This manifesto for my own teaching is a result from the recent MOOC I’ve studied on Music Education in the 21st Century presented by James Humberstone. My previous blogs (see below) have documented my thoughts throughout the course.
In the MOOC, we’ve been shown different types of musical creativity through different genres and how technology has impacted on these genres. Instrumental music has always relied on technology to inform the style and type of music playable. The 20th century has seen the addition of electronic and digital instruments which change many musical elements such as timbre and pitch possibilities. The ability to record has also reduced reliance on music literacy and notation, and increased consumption, widening audiences so that Western music now impacts on larger areas of the world.
The challenge as a teacher is to take these technologies and use them as tools to achieve musical outcomes with students who have varying musical ability. Musical activities such as performing, improvising, composing now have applicable technologies available which can make activities more efficient, achievable, and shareable. As a teacher, I have a working experience in these types of technologies so now I need to incorporate these in an authentic way. This includes pre-planning, scaffolding, and managing the technology within the classroom environment. Technology can also be used to create resources and activities that students can access in their own time and in their own space, so it is worth my while taking time to organise these.
Most important to me is that students have performance experience so that their interaction with music is as a musician, not an observer. This is vital during the non-elective years, in Stage 4, as in Australia, this may be the only time a student actually studies music. As a teacher, I also identify myself as a performer and composer, and I would like my students to see themselves as performers and composers. I can encourage this by incorporating as many performance activities as possible into any teaching activities, using musicology, listening, improvisation and composition for project-based learning. Music literacy is very important to me but I would prefer that a knowledge of music notation come from creating and playing rather than worksheets, starting with basic patterns and working towards complex ideas. During the non-elective years of music classes, a combination of ensemble performances and individual compositions could allow students who already have musical experience to share their skills with those who don’t. ‘Mixed-bag’ arrangements which encourage musical literacy as well as allowing for moments of improvisation could help with inclusion of students of all musical abilities.
An exciting way into music for the non-elective years is to work backwards from known music, into the unknown. This makes contextual teaching relevant and also can create interesting discovery experiences. Sites such as www.whosampled.com can help students gain insight into music they already know and uncover where their preferred music has come from. This also helps to show students how new can be created from old and give models for composition.
Challenging this performance-centric approach are the HSC requirements which include a written exam that tests aural skills and requires musicological understanding to successfully complete. Students can learn these skills this by using musicological language and the concepts of music to explain their own choices when putting together a composition portfolio for any performance.
The activities which are undertaken in music classes are vastly different to other subjects and music naturally lends itself to now-trendy large-based projects in composition and performance. If I can approach my teaching in an authentic way as a musician and pass on these experiences to my students, then hopefully my students will remain engaged with music throughout their life. All I need is a regular classroom teaching job to try it all out.
Here's my ultimate but simple list for choosing performance repertoire. It's a list I've gathered from listening to many recitals and eisteddfods and has been helpful for me when discussing repertoire with students. I'll keep adjusting this and would love to hear any of your suggestions too.
- something that is engaging
- something that you like
- something that has artistic merit
- something that is revealing
- something that is rhythmically fun
- something that is a little risky but still within your capability
- something that is written specifically for piano/keyboard
STAY AWAY FROM:
- new arrangements or compositions that lack musicality
- something that is too hard for your ability
- something that is too safe
- something that is too boring
- something that you hate
THINK CAREFULLY WHEN CHOOSING:
- pieces that are well-known
- pieces that lack a melody
- pieces that are too long or too short
- pieces with offensive titles or meanings
- that you understand the style of the piece and can play it in that style
- that you are on top of all the technical demands of the piece
- that you have all copyright permissions needed to perform the piece
- that the piece suits the occasion and the audience
Reflections/news on music, piano and music teaching, and anything else that pops up.