Monday, February 6, 2012

No More Consumers Please, We Need Creators

By Mark T. Burke

I remember a time, not so long ago, when teaching students to be "Educated Consumers of Music" was all the rage.  The thought was that teaching students to appreciate HOW and WHY music was created, based on an understanding of music theory and history, they would become more, well, "appreciative" consumers.  No one really defined what "appreciative" meant, but, that didn't stop us, me included, from pushing forward and adopting this innovative teaching strategy.  In my own mind, I pictured the bulk of my 7th grade general music class eagerly lined up at the local record store to search through and buy album after album of Bach, because I had ingeniously converted them to real Consumers of Music.

After a few years of attempting this conversion and having NO idea if it was really working, or if it was worth the effort, I gave up.  Actually, the sign I should have been paying attention to was how much my students were sleeping during class. In fact, the effort to turn students into "Consumers" turned me into a horrible teacher, someone I didn't want to be, so....I left teaching, went back to school and began my quest to do better.

Now, several careers later....and several models later, clarity has come to me.  With so many aspects of life, I believe we're on a dangerous slope of "over consumerism."  Creating has lagged, and in my opinion continues to lag behind consuming to too great a percentage.  I recently listened to a NPR story on technology consumption vs creation.  As a nation, we all want to consume technology, but few want to create it.  We are happy to count on a very small percentage of our population (which in reality is starting to shift to another country's population) to create all of the tech we've infused into our lives.  Scare you?  It does me.  Social media also suffers from a lack of content creation.  Do a simple test.  Assess all of your Twitter followers, Facebook Likes or other for 1 week.  How many of the PEOPLE you follow create real, original content vs forwarding off links to other content creators?  Do you receive much original content directly from those you follow?  Again, the goal is not to do away with sharing, sharing is critical to our culture, but increasing CREATION should be part of our vision. Musically, we have the same issue.  The balance between consuming and creating music should be a focus for all music educational initiatives.  The vision should be to grow and grow more creators.  At some point if we feel we have too many, we'll decide then to stop :-)

Creators create interest in life, create explanations, give purpose and initiate challenge.  Life, Explanations, Purpose, Challenge.  Do you like those words?  I do. They obviously bring richer meaning than, same old, same old same old and "I don't get it," and  "That doesn't have meaning to me." Music creators don't limit themselves to music.  Creators are creators, often influencing several fields, and music creators are no different.  Are you a creator?  Do you create in only one aspect of life?  Most likely not.

Focusing our music education efforts on Music Creation helps society move from a society of consumerism to a society of creation. Creation creates solutions, solutions solve critical issues for us all and solving issues brings more satisfying living.  Don't spend time teaching kids to be consumers, get them creating no matter what music course you're teaching. 

Have you moved from teaching Consumerism to teaching Creativism?

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