Monday, November 19, 2007

Readings for 11-19-07

"Throughout Kodaly's writings there is implicit the belief that man is not complete without music" (17). As a future music educator, I obviously agree with this philosophy. I felt that this article was a fascinating look at the Kodaly method and quite informative as I have never been exposed to Kodaly. After this overview, I was quite impressed with this philosophical approach to early music education and certainly feel that there are various aspects of the method that could be extremely useful in an early music classroom.

I particularly enjoy the emphasis on folk music. As the author says, the Kodaly method focuses on three types of music "authentic children's games, nursery songs, and chants; authentic folk music; and good composed music, that is, music written by recognized composers" (15). I agree that all too often music that is not quite accessible for students is used to teach abstract concepts. By using accessible music, or "living music" the children are more apt to gain a good educational experience. Also, the music can be used at any point. Children (and parents), for example, will always know the "itsy-bitsy spider", but will not always have access to written songs such as "My Pony Bill". This ability to sing outside of the music room, from memory, would seem to increase the power of the musical experience for the children.

I also like the idea of having a developmentally oriented curriculum as opposed to a "subject-logic" (9) curriculum. The philosophy of teaching concepts to children when they are developmentally ready is fascinating. I feel that I agree with this concept, too, as children will respond more favorably to music that is already inherent to them. Using this, teachers can apply these natural concepts to logical ones (for example teaching them that "nana-nana-boo-boo" constitutes a tri-tone) and harness the inherent creativity of children.

While I agree with the concept of teaching the unaccompanied voice, I do disagree with the philosophy of instruments as "not necessary and...counterproductive in the musical education of young children" (16). I feel, not only as an instrumentalist but as a future teacher, that children should be exposed to all aspects of music, especially instruments. Indeed, what if a child is not developmentally ready to sing? A musical instrument could provide the musical education for that child. Generally, though, I do agree with the concept of teaching voice and, personally, wish that my early music education would have focused more on voice.

In all, I found this article to be a fascinating look at the Kodaly method. I feel that it would be quite valuable to incorporate this philosophy into any early music education classroom. I feel also that this would be quite possible as the Kodaly method is that, more of a philosophy than a method and I feel that this philosophy could be adapted to fit with many other methods and would be a great addition to a classroom program.

The Method: Its Sequence, Tools, Materials and Philosophy, pages 9-17.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Quotes for 10-29-07

I found this set of articles particularly informative. As educators in the arts, we are charged with developing the creativity of our students and helping them to express that creativity and create a final product. This, to me, presents a great challenge. How do you teach something that, in many cases, is inherent to students? Also, as teachers, how do we define creativity and understand it in order to teach it or encourage its development? Developing something that is not fully understood is quite difficult. I found this week's articles quite helpful, though in answering these questions.

Maud Hickey answers the latter question in her article, "Creative thinking in Music". As Dr. Hickey suggests: "One way [to understand creativity's] meaning is to examine creativity from four different perspectives: the person, the process, the product, and the place". When these aspects are considered, many lesson plans can evolve as each area can (and should) be targeted individually. For example, when the element of 'process' is considered, lesson plans can be abundant. Dr. Hickey suggests that the process of creating can be broken down into a further four stages (preparation, incubation, verification, and product). I agree with the author in that many children do not inherently understand the process and can become discouraged if they cannot complete it. Even I did not fully understand the creative process on a cognitive level, as I had never thought of it along those lines and I believe that many students feel the same way. How can they be expected, then, to complete the process successfully? I feel now, though, that I can help them with that as this article has spurred cognitive thought about the process and I feel that I can competently design lesson plans along these lines.

I also agree with Dr. Hickey's assessment that "All children have the potential for creative development and an understanding of these traits [that are characteristic of creative people] can help the teacher encourage development". I feel that, even though teaching creativity is a challenge, it is possible--especially once the teachers themselves are cognitively aware of what the creative process involves.

I feel that teaching the creative process is very valuable to students. Creativity in the arts is essential as it helps move the arts from pure repetition of technical skills to true art. I truly feel that time for encouraging, exploring, and honing creativity should be included in any curriculum.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Quotes for 10/15/07

I found this set of articles particularly interesting, specifically coming from my background. In my early music education career, I had never been formally taught "active listening" and had never actually thought about its benefits and usefulness in a curriculum. More specifically, too, I was never really exposed to jazz until my senior year in high school and, while it is enjoyable, I had never thought that jazz could be so influential in a curriculum. I completely agree with McDonald, though, jazz is a "uniquely American musical genre" and could fit very nicely into any curriculum and spawn many cross-content lessons, specifically in American history.

