The Best in Music Education: Preserving Tradition and Envisioning the Future
Jesse Scott, Music Instructor
Posted March 14, 2012
I recently attended a session on 21st century music education where the presenters discussed two popular ways of thinking when it comes to teaching music - and I was delighted to realize that we're having wonderful results through both approaches at BHDS!
One is teaching visually (with notation and theory) through the traditional large ensemble classical model - a standard in music education since the mid-19th century. The other is the more contemporary view that music is an aural art where students need to learn to use the ear to create.
Although the traditional classical model creates a high skill level in reading music, studies over the last 20 years show that most students educated exclusively in this way put down their instruments after graduation and never pick them up again. Conversely, studies also show that exposure to jazz, rock, blues and pop music help develop the ear through improvisation. It is my belief that this “creative” experience is what makes a life long maker and lover of music.
It’s probably no surprise to any of you that although I am classically trained, I am also equally influenced by the music of the last 75 years. I even attended an AC/DC concert at the age of five! When I was asked to design the music program for BHDS Marin 13 years ago, I carefully thought about the experiences that make music a life passion for me. The answer is all of them. But it is the process of creation and improvisation that drives me forward and makes me want to learn more. This is why we have not only implemented elements of the traditional classical model (which is important), but also rock band, jazz band, and a “glee-like” chorus which includes popular music. Most recently we have added new K through sixth grade “core” curriculum to include improvisation and creation in our recorder, guitar and Orff percussion classes.
We are seeing the wonderful results of this varied approach to music education already. Our Zero period ensembles are larger than they have ever been, with well over 100 students participating school-wide.
There are BHDS alumni that are published songwriters. There are several who have auditioned and attended Marin School of the Arts High School. We have graduates who are majoring and minoring in music in colleges, including one who has informed me that he will be majoring in “Contemporary Composition” at Columbia College in Illinois. And did you know that BHDS alumni have performed on the “Craig Ferguson Show” and “Lollapalooza tour”? It is such a pleasure to see our students’ ongoing joy discovering music.
Keep creating music everyone!