iPad: A Question of Aesthetics

Seven short days ago I was getting up at about this time in order to get in line at the Apple Store. So with a full week under my belt I'll go ahead and give you my thoughts on the iPad.

I don't think you need one.

Wait, what?

Look, I just think it's easier if I get that thought out of the way up front, so we can focus on what this device is about. I'm not trying to convince anyone to get an iPad. The fact of the matter is that, from a purely utilitarian standpoint, you just don't "need" one. There is nothing you can "do" with an iPad that you can't "do" with something you already own. That's the truth.

But iPad isn't about what you do, it's about how you do it. It's really about aesthetics. As a music teacher aesthetics that is wired into my life on a daily basis. The "how" and "why" of things matter to me. Since my generation (those of us who had TRS-80s in high school) grew up around the advent of computers, we sometimes struggle with the concept of computing being a pleasant experience. Many feel it should continue to be a proving ground for those who can "get under the hood" and tinker, troubleshoot, etc. In my opinion, the biggest reason Apple products have become so popular with younger (and older) generations is because those people don't bring that history with them to the computing experience. They want things that "just work" to the point that the device itself sort of disappears. The content is the focus, and the device should serve it. I certainly identify with that mindset.

So, for example, if I am at my desk, I prefer to work on a laptop. At work I am primarily creating content, and for that I want a large screen, printing, a physical keyboard, and feature-rich software. The iPad doesn't give me those things. Can you type on the iPad? Yes of course, and it's fine. But typing on the iPad, like the iPhone, is utilitarian. Though there will probably be some who can type just as fast on the iPad as a laptop, I prefer the typing experience on a mechanical keyboard, particularly Apple's latest "chicklet" style keyboards. And yes, Apple has released the iWork apps so you can create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on the iPad. Still, content creation, for me, will continue to primarily happen on a laptop because it is the richer experience.

That being said, when I want to consume content, whether in my leather chair or laying on the couch, the iPad excels. The ability to hold the display close and navigate quickly with your fingers is a far more pleasing way to surf, read, and view images and movies. The design is exquisite, the battery life is astounding (I'm regularly getting 11 hours or more) and it doesn't heat up (if you have spent any time with a laptop on your lap you are quite familiar with the heat issues). The iPad is the best consumption device I have ever used, and it is changing the way I experience media. And when I say "best"  I'm not talking about a side-by-side list of features, I'm talking about an overall aesthetic.


Book reading is much more pleasing on the iPad than on a laptop or an iPhone. The "pages" are about the size of a physical book. This of course brings up the point of whether physical books are better. Well, there is a tactile aspect that cannot be denied. If you prefer that experience, then the iPad will probably leave you wanting. But the iPad has some aspects to it that are either impractical or impossible with "real" books. For example, you cannot read a book in the dark, but you can do so on the iPad. You can also "carry" hundreds of books and magazines with you and have any of them at your disposal instantly. And of course the search, dictionary, and font capabilities are fantastic. For me it is the best way to read. I can't imagine we won't see student textbook migrate to this device. Chiropractor bills alone could justify the cost of an iPad for many students.

The web surfing experience on the iPad is great. Even though the Facebook iPhone app is excellent, I much prefer to interact with the actual site. If you have ever tried to do that on an iPhone you should try it on an iPad so you can understand what a difference the screen size makes. The "pinch" technology is very smooth and accurate, and touching links is very intuitive and quick, even more so than on the iPhone because you don't have to be quite as careful since everything is larger. I would much rather surf the web on my iPad than on a laptop or my iPhone. To those of you wondering about Flash, I won't go into the full discussion now, but just notice how fewer and fewer sites are using it. Whether you agree with Apple's position or not, there are about 85 million of their mobile devices out there now, and web developers are not going to ignore the fact that Apple prefers HTML 5 standards over Flash. Sorry Adobe but that's how it's going to be. But I digress.

Photos are gorgeous on the iPad. Sitting it in the dock and pressing an icon turns it into a digital photo frame with typical Apple elegance. In the hand it is a much nicer photo viewing experience than either the iPhone or a laptop.

Movies are perfect for the iPad. Yes it is doable on an iPod Touch, iPhone, or laptop, but they just don't compare to having a decent size screen in your hands. Pair a set of Bluetooth headphones and you are in for a treat. ABC and Netflix have jumped on the iPad band wagon and I suspect we will see many more content providers release apps in the coming months.

And speaking of apps.... even after one week it is easy to see how the app experience is going to be qualitatively different on the iPad. There is so much more information that can be included on the screen, and developers are taking advantage of that. I think we're going to see some excellent educational apps that will will make the classroom more interactive, productive, and provide the teacher with much more individual input about student learning. Clickers are nice, but just wait and see what iPad developers bring us, I think it's going to be exciting and if done right, far more immersive and engaging for students than cumbersome laptops when reading and interacting are called for.

So there you have it, my thoughts on the iPad. Clearly there are those who feel it is "just a big iPod Touch." For those who do not value the "how" as much as the "what" that will probably hold true. But for me, the iPad is my device of choice for content consumption. The aesthetic experience it provides is unlike anything else, and for me that is significant.

How A PLN Can Make You Filthy Rich

Origami dollar t-shirt

I'm starting a new association for music educators. We are going to meet monthly. The dues are one dollar per month, per member. However, each member will also receive one dollar for every member in attendance. So, if there are 100 people at the meeting, each member will give one dollar, but leave with 99 dollars. No strings attached. Pretty amazing model, wouldn't you say?

If that idea was guaranteed not to be a scam, would you do it? Of course you would! A one dollar investment that returns 99 dollars, every month? You would have to be crazy not to participate. So what is my point? It's this: although money doesn't work that way, ideas do. If, in a group of 100 teachers, each teacher shares one idea, everyone gets 99 new ideas.

Unlike money, educational ideas can be shared without losing their value.

And this is exactly what Professional Learning Networks are all about. The problem is, not enough teachers are sharing. They may think their ideas are not good enough. They may think they are too busy. They may be worried about being judged. All I can say is... if that describes you... get over it, and quick. You are cheating yourself, your students, and many other teachers (and their students). Teaching music is not a competition. All of our students deserve the best instruction.

My PLN lives in three main areas at the moment: A Facebook group of about 1,500; A Facebook page of about 600; and about 400 people I interact with on Twitter. It boggles my mind to imagine what we could do for students if each one of those people shared one idea per month. The number of participants in a PLN doesn't mean much if only a small percentage are sharing what they know.

