Look it's really simple: A course is not an activity

Recently I've been very disheartened by some stories I've been hearing about concert band courses being lumped in with clubs and sports teams when it comes to eligibility mandates, fees, and other policies. Granted, there are many school-sponsored music groups that are bonified clubs (instruction takes place soley before/after school and is not part of a course) but all it takes is a little time to study the structure of any particular music program to see that there is almost always a mixture of courses and clubs. Blanketing club policies over an entire department may be convenient and even appear consistent at some level, but the behavior is averse to learning outcomes when certain guaranteed essential learnings are rendered optional...namely by subjecting students who register for a music course to an eligibility policy designed for extra-curricular clubs and athletics.

Ensemble courses are built on the premise of interdependent learning. In fact in my opinion ensemble courses are the most authentic cooperative/social learning environment, even though those educational movements are presented as novel. Ensemble students literally rely upon each other second by second in the problem solving and creative processes of building and bringing music to fruition. No bench players here...every student is involved in simultaneously learning while shaping the music. Complicit in each learning cycle are culminating public performances, and typically these performances take place outside of the school day. These performances are "co-curricular" assignments meaning they are (a) required and (b) taking place outside of the scheduled meeting time for the daily course. Public performance opportunities are the only way for students to gain the authentic understanding of what it means to be a public ensemble performer...having your peers rely upon your contribution "live" as the music is presented to the listeners. Co-curricular assignments are not unique to music performance courses, but they are certainly more regular because they are germane to the music performance learning cycle.

It is this last factor that ends up becoming a point of confusion for school boards, administrators, and governing organizations who tend to think that anything happening outside of the traditional school day transforms a class into an extra-curricular club. It only takes a little logic to see how this is wholly wrong in the case of performance courses. Calling a course fee for musicians an "activity fee" or asking the band director to "bring the band to play for us on Friday" further blurs the understanding of co-curricular versus extra-curricular. Imposing eligibility requirements on music courses is clearly misplaced. In what other course offering do students get temporarily removed for doing poorly in another course? Think about that. Eligibility policies were instituted to make sure students prioritize their schoolwork. By making concert performances an optional part of the curriculum... an activity unto itself...we are saying that the learning does not continue there, that performances are not a capstone of a learning-and-teaching cycle. Music teachers know this is patently not the case and most folks within the educational community will realize it as well if they take the time to think it through.

It is incumbant upon every teacher and music organization to work towards educating all stakeholders about the interdependent nature of ensemble courses and the ways their co-curricluar components relate directly to curricular outcomes. In ensemble courses we are teaching music through performance. Preventing students from meeting course requirements not only impacts the individual but alters the learning outcome for all students in the course, and not for the better. A course is not an activity.


From one of my comments below regarding how to reverse this trend...

"For starters, authentic curriculum development that clearly demonstrates that both rehearsals and performances are essential components of the learning process, because ensembles are in fact vehicles of "positive interdependence." When we are of the unfortunate mindset that nothing can be measured in these situations (the misapplied stance that "you can't grade participation") then we have placed ourselves into a questionable situation whereby our rehearsals and concerts quite literally have no value. Cooperative learning research is clearly showing that you can... in fact, must... assess throughout the process. And remember that "assess" does not always mean "graded" (though at times it certainly can be). But do we? Where is our evidence?

We can say that rehearsals/performances can't provide individual assessment, and we can say it is too difficult or takes too much time, but the bottom line is that if the proof of learning lies in the assessments (and that is where the profession is clearly headed), and we only have assessments from individual playing tests and such, then we havelittle if any proof of learning when it comes to the students' role within the ensemble. The next logical question of course is, then why is it a class at all? What are they learning in there?

We know that many students and directors continually assess (especially formatively) but we have to get a lot better at intentionally describing and building it into our curricula so it is intentional and aimed squarely at the standard of students becoming a self-sufficent ensemble musician (playing alone and with others, a varied repertoire). Then it will become clear(er) that you cannot pick and choose parts of the curriculum and still achieve the standard.

