Academic journal article Current Musicology

Wayne D. Bowman and Ana Lucia Frega, Eds. 2012. the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Music Education

Academic journal article Current Musicology

Wayne D. Bowman and Ana Lucia Frega, Eds. 2012. the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Music Education

Article excerpt

Wayne D. Bowman and Ana Lucia Frega, eds. 2012. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Music Education. London and New York: Oxford University Press.

All musicians, regardless of their chosen area of study, take on the role of an educator at some point in their career. As Luis Alfonso Estrada Rodgriquez writes, "[m]any musicians devote time in their lives in one way or another to teaching. This is, however, an activity that in many cases was not taken into account in their studies" (240). In particular, music theorists and musicologists often serve as instructors in higher education and, therefore, devote many hours to the pedagogy of music. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Music Education, edited by Wayne Bowman and Ana Lucia Frega--a collection of writings from leading, contemporary music education philosophers--provides a useful resource for those academics of music that find themselves in this common position. In this review, first I briefly provide the historical progression of music education philosophy over the last forty years in order to situate the ideas and themes for readers outside the field of music education. Second, I highlight some important themes within the book, focusing on connections among the chapters rather than addressing them separately. Third, I suggest how academics outside of the field of education may apply it to higher education. Finally, I remark on the connection between theory and practice in this text and music education scholarship and look to the future.

The Context of Music Education Philosophy

Although typically thought of as confined to music in k-12 contexts, music education as a discipline encompasses a wider variety of contexts. As Bowman and Frega note in their introductory chapter, "[s]chools ... are not the only places where music education occurs; nor are the profession's concerns restricted to school-age children in institutional settings" (19). Whether in a garage, where teenagers teach each other rock songs; a bedroom, where novice musicians use recording software to create music; or a municipal recreation hall, where young and old perform in community choirs, bands, and orchestras, the education of music takes place when anyone engages with music, even when there is no official "teacher" present. Because of the diversity of settings, what constitutes music education is not limited to formal education of school-aged students, but includes any situation where people work alone or come together in a social setting to create, discuss, and, ultimately, learn about music.

While the environments of music education are diverse, music education philosophy remains cohesive because of its pragmatic and practice-oriented inquiry rather than theorizing education removed from practice. Educators consider philosophy as valuable only when considered in relation to practice. As Sandra Stauffer notes in her chapter on "place" or context in education,

   If the questions [music educators] ask engage only the remote,
   abstract, and decontextualized, neglecting the proximate, the
   concrete, and situatedness of lived experience--or musical and
   instructional actions, for that matter--then we should not be
   surprised when philosophy becomes a reified entity instead of a
   living practice or disposition. (451)

Music educators' philosophizing is always an applied philosophy aimed at improving practice.

This pragmatic approach has led to a series of distinctions and elisions within the philosophy of music education. For one, music education philosophers are quick to distinguish philosophy--which questions the discipline and seeks new pedagogical possibilities--from advocacy--which is the defense of music education's status quo. But while music education philosophers make this distinction, they do not often distinguish between philosophy and theory, and are just as likely to borrow from Pierre Bourdieu or Edward Said as they are from Aristotle or Nietzsche. …

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