You don't have to start a blog (but congrats to those of you who are trying it), you can simply start by posting a thought, idea, or link. Put it into the comments below this post, or post it on Twitter, or in your Facebook status. I can promise you that if we all share, we'll all get far more in return than we give.

So... do you want to be filty rich or not? Get your dollar on the table!

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

Rewards, Musical and Otherwise

This is a paper I wrote during doctoral coursework almost exactly ten years ago. I have made a few simple edits, but it remains largely unaltered. Interesting how the school funding pendulum has swung this way again a decade later. In any case, I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Rewards (musical and otherwise): A philosophical look at the performance-based music class.

Introduction

If there was one thing I took to heart as I started my Ph.D. it was the need to develop a clearly defined personal philosophy of music education. And if there is one thing I have learned thus far it is this: The more I learn about philosophy, the clearer my ineptitude becomes. As Allen Britton said (1990), “[W]hat one knows, one knows, and what one doesn’t know, one doesn’t know one doesn’t know” (p.183). I am learning more everyday about what I don’t know, but was once sure I did. In this paper I will attempt to articulate my evolving philosophy as it relates to performing ensembles in the secondary schools.

The Purpose of Education

Kliebard (1985) has identified three types of reformists in the history of education in this country: Social efficiency, child-centered, and social meliorists. In short, their views were that schools should do one of the following: Prepare students for specific places within society; focus upon the unique gifts and talents of the student; function as an avenue for social change. As for my personal stance, I am inclined to agree with Jerome Bruner (1996), who talks of antinomies–views that, while they contradict one another, all hold truth. Certainly there are important sides to each of the reform arguments. In addition, I agree with Bruner that we should also consider culture (and the classroom as culture) as an integral component of schooling.

Consequently, I conceive of schools and preschools as serving a renewed function within our changing societies. This entails building school cultures that operate as mutual communities of learners, involved jointly in solving problems with all contributing to the process of educating one another. Such groups provide not only a locus for instruction, but a focus for identity and mutual work. Let these schools be a place for the praxis (rather than the proclamation) of cultural mutuality–which means an increase in the awareness that children have of what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why (pp. 81-82).

It is the word awareness that is key for me. Ultimately students must have an awareness of their educational situation if they are to be successful learners. I believe that this was Dewey’s main concern with the various efforts to reform education. The ultimate purpose of education is rather pointless without careful consideration of the process (experience) in which students interact. In fact, it is through careful consideration of process that the purpose of education takes shape.

In a certain sense every experience should do something to prepare a person for later experiences of a deeper and more expansive quality. That is the very meaning of growth, continuity, reconstruction of experience. But it is a mistake to suppose that the mere acquisition of a certain amount of arithmetic, geography, history, etc., which is taught and studied because it may be useful at some time in the future, has this effect, and it is a mistake to suppose that acquisition of skills in reading and figuring will automatically constitute preparation for their right and effective use under conditions very unlike those in which they were acquired (Dewey, 1938, p. 47).

Lest it be thought that I am avoiding taking a stance, I will attempt to summarize my beliefs as such: The purpose of education is to provide students with opportunities for experiential learning, in such breadth and depth that they are prepared to be successful members of society, contributing in whatever area their interests may lead. Experiences should be designed to reflect the interactions and situations that will be encountered in society.

The Value of Music

We now turn to the question of the value of music. Here again we have a topic upon which an entire dissertation could be based. It almost goes without saying that music educators must be prepared to justify the need for music education. Ironically–at least to me–we do not see teachers in other disciplines facing similar circumstances (it is difficult to imagine math teachers attending a school board meeting to convince members of the need for math education). At the core of the issue is time and money. I say this because we rarely see disagreement on any educational issue that does not have one of these factors involved.

The length of the school day and year has remained unchanged for several decades. Over this same time period however, few would argue that the knowledge base has increased exponentially. New knowledge has not simply replaced old knowledge. If we subscribe to the ideas of Dewey and Bruner, we know that people must have a grasp on what came before a new idea if they are to fully comprehend it. Current events, as they become less “current,” are not forgotten, but rather are slowly added to an ever-increasing historical record. How can students possibly comprehend all that is happening today in the same amount of minutes found in the public schools in (say) 1945? When adults are faced with time constraints in the workplace, the usual solution is to “prioritize.” They start with what is considered to be most critical, understanding that items at the bottom of the list may not be accomplished. It is natural that school boards and administrators, when dealing with a finite number of minutes, will prioritize offerings.

School funding has been a particularly critical issue over the past decade, although most would contend that it has always been an issue to some degree. When dollars are tight, the answer is once again to prioritize. Anyone who has a monthly household budget understands this issue. When there is plenty of money to go around, there is little need to prioritize because we can afford everything we want. When dollars are tight, we start to talk about what we really need, which is sometimes different than what we want.

The reason I raise the issue of time and money is this: Perhaps the justification for music (or art, dance, theater, etc.) would not be front-page news in every music education publication if we, as a nation, reformed school funding and reevaluated the length of the school day/year. I do not think that administrators and school boards are inherently opposed to music education. Rather I think they feel forced to prioritize based upon constraints of time and/or money. Of course, we still must have (as any discipline must) a strong rationale for music education. There are three main reasons that, in my belief, music belongs in our schools.

Brain

First, music is an essential form of creativity, expression, and non-verbal knowledge. Now, I fully realize the immensity of that statement and am further aware that the parameters of this paper will not allow for a full explanation of that claim. I will offer this comparison as justification. I believe we can agree that the ability to read and write is highly valued in our society. It would not be out of line to suggest that we teach English so that people have the ability to be creative, express themselves, and interact with our world verbally. This goes far beyond functional literacy, which is obviously important but not sufficient. To read Shakespeare or Robert Frost is clearly not something one does to merely get through the day. To fully grasp the meanings in these works provides a window to understanding humanity more completely. However it is not easily done, and to be able to present one's own ideas verbally is even more difficult, yet is clearly an essential component of participating fully in our society. Indeed, it takes years of experience with the English language–in an educational setting–to gain the insights needed in this regard.