We all have a lot of work to do, including myself. Competition applied to courses is definitely a problem, something I have always tried to avoid to best of my abilities while looking for the best performance opportunities for students."

Reading Music: News for Music Educators, May 25, 2011

Click the link below to view the online version of this eBook, or scroll down for eReader downloads.


Articles and blog posts from around the web that are part of my daily reading as a music educator.


* The Long-Term Cost Of Cuts To Arts Education  (Thomas J. West)

* Going To Work: Students Experience A Glimpse Into Professional Performing  (Thomas J. West)

* Inadequate Indoctrination (or, a practical instance demonstrating why scales matter)  (elissamilne)

* Crisis Management - What To Do When Your School Board Proposes To Cut Your 
Music Program  (Thomas J. West)

* Fundraising For Non-Profit And Scholastic Organizations Using Social Media  (Thomas J. West)

* Save Our Schools: Immediate Action Needed In Pennsylvania  (Thomas J. West)

* Quote Of The Day: Churchill "The Most Important Thing About Education Is Appetite"  (Thomas J. West)

* Helpful Resources for Horn Playing and Teaching  (Kyle Freesen)

* eXe learning  (Phil)

* The Chase Is On! Support Music Education Organizations In The Facebook Chase Community Giving  (Thomas J. West)

* Another Pennsylvania Music Ed Program In Jeopardy: McGuffey School District  (Thomas J. West)

* Quote Of The Day: Anonymous "Failure To Plan On Your Part Does Not Constitute An Emergency On My Part"  (Thomas J. West)

* Music Practice Tip: The Devil Is In The Transitions  (Thomas J. West)

* Great Performances - Paul Simon Fan Performs Duncan  (Thomas J. West)

* SoundTree Keyboard Lab Curriculum by Alfred  (Barbara Freedman)

* A Common Beginner Band Problem: Improper Articulation  (Thomas J. West)
0A* Those Who Can Teach - Those Who Cannot Pass Laws About Teaching  (Thomas J. West)

* Great Performances - Mariinsky Clarinet Club Plays Frackenpohl's Licorice Licks  (Thomas J. West)

* I'm A Band Director Group On Facebook - A Dynamic Community  (Thomas J. West)

* Wow! The National Jukebox is Amazing!

* 16 Ways to Make Yourself Unfireable - Yahoo! Finance

* Monetizing A Music Education Blog  (Thomas J. West)

* Want to Build the Home-School Connection? There's an App for That!

0Top Tips for Transcribing Music

* ODE - 2011 Best Communities for <b>Music Education</b>

Creativity, Compliance, and Conformity

Let me begin with the following line of thinking:

Success at the highest levels of any profession requires creativity...finding new and better ways to do something. And if that's true, empowering creativity should be of the utmost importance in education.

Make sense? Think about any profession, and within that profession think about the person who is considered the most successful of all time. In nearly every case I'm willing to bet the person's creativity is what distiguished them.

But not only is creativity undervalued in schools, in my opinion schooling is actually hostile towards it. If you do a little research on the successful person you were thinking about earlier, I'll bet they either: Didn't perform well in school; didn't finish high school/college; or at the very least their true interests had to be developed away from school altogether. Am I right? Can you think of anyone at the very top of their field who raves about their time in school and credits their education for their success?

To be sure, there are many people who contribute to society in positive ways, and in no small way due to their education. Furthermore we can agree there are many (far too many) unsuccessful people who never completed school. So by and large we know that dropping out of school is not a viable choice. But when we look at the very best of the best, It seems clear to me that our education system was an annoyance to those folks, if not actually at odds with their goals. That just doesn't seem right, does it?

The thing that strikes me about our education system is how it is so heavily structured around compliance and conformity. We are so busy trying to get kids to do "what they're supposed to do" and act the same way that we forget that this exactly the type of thing that dimishshes the chance of anything truly special happening...in school.

