Tuesday, September 21, 2010

MENC: Supporting the Past While Shaping the Future of Music Education

By Mark T. Burke

MENC, an organization that's had a presence in the lives of music educators for generations, is an organization, like most, faced with the reality that educational systems are just beginning a revolution like no other in our past. I had the professional pleasure of participating in a SoundTree sponsored Webinar with MENC's Executive Director, Michael Butera. Dr.Jim Frankel hosted the meeting, keeping the conversation rolling on various topics including alternative music delivery systems, non-traditional music education, teacher prep and more.  I encourage everyone to listen the webinar by visiting the link above.

I was pleasantly surprised by the clarity and aggressiveness of the vision and the actions already taken by MENC to advocate for alternative music curriculum delivery, innovative topic inclusion and over-all technology adoption. Since leaving my traditional classroom music job, I haven't counted on MENC to provide resources for virtual education programs. I honestly felt MENC was more concerned over maintaining the status-quo in regards to music education.  I can happily say my beliefs have changed. 

Having the Executive Director of MENC available for questions right in my living room was a fantastic opportunity.  Here are my thoughts on several key areas discussed during the webinar.

  • Alternative Educational Systems
    • MENC recognizes the need to collaborate with alternative educational organization including charter and virtual school support groups.
    • Why? The shift from traditional brick and mortar schools to alternative schools is significant.  Music has just NOT been available in alternative schools and that must change.  Alternative schooling (as compared to the traditional public school model) is becoming less an alternative and more a commonplace choice. Music needs to be offered in these programs..plain and simple.  Also,  program cuts are a HUGE issue. What do those kids do after their school programs have been cut?  We need creative, cost effective solutions as alternatives to cutting programs. Often times, programs are cut 100% because no apparent option exists to do less than that.  Options do exist!
  • 21st Century Skills
    • I was SO excited to hear Michael talk about future leadership and how ensuring students today have creative experiences, including music of course, helps ensure future leaders are prepare to lead.  Leaders need creativity to solve complex issues, they must show empathy and they must be diligence about solving organization challenges. These are the very skills students develop through music.  
  • Advocate Through Value
    • When we launched viaAcademies, we told the story of how our curriculum was designed to help failing programs through highly successful programs.  In regards to both, our structured curriculum, our assessments, and the way we use technology to track student progress helps organization at all levels validate their efforts. We knew this was critical, so hearing Michael reinforce this need is fantastic. 
  • Reaching the Other 80%
    • I love teaching instrumental music, conducting groups and small ensembles.  During my career I have also had the thrill of teaching "general music."  I've taught 7-9th General Music, 9th Grade Arranging / Composition, Electronic Music, and various other courses. The number of kids I was able to reach in general music far overshadows the number of instrumental students I've taught.  I took that responsibility seriously since the reality is this...80% of the population won't play an instrument or sing in an organized choir.  My belief -- we can't ignore the other 80%. In fact, we must innovate toward that 80%, engage them, ensure they have quality music offerings. Again, when you listen the webinar, you will hear MENC's support in this area.
  • Professional Development
    • From Michael..."More, now than ever, we [music teachers] must be professionals in our field." Tomorrow, I am writing about some of the latest information on teacher skills (as related to online teaching) that supports this need.  Like no other time, we must increase our skills, we must demonstrate professional abilities, we must be organized beyond showing up, we must assess our programs and prove, using data they are valuable, and we must apply a business context to our programs, without prompting, now. Teacher can no longer NOT adopt technologies, ignoring the very nature of how kids are wired and how they learn. Professional development must get past the basics and ensure teachers demonstrate professional level skills, not entry level skills in technology use and online teaching.  (I'll post a link here after tomorrow's post).
  • Expand our Catalogs
    • Courses on new instruments, new styles of music, new software must be developed to keep pace with the opportunities kids have in other subjects.  This is why we developed our Exploring Music course and have more in development.  Additionally, this is why we deliver innovative instrumental music curriculum.  If we continually count on "the way we used to do it" we will quickly find the world has moved by us. 
I urge everyone to listen to the webinar and take to heart the words of wisdom shared by all that participated, especially those of Michael Butera.


To learn how viaAcademies can help you validate your program, provide innovative, cost effective options rather than cutting programs and provide web-based or local professional development, contact Mark Burke at mark.burke@viaAcademies.com



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