And so it is with music. Music provides us with the ability to intereact with our world in non-verbal ways. I think we are on the cusp of reaching an understanding of the importance of non-verbal ways of knowing. As Michael Polanyi says, "we know more than we can tell." Music cannot be told in words. Music must be experienced to be understood. Creating and expressing oneself musically (with the exception of lyrics) has almost nothing to do with words. It is a unique way of thinking, and yields a unique type of knowledge.

The second reason relies upon the first. That is, if we believe that music is a unique way of knowing, we surely want to educate young people not only to consume music, but to compose and/or perform it as well. Beyond the creative and expressive aspects, it is also an essential means of the evolution of our culture. We dare not leave things out of education that we value so highly as music. To do so is to leave the future of our very culture in question, a gamble we should not be willing to take with anything so essentialy human.

The third reason has to do with the social aspects of music. There are few subjects taught in schools that promote the bringing together of people. Music in a live performance setting has what Peter Kivy (1991) calls a “culturally cohesive effect” (p. 91). This concept, in conjunction with the culture that exists within the musical ensemble itself, presents an interdependent group experience that is truly unique. We do not educate children in musical groups merely out of convenience. It is also because of our awareness that we are not alone in the world. Music, in its completeness, is not a solitary endeavor, it is social.

The Purpose of Music Education

Having mentioned three important reasons for music’s inclusion in schools, we now turn to the question of what music education contributes to schooling in general. This is an extremely broad area, and for the purposes of this discussion I will focus upon my particular area of specialization, which is instrumental music. Of special interest to me is the fact that instrumental music is almost exclusively an elective in the public schools. In other words, students choose whether or not they will study music. I find it interesting to think about the reasons students may “elect” to take a course of study–and particularly why they elect to return in subsequent years. Much of what I will discuss is based upon by own observations during my 9 years of public school teaching–what Bruner (1996) might call “folk psychology.” I have found this type of observation to be extremely helpful as I fuse it with my studies in an effort to form my personal philosophy.

The Concept of Reward

When students make the choice to study music, I believe they do so because they believe it will be worth their time and effort. But that is question begging–where is the payoff, the reward? I believe there are three types of satisfaction or reward that students seek: Affirmational, social, and musical. We will look briefly at each of these areas as they apply to both students and teachers.

Affirmational Reward

 

It is my experience that students desire regular affirmation as an integral part of the learning process. Ways of receiving affirmation include, but are not limited to: Competition, verbal/non-verbal feedback, and grades. Affirmation through competition can be seen through seating tests, entry into “higher” ensembles, contests, etc. Competition can easily become the focus of a performance-based class–we all know of at least one rehearsal room that is loaded with trophies. In my own experience and studies, I have come to agreement with Johnson and Johnson, as well as other researchers who have shown that cooperative endeavors can include competition, but cooperation is most successful when the competition is external and not amongst the members of the group. For example, I have found great benefit in the rotation of part assignments because it allows for a shared sense of leadership as the students aim towards a common goal. I noticed early in my teaching career that “seating” the students did not seem to help the morale of the group and in fact made the students reluctant to assist in each other’s musical progress.

However, when I taught marching band I was an advocate for competition (in addition to the more traditional service and school-spirit roles). I felt that competition between schools was healthy–and consistent with other activities in the school (that I considered marching band an extracurricular activity was key in the decision to compete). This was an especially important experience for those students who were not athletically inclined/motivated. Competition is a reality in our society, and therefore should have a place–a healthy place–in our schools.

Instructing the 'cello

Verbal and non-verbal affirmation is a necessity in any classroom setting, but particularly for students who elect performance-based classes. Performing daily in front of peers and adults can be a highly intimidating experience. On the positive side, affirmation from peers and adults can be a strong contributor to self-confidence. When I resigned from my high school position I received many letters from students, many of whom made mention of the fact that I affirmed them in ways that encouraged them or made them feel good about who they were. It was then that I realized more fully how important affirmation is to students. Sometimes, in an effort to “get the group ready,” teachers (myself included) find themselves too busy to dedicate time to affirming students. This generally indicates a misunderstanding of the educational environment, and specifically calls into question “whose musical experience is it anyway?” But more on that later.

Non-verbal affirmation includes facial gestures, body language, and the like. It is important to remember the deflating power of a sideways glance while conducting (or the dreaded “look of death”). Conversely it is important to remember the affirming power of a smile or nod. Lastly we must remember that all humans enjoy the non-verbal affirmation known as applause. Teachers would do well to remember that, most times, the applause for which they are bowing is intended for the students seated behind them. It is also important to note that, in my opinion, students can tell whether you are taking the bow for them or for yourself.

Grades have been a source of debate for some time. I will not take part in that debate here. I will simply state that assessment is in fact a form of affirmation, and can be a particularly tricky area for music educators due to the subjective nature of performing on a musical instrument. When a student answers “1493” on a social studies exam (concerning Christopher Columbus), it does not take much convincing for him to understand why the answer is “wrong.” But things are not so objective when we evaluate tone, articulation, and so forth. The fact is that society has placed grades in high regard, and therefore students consider their grades to be an indication of their self-worth–it is a form of affirmation. Therefore parameters must be clearly understood by students, and assessment must be regular and structured to reflect the learning experience.

Social Reward

Some aspects of social reward are very obvious. In the high school setting it is typical for students to have been playing an instrument for five years or more. To gather daily with friends year after year and do something fun(!) in school is quite a treat. Every year I would ask our seniors to list their favorite events or moments while in the band program. Time and again, friendships were listed among the favorite memories. It should not be a secret (nor should it be discouraged) that fellowship is an important component of performing ensembles. As previously mentioned, working together toward a common goal is one of the distinguishing factors of the performing arts, and the fact that friendships are cultivated through this learning environment should be cherished and nurtured.

Other social rewards include aspects of citizenship such as self-discipline, accountability, status, and responsibility. While these are clearly extramusical benefits, they are benefits nonetheless and should not be discounted–rather they should be touted, especially because they are important concepts of our society. The important point is that all extramusical benefits should be an outgrowth of the search for musical reward.

Musical Reward

Horn

We now turn to what is, at least to this educator, the most critical type of reward. But the challenging part of musical reward is in its definition. I believe that many music educators, if asked what musical rewards their students experience, would cite many of the clearly extramusical rewards already discussed. Indeed in many discussions with my colleagues I have heard of the benefits of teamwork, discipline and the like, which are “only available in band” (choir, etc.)–and are therefore musical rewards. There is a semi-logical reason that many music educators cannot come to grips with true musical reward, and I will discuss that point later. For now I must outline what I believe constitutes musical reward. And once again, this subject could very easily serve as material for and entire dissertation and perhaps more.