So if you are a teacher, what are you doing to foster each student's creativity? If you are a music teacher, are your students involved in bringing music to fruition, or are they just taking orders? If you are an administrator, are you too worried about conformity to spend some time empowering tomorrow's leaders and innovators?

I'm not an expert on this by any means, it's just something that has been on my mind. I'll close with one more little irony. Isn't it true that school should be the place where the best tools and methods for learning are employed? Now think about the way schools are fretting about/supressing smart phones and Web 2.0 in our buildings. Where are kids having the richest learning experience today? If you aren't sure, ask them, they'll tell you...it isn't at school.

Newsflash: The train is pulling out of the station, but we're still talking to the students about how to behave when (if) they board it. All aboard folks, all aboard.

Reading Music: News for Music Educators, May 9 2011

Click the link below to view the online version of your eBook: 



Articles and blog posts from around the web that are part of my daily reading as a music educator.


* Talking About Music….  (elissamilne)

* Great Performances - Cee Lo Green Thank You Video For Volunteer Firefighters  (Thomas J. West)

* Pennsylvania GOP Plan Increases Education Funding  (Thomas J. West)

* The Anatomy Of An Effective Music Ensemble Conductor  (Thomas J. West)

* Fine arts are no fr
ill and deserve funding » Corpus Christi Caller-Times

* Great Performances - Peter Hollens And The Swingle Singers Poor Wayfaring Stranger  (Thomas J. West)

* Is It Time to Unplug Our Schools? | Lowell Monke | Orion Magazine

* Collaboration is Key for Award-Winning Student Jazz Combos | Being musical. Being human.

* Steve Jobs On Educational Leadership (Sort Of) - Teaching Music in the 21st Century

* Neuqua, Waubonsie again receive Grammys - Chicago Sun-Times

* The Cutthroat Curriculum

* Muti's retu
rn to CSO leaves hall abuzz with the excitement of old music and new

* How Muscle Memory Works and How It Affects Your Success - Lifehacker

* YouTube - mnozil brass slow motion

* White House Panel Calls for 'Reinvesting' in Arts Education - Curriculum Matters - Education Week

* Call To Action: Save The Music Education Program At Marshalltown Community College  (Thomas J. West)

* New Chapter in My Life  (Carol Broos)

* Wind Band Composer Snapshot: David Maslanka  (Kyle Freesen)

* Quote Of The 20Day: Thurman "Ask Yourself What Makes You Come Alive"  (Thomas J. West)

* Grouch: some teaching notes from the composer  (elissamilne)

* Life Lesson #12: The Love of Music  (David Ahrens)

* ARTSblog » Blog Archive » Unpicking the Equity Knot in Arts <b>Education</b>

* Grading. Does It Really Make Sense?  (Roger Whaley)

* Ten reasons why teaching the arts is critical in a 21st century world - Philadelphia, PA, United States,  ASCD EDge Blog post

* Music Students Embrace The Joy Of The Creative P
rocess  (Thomas J. West)

Reading Music: News for Music Educators April 11, 2011

As always, scroll down for pdf, ePub, and Kindle files that you can download.

Thank you for using Zinepal. Click the link below to view the online version of your eBook:



Articles and blog posts from around the web that are part of my daily reading as a music educator.


* Great Performances - Chicago Symphony Orchestra Performs Elgar's Nimrod  (Thomas J. West)

* CMEA 11  (Barbara Freedman)

* Pennsylvania Public School Music Programs In Crisis  (Thomas J. West)

* A Symphony Returns

* Students Become Immersed in Augmented Reality Games

* Live Perf
 ormance - A Great Learning Experience For Students  (Thomas J. West)

* DSO contract approved, but pay cuts may not be enough

* Flash Mob Protests Cuts To Music Education - Las Vegas News Story ...

