Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Just Needed A Credit...So I Took Music!

By Mark T. Burke

Ouch -- that hurts.  I've heard this statement frequently unfortunately.  During my tenure as a public school teacher, I would hear high school students bragging about their "easy" schedules filled with blow off classes that included some music class.  The conversations I overheard took place between peers and almost always included one asking the other, "So what do you do in that class?".  The answer was normally, "NOTHING."  We just sit around and listen to boring music (or something equality engaging from their point of view). 

During my 12 years working in virtual schools , I saw way too many students, faced with a need to earn enough credits to graduate from high school, choose music as the "quick and easy option." Far too often, music courses are viewed as nothing more than filler classes.  But, for sure, they don't have to be. 

Now it may be easy to say, "Mark, you just need to get out more."  I'm not a globetrotter, but I do speak to many school officials, teachers, educational leaders and the like.  There is a common philosophy among many of them and that is that arts credits, including music are just needed for graduation.  No discussion on the value of the experience, no value found in the application of the creative process or no vision that students may actually be able to enjoy music courses exists in many people I've talked to in the past.   

This is all sounding a bit too depressing, so here's a challenge.  How about we identify the top 20 things that ensure music classes will be nothing more than credit fillers?  Sounds like a great place to start and it will get us all talking rather than you just listening to me.  I'll get the ball rolling by adding 5 of my own thoughts then, you can help by adding your own items.  Deal?  My thinking is that once we develop this list, we can all take an introspective look at the music courses we provide, regardless of format, delivery or level, to ensure they don't align to the items on our list.  This list will become ours, a community dedicated to ensuring music's place in our lives and education grows.  Here we go.

The Top 20 Worst Traits of Music Courses.
  1. The course focuses on the birthdays (and death dates) of composers.
  2. Activities revolve around "dropping the needle" asking student to identify the composers of a composition in 5 bars or less.
  3. The teacher says, no less than 5 times per class, "These are the CLASSICS.  Appreciate them like your great grandparents did."   
  4. Trochee, Trochee, Iamb.  (I had to add this.  Eurythmics was a frightening experience for me).
  5. The course is a "hands-off" course where students sit at their desks for 40 minutes, unengaged!  
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It's your turn. Let's identify the top 20 most horrifying aspects of music classes.  Our goal is to eliminate students choosing music just because "they needed a credit."



1 comment:

  1. 6. Student creativity is limited to improvising on pentatonic scale or creating a melody to a 12-bar blues.

    7. Any music the students are allowed to bring in to share with the class tends to be summarily picked apart or ridiculed by students and even teachers.

    8. The dreaded composer oral report!

    9. Instrument families - again.