I have been grappling with idea of “discovery” or “truth-finding” in music. There are many terms that, I think, run along these same lines. Bruner (1996) refers to “meaning making,” Reimer (1989) to “knowledge of,” and Elliot (1994) “self-knowledge.” We can talk about aesthetics, praxis, constructivism, and so forth, but what I am getting at is not so much the Most Important Thing About Music, but rather the moment in time when an individual comes to a musical understanding, and the associated feeling of satisfaction (reward) that comes from this realization. The musical understanding is “truth” for this individual, for what we come to fully understand in music (or anything) becomes added to the things that we hold to be true. And the greater the  struggle, the greater the satisfaction. It is about experiencing music cognitively. I believe this problem solving/discovery approach aligns with Dewey’s views about experiential learning, because without such revelation or discovery there has been no real “experience.” The other important benefit of this “umbrella” is that it allows for many different philosophical ideas to be incorporated. Bowman (1991) has cautioned that perhaps we have become too rigid in our philosophical beliefs, and in doing so have denied our students the opportunity to experience music from a more pluralistic view. It is interesting that teachers can have such strong philosophical allegiances when many times even the authors themselves are the first to say that they do not claim to have all the answers, but more about that some other time.

Whatever the focus of our teaching–which should be determined by the music currently being experienced anyway–the goal should be to lead students to moments of musical reward. And ultimately it is their desire for musical reward that we are looking to cultivate, for this may be the only musical benefit that they take with them. Students who can play an instrument at a highly skilled level will not sustain our musical culture (most do not continue to play after high school) unless they have developed a desire for musical reward. I believe that a desire for musical reward will last, preparing citizens to consume music of the highest quality and partake in cultural/musical experiences long after they have left the rehearsal room. This has everything to do with replicating our society.

The Danger of Folk Pedagogy

Ironic as it may seem, the biggest obstacle between students and musical reward is the teacher. Much of this is due to what Bruner (1996) calls “folk pedagogy.” While most would agree that schooling contributes significantly to the replication of society, we must realize that there is not a magic filter that extracts the good from the bad. Just as a mother realizes she has become just like her mother when she yells “because I said so” for the first time, so too are teachers inclined to assume the ways of their former teachers. No matter how effective undergraduate curricula may be, I believe that the influence of former public school teachers cannot be underestimated. While in many cases this may be of benefit, we must nevertheless strive to analyze the ways we were taught, while at the same time constructing our own individual philosophies.

The Teacher’s Reward

1971 NWBBA trophy

I think I have made it clear that, while there are many types of rewards that music students can reap, musical rewards should be at the core. In fact, I believe that the other types of rewards will come quite naturally as the teacher focuses upon musical rewards. But more on that later. What I want to discuss now is this. What is in it for the teacher? Is the reward structure the same as that of the student? Clearly the affirmational and social structure is not the same for the teacher–at least in the classroom. But what of musical reward? Should the teacher desire and reap musical reward in the classroom? This is an important point that deserves careful consideration.

Largely due to folk pedagogy, it seems quite natural for the music teacher to “realize” a musical composition. That is, the teacher will oftentimes make all decisions regarding the expressiveness of the music, in addition to the usual corrections of notes and rhythms. Reimer (1989) feels that this takes creative artistry away from the students.

A curriculum claiming to be artistic, or musical, or creative, must be a developmental series of leanings about how to get better at being artistic, musical, creative. Creativity cannot be conceptualized as being the sole prerogative of the teacher-director, the students being artisans who only carry out his or her artistic wishes. The students must share in the creativity, under the insightful, unifying governance of the teacher. It will be difficult for many performance directors to give up complete ownership of creativity to become nurturers of it. But when they do, they become music educators . . .(p. 193).

And so it becomes clear that the reward for teachers is not musical at its core, but can be found in the musical rewards of the students. This is both a selfless and counter-intuitive act for a teacher-conductor, particularly if his/her previous teachers seized musical rewards for themselves. Everything in music majors’ pasts tells them that, upon graduation, it is their time. It is their turn to ascend the podium and create the music. In reality, a music educator will allow the musical experience to be explored and “directed” by the students. The true educator may not say “play softer here,” but might ask “what do you think about the dynamics in this phrase?” Does this mean that the teacher gives no direction whatsoever? Dewey (1938) cautions teachers from gravitating too far to the other side of the issue:

The plan, in other words, is a co-operative enterprise, not a dictation. The teacher’s suggestion is not a mold for a cast-iron result but is a starting point to be developed into a plan through contributions from the experience of all engaged in the learning process. The development occurs through reciprocal give-and-take, the teacher taking but not being afraid also to give. The essential point is that the purpose grow and take shape through the process of social intelligence (p. 72).

Just as the math teacher does little good for students by simply providing the answer, so we must be willing to let our students discover their  musical way with our guidance (which is different than our direction). But, as long as we continue to be the ones to “take the bow” and stand on the podium, the temptation to direct the students will always be there, especially when we know that we can create a better product through didactic means. We must not fool ourselves into thinking that, because the ensemble sounds “good,” the students have experienced the music. Indeed I think it is completely possible for an ensemble to present an excellent sounding performance without knowing much at all about the essence of the music they are performing. It is not our place to merely manipulate our students musically, nor teach them the part devoid of learning the piece. While it might be acceptable (even preferable) for the professional ensembles to be dictated to, it is not much of an experience for the educational ensemble.

Furthermore, when the director is reaping the musical rewards, he or she is more likely to manipulate the students through the other forms of reward. For example, a director might hold weekly seating tests, not for purposes of musical growth per se, but because doing so will insure that the students practice their parts–laying the groundwork for a “great” performance (and greater musical satisfaction for the teacher). Oftentimes students are so exasperated by this process that they are relieved (instead of joyful) when the concert is over. I can think of few educational injustices greater than this.

Not only should teachers make room on the musical path, but the same holds for affirmational and social rewards as well. Anyone who has hung around the “pub” at a music convention knows that some directors take bands to competition not because they believe it to be a healthy experience for their students, but because they are satisfying their own needs. The same can be said of the director who programs a certain composition because “all the college directors are programming it.” There are many other examples, but I believe these few are enough to raise the following questions. Whose experience is it? Can we be selfless enough to get out of the way and allow our students to reap and desire the rewards associated with their co-operative efforts?

