Respect!

Thank you, Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)!

Thank you for Respect, and so much more!

Thank you for your voice.  A song is much more than a song. And Franklin tapped into tone, texture, lyrics, and more for all sorts of messages and meanings. As Simon Frith notes, it’s not just what singers sing, “but the way they sing it.” And Franklin’s voice–her Respect–isn’t just a voice, but a voice that embodies self-respect, and therefore demands and commands self-other respect.

Thank you for your spirit. Franklin’s regal-ness shown through each and every appearance, performance, and recording. Yet, her overwhelming joy in life, as expressed through her appearances, performances, and recordings, helped listeners experience the thrill of the moment and beyond; helped listeners understand and appreciate a sense of freedom; helped listeners engage with the values of feminism; helped listeners tap into their sexuality; and helped listeners feel love.

Thank you for your activism. Whether it was to lend support or a song to a cause, you were there.

Franklin’s 76 years on Earth bookended a grand arc of tumult, letdowns, progress, setbacks, terror, and hope in American history. That in itself might not be a remarkable feat so much as a reminder that all black people older than 53 have seen and lived through hell. But Aretha—and that first name is sufficient, as it was in black churches and parlors for half a century—was an architect of a movement as much as a witness to it. She toured with the actors Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier to raise money for King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967, when the organization was in dire financial straits and was attempting to embark on a Poor People’s Campaign. She was an activist who strained to keep a movement going even after King’s assassination, and who worked to support the Black Panthers and attempted to post bail to free the activist Angela Davis from jail. She loved black people. In this country, that simple fact was radical enough.

But most importantly, thank you for being YOU!

Ms. Franklin’s respect lasts for two minutes and 28 seconds. That’s all — basically a round of boxing. Nothing that’s over so soon should give you that much strength. But that was Aretha Franklin: a quick trip to the emotional gym.

Music educators, as you start to plan out your school year: How will you celebrate Franklin’s voice, her passion, and her ability to stand up for each and all?

Hallelujah!

Meet the Killard House School. Located in Donaghadee, North Ireland, the Killiard House School’s motto is: “Together We Can.” The school is dedicated to providing for special needs students with moderate learning difficulties, speech language difficulties, and those on the autistic spectrum. The teachers, staff, administrators, and community work together as a team—or “family,” as the school states—to meet the diverse needs of their students.

Music Education

In December, 2016, the school’s choir programmed Leonard Coen’s “Hallelujah” with Christmas-themed lyrics. The soloist, then 10-year old Kaylee Rogers, is a Killard House School student and a member of the school’s choir. About her performance, the Principal of Killard House School Collin Miller stated: “For a child who came in and wouldn’t really talk, wouldn’t really read out in class, to stand and perform in front of an audience is amazing.” Music education can transform lives. This performance is just one example.

Where Do We Go From Here?

On August 16, 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. stated these prophetic words:

What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love. And this is what we must see as we move on.

Yes, power without love IS abusive. As hopeless as things may seem at any given point in time, we should turn, again, to Dr. King who urged: “Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. … Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.”

Can Music Help?

As we state in Music Matters, music making and listening can contribute to a sense of cooperation, bonding, and interrelatedness. The Playing for Change organization knows this well, and takes this even further. By uniting diverse musical communities through song, the group also values and appreciates the integrity and diversity of the musical fabrics of various musical communities.

As the organization states: “Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music. The idea for this project came from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people.” The organization travels the globe “filming musicians in their natural environments … spreading peace through music … creating Songs Around the World, and building a global family.”

What might the world look like if we all honored and celebrated each other through song?

We have faith in the future; most of all, we have faith in all the peoples of the world. So, in celebration of each and all, we hope “Gimme Shelter” will further inspire faith.

“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” ~ Irish Proverb

In Pursuit of a “Good Life” Through Music

Given that it’s the holiday season, we thought it important to ask, again: Why engage in music education? One answer is that music education potentially paves the way to a “good life” — a life of happiness, creativity, fellowship, personal meaningfulness, self-knowledge, care for oneself and others, ethical relationships, and other values that occur at the intersection of music making and human life. In combination, these values make up the ancient Greek concept of “eudaimonia.” Music education philosopher Wayne Bowman puts it this way:

Music, and therefore education in it, is crucial to human flourishing, or eudaimonia as the ancient Greeks called it. Music teaches us things about our common humanity that are worth knowing, and renders us less vulnerable to forces that subvert or compromise human well-being. Studying and making music changes who we are and what we expect from life.