The question, then, becomes how do I incorporate listening into a curriculum? As a jazz player, I can incorporate performance of jazz into the curriculum, however, as the quoted teacher says "I still know it's just not enough to have my kids play or sing a simple blues scale and listen to one or two old standards" (McDonald, 43). Active listening, and Jazz listening in particular, can be used to fit many of the MENC standards, from responding to jazz, to performing jazz, to reading about jazz (McDonald, 44). All of these activities become valid, not to mention important, when viewed in this light. I particularly liked this article as it scripted and outlined a very complete and through unit on jazz listening that can be easily adapted.

After reading these articles, I have to concur with Dr. Campbell, "listening is sometimes and underrated activities in school classes and ensembles" (30). I also feel that by using several of the tips that Dr. Campbell offers (particularly the environmental music activity), listening can be a fun and meaningfull activity. For any musician, listening is a skill that is important to develop, not simply in the context of ensemble skills (where most listening is taught), but also in the context of understanding and appreciation. I feel, now, that listening does deserve a place in any curriculum and can't afford to be overlooked as it can easily tie several different elements of a music (and other subject) lesson together.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Quotes for Oct 1, 2007

As an instrumentalist, I found this article particularly fascinating. Naturally, I would feel a certain need to incorporate instruments into the classroom, not only due to the state and national standards, but also from my background as an instrumentalist and I found the instrumental incorporation techniques of Mr. Carolin to be extremely inventive and far reaching. Additionally, I think his techniques will be helpful to me, as a future music educator, attempting to find a way balance music with multiculturalism.

"Once the children made the connection between the sound of the ukulele and the story, I could tell them about the fifteenth-century Portuguese sailors who sailed around Africa looking for a water route to the Spice Islands in Indonesia"(39). The jump from music to world and historical contexts that was presented in this lesson was quite inventive and, I believe, could provide a form for other lessons. Other lessons presented in this article, such as the extension from the banjo to African culture, are quite inventive. Using musical instruments as a "departure point" is an excellent way to incorporate both the instrumental music aspect, and the muliticultural aspect that is required of general music education.

The only critique I have for Mr. Carolin, and in general, comes from this description that he offered of a lesson plan: "In the course of this lesson, you can discuss advances in navigation that made it possible for the Europeans to sail around the world. The students could research the expansion of European civilization in the last five hundred years. What caused Europeans to seek a water route to Asia? Why were spices so important ot them? How was the economy of Europe affected? What role did religion play?" (40). The list of questions goes on in this fashion. My general complaint with this, though, is where is the music? While I do feel that it is important to include multicultural education as well as cross-content study (as dictated by the standards), I feel that by following these lesson plans, the music may be overlooked as it is only used as a "departure point" for future discussions and could possibly play a more prominant role in the whole discussion of cultures as music is one of the aspects that defines a culture.

In all, though, I believe that the techniques presented in the article show excellent ways in which instruments can be incorporated into the classroom to address not only the instrumental aspects of music performance, but also the world views of music.

Carolin, Michael. "An Instrumental Approach to Culture Study in General Music". Music Educator's Journal. May 2006. 38-41.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Quotes for 9/26/07

I found this article particularly helpful as a starting point for later development and implementation of movement activities. As the author, Jack Neill, states, most teachers don't include music into the curriculum because they "simply don't feel comfortable with movement" (96). I feel that this quote directly describes me. I never had significant training in musical movement and I always find teaching a subject in which I do not have a solid base quite difficult. I do feel that I would try to include musical movement, because, as past blogs have pointed out, I significantly agree with the idea that "The elementary music in the enviable position of readily being able to direct this natural energy [and tendency towards motion] toward real learning" (95). Even though I subscribe to the idea that music teachers do have the ability to use movement to their advantage, I do feel that I still have a significant amount of development to do in this particular area of my teaching. Several of the suggestions in this article, however, from simply "be positive" to pre-planned activities will help me later in my career. I do hope that I, and others in my position (music educators uncomfortable with motion) will take some of the suggestions offered in this article and incorporate them into their classrooms.

Neil, Jack. Elementary Music Con Moto. Music Educator's Journal. January 1990.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Quotes for 9-24-07

"If you teach music, you move" (Reynolds, 84). That was a quote that really stood out to me this week. Just like many elements in this class, I had never really thought of movement or its education being a significant part of music, I mostly considered it to be more in the realm of dance. Movement, and specifically flow, do seem to be an important part of a music education with implications for success for later study in music. After reading this, I do feel that movement, specifically flow, should be encouraged in classrooms.