* What Would You Say In Your Own TED Talk?  (Thomas J. West)

* The Metropolitan Opera for iPad  (Music)

* Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 2011 Connects Us In Important New Ways  (Thomas J. West)

* Voices of the World: Virtual Choir 2.0  (Yoon)

* Can’t Make
 It to the PMEA Conference This Year? No Problem!  (dougbutchy)

* Allentown School District Cuts 250 Jobs In Support Of A New Vision  (Thomas J. West)

* Arts & Culture: American Right  (Yoon)

* Spencer's Scratch Pad: 10 Ways to Help Students Ask Better Questions

* What Comes First: Depression In Teens Or Emo Music? : Shots

* Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir will be unveiled Thursday

* They've Never Met, But 2,051 Singers Perform Together

* Nu? Is This 2nd Ave.? No, It’s
 Lincoln Center

* The 7th International Conference for Research in Music Education ...

* Wind Band Composer Snapshot: Ralph Vaughan Williams  (Kyle Freesen)

* Mr. Spacey Goes To Washington - Defending The Arts From Federal Cuts  (Thomas J. West)

* Simulating The Concert By Recording Your Ensemble  (Thomas J. West)

* A Brief Rant About No Child Left Behind  (Thomas J. West)

Whatever Happend To Liberal Arts? or... Why Do We Pressure Kids To Specialize So Early?

A guest article by Keith Walker, Band Director at Zeeland High School

So this is the beginning of my favorite time of the year - class sign-ups for next school year have begun.  That special time when the eighth graders get indoctrinated by the powers that be, by their folks, and by society, that NOW is the time to decide on what you are going to do the rest of your life, which college will prepare you the best for that, and what you need to take in high school to achieve those goals.  Then my colleagues and I spend the next several weeks telling them the things we believe, and the poor dears get all confused...


But a couple weeks ago we focused my HS Band class discussion more pointedly: how much does what you do in high school actually prepare you for your career?  See, the question came about because one of the best players and coolest kids in the band, currently a junior, is contemplating not being able to take band next year.  Law school is in his future at this point, and there are a couple classes that he feels would better prepare him for this.  And there is really nothing at all wrong with him thinking that; I once wanted to be a lawyer, as most of my students know from my ranting about not owning a BMW by now.  But here were my thoughts on the matter, in no particular order:


1.  I know far too many people who are not doing anything close to what they thought they would be doing when they were in high school.  One of the best and brightest stars of the ZHS Performing Arts Dept. in the late 90's is now an attorney at Varnum in GR.  That big glass building that you see as you approach downtown from Holland.  He was in Madrigals, on stage as an actor, and played French horn in Symphonic Band and Tenor Sax in Jazz Band.  Named to the MYAF Jazz Band as Lead Tenor his senior year.  Went to WMU as...  A JAZZ STUDIES MAJOR.  Hardly a pre-law track.  And certainly nothing in high school prepared him for his career.  Or did it?  More on that later.


2.  Another amazing musician received a music scholarship to Hope College, where her undergrad studies were pre-med.  She is now a doctor in Cincinnati.  Talks to me frequently about how her med school interviewer talked an awful lot about BAND and MUSIC in her interview.  Not her grades; not her aspirations for medicine.  Her CLARINET.  Even today she gets introduced to folks and they are told about her musical talents.


3.  Student #3?  About to graduate from Purdue this spring with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering.  Literally Rocket Science.  From Purdue, the same place that gave us Neil Armstrong (who, incidentally was a baritone player in the Purdue band).  This kid spent a year in the Purdue marching band and ALL FOUR years in jazz band.  As a non-major.  Which he had to be - you can't major in music at Purdue, yet there are over 1,000 students in the music programs.  How does that work?


4.  Last school year I was so amazingly proud to see TEN former students on the field at the Big House when WMU played Michigan.  TEN kids between the two marching bands.  Music majors?  Two.  How on Earth will being in marching band at college help you with your major?