Do we know examples of music education that can lead to eudaimonia for every person? Yes. There are many. Here’s one.

Music and a “Good Life”

Meet music educator Adam Goldberg. Goldberg teaches at PS 177 in Queens, NY, a school that serves exceptional children. The mission of the school is based on its “new core standards” or CARE: Communicating, Applauding, Researching, and Educating. All these “standards” are, frankly, what good teaching-and-learning should do: harness the potential of the entire community to help students be their most complete selves, both now and for the future. Goldberg sees music making as a fundamental means for achieving this important lifelong goal.

Through active music making, Goldberg’s students not only achieve musical understanding. They achieve a pathway to eudaimonia, and a shared engagement with/for others through music.

Thank you, Adam Goldberg!

Thank you to all music educators who care for others and their communities…

Happy holidays!

 

Music for Every Child: Diversity and Social Consciousness in Music Education

Excited to join the Rhode Island Music Education Association at their Conference: Music for Every Child: Diversity and Social Consciousness in Music Education. There, we’ll be speaking on: Advancing Social Justice through Music Education.

Common sense notions of “social justice” imply the uncovering of injustices, imbalances, and untruths in order to support and promote a more equitable social order. Beyond conventional wisdom, what is “social justice” and can we conceive of social justice and “artivism” for music teaching and learning in concrete ways? Our presentation will focus primarily on philosophical underpinnings for advancing social justice through music education. But we will provide practical examples and strategies for justice-ing music teaching and learning.

Come join us!!!!

PROVIDENCE, RI – On Saturday January 13, 2018, the Rhode Island College Department of Music, Theater, and Dance, the Rhode Island College School of Social Work, and the Rhode Island Music Education Association will co-sponsor a conference titled “Music for Every Child: Diversity and Social Consciousness in Music Education” in the John Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, 600 Mount Pleasant Ave., Providence, Rhode Island. Designed for music educators at all levels, this conference will combine national, regional, and local experts in the fields of music education, social work, and community-driven arts programs to explore how to meet the musical and social needs of the diversity of students in southeast New England.

Topics will include social justice, behavioral supports and resources, and social and emotional learning, among others.

For more information, a detailed list of sessions and speakers, and to register for the event, please visit www.rimea.org/pd. The $40 registration fee includes lunch. College students may register for a reduced price of $15.

Contact

To learn more about this event, please contact: Dr. Robert Franzblau, Professor of Music, Rhode Island College; 600 Mt. Pleasant Ave., Providence, RI 02908; Office: 401-456-9514; [email protected]

Hallelujah

In the midst of today’s tragic social, political, racial, gendered, and other conflicts, can amateur and professional music makers and school and community music programs contribute to positive social and community transformations?

Yes. To demonstrate our solidarity with and support for all those who are suffering we’ll post one example of active music making for positive social transformations every day until the American Labor Day Holiday (09/04/2017), at which point we’ll resume our regular schedule of posts on related topics.

 

Gimme Some Truth

In the midst of today’s tragic social, political, racial, gendered, and other conflicts, can amateur and professional music makers and school and community music programs contribute to positive social and community transformations?

Yes. To demonstrate our solidarity with and support for all those who are suffering we’ll post one example of active music making for positive social transformations every day until the American Labor Day Holiday (09/04/2017), at which point we’ll resume our regular schedule of posts on related topics.

Love Trumps Hate

In the midst of today’s tragic social, political, racial, gendered, and other conflicts, can amateur and professional music makers and school and community music programs contribute to positive social and community transformations?

Yes. To demonstrate our solidarity with and support for all those who are suffering, we’ll post one example of active music making for positive social transformations every day from today (08/16/2017) until the American Labor Day Holiday (09/04/2017), at which point we’ll resume our regular schedule of posts on related topics.

If social betterment includes exposing all forms of injustice and preparing future music makers to “put their music to work” for positive social transformations—as many classical, pop, rock, and hip-hop performers and composers (and others) are doing and have done for decades—then we begin to see the potential of what we call “artistic citizenship education.”

Artistic citizenship goes beyond academic talking and writing about social justice because it emphasizes actions for transformation. “Intellectualizing”—reading, writing, and discussing—do not by themselves move people to take meaningful actions for change. To motivate people to join a social movement of any kind, small or large, it’s essential that they engage actively.

For example, in addition to learning to make and understand music, students in school and university music programs might—should?—learn to compose, arrange, perform, and record songs that expose and challenge a wide range of injustices. These are concrete, reflective-musical “doings” that have the potential to develop students’ lifelong dispositions to act positively for change.

