Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

A Community Music Approach to Popular Music Teaching in Formal Music Education

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

A Community Music Approach to Popular Music Teaching in Formal Music Education

Article excerpt


This paper discusses the benefits of adopting a community music approach to teaching popular musics in elementary and secondary formal music education settings. The article initially presents the literature surrounding formal music education by describing the characteristics of such an approach to music learning and teaching. The paper then discusses the concept of community music, the characteristics of the activity, and music education in such settings. Finally, the essay offers some reasons as to why a communal approach to teaching popular music in formal settings might benefit music education praxis in both elementary and secondary music education. If teachers adopt community music practices, they must go beyond offering musical styles that interest their students. Adopting community music idiosyncrasies allows students to develop musical competencies that intrigue them through the guidance of educators, and, through musical exchanges with other communities outside the school, pupils can perceive music making as an activity that goes beyond the formal school setting.

Formal Music Education

Wright (2013) categorizes music learning as a basic human right and argues that every person should have access to music education in a meaningful and satisfying way. This claim derives from the idea that humans have always used music as a means of communication (Green, 2012) and that it is therefore inherent in our human makeup (Blacking, 1973; Schulkin & Raglan, 2014). Music education may manifest in a variety of situations (Einarsdottir, 2014). Similar to what has been stated by the UENSCO Institute of Life Long Learning with regards to methods of instruction (Singh, 2005, 2009; Yang, 2015), scholars within the field of music education have identified three forms of music learning: formal, informal, and non-formal (CasasMas, Pozo, & Montero, 2014; Cosumov, 2015; Lonie & Dickens, 2016; Mak, 2006; Wright & Kanellopoullos 2010). Formal music education pertains to a form of instruction in which students systematically develop musical literacy and skills through the guidance of an instructor. This form of education assumes particular roles for learners and educators. Teachers control the learning dynamic and are the bearers of musical knowledge, which they deposit into the unfilled brains of pupils (Pozo & Scheuer, 1999; Pozo, Scheuer, Pérez-Echeverría, & Mateos 1999). Formal music education involves organized and structured settings like schools and universities. Educators base their teaching on a curriculum that aims to achieve goals set by educational organizations and/or government agencies.

Folkestad (2005) states that four characteristics determine the type of music education: the situation, which alludes to where the learning takes place; learning style, which refers to the method, nature, and quality of learning; ownership alludes to who controls the learning activity; and intentionality, which recalls focus of the activity (weather it involves learning how to play music or playing music). Building on Folkestad's work, Veblen (2012) adds one more characteristic-modes of transmission, which pertains to how the knowledge is passed on and describes formal music learning. For Veblen, the physical context of formal music learning takes place K-12 schools and institutions like conservatories. The learning style entails educators planning sequential activities. In terms of ownership, the focus is on teachers and how they teach. With reference to intentionality, the mode of transmission is mainly based on musical notation and atomistic-which means that educators gradually teach musical concepts.

Even though the aforementioned descriptions are accurate, there are some nuances that need to be considered with regards to formal music education. In terms of location, Schippers (2010) states that formal music instruction in Western and Asian countries occur at three sites: ordinary schools, private or public music schools, and conservatories. …

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