And there sits the big question: what exactly is band worth?  I once thought it was a good idea to tell folks how it will help them in Math or English.  Of course, so will taking more Math or English classes.  Or that it was good teamwork experience.  But since there were tons of athletic teams, that bill could be filled elsewhere, too.  Higher test scores?  Study more.  (Or the Mozart Effect was flawed research; take your pick.)


So here's the thing: high school, and especially experiences like band, prepares you for LIFE.  Band specifically gives you experiences you can't get anywhere else.  My Symphonic Band is playing Bach's "Fantasia in G Major" for the concert coming up next month.  And they are geeked.  They love this piece.  ("American Overture" they're still not sure about, but that is for another rant.)  You can't get a Bach experience anywhere else.  Performing that music gives you something unreachable in virtually all other areas of life, far more than reading about it or listening to someone else play it.


 But we don't worry about that any more.  Nope, now it is all about academics, getting into a good college, and being what you are going to be the rest of your life.  And why?  Competition.  We have to be BETTER than everyone.  Always.  Japan outscores us on everything.  Answer?  More math and science.  We need to raise test scores to prove that Michigan is a great state to live in.  Answer?  More testing, and more four-year requirements.


I called Notre Dame last fall.  Asked about a hypothetical kid that maybe didn't have the three years of language required for entry into that fine institution, but had four years of band.  I was told that although no one gets rejected out-of-hand, it was quite likely that the kid with the language classes would beat out the band geek in a dead heat for the last position in the incoming class kind of thing.  Kind of hurt to hear that, truth be told.  


Even the Michigan legislature, in all of its infinite wisdom, only requires one year of Visual, Performing, or Applied Arts.  And you can get out of that by adding another year of virtually ANY of the other required classes, i.e. taking a fifth year of science, or adding a foreign language.


 And why, really, do we think that turning out kids with more math, science, etc. will prepare them any better for their careers?  Preparing them for careers is not my job.  Preparing them for LIFE is.  How to use their critical thinking skills.  How to work together for a common goal.  How to appreciate the sublime beauty of a passage of Bach, or, for that matter, a passage of Dylan Thomas.  To get them to appreciate art for art's sake, as in, "wow, is THAT a cool painting.  That makes me feel..." and they fill in the blank based on their life experiences.


We had a faculty meeting a few years ago in which a certain student was mentioned.  This young man is now married and a graduate of U of M in Engineering of some kind.  We were discussing the fact that this guy should "be able to go to Gentex and shadow an engineer, or go to Herman Miller and see their R & D folks in action" or other similar things that would "help" him become an engineer.  I said, "no way.  He'll be an engineer the rest of his life.  Right now he needs to have PE, Band, a social studies class, or whatever, so he can do things like carry on a conversation or enjoy the things that make him healthy or just be able to be a member of society."  (He was a four-year band kid, by the way.)


So am I biased?  Absolutely.  But with good reason.  I hear from folks so often about the great experiences that they have had on the marching field, or that they are now playing a piece in college that they heard or played while in high school, or just that band or similar classes/activities meant so much to their lives.  Facebook has not only afforded me the opportunity to semi-publicly rant on this topic but also to re-connect with former students from my earliest days of teaching.  And more than one of these folks has told me that they were so glad to have the experience that band gave them that they wouldn't trade it for anything.  At least two former students are lawyers.  Several engineers.  A doctor.  Many teachers.  A submariner (graduate of the Naval Academy).  Moms.  Dads.  A mechanic/service station owner.  A pharmacist.  Another who will be a coroner some day.  An orthodontist in the making.  And NONE of those careers were helped by taking band.  But I firmly believe that ALL of their lives were.  Or I wouldn't be doing this.


Frank Battisti: Teach Music And You Won't Have To Sell It

This short four minute video is so powerful I'm still reeling. So concise, so profound, and so passionate is the message that I hope you will share it with every music educator you know. It's from a panel discussion at the WASBE conference in 2009. No one is held blameless here...we all have some mirror-checking to do.

