I have taken a while to comment on this. Not because I don’t have an opinion, as most of you know – I have many opinions, about almost everything. The reason I wanted to wait was that it was all getting a little fiery and really we are all on the same side. Actually we are totally on the same side, wanting students to receive as much high quality music education as possible.
So this is just my opinion there are plenty of others – all valid – all good. Try everything, find the one that works for you and your kids in your situation.
The first time I heard about this was a light bulb moment for me. It was in Perth at one of their fabulous ASME Summer Schools for music teachers and the Keynote was by Richard Gill. He said it was time we stopped treating music as a handy thing to have if you wanted to be good at maths.
Recently an excellent article by Peter Greene has been going around social media which also includes a range of advocacy arguments that we can be using.
I have spent a huge amount of my life securing the place of music in whatever school I’m in – all of us have. I have reorganised entire junior school programmes to demonstrate how extra time in music can work for the school. I have written submissions about how it is not just another ‘option subject’ from which students should pick 1 or 2 out of 12 (of an every growing list that includes pottery, hat making, and Zumba) to study for a term. I have put advocacy propaganda in school newsletters and spouted it at staff meetings and school events. This is part of the job of Director of Music and musicians everywhere.
We are special and we have a special subject. We are not main-stream and a lot of people don’t understand us. More importantly, they don’t know how to test us which means we are not going to fit with their little models of data collection. Grrrrrr (That’s another blog!!)
However – I draw the line at justifying music by saying how good it makes students at other school subjects. I don’t mind listing the social or general learning benefits but If we justify our subject by saying how important it is to other subjects, we are immediately putting it in a position of being inferior to those subjects and we are doing this to ourselves! I think we should be making our position as equal to maths, science and english not by defining ourselves as a lesser subject.
I aim for the opposite! Maths should be saying that it is important to learn maths so that we learn to subdivide beats in music! That it is important to learn English so that we can understand poetry and lyrics, that it is important to learn science so we understand how music effects our brains, our moods and how sound is created, that it is important to study languages so you can understand Italian and German performance directions. This is the land I dream of – the world I aim for.
These other subjects should exist so that students can better understand arts for the rest of their lives. What is more important to living a happy, healthy life than having an appreciation of art? Music should be the pinnacle of what schools are aiming for, not the support subject. Almost all top academic schools have excellent music departments. Students who study music are smarter than others. There is research to suggest that music makes us smarter but it is mostly because smart people want to understand, participate in, and learn to love music.
What we can promote is the music industry and how it is absolutely everywhere. Music can be heard everywhere, we all listen to hundreds of pieces of music a day. Why aren’t we pushing this?? If maths can successfully justify teaching algebra as an absolute necessity when most of us are still wondering when we can ever use it, then we can justify something that gives people so much pleasure every single day and employs millions of people.
The subject of music needs a better marketing strategy!
We need to think bigger and be proud.