Saturday, March 3, 2018

Music Is the Standard

Sometimes in workshops, the question comes up: "But how do you teach to the National Standards?" One answer is this:

Standards came from musicians thinking about what happens inside a good piece of music. Things like dynamics, accent, articulation, meter, etc.  All fine and good. But putting these in a list and using them to create lesson plans on what’s important in music is backwards. Since these elements came from music itself, the plan is not to isolate each ingredient and “add” it to the lesson plan, but to make actual music that will require and invite these elements. After the music-making, it’s the right moment to discuss and dissect, analyze and name and make more conscious the elements that made the music work. But the thrust of the class itself, the beginning and end of all assessment and accountability, is the quality of the music-making, not the ticking off of a list of inert nouns that give you the illusion that you’ve taught a good lesson.

In other words, use the whole grain to make bread. Don’t enrich and strip off the vitamins and minerals and then add them back in artificially like Wonder Bread. (Named for “I wonder why the heck they do that?!"). Don’t dissect a frog and name all its parts and think you know the frog. The frog—and the music and the human being— are not a collection of parts, but living, breathing, sentient beings acting and reacting in a natural habitat. If you haven’t spent time watching the frog in the pond, observing it eating and mating and jumping and swimming, why, you don’t know the frog at all, do you?

Music teachers, it's so simple. Kids learn about music by making music. And creating music and analyzing the music they made and have fun in the process. That's the only standard you ever need to worry about.

(Feb. 23)

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