Frank, thank you for speaking the truth at a time we need it most. Let's take all the energy we are spending on bucket lists, competition, and empire building and put it into becoming better music teachers and making sure every student receives music education.




First of all, [in] most school systems, the person who has something to do with music is charged with teaching music....isn't charged with organizing band, isn't charged with organizing [a] contest, or winning trophies...those are activities.

The band program has got to be a music education program. We have got to grow music lovers. Kids who love music! Not band, not activity, music. And it starts with the teacher loving music! You are what you eat. You order fruitcakes and...you know...buses...that's not what musicians do. That's what people do who want activities. 

We have got to say that music is essential to the development of every child. Not just the ones in my band, so if I get the budget I want, and the space I want, I'm perfectly happy...I'm NOT happy. I'm not happy till every child has quality music education, because for the full development of that child that's essential. Now, it's not essential that they have activities, they've got plenty of them!

So, we have got to make band programs... music education programs.

Because what happens, is we have band programs...I mean there are millions and millions and millions of kids who've sat for how many years in band programs...who graduate from high school, and they're not... they don't love music. They might love a spectrum of music, but they would have loved that without the band program. The idea of education is taking what a kid loves and [can] do, and expanding it, not taking away anything, but expanding it to a larger world, so that they can appreciate more, they can love more, they can experience more.

So we have to grow music lovers. Then we don't have to sell music.

If we don't, we have to sell it. So if you walk in any lobby of the professional orchestra today, they're selling tee shirts, mugs, everything else to stay afloat. We don't have music lovers...we gotta sell it like Madison Avenue does.

We gotta get serious people, about making band programs, music programs. That means the focus is on helping every single child grow to understand, appreciate, and love music. Now that's a big, big job. And it's easier to dangle prizes in front of kids, so we can say "we're better than everyone else" because we won the trophy.

The issue in art is not being better than anybody else, it's about finding who you are, and being creative. There's no trophies for that, but there's great enrichment and great fulfillment from it.

~Frank Battisti


More thoughts on teaching music.

What I've been reading in January

Here is a sampling of articles I've been sharing over the past week. You can get an rss feed of all the articles I find here


While the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will analyse pieces of music to make them more accessible ahead of their performance, the Philharmonia ...
See all stories on this topic »

The Guardian

Buffalo News
Today, 8:38 AM
School districts already are talking about ending full-day kindergarten classes, shutting down programs like music education and scrubbing all ...
See all stories on this topic »  Read more…
Chicago Sun-Times
Today, 7:47 AM
Though he has since earned a master's degree in music education, Schmidt says he doesn't think of himself primarily as a band director. ...
See all stories on this topic »  Read more…
What kind of music makes us spend the most in restaurants? Photo credit. Extending research by North and Hargreaves (1998), this study investigated the effect of music on perceived atmosphere and purchase intentions in a restaurant. ...
Barking up the wrong tree - http://www.bakadesuyo.com/  Read more…
These kinds of questions would be easier to answer if scientists understood the neural circuitry involved, says Charles Limb, a surgeon and saxophonist who studies creativity and is research director of the Neuro Education initiative at Johns Hopkins ... Dr. Limb asked professional jazz musicians to play a keyboard in a brain imager so he could see what was different about their brain activity when they improvised compared to when they played music they had memorized. ...
Creativity at Work Blog - http://www.creativityatwork.com/blog/  Read more…
... conducted research for Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, and earned a Ph.D. in early childhood music education from The Union Institute ...
See all stories on this topic »  Read more…
There is a myriad of evidence that supports the fact that music education helps kids excel in all academic disciplines," he said. "As much as I support athletics, there comes a point where you can't play football anymore. You can sing in a choir or play in ...  Read more…
And then long-term the goal is to fully restore music education K through 8, which is where our mission is, throughout the state. That will take many, many years. But that's our end goal." That is a lot of instruments. While the foundation fully funded the ...  Read more…
(author unknown)
Yesterday, 10:05 PM
PHOENIXVILLE — Providing children with an opportunity to experience music education at an early age, two Phoenixville area organizations have teamed up to make that goal a reality. Through a $12,000 grant given by the Steel City Blues Society, the Give ...  Read more…
Lexington Herald Leader
Yesterday, 9:45 PM
The Louisville Orchestra, which filed for bankruptcy, will be granted emergency funding to pay salaries owed to its musicians. The orchestra said in a news ...
See all stories on this topic »  Read more…

