Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Rethinking the Band

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Rethinking the Band

Article excerpt

As a high school student, I came to realize that there are two kinds of music in my daily life: the music I listen to in my free time and the "important" music studied in my high school band class. I existed in both musical worlds, crossing between them, but never mixing the two. It was only toward the end of my Bachelor of Music degree program that I began to question why these two types of music had to be separated. I began to realize that, whatever the genre, music is music. This led me to wonder why then, as responsible music teachers, do we often limit our teaching to one or two genres, when so many others touch our lives and the lives of our students on a daily basis? A visit to Toronto's Yonge and Dundas HMV puts this issue into perspective for me. Out of 3 floors, the classical music section occupies just half of one floor. Using popular music in the classroom may not appeal to every teacher, but I believe that being a music teacher means showing our students the whole store, not just the classical section. I became interested in incorporating a variety of genres of music into my future music classroom, but especially popular music.

As part of this quest, I have recently created a unit on songwriting and the creation and marketing of a CD for my music education class. After completing the unit, however, I ran into a surprising obstacle. To what type of music class would this unit be best suited? A key part of my unit was having the students perform and record their newly created songs, to be compiled into a CD. A saxophone or trombone player in a band class could easily write a song, but how would they be able to perform a rock or pop piece on their instruments? In many band classrooms, students often play more traditional rock or pop instruments as well as orchestral instruments, and would aid the other students in recording. What about the classes that did not?

Guitar class seemed an easy choice, as most popular music groups have at least one guitar player. Guitarists, keyboard players, and vocalists would simply have an easier time playing the songs they had written. I struggled about how to adapt this unit to allow band classes to record their songs. In the end, I took the easy way out and designated my unit for vocal, guitar or keyboard. I resigned myself to the fact that my CD creation unit would probably not work in most band classes, but I was still convinced that it was possible, if only I could figure out how.

Ideally a popular music classroom should be mixed, with a few guitarists, a handful of vocalists, a few drummers and various band musicians. In this format the class could be divided into a few small groups or bands, but would still be able to play in as large an ensemble as they wished. However, as one of my fellow teacher candidates reminded me, this could prove difficult in a music room that was designed for a band class, playing as a large ensemble. Even if you could find an ideal mix of musicians, where would all the groups rehearse?

Perhaps the biggest thing that stands in the way of introducing popular music into our classroom can be summed up by one word - band. It is not the band itself that causes the problem, but rather the way we define the concept. For most of us the word band conjures up either a group consisting of guitar, drums, a vocalist, and bass, or a wind band, with woodwind, brass and percussion players. …

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.