I am a music educator from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I have been teaching instrumental music for 31 years and have been a music administrator/teacher leader for the last eight years. I am an active musician, guest conductor, clinician and speaker, as well as a songwriter, arranger and composer. I am the author of a collection of stories about music education entitled: Everything Matters: 50 Essays on Music Education
My Philosophy of Education
My philosophy of music education is rooted in Elliot’s praxial philosophy. I believe that music education is the study of an essential and intrinsic human activity. Music making is a multilayered process that can include performing, creating, improvising, listening, or discussing. Elliot describes this as musicing, although as is with much terminology, this term is often used in contextually ambiguous applications. At its core music is a participatory activity that is experienced by all of humanity. Music education praxis should reflect this global identity.
Music education should be accessible to all students. Music educators have the daunting task of finding ways to adapt their practice to accommodate everyone. Western Classical music is a powerful and abiding legacy; however, music educators need to expand what they teach in order to allow all students to see themselves in music classes and ensembles. Regardless of financial or physical need, music education should be an important part of a students over all education, and music educators are challenged to facilitate this goal every day.
One of the fundamental challenges of a praxial philosophy is how to bring global musics respectfully and appropriately into existing Western Classical ensemble structures. There is much research to be done in this area. Music educators often, with the best of intentions re quick to adapt musics for concert bands, orchestras, and choirs without doing the work necessary to identify cultural appropriateness and ownership. I believe that we as music educators need to continuously examine our bias, and the decisions we make regarding repertoire.
Although the secondary benefits of music education are important, I do not believe they should provide the primary justification for inclusion of music education in curricula. Life skills, math development, good habits and community are important elements, however music educators introduce students to one of the most important artistic structures that humanity has yet developed. Music itself is its own advocate. There is little to no definitive research that concludes that music makes one smarter, however each day music makes one more connected to one’s culture, place in the world, and each other.
I grew up in a musical family. From a very young age I played Bluegrass and Americana music. I was an adept improvisor, could play by ear, sing natural harmony, and perform fearlessly on stage. These skills were not acknowledged in either my secondary or post-secondary music education. In fact, I was advised that that music had no value whatsoever. This has shaped my philosophy of music education. Students meet us with funds of knowledge that we are unaware of, and that hold value all on their own. Music education is a broad and powerful field that quite literally brings the world to our classrooms. We must be ready.