Why Grapes?

Why music? It seems our profession has felt obligated to explain music's value for decades, yet (not surprisingly) has failed to come up with a concise, decisive answer to this perplexing question.

I don't think it can be answered...I don't think it needs to be answered. There are many things whose value cannot be defined, and yet they are clearly valued.

Take grapes. Ever notice that no one ever says "Why Grapes?" Clearly we can describe how they are used, but is that the essence of grapes? Seriously now.....why grapes? Could we survive without them? What is the unique value of this vine-grown goodness? Is there such a thing as Grapes For Grapes Sake?

Even though there is no clear answer for "Why Grapes?" their value is demonstrated each and every day in the human desire for grapes, whether alone or included in a variety of ways in other food and drink. No one worries about Grape Advocacy, but an awful lot of growers worry night and day about the quality of their soil and vines, temperatures, and watering regimen. And rightly so. If the grapes are sour, people will not want them. There will always be a market for wonderfully sweet grapes in numerous varieties, whether or not we can answer "Why Grapes?" See the line of thought here? Think about it.

Are we asking...and worrying...about the right questions when it comes to music education? Perhaps rather than trying to answer questions that can't really be answered, we should focus more on the quality of our instruction, our repertoire, types of course offerings, and our learning outcomes. Those are areas with questions that NEED answers, and in fact lay the foundation of value we're so worried about in the first place.

Grow excellent grapes.
1 response
We also need to examine our educational blind spots. We may be trying to improve the engine (nothing wrong with that) when the tires are flat (oh oh). In the case of music education, the engine is notation, method books, and top-down instruction. We do it that way because it's easy to organize, standardize, and grade. What's missing is anything that is messy, imaginative, and do-it-yourself. If we can't notate it, it doesn't exist; or has little or no value. We play (and judge) scales the way we do because it's easy to do it that way, not because it's much good. Music making has too much of a medicinal quality to it and too little music or music creating in it. People would not be terribly interested in being forbidden to have conversations about topics that interest them and just read written scripts to each other, but that's exactly how we teach music. So we raise generations of players who can't talk with each (but who are very good at reciting), have only a superficial knowledge of music, expression, and technique, and who are soon terrified of the thought of doing otherwise. We need to do both notation and creative music; earliest music instruction should be almost entirely aural/creative with notation trailing along some time later and in small doses. Exactly the way we learn our native languages. Imagine.... the music that will be made when everyone (finally) has a voice!