Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Engaging and Connecting with Our Musical Communities

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Engaging and Connecting with Our Musical Communities

Article excerpt

This edition features a wide range of topics; from inspiring teaching ideas for your classroom, brass bands, El Sistema programs in Canada, to the impact that music has on premature babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. At first glance these topics may seem unrelated, however, they have several shared undercurrents which are connected, woven together and interdependent. From 'acts of courage', graphic scores to choral programs, each is inextricably linked to overarching themes that engage and encourage students, teachers, and the broader community to actively participate in musical activities. The results can be experienced together as we all share the benefits of the arts in our lives.

In this issue

Douglas Friesen and Pamela Bettger have written an interesting and inspiring way to engage your students in composition through the creation of graphic scores. They suggest various ideas to assist students in the beginning stages of composing a graphic score such as; using your classroom window as the score, having students take pictures of items that are of interest to them, combining visual art and music, and taking your students outside the classroom to improvise with various points of view. This creative activity is full of possibilities and extensions for further learning opportunities, and enables participation from all abilities and levels.

The peer reviewed article, "Adapting the El Sistema Program to Canadian Communities" by Laura Nemoy and David Gerry is a comparison of four Sistema (and Sistema-inspired) programs in Canada. They focus on the ways in which the programs contribute to their communities, and how they have adapted and changed to create a model which is both functional, sustainable, and most importantly, beneficial to the students they serve. In their conclusion, they emphasize that the programs strive to contribute to social transformation through building a musical community. I would extend this notion to include creativity by their leaders, without which each program would not be the success it is today. The four programs they discuss are; Sistema New Brunswick (Ken MacLeod), Sistema Toronto (David Visentin), The Leading Note Foundation (Tina Fedeski, Ottawa), and An Instrument for Every Child - AIFEC (Astrid Hepner, Hamilton Ontario).

Jarred Dunn's article provides a rare and personal glimpse into the teaching philosophy of Seymour Bernstein (piano), a pedagogue who has inspired many musicians. During this interview, Mr. Bernstein discusses many aspects related to teaching and learning music in general, and specific ideas regarding piano performance. He describes the differences between knowledge, craft, and imagination, and even addresses the 'monster teachers' in the profession, and why they are so unhappy. Mr. Bernstein notes that the most satisfying part of teaching is helping students to feel good about themselves, through integrating the musician with the person. He explains how what we practice is 'fed into our muscles' and that 'mechanical practice' produces 'mechanical playing'. This could be extended into classroom teaching, both elementary and secondary. Teachers and students could benefit from finding creative ways of ensuring that the 'mechanical practice' he speaks of does not occur. Mr. Bernstein is an enlightened individual, unique, and a master teacher. He sees his role as an educator to 'merely to lead out [the students'] best qualities.'

Cathy Benedict and Patrick Schmidt offer a compelling article on mindful music teaching, and what they refer to as 'acts of courage'. Through describing their personal journeys as they travelled from the familiar field of music education, to unfamiliar areas during their doctoral studies, they discovered different ways of thinking about the subject matter. They surmised that thinking about the subject area was actually an 'exploration of thinking;' something which they had not done (or been encouraged to do) in previous years. …

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