. But if there is some knowledge about classical music, it is more likely for us as musicians to attract a wider audience!


wave dancer said...

As an elementary music teacher in a public school setting in California, there is an art crisis for today's children. The goal of education is to prepare (at any costs) children to score high on the state standardized tests. The results of these tests are potent enough to fire teachers, retain students, and allow state take over of any public schools.

Since music, art, dance, and physical education are not subjects on these tests - there are deemed not as important. As a result, these subjects are losing funding and class time.

Classroom teachers, even though most of them firmly believe the arts and physical education are very important, do not have time for these "extras". As it is, kindergarten requires children to be at school longer. Recess is being taken away and becoming a thing of the past.

Music is the only art form left in the schools due its “product” aspect - to perform a concert for parents every six months or so. Quality of music education in the public system has to struggle against the odds of funding, support, and schedule of other subjects. Most elementary schools cut their general music and instrumental programs by the year 2000. So, most students will not get any training in music education until 6th grade – which is way to late…….

I’m worried about our students, who will not develop any aesthetic sensibilities, during their crucial elementary years.

hapkidoroll10 said...

I definitely agree that it would be so beneficial for arts education to be as integral part of general education as literature, science, history, etc., and it certainly is sad how the arts are being pushed out of public education due to funding issues. There's so much that shows that early artistic stimulation greatly helps children's intellectual development, so this really is a shame. There are some schools, such as Waldorf schools, that integrate music and movement into the curriculum from the very beginning, but these are definitely an exception. I'm not sure what it takes to change this... maybe the public just needs to be informed about what a serious issue this really is, so that they would be compelled to vote and persuade the people in the government to take action, but it's difficult with so many other issues competing for government funding, such as the environment, health care, whatever.