Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

School Music and Society: A Content Analysis of the Midwestern Conference on School Vocal and Instrumental Music, 1946-1996

Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

School Music and Society: A Content Analysis of the Midwestern Conference on School Vocal and Instrumental Music, 1946-1996

Article excerpt

This article provides an analysis of the session content presented in the first fifty years (1946-1996) of the (Michigan) state music education conference, The Midwestern Conference on School Vocal and Instrumental Music. The purpose of this study was to examine instructional techniques, technology, social/societal, and multicultural trends over the 50 years and to discuss those trends in the context of social and cultural developments of the time. Findings suggest that the largest single category of sessions across the fifty-year period was instructional techniques, followed by social/societal topics, technology, and multicultural topics. Technology and social/societal topics emerged greatly throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as did multicultural topics in the 1990s. Sessions on instructional techniques were prevalent throughout, but declined steeply from 1985-1996.

School music often bears little resemblance to music enjoyed outside of school. This apparent disconnect is often a topic discussed at state and national music education symposia where many argue that school music has become its own entity that rarely outlives the rehearsal halls of academe. Many believe that for music to remain a topic of instruction in schools it should reflect the musical tastes of the greater society. "Based on historical evidence, the most cogent rationale is that which establishes the relationship between society and music education. A music education system cannot sustain itself unless it has a close relationship to the music of the greater society in which it exists."1 Much has been said in past literature about the importance of music education remaining relevant to students' lives. School bands around the turn of the twentieth century reflected this close relationship by serving as a means for young people to participate in activities similar to those of the town bands.2 Kratus3 explains: "Singing schools in the late nineteenth century and the band movement in the mid-twentieth century are unmistakable examples of music education fulfilling changing societal needs. History also tells us that the public's experience of music does not stand still: it keeps moving forward."

The notion that school music should "keep moving forward" to remain relevant to the lives of the students it serves is not new to the profession. Within MENC's 1930 "Statement of Beliefs and Purpose" is the belief that a vital part of one's musical education is the carry-over of school music training into the musical, social, and home life of the community. But in what ways since the 1930s has our profession embraced this call for carry-over into the community?

Purpose

Price and Orman4 point out that conference session content can be regarded as one indicator of "interests, focus, direction, and concerns of a professional organization." This article uses the content of sessions presented in the first fifty years (1946-1996) of the (Michigan) state music education conference as one lens through which to measure Michigan music educators' attention to the carry-over of school music training into the musical, social, and home life of the community. Thus, sessions focused on instructional techniques, technology, social/societal, and multicultural trends are examined and discussed in the context of social and cultural developments of the time.

Content analysis has been used previously within music education as a lens through which to examine the profession's focus. Through analysis of Music Educators National Conference (MENC) biennial meetings from 1984-1998(5), Price and Orman found that the majority of Conference sessions were educational with a decrease in musical performance and research sessions. The authors also found a substantial increase in sessions focusing on industry products and technology within the time period examined. Two years later, the same authors analyzed the content of MENC sessions at the 2000 Biennial Conference and found the content to be similar to that found from 1984-1998. …

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