Aesthetic / Praxial » Music Education

We are at a critical crossroad in the pedagogy and rationale of a diverse and praxial perspective for teaching and learning in the field of music education. It is difficult in this day and age to firmly root ourselves in one, singular philosophy of what music education is. I think that as both practitioners and philosophers we will learn to form a conceptual framework that views phenomenon through a variety of perspectives and theories. Having said that, we may very well need to have an understanding of the aesthetic concept of music education in order for other viewpoints and philosophies to emerge. For the most part, we have taught or been taught in the aesthetic perception, which results in an aesthetic reaction to cause an aesthetic experience (Reimer, 1970, p. 107).

In the August 2019 issue of the Journal of Research in Music Education researchers Kenneth Elpus and Carlos Abril compiled a demographic profile of high school music ensemble students. 24% of the class of 2013 were enrolled in at least one year of a course in band, choir or orchestra. Less than a quarter of an entire school population took a music class; nearly three quarters of that population did not. In that report, the ethnicities of those participating in music is problematic to say the least.

This study is an indication, not the sole indicator, that we simply cannot rationalize the notion of culturally biased, late 19th century/early 20th century aesthetic premise of arts education, that in the 21st century simply does not pique a sense of curiosity of the culturally diverse 21st-century learner. Although as a result of the Tanglewood Symposium we read the adoption of an aesthetic basis for music education resulted in a singular and cohesive philosophy for the profession, it could be argued that its focus was narrow and would ultimately not accommodate shifting social and cultural realities (Mccarthy M, Goble J, 2002, p. 25).

Situating myself in Curricular Inquiry

In the educational landscape of maker spaces, personalized and project-based learning, and an ever increasingly connected classroom, I have the sense that the opportunity to allow students to explore and create music has never been more attainable in the field of music education. In all aspects of Education, the distinction between teacher and learner is recalibrating from a knowledge reservoir of the instructor and a roomful of passive student receptacles typically thought of as the students. In contrast, as a community of learners, further learning should be perceived as meanings negotiated amongst learners as well as between learners and their teachers (Burnard, p. 21).

Interestingly enough, below the crest that signifies my undergraduate alma mater, San Francisco State University, is the Latin phrase experientia docet (“Experience teaches”).  This statement has continued to reveal its relevance throughout my professional experiences and teaching career. I feel that one of the most important functions of an educator in an academic setting is to provide and create the capacity for students to be engaged in valuable and authentic learning experiences. To Dewey, experiences were moving forces that aroused curiosity, strengthened initiative, and set up desires and purposes. Experiences go on inside a person but also change the conditions under which future experiences occur (Dorfman, p. 39). He wrote, “In a certain sense every experience should do something to prepare a person for later experiences of a deeper and more expansive quality. This is the very meaning of growth, continuity, reconstruction of experience” (Dewey, 1938/1969, p. 47).

Having spent more than half my career as a choral music educator I am well versed in the notion of teaching from the ensemble perspective, although did not matriculate through a tradition music education program and sequence or tract. I often wonder if this integral thread in our university music education programs was in part choice or part by design? In the Role of Music in General Education, Broudy points out that “somehow, he (Thomson) notes, whenever the three functions are combined, performance and the performer always seem to come out at the top of the heap. In this, the arts differ from the standard repertoire of disciplines usually offered as fulfilling the institution’s requirements for general education. For in the more usual hierarchy, scholarship and the proof of it by way of research is at the top; performance is second; and the pedagogy is at the bottom” (Broudy, p. 35).

Is creativity a musical aim? Can student centered learning experiences serve as a focal point when designing activities for both performance based and other contexts in our music curriculum? Some of my favorite experiences as a music educator came from providing the opportunity for students to explore possibilities in the language that is unique to music.


Da capo

Am super excited to share the inaugural episode of Da capo.

This is my foray into podcasting, which has turned out to be a lot of fun! Friend and colleague Stephen Keys and I kept running into each other out on the conference circuit in the spring of 2019. We thought, instead of limiting our conversations to each other out on the road, let’s invite others into our musings and perspectives around Music Education in the 21st century.

Will certainly cross list each episode here, but feel free to follow us and the shows at our Transistor site.

Ubiquitous Learning

“Today’s students will be a knowledge producer, drawing together a range of available knowledge resources – instead of a knowledge consumer, fed just one source, the old textbook. They will work effectively in pairs or groups on collaborative knowledge projects, creating knowledge to be shared with peers. They will continue to learn beyond the classroom, using the social media to learn anywhere and anytime – a phenomenon called ‘ubiquitous learning’.”¹

Here in the first quarter of the 21st century, Education must consider and wrestle with the notion of learning anywhere, at anytime and ask ourselves: how do I fit into my students learning experiences?

¹Kalantzis, Mary, and Bill Cope. “The Teacher as Designer: Pedagogy in the New Media Age.”E-Learning and Digital Media, vol. 7, no. 3, 2010, pp. 200–222.


Apps I can use in my Elementary Music Classroom

At the 2018 CMEA Bay Section Winter Conference I presented a couple of sessions around music and technology, along with colleagues here in the Bay Area. A subject that I feel is somewhat less represented in our community are Apps that Elementary music teachers can use in their classrooms with their students.

So… why not do some digging and offer a conference session that: a) curates a list of Apps to share/offer and b) share the google slides with attendees so they can contribute to the list.

Here is the slide deck from the session, that as of this posting, attendees are continually adding and sharing what they find and use with their students. Need more ideas? Head down to slide 9 for links and a neat way to find ideas on Instagram!

A former student still teaching at my Conference Sessions

At one of my first Music Education Conference Sessions, I wanted to espouse the benefits of a really cool, new web 2.0 piece of software called Noteflight as a cost effective alternative to Finale and/or Sibelius. At that time, I had already implemented and was using with my students and thought: why not have my students share their experiences using the software with the session attendees?

Carlo Izzo ’12 was game! He made this video and successfully supplied the ingredients for me to use at my session(s) on Innovative Technology Strategies for Music Educators. Fast forward to my work in 2018, as well as countless upgrades to Noteflight later, Carlo’s message of ease, practicality, and resourcefulness still resonates with audiences. And, isn’t it an amazing idea when we cultivate a learning community with our students?