How modern classical music can still succeed

Image Credit- Roger Bourland music blog.

Alex Ross on Modern Classical Music

I’ve been wanting to write about this article by Alex Ross, published in the UK Guardian in November 2010, for some time now. Ross introduces some of the ideas from his new book, Listen to This, which is sure to garner as much attention as his first wildly popular book, The Rest is Noise.

Articles on classical music’s troubles appear daily in various news publications, so why is this book such a breath of fresh air? Three reasons:

  • Ross is a master of historical detail regarding trends and attitudes toward art in the past few hundred years, imbuing his views with relevance.
  • He is a gifted writer with a knack for vivid and evocative descriptions of classical music, indicating his depth of understanding of the music itself.
  • He is not afraid to lay his considerable reputation on the line to say what few others have said, that the whole culture of classical music is deeply troubled.

I’d like to share a story from my own musical history, which relates to the views of Alex Ross.

Believe it or not, my first exposure to Brahms symphonic music was in High School. Although I had started clarinet at age 12, and had played a few simple solos from Brahms clarinet sonatas, I had not heard or played any of his symphonies.

Then, while attending the Interlochen Summer Music Camp, I was in an orchestra which played Brahms 4th symphony in E Minor, Op. 98. I was blown away by how “modern” Brahms sounded. I had enough musical experience and knowledge to compare his music to other more classical period works up through Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Liszt and some 20th century works such as Howard Hanson’s very romantic 2nd Symphony.

Brahms crams inventiveness into every measure, radically daring harmonies and rhythms tucked into an overall “sensible” romantic style. It seems almost too much to enjoy, at least for a casual, passive listening experience. His music was just challenging enough to my relatively shallow listening sensibilities at the time that he propelled me to seek more and more complex “challenges” of musical puzzles.

I agree with Mr. Ross below, that the entire culture of classical music must untangle itself from the tradition of “easy listening”:

What must fall away is the notion of classical music as a reliable conduit for consoling beauty – a kind of spa treatment for tired souls. Such an attitude undercuts not only 20th-century composers but also the classics it purports to cherish. Imagine Beethoven’s rage if he had been told that one day his music would be piped into railway stations to calm commuters and drive away delinquents. Listeners who become accustomed to Berg and Ligeti will find new dimensions in Mozart and Beethoven. So, too, will performers. For too long, we have placed the classical masters in a gilded cage. It is time to let them out.

Those are hard words to hear for a performing musician who has honed a career perfecting the dusty old classical symphonies. But they are perhaps even more painful words for those who manage orchestras. For they are the ones who must reinvent the business and marketing of orchestral music, selling it to a new audience without alienating the old too much.

Would you like to share practice ideas with other musicians? You could do so at the Practice Café.


 Read more…

Click here to view the embedded video.

American composer and electronic musician Milton Babbitt (May 10, 1916 – January 29, 2011) died today at the age of 94.