Not only does movement help in later performances, but, as Alison Reynolds points out, "...when students successfully participate in traditional movement activities, their kinesthetic involvement in a music objective is likely to assist with comprehending and retaining it, or with improving the accuracy with which they perform or identify it"(Reynolds, 84). This quote seems to suggest that, just as music play is a powerful tool for educating children, movement is just as powerful with drawing children into the lesson and making them enjoy it. One of the main aspects to movement that makes it very powerful, though, is its aid in not only involvement, but also comprehension and retention, two goals that teachers have for their lessons. Using movement as a tool when " is a natural, and even spontaneous, response to music..." (Music Play, 124), seems to be an excellent way for music educators to convey and engage children in lessons as well as to help them retain the lesson.

I also feel that Gordon's research makes a compelling argument for the inclusion of movement into a music education. As professional musicians, we all can personally attest to the level of coordination that is required to play our instruments, or sing, musically. Coordination between breathing, fingering, articulating, etc. While I never thought of movement being able to teach coordination, Gordon's research suggests that it does. As the article points out, "Gordon believes that movement assists the child with realizing that she needs to begin to teach herself how to maintain the coordination between her breathing and moving and singing or moving and chanting while performing music" (124). This quote also builds a strong argument for the inclusion of movement into an elementary education. I also would argue for its inclusion for its ability to focus our energy. As the article says, "...moving with continuous flow allows us to positively control our energy. [An ability to do this results in musicians being able to] breathe, draw the bow, reach for an upper octave, finger a difficult passage, and accurately begin to play again after long pauses in the music" (125). Flow seems to be essential for a good musician and therefore it would seem detrimental to remove it from an elementary education.

Should movement be included in an elementary education? Yes, I believe it should. Should it be included to the level included in the Dalcroze method? I'm not sure if that is entirely necessary, but I do believe that certain elements should be included. Movement, as I know now, is essential for building a good musician and I believe its inclusion into a curriculum is vital for the success of students in the future.

Alison Reynolds et al. Music Play. Chicago: GIA Publications, 1998.

Alison Reynolds. "Guiding Preparatory Audiation: A Moving Experience". Early Childhood, Elementary General, and Choral Applications.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Quotes for 9-19-07

"Their [children] biological selves gravitate naturally and readily to full participation in music, and they are captivated by it" (169).

This quote stuck out for me this week as another good argument in support of music education. There does not seem to be another activity that children are so fully immersed in as music, and for that alone, music becomes a powerful tool for educators. Children, for example, don't sit on the playground and solve algebra problems--they dance around the playground singing and it is that natural involvement in music that, when harnessed by educators, can be used to make any lesson more entertaining and, from a child's point of view, more worth while. Early participation in music, throughout the elementary years, develops this natural tendency and is all the better for children in their secondary education.

More than just enjoyment, though, this natural gravitation to music has been noted by educators and within most curricula "there is usually a some articulation of the importance of developing children's expressive and artistic capacities" (181). While dance and creative writing can also expound upon this, music seems to be ideal because of its natural draw for children.

Music also has far reaching implications in an overall curriculum as it can serve so many functions, too. For example, between pages 176-177, Campbell creates a list of all the different functions that music can fulfill in a curriculum. "Emotional Expression" (175) is, in my opinion, a very important skill that needs to be developed by schools. According to Campbell, "Music's power to express raw emotions is not lost on children" (175). I feel that this is a very valid point and one can look to the classic example of a happy child singing a happy song. Encouragement of this form of expression can be used to expand upon it and have children express their emotions in other healthy (and socially acceptable) ways. "Communication", "Physical response", " norms", and "Integration of society" (176-177), these topics and others are all things that music can be used to teach children. The amount of cross-content lessons that can be taught with and through music are mind-boggling and encouragement of this natural attraction to music can really enhance the learning process.

With this in mind, the question changes from "why music?" to "why not music?". These quotes from this week make a very strong arguments, and encourage arguments that I had never before though of, in favor of its inclusion. I firmly believe that music deserves a place in any curriculum at the elementary level as it is such a powerful tool, how can teachers afford not to take advantage of it?

Campbell, Patricia. Songs in Their Heads: Music and Its Meaning in Children's Lives. New York, New York: Oxford UP, Inc., 1998.