Global music education in the 21st century
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September 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm #28408
As a doctoral candidate with a major in music education and a minor in ethnomusicology, I’m always on the lookout for resources that have practical strategies for teaching and learning music of diverse cultures for pre-K through college-age students. One of my top three finds is Cultural Diversity in Music Education: Directions & Challenges for the 21st Century . Chapters by the likes of Patricia Shehan Campbell, Peter Dunbar-Hall, Huib Schippers, Christopher Smith, Goran Folkestad, Trevor Wiggins, Rose Omolo-Ongati, and others deeply invested in teaching music from a multicultural perspective offer teaching and learning strategies, reconsideration of long-held conceptions of context and authenticity, and honest consideration of “the challenges posed by music travelling through time, place and contexts.”
An example: Melissa Cain lays out the challenges of global music in an international elementary school, honestly acknowledging the feeling of being overwhelmed by the task when we are untrained and inexperienced in musical cultures not our own. She offers realistic, practical suggestions for how to get started, lays out how the school she teaches at in Singapore approaches global music education, and talks honestly about the challenges.
I close this post with a challenge related to continuity in global music curriculum: how do middle and high school performance ensembles based on western models [chorus, band, strings] incorporate global music into their curriculum?September 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm #28427
I often find that one mistake I have made in my classes and seen in others is trying to take different cultures music and appropriating them into a traditional western model, which leaves the students with an incomplete idea of the reality of those cultures. We have seen it time and time again in jazz music, which is much more based on reading and reciting charts for large ensembles, with a few performers improvising, then its initial tradition, and we are now seeing the same thing happening with Mariachi curriculum, which is more and more looking the same as its classical brethren. In Bridging the Gap: Popular Music and Music Education , Dr. Cutietta discusses this head-on in his afterword, noting how merely taking popular music and transcribing it for wind ensemble and marching band doesn’t really teach popular music.
However, most schools don’t have ways for differentiating global music in this way outside a separate class which even if it could be offered would necessitate steering students toward at perhaps the expense of other offerings. I would posit that this is a good way to include more of the student population of these schools, reach those that are uninterested in taking the more ‘traditional’ offerings.September 16, 2013 at 8:04 am #28846
Sddogg, I really appreciate your comment. In general, the question of authenticity in the music classroom is one that we should continue to explore as a profession. I also find it important to tap into the cultures represented in our schools and let the students themselves share practices that may be more authentic. “Community Music” by Lee Higgins is another valuable text that explores some of these ideas and provides a framework for developing a conscious music making community.September 18, 2013 at 3:39 pm #29150
I have really enjoyed reading these posts. As a music education faculty member, I am curious about how we can better prepare our students to find ways to tap into different music traditions while still meeting the requirements of fairly traditional programs of study. I often talk with my students about connecting to the community by inviting local musicians into the classroom and we certainly talk about and experience music in diverse ways in our methods classes, music history courses, and ensemble performances. I would love to hear ideas about how we can better prepare future music educators to teach with and about diverse music.September 19, 2013 at 10:27 am #29191
I think one of the important parts is knowing your audience. Although there is value in teaching students about things they have no idea existed, there is also the perspective of refusing to teach them what they are culturally biased towards. Los Angeles is a great microcosm of this, where I feel like many music educators really have no experience in the music of their largely urban and/or latino students. I had to spend quite a bit of time getting a specific feel for a lot of music, including playing in a mariachi and a salsa band. It really comes down to the pre-service model to a big extent…if we are locked into filling schedules with strings, winds, brass, and percussion, we are leaving out larger pieces. In a place like Los Angeles or the southwest, there should be a component of mariachi in the training as much as there needs to be marching band methods in Texas (although less so in places with no football culture). Maybe a separate course on specific non-traditional teaching ideas and programs can be a start, but nothing prepares a teacher like actually doing.September 19, 2013 at 10:44 pm #29203
Sddogg, you are absolutely right. Nothing prepares a teacher like actually doing an unfamiliar music. Undergraduate course loads in traditional music education are already jam-packed, and universities distilled in western music theory and practices are reluctant to add to the course load in the effort to train pre-service teachers to teach non-Western music traditions. However, since most of us have to fulfill continuing education requirements, maybe we ought to be steering our students toward learning new musics through various summer programs like the Smithsonian World Music Pedagogy Course, or a session workshop like what Christopher Smith [Texas Tech] has done with Irish trad music, or for those of us who are able to get to Pretoria, South Africa: the kind of in-service training offered by the Centre for Indigenous African Instrumental Music and Dance – all these demand learning and DOING the music in a primarily aural tradition. More and more universities are offering courses in traditional musics from various regions of the world taught by insiders to the traditions. Until our undergraduate music education programs find a way to weave in methods courses for teaching multiculturally, we need to develop partnerships with community musicians and culture bearers [especially family members and friends of our students], get to know musicians at music festivals/performances, and take courses or lessons ourselves from culture bearers in our communities and further.September 20, 2013 at 7:29 am #29205
I’m glad that teacher preparation keeps coming up in this thread. I had a wonderful education as an undergraduate but I wasn’t necessarily specifically prepared for the classes that I currently teach (alternative high school classes). With music and education constantly evolving, it’s difficult to keep up! But, I do think we could do a better job teaching undergraduate music education majors to “think outside of the box” and learn to explore unfamiliar music. They need the tools to know how to explore new types of music and what to do with the music they encounter.December 17, 2013 at 7:27 pm #33911
It seems that most of us feel under-prepared for teaching world music. A very do-able approach to teaching world music is the thematic approach, which is outlined by Huib Schippers in his book Facing the Music: Shaping Music from a Global Perspective.
The thematic approach is accessible for students from all different backgrounds from elementary school students through college. Music from anywhere in the world, and any period, style and genre is explored through themes such as music and fusion, music and technology, music and travel, music and love, music and place, music and dissent, and so on. The point is that we and our students focus on music as it connects to themes/ideas in our lives. Small groups could choose a theme to explore and present accessing audio and video resources, family/community musicians, etc. If anyone else has done this, I would love to hear how it went. I’ll be having a go at it with university students this spring.March 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm #35845
I would highly recommend the Smithsonian Folkways Institute summer workshop under the leadership of Patricia Shehan Campbell. I spent a week in Seattle last summer and had a blast learning how to implement various approaches and methods for teaching and sharing world musics. See this link for more information for this summer’s workshop June 23-27 in Seattle.
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