Babbitt is probably best known for his serial and electronic works, and for his controversial 50′s High Fidelity articleWho Cares If You Listen. In the article, Babbitt offers his perspective on the role of the modern composer:

The composer would do himself and his music an immediate and eventual service by total, resolute, and voluntary withdrawal from this public world to one of private performance and electronic media, with its very real possibility of complete elimination of the public and social aspects of musical composition.


via Paul Lanksy

 Read more…
(author unknown)
Yesterday, 6:54 AM
John Finney examines the child-centred progressive tradition to create a fresh way of evaluating ideas and practices that have evolved since 1950, ...
www.gowerpub.com/default.aspx?page...1...  Read more…
The SSO performs over 130 concerts to 200,000 people each year,” said Hage. “The SSO provides music and music education to more than 12,000 school children each year.” Past Oneida concerts have included the summer concert 2007, education concert in ...  Read more…
Expo Notes: Jammit lets you play with the pros Jammit aims to get people excited about learning music, especially kids.

   Read more…
Olivia Solon, Wired U.K.
Friday, 12:33 PM
Composer Alexis Kirke has created a duet between subatomic radioactive particles and a live violinist. To make the unusual music, radium is placed into a cloud chamber, a device used by physicists to observe particle trails.  Read more…
As part of the new year I plan on regular articles for all matters concerning music education and technology. Teachers in Australia are busily preparing coursework, lessons and materials for 2011 so I thought I would make available an interesting set of resources I used with my Year 7 & 8 students last year. Mussorgsky [...]  Read more…
iPad Creative
Monday, 7:46 AM
How about this then? Probably one of the most technically proficient iPad recorded songs we have ever featured, this Stairway to Heaven cover, played on the iPhone and recorded entirely on an iPad using Multitrack DAW, shows what can be done exclusively on iOS devices with some careful planning and probably quite a bit of musical talent.  Read more…
McPherson, G. E., Hendricks, K. S.
Dec 5, '10, 7:15 AM

As a part of a larger international mapping exercise to examine students’ motivation to study music as compared to other school subjects, this article draws upon data from a sample of 3037 students in the USA to observe perceptions of values, competence and interest in music study (in school versus outside of school) among music learners and non-music learners. Students were grouped into three grade levels: (a) 6, (b) 7—9, and (c) 10—12. Music learners in the USA had significantly higher motivational profiles for music and some other school subjects as compared to non-music learners. Music interest inside of school was ranked significantly lower than for any other subject, while music interest outside of school was ranked second highest for any subject in grades 6 and 7—9, and highest of all subjects in grades 10—12. This article addresses cultural and contextual issues in the USA to consider how music advocates might better demonstrate the importance and usefulness of music study as an academic course. Practical recommendations include encouraging a broader emphasis beyond performance and competition, and promoting opportunities for autonomous music learning within the school setting.

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This study draws on an expectancy-value theoretical framework to examine the motivation (competence beliefs, values and task difficulty) of 24,143 students (11,909 females and 10,066 males, aged 9 to 21 years) from eight countries (Brazil n = 1848; China n = 3049; Finland n = 1654; Hong Kong n = 6179; Israel n = 2257; Korea n = 2671; Mexico n = 3613; USA n = 3072). Music was studied in comparison to five other school subjects (art, mother tongue, physical education, mathematics, science) across three school grade levels that included the key transition from elementary to secondary school. Results indicated that music as a school subject was valued less and received lower task difficulty ratings than other school subjects with the exception of art. Students reported higher competence beliefs for physical education and mother tongue compared to music and lower competence beliefs for mathematics and art. There was an overall decline in students’ competence beliefs and values across the school grade levels for all countries except Brazil. Females reported higher competence beliefs and values and lower task difficulty ratings for music, art and mother tongue than males. Males reported higher competence beliefs and lower task difficulty ratings for physical education and mathematics. There were no gender differences for values in mathematics. Music learners reported higher competence beliefs and values and lower task difficulty across school subjects than non-music learners. Secondary analyses were used to further explore differences within each of the eight countries. Findings suggest that once students have experienced learning to play an instrument or voice, they become more motivated towards other school subjects. Implications of the findings suggest that advocacy aimed at increasing the values that students attach to music as a school subject may encourage more students to become music learners across a wide range of countries.