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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000672.txt from 2001/05

Subj: Re: [kl] School Board
Date: Sat, 26 May 2001 18:41:02 -0400

At 12:35 PM 05/26/2001 -0400, you wrote:
>Here you are taking on a defeatist attitude. I could throw the same
>argument back at you. Band and chorus instructors are not teaching music.
>They probably cannot as isn't time when the focus is and should be on
>performing for these groups. These types of arguments simply end up with no
>change in the status quo.


I often respect and try not to argue with your professional opinions
regarding your area of specialization. In this case, as I have been in the
trenches for nearly 20 years, in the schools, and in contact with the
administrators of many, many different districts - watched the Oregon music
programs disintegrate, watched changes occur - even in cities that had such
strong music programs that it was unthinkable that they could lose funding
at the state level - that your idealistic argument, not backed up with any
kind of evidence other than positive thinking and a personal reflection in
one school district, is, to me, complete and utter nonsense.

One thing I do know - and that is children love to play their
instruments. Take those away except for as an extra-curricular program
that competes with athletics, Little League, Soccer League, Swimming for
tots, etc. etc......and you have a bigger mess than you do now.

The problem isn't the way the class is set up at the schools now - it is
the philosophy behind the teachers. Period. Fine' Endissimo!

>Actually the loss of general music classes may perhaps have contributed to
>the viewpoint that a school band's primary purpose is to support the
>sports teams. No one, administrators, teachers, parents, or students,
>knows any better.

Boy are you in some other field other than left, right, or center. Nothing
could be further from the truth. Most school districts have general music
classes - at the elementary level and middle school level - with the latter
being the catch-all for the students who are not in band, choir, or
orchestra - except in Springfield, IL (our capital) which has no string
music programs at all. Some schools teach it amazingly well - I know when
I taught it, my wife taught it, and some of my colleagues here at my
university taught it - the notion that a band's primary purpose is to
support the sports teams was not included in the curriculum. We taught
music notation, music listening, form, function, and a host of other
important concepts. Beyond all that, you don't mention above how you
describe the loss of general music classes contributed to a viewpoint that
a school choir's primary purpose is to support something other than
becoming musically literate. That WAS part of your original idea wasn't eliminate chorus from the curriculum?

Your comments don't represent the national trend.

>What I am talking about is that we as parents and the music educators need
>to band togethether and get a practical program agenda if we truly believe
>that basic music should be part of a core curriculum. Core curricula does
>not mean extensive studies in history, theory or jazz etc, but giving the
>student an overall picture of the field so that they are equipped to
>select how much, if any, they want to include in the rest of their lives.

Actually, core curricula DOES mean studies in history, theory, music reading, and even in compositional ability. They
do it in Europe - no reason we shouldn't be doing it. I did it when I
taught High School Band - and Scott Wright (University of Wisconsin-Green
Bay - Clarinet Prof. and Music Ed.) did it with his middle school bands in
Longview, WA for ten years. My father did it when he taught band, and my
mother did it when she taught choir. What makes you think it isn't already
happening? Sure - we have a bunch of music educators doing dumb things
with their music classes. Are you saying the same dumb things won't be
done when you remove these classes from the curriculum and institute some
kind of National Requirement for Music Learning Class? All it takes is
concerned, dedicated music teachers who not only put on great band and
choral concerts and teach their kids to play/sing and express well - but
they can teach all the other stuff too.

Give me ten examples of school districts that have the parents, all music
educators - and the administrators (gee, you kind of left them out in your
argument didn't you!!!??) - all agree and do what you are talking
about. I'm trying to see where your idea is actually in a working
location. Don't forget, it has to be your idea WITHOUT band or Chorus as
part of the curriculum.

>Before you say it can't work, the following program was actually used in
>the small rural schools that I went to and approximately 1/3 of the
>student body enrolled in the voluntary, extracurricular band and about 1/3
>enrolled in the voluntary, extracurricular chorus. Many of us were in
>both though that meant sacrificing study halls and sometimes lunch breaks.

One of the greatest problems in teaching is that some people believe that
they should teach the way they were taught. Beyond that, you don't
describe what at what levels this program operated (grade levels), how many
periods were in the school day, etc. To just say - this is what we did and
it worked for me says nothing about a national trend.

Your suggestion:
>1. One year of basic music in elementary school for all students. None
>of these have to meet 5 days per week if there are not enough class hours

Nothing like cutting out 2/3 of what we already have now! Why would you
recommend LESS music study than what is currently in the curriculum?

