Perspective of teaching: Music EDUCATION and/or MUSIC education? The balance of our priorities as music educators is delicate and requires our constant attention and maintenance. So often it is easy to focus on music as an art form and neglect the overall education and growth of our students. It is also easy to do the opposite and focus on the growth of our students to the neglect of giving them the necessary attention into the art of music. It is our responsibility as music educators to care about the art of music and it is also our responsibility to care about the nurturing and growth of ALL of our students. In order to promote the artistic and musical growth of our students, we first need to make sure that we are continuing to grow as musicians. We should be constantly seeking out opportunities to improve our insights into the art of music and exposing ourselves to the very best musicians and musical ensembles available to us. Engaging in artistic discussion with our colleagues and admired musicians is a must as we continue to expand and grow our artistic horizons. If we are not doing this, how can we expect our students to do this? We must set an example for this exploration so that our students will do the same. We share our journey of artistic growth with our students and engage them in their own journey. Not just our best students, but ALL students. We must not WASTE THEIR TIME on ANYTHING that isn’t the highest artistic example. Hopefully, we have the musical experience and integrity to recognize the best music available and we are not swayed by what “everyone is playing”. Hopefully, if we are hiring and/or commissioning composers or arrangers, we are choosing only the best available. Is money commissioning well spent? Might the money be more wisely spent elsewhere for the betterment of our students? While it is important to contribute to the improvement and growth of literature written for the band medium, our number one priority needs to be the students sitting in front of us. Only expose them to the best literature available. If you make the “mistake” of exposing your students to the best music, they will never settle for anything less……..(!) The extension of this ideal, of course, is to make sure that they understand what makes that music “the best”. On the other side of this pendulum, are we focusing on our students as people and not just a means to creating music that WE want to perform. The best music-making happens when the soul of the conductor engages the souls of the student musicians in front of him/her. I have seen many fantastic, well-intentioned musicians/conductors have horrible experiences with ensembles because they didn’t appear to value the heart and soul of the students in front of them. They didn’t take advantage of the time available to connect with students and, therefore, their rehearsals and performances were flat and uninspiring. Do we understand and embrace the non-musical advantages of being a member of the band program? The life-skills forced upon students in a successful band program are life-changing and stay with students long after they depart the program. The point is that there two responsibilities that we have as music educators. The first is to provide a quality music education so that students appreciate and understand great music and so that they will become consumers of great music as adults. The second is to promote the life-skills learned by attempting to achieve the highest level of musical excellence, as well as the experience of working together with many toward a common goal. As we reflect on WHAT we are actually teaching our students, honestly consider the delicate balance of these two objectives.
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