Did the German School Prepare Me for Grade School? - A Critical Reflection on the Relationship between Music Education Providers and Music Educator Training

By Dorie, Heather | The Canadian Music Educator, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Did the German School Prepare Me for Grade School? - A Critical Reflection on the Relationship between Music Education Providers and Music Educator Training


Dorie, Heather, The Canadian Music Educator


The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates

I am about to conclude my music education program and I want to set up a comprehensive and inclusive program. It will cover a variety of musical genres: from Western Art music to world music, from jazz to rock, from reggae to rap. Likewise, I know that I will teach in diversity of contexts: concert bands, choral ensembles, jazz bands, and general music classes. I will expect my students to perform music, create music, and understand how music functions in the culture from which it has come. Finally, I hope to use current technologies to facilitate the process. It is no wonder I feel like crying out, "But wait a second, I'm just a pianist!" I spent my years of formal music education focused on Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. How has my background equipped me to implement this kind of diverse curricula?

This personal crisis, of sorts, has led me to examine the relationship between post-secondary music education and K-12 music education. I wonder how the focus on Western Art music in post-secondary music education affects K-12 music education and what other factors play into the relationship. It is vitally important to understand the differences between the two institutions because formal music education still functions as the primary feeder system for music teacher education programs. What I have discovered is that I have undertaken a beast of a topic; one that justice could only be done through a dissertation. Still, I feel it necessary to carry out my examination and subsequent essay, because I believe that by forcing myself to ask difficult and relevant questions I might encourage others to join me.

This survey of the relevant issues begins by outlining trends towards diversification in K-12 music education. It is juxtaposed against an exploration of the culture and practices of formal music education through various interdisciplinary lenses. Music educators, informed by critical theory, critical pedagogy, sociology and ethnomusicology have conducted examinations of formal music education. My interest in pursuing these critiques stems from my desire to understand how the culture and practices of formal music education are carried into the K-12 system by virtue of the fact that formal music education programs feed music teacher education programs. While I have yet to fully understand the nature of the relationship between the two institutions, I have grown in my understanding of the related issues and the questions that arise as a result.

Diversification in K-12 Music Education

Heightened awareness of ethnic diversity and folk traditions in music education over the last number of decades has lead to an expansion of K-12 curricula that embraces previously marginalized genres and creators of music. The multitude of article titles written by Patricia Shehan Campbell, for example, is a testament to this - from "Music Instruction: Marked and Molded by Multiculturalism," in American Music Teacher (1993) to "Music Education in a Time of Cultural Transformation," in Music Educators Journal (2002). Music educators in North America are striving to provide musical experiences in their classrooms that are stylistically and ethnically varied. Curriculum documents also reflect a desire to provide varied cultural experiences. For example, the Newfoundland and Labrador music curriculum for K-6 outlines eight key features, including the affirmation of music as an expression of culture. It states:

Musical works are more deeply understood and fully appreciated within the context of the culture of the people who produce them. Learning about music in a global perspective provides the basis for valuing the differences among people. International understanding is a key starting point to valuing the diversity within our own culture. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Music Curriculum Guide: K-6, 2005, p. 5)

Emphasizing the cultural element of music within the curriculum facilitates the students' development in the area of citizenship, both locally and globally. …

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