Teacher Appreciation Week

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! And our teachers deserve our sincerest gratitude!

I can’t speak for all teachers, and won’t try. However personally, this was a difficult and challenging year. And while I never (NEVER) again want to be forced to teach via zoom, and am grateful for every in-person interaction I’ve had with students—especially those that forced me to challenge the what, why, and how of my own teaching—damn, this year was a lot.

So, to remain balanced and not be too harsh on myself, I have been taking solace in my students themselves, in their uniqueness, in all the ways they teach me about all kinds of educational and musical matters.

At the start of every semester in all my undergraduate classes, I survey the students about their musical identities. It’s a way for me to learn a little about them, but also to learn a lot about musics I don’t likely know.

So, at the start of Teacher Appreciation Week, and from me to you, here’s what  my students taught me about being in the world through music. The result is a playlist of what they and I consider our pasts, presents, and futures. This particular class is not large (which is why I’m sharing this playlist with you over another class’s musical identities). And I will not tag them nor name them (as that would not be cool). But if your identity is featured here, you know who you are.

This Teacher Appreciation Week I’d like to thank all the teachers! Especially my students. For me, you’re my greatest teachers.

 

Music In Our Schools Month®

According to NAfME, March is Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM®). I don’t think there is a music educator out there who doesn’t wholeheartedly believe that each and every day should acknowledge, highlight, and celebrate music—and lots of music—in schools. Whether it be through improvising over the chord changes to “C Jam Blues” in a jazz combo, remixing Lauryn Hill’s “Everything is everything” with a Jimi Hendrix solo, singing a sea shanty, or salsa dancing, music teaching and learning matters in schools. Why?

Because the pursuit of musical meaning and meaning making can help us become—to use the words of James Mursell— “stronger, better, happier, more cooperative” people who may succeed at being human and humane. Therefore it makes sense to make more music, and to make it more and more.

So let us sing out loud and sing out strong during the month of March and every month throughout the year! Musical being and being musical can help us build a life worth living. Let’s try to remember this when faced with that which gets in the way of building that life.

We teach music in schools so students will experience personal, artistic, social, empathetic, and ethical growth and fulfillment; health and well-being for oneself and others; self-efficacy and self-esteem; happiness for oneself and others; and a means of engaging positively with the community and the world. In fact, to celebrate MIOSM® let’s promise to find ways that we—ourselves and our students—can experience joy of many kinds in school through music.

Music education matters. Our profession matters when things in the world seem to be going smoothly. However, our profession matters even more when things in the world seem to be difficult and challenging. How so? When we engage in the educative teaching and learning of music, we provide avenues and pathways that can help us understand ourselves and each other.

Great music teachers provide important reminders for why we need to “show up” for each other each and every day. For the remainder of the school year, let’s harness the uncertainty as best as we can and remember what’s most important: Being present for each other through music.

Music Education Amidst Uncertainty

Music education matters. We cannot say it more plainly than this. And Music Matters (2nd edition) gives amble evidence for why this is the case.

The profession matters when things in the world seem to be going smoothly. However, the profession matters even more when things in the world seem to be difficult and challenging. Why? Because when we engage in the teaching and learning of music, we provide avenues and pathways that can help us understand ourselves and each other.

These below highlighted GRAMMY award-winning music educators know the above to be true. And they provide important reminders for why we need to “show up” for each other each and every day.

Regardless of how many years you’ve been a music educator–1 year, 15 years, or 30 years–we are ALL first-year teachers again this school year. Let us harness this uncertainty and remember what’s most important: Being present for each other through music making.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Given the current state of the world, Mother’s Day this year feels very different. For the most obvious reason: We are physically separated. Still, this actual distance does not necessarily mean distant. So, let’s celebrate moms; especially those beyond our reach.

Once More: Music Matters Because People Matter

We are living in trying times. Around the globe, people are isolated, panicked, quarantined, unwell, and uncertain about what tomorrow may or may not bring. Despite this, and regardless of social distancing, there are wonderful stories that showcase the unification of spirit and soul. And many such stories include music making and sharing from professionals and amateurs alike.

As experienced via Twitter, Yo Yo Ma stated and shared the following:

Similarly in Italy, and even though the country is on lock-down, people nationwide are coming to their windows to sing. Yes, sing! Singing for those who are at “ear’s length,” singing for themselves, and singing for all of us around the world to communicate that hope and joy are ever-present in the hearts and minds of those confined at home.

 

Also, like the above-mentioned model of Yo Yo Ma, and in order to provide comfort and solace in their community, two young Ohio cellists serenade on the front porch of a quarantined neighbor.

Speaking of confined at home, for public and private school students who are no longer be able to perform school concerts, performances, and musical theater productions, Broadway star Laura Benanti called such students to share their songs with her via social media.

We could provide dozens and dozens more examples where people are coming together via social media through music making and sharing. Let’s not forget music’s potential power to unite, communicate, and transform for good. Even when we are seemingly on our own, we are united and can be even closer. Indeed, while at home practicing social distancing, Pink treats us with her rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.” As she stated via Instagram: “Free concert slash piano lessons from my heart to yours … To make you feel my love 😍 rehearsals.”

Let’s remember we are responsible for one another, even at a distance…

 

 

Music Education Matters

Last post, we raised the previously asked question: Why might music education matter?  This is a difficult question, especially when attempting to answer it quickly. Because of this, the entire book, Music Matters, examines many of the answers to this important question.

Still, regardless of how difficult it is to answer this complex question, we need to continue to seek out answers. Because of that, take note of this story:

Music Provides Place To Belong In Middle School

Why Might Music Education Matter? Yes, We’re Asking Again

Why might music education matter? We’ve asked this question before. And it’s a serious question that every music educator should ask and answer multiple times every single day.

So, why might music education matter? In previous blog posts, we have noted that added-value claims like “music makes us smarter” and “music improves tests scores” are problematic for lots of reasons. We won’t go into that again now.

However, what we do know for sure is this: “Happiness” matters! More carefully stated: How you feel impacts how you do! So, it’s not that music makes us smarter. Musical experiences – of many different kinds – can impact students positively in many different ways. Therefore, if/when students are positively “tuned” through active music making and listening, they tend to do more things “better.”

So, what seems to propel students’ improved performance in schools—including the ever-dulling experience of “test taking”—is being in a positive state, which can result from many forms of stimulation during the time it takes to complete cognitive tests. As the eminent researcher, Ellen Winner says:

It turns out that if they [test takers] prefer to listen to a Stephen King story, and you let them listen to a Stephen King story, they also do better and rate themselves as more positively aroused. This is entirely consistent with what many cognitive psychologists have shown: that being in a state of positive arousal [or flow experience] improves performance on cognitive tests.

Logically, then, if students are engaged in something they deem to be positive, they are more likely to want to participate in whatever “it” is, both inside and outside of school. So, it makes perfect sense when Brian Kisida, an assistant professor of public affairs at the University of Missouri’s Truman School, says:

For many kids, finding something you like in school makes you want more of it, and as students got more exposure to the arts, they felt better about school.

Take away message: Allow students to experience joy of many kinds. And importantly, we don’t teach the arts in schools so students will do better on tests. We teach the arts in schools so students will experience personal, artistic, social, empathetic, and ethical growth and fulfillment; health and well-being for oneself and others; social capital; self-efficacy and self-esteem; happiness for oneself and others; and a means of engaging positively with/for one’s community and the world.