Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

The Elementary Classroom

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

The Elementary Classroom

Article excerpt

This is the first of what I hope to be a regular installment of observations, ideas, and food for discussion and debate. I thank Lee Willingham for his enthusiasm and encouragement for such a foolhardy commitment. If you appreciate what you read in this column, let him know. If there is something you wish to see included in this column, let me know. If you have a great idea that just seemed to click with your elementary students, I'd love to know about it. I hope to use this column to share ideas for teaching, resource materials, assessment, and food for thought.

How can I keep from singing?

How often have you had a tune stuck in your head? Such a condition is known in Germany as an "Ohrwurm, ("ear worm"). When the children I teach run up to me at recess, or pass me in the hall, and say with exaggerated exasperation "I can't get that song out of my head! I've got another earworm!" My internal response is "what an opportunity for formative assessment" (I don't actually say such a nerdy tiling-to myself- I just make a note of the comment... on a good day.) my verbal response is usually something like "then sing it out! It's great to have a head full of songs." Seeing that response in print also looks somewhat corny, nevertheless, my intention is to encourage children to give voice to the music swimming around in their heads. I want them to live their life in endless song. Throughout my teaching career of 23 years now, I have been well known for singing, whistling, beat-boxing, and performing endless bits of body percussion as I move through the school hallways any time of the day. Parents and staff often remark at how "happy" I must be to be singing all the time. I could very well be humming the Dies Irae from a Requiem, but because I am making musical sounds sans a back up band, in public, without charging any money; it must be because I am "happy" (or "odd", or wired on coffee, or, to the crankier types, "noisy and disruptive" in hallways of buildings built for children, yet for some reason required to be mausoleum quiet). We lead by example. If singing, or any musical activity is something that is only done in the music room, at music time, or in a designated performance venue and only by those designated to perform suitably polished repertoire, then I think we rob each other of the essence of musical expression: that creative, spontaneous, and soul-full desire to connect with and organize our own rhythms and sounds with those of the world around us.

If, Beginning in Pre-school beyond, if we all could shake off the performance model of music teaching, and work toward a regular, inclusive, and perhaps less polished presence in the hallways and regular classrooms of our schools, we could take step toward making music a more natural part of the day.

"One of these things just doesn't belong here..."

The disconnect between school music and the everyday life of the contemporary child has been of particular interest to music education scholars for years., Bartel, Elliott, Froehlich, Gruhns, Jorgensen, Kratus, Regelski and Small are just some of the many thinkers questioning the paradigm that has been the norm for so long. According to many scholars, the current model of music education begins "weeding out" the misfits, beginning at a very early age. By misfits, I mean those that cannot easily assimilate musical curricula using the designated scope and sequence suggested buy prescribed learning outcomes. Given the tone of contemporary philosophical inquiry regarding music education, it would appear that much of what we do in music education effectively excludes children, separating those who "do" from those who "consume." Much to our dismay and somewhat by our own doing, the latter far outnumber the former.

Those nations that currently enjoy so much of the world's riches have at their disposal an unprecedented wealth of musical diversity and accessibility. Yet, like so much else commonly referred to as "industrialized", we have commoditized, corporatized, and horded music. …

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