Conclusions

It is the responsibility of our society to educate our children. Education should include all that we hold valuable, which unquestionably includes music. Within music education we have a responsibility to offer students musically rewarding, performance-based experiences. Performance, if it is to be musically rewarding, must be coupled with broad-based understanding, which only comes through in-depth experience in the realization process. Solving musical problems and discovering musical truths are facilitated by educators who understand that their own musical gratification must be relinquished and supplanted by a desire to facilitate their students’ musical rewards.

 

References

Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bowman, W. (1991). A plea for pluralism: Variations on a theme by George McKay. In R. Colwell (Ed.), Basic concepts in music education, II (pp. 94-110). Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado.

Britton, A. (1991). American music education: Is it better than we think? A discussion of the roles of performance and repertory, together with brief mention of certain other problems. In R. Colwell (Ed.), Basic concepts in music education, II (pp. 175-188). Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Elliot, D. (1994). Music matters: A new philosophy of music education. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Kivy, P. (1991). Music and the liberal education. Journal of Aesthetic Education 25 (3), 71-93.

Kliebard, H. (1985). What happened to American schooling in the first part of the twentieth century? In E. Eisner (Ed.), Learning and teaching the ways of knowing (pp. 1-22). Chicago, IL: The National Society for the Study of Education.

Reimer, B. (1989). A philosophy of music education. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Photo attribution:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mtsofan/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Thoughts on Wind Band Repertoire

Today a colleague in my area reminded me about Stephen Budiansky and his Washington Post article from 2005. I had been meaning to write about his views and our current state of affairs in wind repertoire, so here goes...

 

I have previously stated that, next to building trust, selecting repertoire is the most important thing we do. From that post:

Keep in mind that there is a very good reason that the vast majority of compositions go out of print within a few years. You should spend more time researching and choosing repertoire than you do in score study (and you should do a lot of score study, right?). If you are a young teacher you should rarely perform a piece that is less than five years old. Later in your career you will understand why this is essential. Music that has stood the test of time has done so with good reason in most cases. Let the profession help you in this regard.

As Budiansky discovered after the release of his Washington Post article, this subject is considered a "third rail" in the band world. It's basically our version of Social Security reform efforts. Consequently he received some terse feeback from some composers, publishers, and even music organizations. But I agree with him that our profession needs to be courageous and spend time in honest dialog about this subject. I have attached Budiansky's most recent thoughts at the bottom of this post. If you are a band or orchestra director you should definitely read it, after which a strong look in the mirror will be in order. At the end of the document he makes some recommendations to which I would like to provide some response and additional thoughts:

1. get rid of festivals, contests, grading of works — all of that apparatus that encourages us to look at music as assembly-line fodder rather than as art to be evaluated and embraced for its beauty and artistic significance

The point I resonate with is competition. Generally, I don't believe in mixing competition with concert band or orchestral ensembles. That is not to say it doesn't make kids prepare more effectively... it often does exactly that. But in my mind competition is really an evaluation of the teaching, and all too often directors make the mistake of believing that adjudication is about the students. If you don't believe that the judges are in the room to judge your teaching, you really shouldn't be going to contests. Even if you do understand that, it still takes a very mature group of students to understand it, and even then it is difficult for them not to place ratings and trophies at the top of their priority list.

Add to that the unacceptable venues (almost always  gymnasiums) and the fact that most directors rarely adopt the adjudicators' recommendations (but are quick to point out mistakes on the recording to their students), and you see why I not only resist taking my students to contests but also stopped adjudicating such events. To me it puts students in a untenable situation whereby focusing on the joy of music making is highly improbable, and that just doesn't interest me. I do however value input from respected colleagues, so I regularly bring clinicians to my rehearsals and afterwards (privately) I ask for the truth about my teaching. This allows me to continue to improve and at the same time brings benefits to my students without the distraction of competition.

Having said all that, I do believe there are non-competitive festivals out there that can fulfill two essential components for performing ensembles: A venue designed for music performance, and a knowing audience. If you can't get your kids to one of these types of events, then consider starting such an event, or renting a true concert hall once a year.

Due to the fact that the "grading" of music has become inconsistent and (at times) misleading, I tend to agree with Budiansky that we need to rethink stamping a "difficulty level" on wind band music which, by the way, does not even take place in the choral world, nor most of the best orchestral repertoire. Good directors can evaluate the difficulty of a piece by reviewing the score.

2. start teaching music teachers about music and how to make aesthetic judgments about music

This is, far and away, the most important point Budiansky makes. Our colleges and universities have largely failed undergraduates in this critical area. There are only a handful of schools that have a dedicated class in repertoire study and evaluation. Most schools briefly glaze over the topic as part of a larger methods course. In my opinion the vast majority of undergraduates leave college without the slightest clue on how to evaluate the merits of the extant repertoire, which is why they resort to the latest publications, or what they themselves played when they were students. (There is also a larger problem here that deals with the lack of public school teaching experience by many of the professors teaching music education courses, but I have to leave that for another time.)

There is also a bit of presentism that must be considered when we are talking about excellent repertoire that has stood the test of time. As Budiansky has pointed out, many pieces that are considered to be the "best of the best" today were not well accepted in their time. Further,  there were certainly many compositions by many composers that lasted no longer than many of the "school" compositions of today. But of course we don't discuss those because we simply don't know anything about them... they were lost over time. Therefore I'm not convinced we have more "bad" music being written today... there's just no way to know how much bad orchestra music has been written over hundreds of years.

Finally, what is "popular" and what is "legitimate" music is a moving target. For example, nearly any Sousa march is today considered to be of the highest order, yet in his time marches were the popular music of the day. He used as treats for the audience after playing his more "serious" compositions or transcriptions. Naturally, the audience loved the marches and perhaps more importantly school bands loved to play the marches because it was the most current music you could play (like a garage band of today being able to play a John Mayer song). Ask your students how many of them listen to marches on their iPods. You get my point. Aside from military bands, there really are no full-time professional concert bands today and even if there were, we wouldn't see teens lining up at the train station to greet them like they did in Sousa's day. The idea of relevance in wind band repertoire needs further thought and discussion as we also discuss what makes a wind band composition worthy of study.