Engaging in some kind of action is essential because people’s identities “transform as they become socially active, and actions for social justice create new categories of participants, and political groups: identities modify in the course of social interaction” (McAdam, Tarrow, & Tilly, 126). As Jean Anyon (2005) says, “One develops a political identity and commitment … from walking, marching, singing, attempting to vote, sitting in, or otherwise demonstrating with others” (142).

Musical actions of all kinds, small and large, often rise to the level of what Stephen Duncombe calls “ethical spectacles.”

An ethical spectacle is a “dream” imagined (“I have a dream,” said Martin Luther King) that’s made concrete when members/supporters of socially just movements—for example, is there an action-group called “Music(k)ing Educators for Freedom and Justice”?—participate democratically in creating the spectacle. Their actions express their resistance. (171).

Duncombe cites the example of the American civil rights movement in which leaders often modeled their interracial “beloved community” in the ways they organized and carried out their protests, which included singing and playing music in local, regional, and national situations. In these cases, music making and listening were not only emotional escapes and sanctuaries; performances were not usually “staged”; instead, music making, listening, and moving were participatory. The music and social meanings of ethical spectacles are embodied and expressed in the actions of transforming the oppressors and the oppressed.

An ethical spectacle “demonstrates” against oppressions. Ethical spectacles help to disrupt cultural hierarchies, support and build safe communities, promote diversity, and engage with reality while asking what new realities might be possible (Duncombe, 126).

Our school students and future music educators can—we believe they should—learn to think critically about and be prepared to create small and large ethical-musical spectacles in/for their schools and communities.

Crucially, if we conceive “music” not as a noun with rigidly encoded power relationships but, instead, as a process of mutual music making, shared musical-ethical responsibilities, and reciprocal musical power sharing toward social projects involving sympathy and empathy, then we might find major pathways to social reconciliations.

Teaching Composing in the Classroom

My own composing efforts began during my middle-school band classes in the early 1960s. Along with many other youngsters, I was given classes with a young composer named R. Murray Schafer, who documented our experiences and conversations in The composer in the classroom (1965). Here is a follow-up documentary of a similar program that Schafer offered in 1969 in a 7th grade classroom in Canada.

Although I was not aware of “democratic teaching-learning principles” then, this is what Schafer modeled (see, too, Schafer’s thoughts from 2006).

But he was not unique, by any means. Composing and arranging projects, with mutual teacher-learner respect, and dialogues, were also regular parts of my secondary school curricula (1963-1967), punctuated with occasional visits by professional composers.

What I valued then, and what I advocate and teach now, is that to learn composing effectively, intelligently, and joyfully, students need continuous opportunities to interact with their peers as fellow music makers and listeners, and to hear their efforts interpreted and performed musically (not merely “produced”).

In addition, Music Matters emphasizes opportunity-finding and formulating, rather than just carrying out musical assignments. By this I mean encouraging students to research and generate their own innovative pieces to perform on their own, or in peer ensembles; generate multiple approaches to interpretive, improvisational, and/or compositional problems; plan innovative interpretations; generate plans and sketches of musical arrangements; edit given compositions or arrangements—all of these in continuous relation to music listening so that students gain understandings of the style frameworks in which they are creating or “crossing over.” All of this can be done in relation to composing pieces about important moral, political, and ethical problems in students’ lives and in our contemporary world. Doing so is common in visual art and English literature classes where students create paintings, poems, and stories for these same reasons. I suggest that all these strategies align with James Mursell’s concept of democratic teaching and teaching for democratic citizenship.

Music education for musical creativity requires sustained periods for students to generate, select ideas, rework, and edit their interpretations and arrangements. During these processes, I state that we need to avoid undermining our students’ motivation, thinking, and enjoyment by gushing-over, hovering-over, or taking-over while students work at producing creative musical results. I state that guiding students toward creative achievements calls for a music teacher-as-coach, advisor, and informed critic; not teacher-as-proud-mother, stern father, or “know-it-all big brother.”

Teaching musical composition and creativity is worth doing for the sake of the self and others. As we say in Music Matters:

The internal goods and values of musicing are not abstractions. Through the progressive development of musical understanding with musical and educative teachers and facilitators, all students can achieve human flourishing, communal well-being, an empathetic sense of self-and-other, as well as a sense of meaningfulness, enjoyment, and a creative way of life.