Pedagogy and Products June 26, 2015

As a music teacher, every week interesting articles come across my desk filled with the latest tips and news on the music education front or pedagogy (which is defined by as the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods.) In this new column, I will distill tips from the best of these articles and include the links to the full articles for further study. I will also highlight new products that can enhance your experiences in teaching, playing, or studying music.

First this week is a really interesting blog post written by Peter Greene on the Huffington Post Education Page entitled “Stop ‘Defending’ Music Education.” Greene points out the fact that as educators who are pushed to help students achieve minimum state educational standards, music teachers are quick to jump on the bandwagon and tout reports equating music studies with higher scores in math and better standardized test results. While Greene feels that music studies are an integral part of a well-rounded education, he suggests that we should instead be promoting music as valuable in and of itself. “There are so many reasons for music education. Soooooo many.” Greene says. “And, ‘it helps with testing’ or ‘makes you do better in other classes’ belong near the bottom of that list.” He goes on to say that this type of attitude is especially disheartening when it comes from musicians who have spent years perfecting their art and who get so much joy from inspiring young students. “…it’s extra sad to hear it come from music teachers. Just as sad as if I started telling everyone that reading Shakespeare is a great idea only because it helps with math class.” To read the entire blog post, check it out here.

British composer and educator Jeremy Dibb presents basically the same viewpoint, but tackles it from another angle—that of semantics. He says as music teachers we can actually be contributing to the devaluing of music education simply by using the common phrase “playing an instrument.” Instead, he feels that we should emphasize that studying an instrument or taking voice lessons are valuable educational experiences, not “play.” In Dibb’s words, “Why do some people resent paying music teachers a reasonable amount of money for their expertise and experience: Is it actually our fault? Does all this talk of ‘playing’ a musical instrument send out completely the wrong message to Councilors (sic), schools and parents, not to mention students?” Instead, Dibb says that as instructors, we need to stand up and promote our experience as qualified educators who are worth the money that parents pay for lessons. While the internet is filled with YouTube videos created by amateurs promoting their personal websites and“teaching” techniques, do you really want to entrust your child’s (or even your own) education to an amateur or someone who is simply volunteering their own version of “expertise”? This point from the article sums the issue up nicely, “When you go to the doctor, do you want to see a qualified and experienced doctor or a volunteer? When you fly away on holiday do you want the pilot to be qualified and very experienced or a volunteer? When water is pouring through your ceiling and you need a plumber are you happy to get a volunteer?” Here’s the link to the full article.

Finally, while there are plenty of amateurs offering up their own vocal programs, there is quality material out there as well. One program I have come across recently is the free, three-part video vocal workout titled How to Sing 101, from professional voice coach Kerri Ho on her website The Songbird Tree. In the program, Ho divides her presentation into three individual video lessons which she titles “Get Grounded,” “Take Flight,” and “Sing.” The video series starts with Part 1: The Foundation; then moves on to Part 2, which presents exercises which help to build range and flexibility. Part 3 includes exercises to help warm up the voice in preparation for singing. The reason I like this series is because it is comprised of simple vocal exercises which fit in with the concepts taught by the instructors here at Falls Music School. These are the basic drills employed by many qualified vocal instructors and are an excellent way to get in some extra practice between weekly lessons. To get the lessons, you have to subscribe to Ho’s website, but you won’t be bombarded with emails or prompted to spend money on expensive training or CD packages. Check out Kerri Ho’s website, the Songbird Tree by clicking on the link here.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for weekly updates. If you come across an article or blog post you’d like me to check out or a new music innovation or product, feel free to email me at this address:

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