3. play a lot of stuff in class that you never plan to perform but which it is important for students to be exposed to as part of their education. Worry more about teaching music and less about technical perfection

I wholeheartedly agree with this recommendation. It has everything to do with the investment of time that leads to musical dividends, and resisting the programming of repertoire that is too far beyond the current abilities of your students. We've all been there, and we have to improve. That way the music students do present can be played well.

4. absolutely play new works and original works for wind band but evaluate them against the entire competition: only include them in your curriculum if you honestly believe they’re as good as the best of the last 1,000 years

While this point may reveal Budiansky's lack of expertise in music education (he is a writer/historian and holds a math degree from Harvard) it is on the right track and should not be dismissed out of hand.

As those of us in the band profession know, the wind band movement is much younger than the orchestra medium. This presents us with some real challenges when it comes to repertoire selection, especially in light of modern percussion instruments and techniques that leave much of the older wind band repertoire lacking (and most orchestral transcriptions from "1,000 years" ago).

While many teachers can justify having percussionists sit out for certain pieces, or play parts that are far easier than the winds, I struggle to  justify it. If we assume that only a small percentage of the "in print" repertoire is excellent (perhaps 5%?) that percentage drops dramatically when we try to identify repertoire where winds and percussion are treated equally. In a professional ensemble it doesn't really matter if you don't use all of your personnel on a given piece, but in education it does. Nevertheless, Budiansky's point remains: we must evaluate all repertoire carefully and only play the very best, and it needs to be an excellent experience for the entire ensemble, not just the winds. Those pieces are out there, but it takes time and effort to find them.

5. stop letting the for-profit merchants dictate curriculum, repertoire, what you can play at Midwest, what you’re allowed to utter at a MENC conference. Put educational and artistic goals, not the profit motive, back in the driver’s seat. Publishers are not evil people; they are not the ultimate root of the problem; but their interests are never going to place artistic and educational merit ahead of their bottom line. That’s your job as educators and directors. You really have to take a stand on returning educational and artistic decisions to the hands of the people who have no conflicts of interest

The bottom line is that publishers are going to publish what teachers want to purchase. If the colleges and universities teach undergraduates how to properly evaluate, identify, and purchase only great repertoire, what do you think the publishers would make available? Many of us are personally acquainted with some of today's successful wind band composers. Nearly all of them have written at least one or two excellent works, works that should be purchased and performed by the vast majority of groups. Keeping those works in print is good for the profession, good for students, and sends the right message to composers and publishers.

It has always been true that difficult music (for nearly any medium) has a hard time getting published because publishers do not feel the interest level will be strong enough to warrant the investment. They are not completely wrong about this. The good news is that today's technology is making it easier for composers to self-publish. Take for example some of the recent works of Kenneth Snoeck which are well-crafted, equally challenging for all sections, and available direct as pdf files. I believe we will see more composers use pdf publishing for their works that, for whatever reason, are less "publisher-friendly," and that is good for us.

As far as the Midwest Clinic, that is an event that was built on a partnership with the publishers from year one. For those of us who have performed there, you know that going into it, and if you don't agree with it, you don't apply. What it meant for me personally was hours upon hours of sifting through new repertoire to find pieces worthy of the experience. It isn't easy but it can be done.

6. if you don’t treat music as a serious, curricular, academic class, then there’s no reason to expect the administrators, parents, and students to do so. If you treat it as an athletic event or a group activity rather than as something worthwhile in its own right, don’t be surprised that it — and you — then get no respect

I can't find anything to disagree with or add to. Spot on.

7. most of all: dare to criticize! it’s a sign that your brain is functioning. And if somebody’s feelings get hurt, they’re in the wrong business anyway

Yes, I think we should speak frankly about repertoire. But more importantly we need to take a strong look at what our colleagues are performing, because what we believe is manifested in what we do, not merely what we say. Seek out the directors that you respect and find out what they are programming. This is one reason I started the BDG Twice-Taught List. Pieces that are taught multiple times by successful teachers should carry weight with other teachers. Many teachers, regardless of their age, would be well-served to duplicate the choices made by these teachers. And why not? It's not a competition, right? There is absolutely no shame in giving your students the same great repertoire that other fine programs are utilizing.

So Mr. Budiansky, while I know you have received some criticism from some over the years, I thank you for your candor. You have raised some very important points that deserve careful consideration. We know that music is not made in isolation. Composers, publishers, ensembles, teachers, and audiences are all part of the collective endeavor. But as Budiansky rightly says, thicker skin is needed if we are going to make the best choices for our students.

 

 

Don't Mind Me, That's Just My Heart Breaking

Free A Child's Cry

Yesterday one of the largest school districts in Illinois said it intends to cut 164 staff, a move which will reduce the music teachers in the district by about 50%. As a bellwether for the state, it is a flat out scary decision to see and should concern all arts educators in Illinois. Superintendents don't just communicate with one another about whether they should take a snow day. Rest assured a green light for deeper arts cuts across the state was just lit. If District 204 (with two GRAMMY recognized high schools) thinks a 50% music reduction is acceptable, who is next?

Congress acted swiftly to save our largest financial institutions, telling us that the country was on the brink of another great depression. I don't disagree that we were, however fast forward a year and Wall Street has miraculously paid out over 18 billion dollars in bonuses. In one short year Wall Street has moved from the edge of the cliff right back into their Central Park condos. Meanwhile the states are under water dealing with the continued tax revenue fallout from the housing bubble which was largely caused by the inappropriate lending by many of these same financial institutions. Ironic? Something isn't right with this picture.

Worse yet...and in classic legislator fashion...the problem is now being passed on to our children. Every time there is a political campaign we hear about solving spending problems so they are not put on the backs of the next generation, which is nearly always an empty promise. But this time it is far worse: They're not passing on a broken system (like Social Security), this time politicians are making decisions that impact the education of students right now, today. They have no problem using children as leverage. In Illinois Governor Quinn is holding education hostage in an effort to get a tax increase. But even if he gets an increase it won't be enough to fix the damage already inflicted. Illinois is not alone,  the education funding problem is a national epidemic. And where is Congress in midst of all this? Stalemated in a healthcare debate.

A bailout for AIG? No problem. A bailout for our children? Pound sand, we're too busy pointing fingers. And what about the White House? It seems they are too busy praising the firing of teachers and creating a Race To The Top to notice what is really happening. Does anyone really think that test scores are going to improve by increasing class sizes and cutting the creative arts? Talking school reform in the midst of state budget crises is like arguing about best practices in fire prevention while your home is ablaze.

