Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Integration of Music into the Curriculum: Where are the Music Teachers?

By Mark T. Burke

I attended the PETE&C in Hershey PA. yesterday. The conference attracts 1000's of educators, technology leaders, and curriculum administrators interested in helping their students through innovative educational tools and teaching strategies.  What struck me most was the absence, or at least the apparent absence of music leaders at this conference.  I attended a session on Music Maker led by a History educator from a local school.  I give him credit for wanting his students to harness the power of music in his class and his desire to show other educators how to do so.  The room was filled to the brim (100+ attendees).  I am hoping that will spark some emotion -- music teachers -- did you hear those numbers? 100+ educators seeking ways to integrate music into their classes.  After the session, I talked to a few folks about our upcoming GarageBand / MixCraft course.  Those I spoke to that were interested were all NON-music teachers. These are the teachers who want help and are seeking solutions.  How can we work together? 

Let me go on record as saying, this conference demonstrated those responsible for integrating music into our schools are often not music teachers.  Why is that?  I believe as musicians, we have focused on conferences that have the word "Music" in them, like the PMEA (in PA).  By doing so, we ignore other organizations who really are driving music forward in our schools in innovative ways.  At PETE&C, each session on GarageBand, Music Maker or other music related topic seemed to be filled to max capacity.  The story is the same for every teacher I talked to about why they came to the session.  The answer was "Because I want my kids to integrate music into their projects and we can't use commercial music."  When I asked them, "Do you teach them how to compose music?", the answer was "No, we just need something quick and easy and I am not a music teacher."

I am convinced now more than ever that music as an art is being pushed aside and as a teaching community we are letting it happen.  I met later in the day during our presentation with a few teachers.  The feeling from the group of 5 was, "we are probably the only 5 music teachers in attendance."  I am certain that number is not totally accurate but the point is, we as music educators need to look beyond music conferences to really get a sense of music's role in our schools.

To all of us, imagine attending a music conference presentation where the presenter was a non-musician, Math teacher.  Would you find that bizarre?  Our challenge is to take every opportunity to promote and present music as trained professionals who can ensure the integration of music is handled appropriately and to it's full extent.  If hundreds and hundreds of teachers are seeking ways to integrate music into their classes as demonstrated at just this one conference, with no mention of collaborating with their fellow music educators, and with no musical background themselves, what role does music education play in schools?

I am seeking ways and looking for help in PA to ensure this great conference continues to grow with a Music "track" to help guide our efforts and to ensure those seeking help get the professional help they need. Our mission at viaAcademies is to ensure music education moves forward with our help, not at the exclusion of our help.  

Who leads music integration at your school?  Do you know?  Is it the music teachers or the other curriculum areas?  What music is being taught outside the music classroom in your school?

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