David Gerlenter’s essay, “Music Education Needs to Be a Click Away” (Wall Street Journal, Life & Culture, March 20), petitions for a sea change in music teaching methodology, spearheaded by a much stronger focus on emerging music technologies, in efforts to increase students’ cultural and musical literacy. However, a deep, rich experience with music requires far more than a steady diet of guided listening. It requires professional, trained music educators, in a classroom setting, utilizing a “hands-on” driven approach to teaching a comprehensive music curriculum.
Mr. Gerlenter makes an impassioned argument for the value of identifying more convenient methods of studying the works of classical composers, including Beethoven and Mozart. While it would be foolhardy to quibble with the author’s argument that these works provide a critical basis for understanding the modern Western music lexicon, their digestion by any means necessary is simply not the point of a school-based music experience. Students deserve a deep and rich encounter with music that includes the active experiences of creating, performing, responding, and connecting, because it feeds their soul and helps them develop into complete human beings.
Further, research indicates an impressive list of benefits acquired from a high quality school music experience: emotional awareness, process orientation, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, to name a few. Much more on this topic is available at broaderminded.com.
To be clear, thousands of music educators are actively seeking ways to integrate technology into their teaching; partly, as the author argues, to engender their students’ musical literacy, but also to enable the creative and expressive musical experiences that are so critical for students’ individual growth. This exploration of new digital tools for instruction, while extremely promising, is, however, only one of many valuable avenues in the delivery of school-based music teaching. It is not, by any means, the entirety of the roadmap.
At the National Association for Music Education, we encourage the study and making of music by all. We believe that all students should have full access to robust music experiences that develop their curiosity, creativity, and understanding of the world around them. Technology is one tremendous catalyst for engaging students in a dialogue about the importance of music. Regardless of the Spotify or Pandora of the moment, there is simply no replacement for a dedicated and passionate music teacher in the classroom, when it comes to orchestrating success for all students. Some things will never change.
Director of Advocacy
National Association for Music Education