The old adage is that when education funding is cut, the arts are first to go. True, but we must realize that there is far more to it than fewer concerts. We are robbing students of essential means of developing their thinking, creativity, and expression. This isn't about teachers, it isn't about the arts, it is about stunting the intellect of the next generation. We know that the next generation will need to be more creative to deal with the myriad of problems being passed on to them. We're currently making certain that they won't be equipped to deal with them.

Don't mind me, that's just my heart breaking.

Three Pillars of Teaching Music

Pillars of Education

In my mind there are three pillars to successful music teaching: Content, Craft, and Concern.

The Content Area: Music

Perhaps you had a music teacher who was organized and dedicated, but didn't understand how to select repertoire, create a beautiful ensemble sound, or catch the little details that make music leap off the page. Teaching music requires a deep and unwavering commitment to serving the music. Any great teacher must be passionate and knowledgeable about their content area, and for us that is music. How much time do you spend researching repertoire? Is your ensemble balanced, and if not, why not? What weaknesses in your training need to be addressed? How expressive is your conducting? If I asked your students, what would they say about your musicianship?

The Craft: Pedagogy

We've all had a teacher who was knowledgeable about the content but didn't particularly care whether or not we learned anything. The stereotypical case is the performance major who picked up the education degree as a "fall back" position. Another example is the director who considers the ensemble as their own personal tool for professional achievement. Teaching is an honor, and in music education it is our job to teach students to take ownership of their own musicianship. It takes constant reflection, trust, research, and planning for the sake of one's students. Being a solid performer yourself is not enough. You must have command of ensemble techniques, a solid philosophical foundation, and a clear sense of whose musical experience is the priority... yours or theirs. If I asked your students, what would they say about your teaching?

The Concern: Students

I hear music education majors and younger teachers talking about whether or not students should like them. This is really a very simple issue. The question isn't whether students like you or dislike you. The question is whether students believe you are concerned about them. Notice I didn't say you should like them, I'm suggesting you need to care about them. If you genuinely care about your students, guess what? They will like you. It has nothing to do with being friends with them. It has everything to do with valuing them as individuals. Stop looking at an ensemble as a singular entity and take notice of the individuals who sit in front of you every day. What do you know about them? If I asked your students, what would they say about your concern for them...not as musicians, but as people?

These three areas show us why teaching is one of the most difficult professions. Being a content expert, mastering the craft, and caring for each and every student is an absolutely exhaustive endeavor. If you are truly pursuing the profession in this manner then you know you earn your salary each and every day. No one expects you to have the three C's in perfect balance. What is reasonable to expect is that you're always striving to improve. It's not any different than what we expect from our students.

Keep looking in the mirror, keep the faith, and never give up.

HS and MS Concert Band Composer Graphs

Here are graphs showing the top composers being programmed this semester by high school and middle school band directors around the country. If you would like to enter the repertoire you are teaching please stop by our Google Spreadsheet and enter it. There are nearly 500 700 800 900 entries now, and the results update this chart automatically, so please check back in the coming weeks. NOTE: The purpose of this data collection is to reflect current trends, nothing more. You must draw your own conclusions.

High School Chart:

 

Here is the Middle School Chart: 

 

Authenticity in Music Ensembles

I'd been mulling over a post dealing with what it means for an ensemble (and its music) to be honest and/or authentic. I know it's based on trust. You can't make meaningful music without trust. But beyond that I hadn't written it because I just didn't have my mind fully wrapped around the entire concept.

And then I saw this video. What else is there to say? It's all right here: Trust, Honesty, Authenticity.

Amazing.

Understanding Free Brain Space in Ensembles

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Yesterday I led a discussion with some university music education majors. At one point I was talking about practicesightreading.com, which I use regularly with one of my band classes during our pre-rehearsal routine. It's a very useful site that provides single line rhythms which I project on the screen in our rehearsal room. A question arose from one of the college students about whether working on rhythm devoid of pitch was de-contextualizing rhythm, perhaps even making it irrelevant. I thought it was a great question and an opportunity to discuss what I like to call (very unofficially) "Free Brain Space." There really wasn't enough time to answer fully so I thought I would follow up here.

If you have been teaching for at least a few years you are familiar with the situation whereby students leave out important musical aspects when they are struggling with technical details that they have not yet mastered. Continuing with the subject of rhythm, I know that when students are focused upon the rhythmic complexity of a passage I rarely hear accurate articulations, dynamics, blend, and intonation. Since they are using almost all of their processing for rhythm, there is not enough "free brain space" for these other essential items, so the overall performance is lacking. My goal is to help students master various technical issues to the point that those things are "second nature" at which time they are able to devote their attention to the details that make music more meaningful. If too many plates are spinning they are going to be in "survival mode" whereby it is nearly impossible for them to attend to much beyond their own part.

A lesson I have used in the past to make this point is one where I give two students different textbooks and ask them to read aloud simultaneously. I ask them to try to listen to the other student while they are reading their own text. After a paragraph or so I stop them and ask what they remember. Usually they are able to remember a little about what they themselves just read, and almost nothing about what the other person was reading. I ask them to "try harder" (sound familiar?) and start a new paragraph. This time is quite interesting, as invariably both readers end up pausing their own reading as they try to understand what the other person is saying. After this paragraph it is usually the case that they latch onto one or two words or ideas that the other person was reading, but they remember less of their own content. The soon realize that it is impossible to attend to both of these tasks at the same time.

The next thing I do is take one textbook away and replace it with something very familiar, like the Pledge of Allegiance, but I don't tell the other student what they are about to hear. As both students read aloud at this point, things are quite different. The student with the pledge knows it so well that she can focus more upon what the other student is reading, and the student with the textbook instantly recognizes the pledge. Lastly I ask both of them to recite the pledge. As you might expect, they automatically recite it together and begin to negotiate on the pacing and inflections in real time.

Although not an exact correlation to the way music works, the students are able to make the connection that when their own responsibilities are mastered, it is easier to attend to other things that are happening around them. "Free Brain Space" is an essential component of successful music making. So I suggest to you that the reason many school ensembles give lackluster performances is because students are playing music that is individually too difficult. They are using the majority of their processing power to "survive" their individual responsibilities. They might learn their part, but they never really learn the piece. That is something we must think about as teachers. What is the value of learning the third clarinet part to the Persichetti Symphony versus having an understanding of the entire work?

