Remixing the Classroom: Toward an Open Philosophy of Music Education

Remixing the Classroom: Toward an Open Philosophy of Music Education

Remixing the Classroom: Toward an Open Philosophy of Music Education

Remixing the Classroom: Toward an Open Philosophy of Music Education


In a delightfully self-conscious philosophical "mash-up," Randall Everett Allsup provides alternatives for the traditional master-apprentice teaching model that has characterized music education. By providing examples across the arts and humanities, Allsup promotes a vision of education that is open, changing, and adventurous at heart. He contends that the imperative of growth at the core of all teaching and learning relationships is made richer, though less certain, when it is fused with a student's self-initiated quest. In this way, the formal study of music turns from an education in teacher-directed craft and moves into much larger and more complicated fields of exploration. Through vivid stories and evocative prose, Randall Everett Allsup advocates for an open, quest-driven teaching model that has repercussions for music education and the humanities more generally.


To attend to music today is to find ourselves pushing back the boundaries of
what we have thought of as beautiful music. I still wonder at how unaware I was
of so many frequencies; and I wonder how many remain unheard.

        —Maxine Greene

I call attention to a tone of longing and melancholy in the quotation above. Greene speaks about an awareness of the unseen and unheard, about expanding the horizons of perception and thought, about finding openings in the closed and categorical. Though she passed away during the writing of this book, when I read the passage above, I can still hear her voice: her Brooklyn accent, the timbre of which my Midwestern ears found exotic when, a quarter of a century ago, I first attended her classes on aesthetics and education. She spoke forcefully about the shock of a new awareness and the way new frequencies of thought and experience unsettle the comforts of everyday life. My search for new forms of school and university music education comes out of such a passion, which was enlarged and then funded by Greene’s teachings and, later, further influenced by John Dewey’s and others. This longing has given form to my music classrooms. Sometimes I shape it purposefully in designing an assignment or modeling a teaching event. But often I simply feel it intuitively as I muddle toward an educational objective just out of mind’s reach.

What would it mean to teach from this tonal palate? What would it mean to look beyond the known and knowable, to listen for new frequencies, to suspend the categorical in favor of the unfinished? I want to consider a way of teaching in which outcomes are as unpredictable as they are (currently) certain. I want to be more open in helping students design experiences that fund their needs and wishes. I want to explore what it means to create the irreducible classroom, to profit from a teacher’s unrepeatable moment in time and the confluence of these students with you and me at this place and this time. I hope to assemble a sense of how life and art can lead both teachers and students to explore larger and richer arenas of meaning and experience. I share with Greene the idea that teachers are at their best when they are on the edge between knowing and unknowing, learning and unlearning. I share with Dewey the idea that growth is its own reward, that our capacities as teachers are idiosyncratically motivated, and that the enlargement and enrichment of these capacities, when combined with others, are . . .

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