>2. One year of basic music in middle school. Again, separate, optional,
>and *NOT* a substitute for this class would be band and chorus. Again
>none have to meet 5 days per week.

Again - chopping out most of what exists now. I wonder which teachers you
are going to find who would want to teach in these elementary and middle
school programs? Who is going to change the curricula of the schools that
teach future teachers? Are you going to convince the music teachers like
me and others who don't agree with you that we should eliminate teacher
unions (which are the controlling factors in most districts - including the
problem with education - but don't get me wrong - teachers need some kind
of protection from administrators who pass the buck) so that sweeping
changes in music education can occur? Who is going to back the change of
their current job to an extra-curricular one? Who is going to give up
tenure at the public school level? A few states have tried this - and it
has failed.

>3. One year of basic music in high school.

Great - now we've eliminated four years of music in the public
schools. Most districts already have a fine arts requirement - how is
your's any different? Do you think you can teach all students in one year
what they need to know about music? Your entire argument is for three
mandatory years of music studying in 12 years of formal schooling.

>A clever teacher could work in how the old music lead to and influenced
>the music the kids listen to today.

Dee - if we had clever teachers as a national norm, we wouldn't be in the
mess we are in! We wouldn't have teachers doing the extracurricular stuff
they are doing now if the teachers were clever. How do you propose that we
increase the amount of "clever teachers" nationally? A bunch of presidents
have tried to change the educational standard of this country over the
course of the past 20 years - and one is attempting to do so now......with
no idea of how to do it. How do YOU propose to do it other than
eliminating current music programs from the curriculum?

>They could also work in how the pop music influences non-pop composers and
>how music is used to increase the impact of movies, advertising etc. As
>with the earlier grades, none of these have to meet 5 days per week.

Why not have them meet just one hour per week? That way we've eliminated
band/chorus/orchestra as curricular classes and cut back music study almost
entirely. Yes, I know - I'm being sarcastic here.

>The bands that I belonged to in school did not meet every day of the week.
>Yet we received I's at contest as a band and as individuals. We had
>students make All State. We marched the football games and parades. It
>was not mandatory yet everyone who could did participate.

And for every student in your school that succeeded, there are 200 more
within a 1000 mile radius who also succeeded. So what is your point?

>The amount of music knowledge that students have coming out of school
>bands and choruses is distressingly small. They can play their
>instruments more or less but that is about it. Some actually play
>exceptionally well. Now I am sure you can bring up students and schools
>that are the exceptions but
>that does not change the fact that the norm is band and choral classes do
>not really teach music.

That was my point Dee. Administrators want students and parents to be
happy. They want the experience to be fun (at the expense of other stuff),
and the result is music teachers who take the easy way out because it works
for them. When it comes to math and science, you don't see the
administrators dumbing down the curriculum to keep parents and students off
their back, and you don't see them eliminating offshoots of English classes
to solve problems. Your ideas aren't going to change administrators or
music teachers who don't teach well. All it's going to do in the long run
is eliminate even more music from the curriculum.

What we need is better educated administrators and more accountability for
existing programs. We have statewide testing for math, science, reading,
writing, and social studies - why not for music? When we do, the existing
programs will get better.

I taught in several districts - and in each of them, we had Student
Learning Objectives (SLOs) by grade level. Those were the goals we taught
towards - and that took care of most of our problems. But I will tell you
this - not ONE of those districts could have supported your ideas
above. Why? They were trying to eliminate participation in the arts
altogether - the teachers unions voted for a six period day and there are
only so many opportunities for students to fulfill state requirements. Go
ahead and remove band and chorus - and institute a required music program -
they did that in Oregon in some places (What was it......Measure 5?). Blew
some programs right out of the water. You should have seen the mass
exodous from that state in the late '80s and early '90s. It never has
returned to what it was (being a native Oregonian, I have watched this over
the past 15 years).

Even in your state of Michigan, ten years ago the legislature almost did
away with funding for music programs in the public schools - clear up to
the university level. I'm sure you remember that - if you were heavily
involved that is........

While I can appreciate your enthusiasm, recognize my resistance to this not
as "defeatist" but as "realist" and "been there, done that....." If you
can't do that, at least recognize that there are people fighting this fight
daily and yearly - just as you are fighting your fights in whatever it is
you do in the engineering field.

Best wishes,
Roger Garrett

Roger Garrett
Clarinet Professor
Director, Symphonic Winds
Illinois Wesleyan University
School of Music
Bloomington, IL 61702-2900
Phone: (309) 556-3268
Fax: (309) 556-3121

"A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes
Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825)

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