Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

On the Sociology of Music Education

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

On the Sociology of Music Education

Article excerpt

Of all the foundational areas that support and explain music education, sociology is the least understood, the least promoted but is the most interesting and the most important. Most music teachers encounter their first glimpse of sociology a survey course in the sociology of education during their pre-service teacher education program. Sadly, these courses seldom pay attention to music education issues and even more sadly often offer little more than a quick look at a few important definitions in the discipline along with a quick peek at a few important sociologists and their theories of social action.

Sociology in music education, however, is the study of where the action really is. It is about power - who has it, how they get it, how they use it. It is about music - what it is (and you thought you knew that already), whose music counts, why does it count, what music is excluded and why. It looks at the structure of schooling that explains the place of music as a discipline in our public schools. It looks at the nature of becoming a musician - not by practising more but how we interact with others in our society to assert an identity as a musician. In summary, it is the study of all of the really important stuff that we need to know to promote the best kind of music education for our students.

It is to that end that the editor of the CMEA/-Acmé Journal has asked me to support the publication of this column.

For the first of these brief commentaries I would like to report to you that the study of the sociology of music education is alive and well. The best evidence that I can provide for that statement is a brief report on the 5th International Symposium on the Sociology of Music Education held on the Memorial University campus this summer.

In April 1995, a small group of international scholars was invited by Hildegard Froehlich, Stephan Paul and Roger Rideout to the University of Oklahoma (Norman) for the first of what would become a continuing series of symposia on the sociology of music education. In April 1999 the second of these also took place in Norman, Oklahoma. Then, in 2003 the symposium moved to the University of North Texas in Denton followed by a fourth in 2005 in Amherst at the University of Massachusetts. As a result of these symposia, four worthwhile publications of Proceedings have emerged.

In July 2007, Memorial University in St.John's hosted the fifth of these symposia with substantially greater numbers of applicants than ever before. In fact, the original plans for a symposium running from Monday to Wednesday proved to be inadequate and die symposium had to be lengthened by a whole day to accommodate the many fine papers adjudicated for acceptance. In the end, more than thirty scholars from around the globe presented papers. We had presenters from Canada, the USA, Ireland, Greece, Wales, Finland, and Norway. In order to really appreciate die impact of the symposium, however, it should be noted that papers were also accepted from Denmark, Sweden, England, the Philippines, Germany, and Australia but for a number of legitimate reasons these people could not attend.

The other remarkable feature of the symposium is that nearly a third of the presenters were doctoral students, one of whom at least has graduated since the event. …

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