Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Understanding Musical Identities to Improve Curricular Relevance: An Independent Studio Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Understanding Musical Identities to Improve Curricular Relevance: An Independent Studio Case Study

Article excerpt

FOR INDEPENDENT VOICE TEACHERS, selecting content relevant to a student's real life musical needs remains essential to building a thriving practice. Internationally regarded music educator, David Myers, pointed to a growing relevancy gap between music education and the real life musical engagement and participation of students.1 Composer Libby Larsen addressed the issue stating, "we have a system that has grown up around a particular repertoire that is a really small percentage of the music that is in our world. [Music education] faces a crisis of relevancy to the musical world in which we live."2 Independent voice teachers find themselves awkwardly positioned between the desire to present relevant content and the uncertainty of how to do so for diverse clientele. By taking the initiative to understand students' musical identities and extrastudio musical contexts (musical activities that take place outside of the studio), independent voice teachers can make more relevant curricular choices that encourage lifelong musical engagement and long term studio success.

METHOD

Patrick Jones, director of Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University observed on behalf of music educators, "There is an entire musical underground in which our students participate that is completely invisible to us."3 To understand students' real life musical contexts, he recommended examining the demographics and the musical ethnography (i.e., musical culture) for one's local area and for one's studio, separately.4 Comparing studio demographics and musical ethnography to those of the local population can reveal areas for potential improvement. For example, if one teaches in an area with a significant population of English-as-a-second-language (ESL) speakers, and yet the studio does not contain any ESL students, this connotes an opportunity to expand one's market. Similarly, if a teacher discovers a thriving local singersongwriter scene, yet does not encounter this genre in the studio, it is worth examining whether studio marketing has failed to reach singer-songwriters or whether the studio harbors singer-songwriters who feel compelled to keep this part of their extrastudio musical context secret. Uncovering a clandestine singer-songwriter in the studio could reveal instructional opportunities, such as popular music theory or composing melodies to highlight one's technical strengths.

In addition to examining extrastudio musical contexts, it is important to understand each student's Musical Identity (MI), or the internalized musical role(s), histories, and influences that they perceive as their true musical selves. For example, consider three students who through lesson conversations reveal themselves to identify primarily as performer, music producer, and music review blogger, respectively. Although each student's lessons might include vocal anatomy, technique, and repertoire, their distinct Mis demand different nuanced skills. The performer requires rigorous training in stage presence and interpretation. The music producer needs help developing a strong ear and musical communication skills to clearly direct musicians during the production process. Meanwhile, the music reviewer needs to cultivate strong analytic skills alongside a broad knowledge of music history and vocabulary. In each of these cases, a teacher's failure to explore and understand students' Mis could result in voice lessons that, while otherwise informative, do not adequately prepare the student for her/his extrastudio musical context.

To assemble a demographic profile for the local area, the independent teacher should locate data on age, gender, sexual orientation, race, cultural heritage, physical ability, and preferred languages. This information is available in census records, city and state demographic reports, or area specific sources. To assemble a demographic profile for the voice studio, the independent teacher should present students with a self-reporting survey to complete. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.