As an aside, I (conversely) believe the main reason that percussionists get a bad rap for behavior is because their parts are often too easy (or absent altogether), which means they have plenty of "free brain space" available for other things, and they do indeed find other things to do when put in that situation. Ensemble directors need to spend more time finding repertoire that properly challenges all the students in the ensemble.

I used the term "Free Brain Space" years ago, before I had any idea what it was really called. For those of you who are interested in the more official terms, what is really happening here is helping students to acquire procedural knowledge. Michael Polanyi is a chemist-turned-philosopher who talks extensively about "ways of knowing" beyond the more traditional types of knowledge that are demonstrated via pencil and paper. Naturally this has important meaning for those of us in the arts. For a quick overview (and extending) of Polanyi's thoughts I suggest you take a look at Fred Nickol's paper. A quick quote from Nickols on the subject of procedural knowledge:

 

Developing Procedural Knowledge

We are talking here of skill development, specifically, the acquisition of explicit, declarative knowledge as the basis for skill development. Often this works as follows:

1. We are presented with a description of a way to perform a task.

2. We practice it, perhaps haltingly at first but our proficiency improves with continued practice and it benefits from feedback.

3. Finally, we reach the point at which our ability to perform the task is automatic, we no longer have to think about it.

 

Sound familiar? Of course, this is exactly what musicians are working to accomplish every day. And once we get to the point where a particular passage (or the entire third clarinet part) is mastered, we no longer "have to think about it" which frees us up to attend to the entire piece. Suddenly the ensemble is better balanced, playing more in tune, and creating a more exciting performance.

All of that is a very long way of saying that using practicesightreading.com is one way of moving rhythm from "declarative" to "procedural" knowledge. If the goal is for students to learn the piece, not just one part, we need to work towards more procedural knowledge.

Listen to this post:

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

Teaching to the lower ninety five percent

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This Friday I will be speaking to music education majors at my undergraduate alma mater.

I'm not looking forward to it.

That may sound odd, but it's true. When I taught at the college level I was passionate about the need for undergraduate students to take Philosophy of Music Education. I spent the better part of the semester unpacking the assumptions that music education majors bring to college, most of those assumptions being formulated (naturally) by their own high school experiences. By the end of the semester I was hopeful that some of them had at least considered a different way of viewing their future profession. I would routinely tell them that many of things we discussed would not "click" until they were in the field, occasionally during student teaching but more likely a few years into the profession. In this "why do I need to know this" generation, this requires a massive amount of trust, trust that I cultivated over time. Planting those seeds that would take root years later was essential and as I said it took many weeks of persistent, thought provoking questioning and dialog, not to mention a continued follow up in subsequent years. Many college faculty members think that philosophy should be reserved for graduate study. I think that is far too late, but sadly most undergraduates across the nation do not take such a course.

So this week I will have about one hour to "enlighten" a group of music education majors, one hour to somehow make a lasting difference. It seems one of the main reasons for inviting me was my 25 Things About Teaching Music and Education. That article is a summation of everything I've learned and been thinking about for the past twenty years. Any one of the twenty five points is worth several hours of discussion by itself. You see my dilemma.

If you've done any amount of presentation work, you know how to do the magic tricks that get everyone engaged, laughing a little, and leaving an hour later with good feelings..... that rarely turn into lasting change. That doesn't interest me. In this one hour session with what I'm sure is a typical got-it-all-figured-out, mainly (like myself) trumpet-playing music ed. group, I'll be lucky to get one point to stick with them. So what should that be?

Well, for those participants who read this post before Friday, you're getting a sneak peak (not to mention proving yourselves by doing some preparation prior to the discussion). What I want to talk about is this: The way that most music education majors arrive at the decision to become music teachers is diametrically opposed to the reality of what most public school students need.

Great, that should be a very inspiring talk.

But the facts are the facts. If you look at the way most high school music programs are structured, they consistently reward the very "best" music students.

  • Students sit in chair order from strongest to weakest.
  • Students who get a first place at solo contest are given medals, certificates, or trophies.
  • The Drum Majors are heralded and given (oftentimes too much) teaching responsibility over their peers.

Each spring the "senior soloist" performs (usually with a very weak accompaniment from the band or orchestra), and the audience is informed that this senior will be attending such-and-such university and will major in music education. Everyone nods knowingly. The inspired student heads off to college, taking all of those experiences with them, and is typically met by faculty members that taught a little public school (usually five years or so) before leaving to pursue their dream of teaching at the collegiate level. This leaves the music education major in a situation where their beliefs about how music programs should be approached go largely unchallenged, as their former high school teachers usually have far more practical experience than most professors. Five years later (even though you were told it would be four) the student emerges ready to go out and create a near carbon-copy of their high school program that will inspire and empower the few, producing one or two future music educators per year and garnering accolades for the program. And so it goes. The problem?

What about the other ninety five percent of the students?

Are we really supposed to be in the business of gearing our programs to the top five percent? To read that statement it simply rings as ridiculous. Yet that is exactly what happens more often than not.

It's always interesting when my own graduates go off to college and send me an email that usually includes a statement like "everyone here was a drum major" or "I'm surrounded by people I saw at All State last year." Right. Young people who are inspired to teach music usually get to that point because of the wonderful opportunities they had. They rose to the top, they achieved, they loved it. It makes perfect sense. The problem is that we are perpetuating a cycle whereby music programs are designed to inspire and reward the few. As teachers we know that the main purpose of public school music is not to prepare students to be music educators. How could it be? At most only five percent of our graduates will enter the profession, and even then there are not enough jobs to go around.

Out of the remaining ninety five percent of the students, the vast majority will never perform again after high school. What exactly are those students getting that makes our class invaluable? Are we focusing our attention there, both in the profession and in our college methods courses? Or are we continuing to buy into the thought that as long as the band, orchestra, or choir is "successful" that the experience will be meaningful to the lower ninety five percent automatically?

Music education majors need to grapple with this subject if they are going to be able to break the cycle of teaching to the top, and get focused on the learning of all students, especially the "lower" ninety five percent. Music education needs to be relevant and meaningful now more than ever before.

So that's what I'm going to be talking about. Wish me luck.