Thursday, September 23, 2010

Perspectives on the Music Program: Opening Doors to the School Community

Abril, C. R. and Gault B.M. (2007) "Perspectives on the Music Program: Opening Doors to the School Community." Music Educators Journal 93(5), 32-37.
Purpose: As a music educator this is my second, third or maybe even fourth job at my school. It is something that almost always supersedes any music department, band, choir or orchestra without even hearing or seeing a group perform. This generated many wanderings of my own. How do you gain community support and create values for music education throughout a community? Ding! I was hooked.

The topic of this article was discussed through several different perspectives. I would have liked to have seen a few actual case studies and numbers of students, growing programs etc, but the authors stuck mostly to the perspectives of Community Members, Music Educators, General Teachers, Administrators and Principals. Although they don't offer any concrete solutions or evidence to actually "Opening Doors to the School Community" they do hit many questions that I think all music educators, teachers and principals should discuss to bring community to the entire school. I found these perspectives to be very inspiring, engaging and hopefully useful in my current teaching situation. The summaries of the data came in interview form and again there were not concrete numbers so I felt that the evidence was a little weak.

The application of this information could be very useful to new music educators, principals, and classroom teachers when questioning why students should experience music throughout their education. I would have liked to have read this article before sitting down for job interviews.
For my research question, "How do you foster a collaborative community?", this article and the design behind the study gave me a great skeleton of steps to follow and provided insight on who, how and what should be considered when looking at community. Administration and Teacher support are all huge in the success of any performing arts program and the article laid out each perspective in a clear concise manner that I could immediately relate to my specific school community.

Each perspective was laid out in a well organized manner:
The Music Educator:
"Music educators should consider how they can open their doors to help the community understand how music education contributes to broad educational goals. Developing effective strategies to do so necessitates understanding the views and perspectives of others."

"Music educators are well situated at the grassroots level to shape community perceptions of music education. Some successful music teachers are already meeting these challenges, serving as agents of change for the betterment of students and the greater educational enterprise. Doing so requires extending our reach beyond the confines of the classroom.

The Classroom Teacher:
"Many studies in which researchers have examined how classroom teachers view music education have focused on music instruction as implemented by the classroom teacher rather than by the specialist. These studies reveal that classroom teachers tend to favor music activities designed to integrate music into other subject areas, but that they rank outcomes of music learning lower than those of other subject areas."

"Researchers found that classroom teachers are less willing to incorporate the National Standards for Music Education than are music specialists, supporting the need for specialized music teachers in our schools.

The School Principal
"Principals and music educators do not place equal weight on all instructional matters"

"While music teachers rated aesthetic rationales highest, administrators preferred rationales for music instruction that focused on developing self-esteem."

"Secondary principals felt it was important for music instruction to focus on helping students reach both musical and extramusical goals. They felt that fostering cooperation, developing self-discipline, and promoting public relations for the school were the most important goals for a music or band program."

Opening Doors on Music Education
"Music educators should consider strategies that effectively highlight the transferability of skills, processes behind musical outcomes, and musical achievements of students (see the communication hints BELOW). Awareness of this transferability can help teachers and principals understand how music strengthens the overall goals of a liberal education."
"Principals and classroom teachers favor goals and outcomes in which they perceive a transfer from music to other subjects, as well as to everyday life."
"When discussing the transferability of musical outcomes, classroom teachers, principals, administrators, and parents need to understand fully the process of musically educating students. We cannot assume that these individuals associate the act of making music with the skills and understandings needed to bring that product to life."
"Highlight the musical achievements of individuals and groups to help create a sense of value and demonstrate the rich curricular offerings provided by music instruction. Find prominent places to post compositions, essays, reports, programs, pictures, or other examples of students' musical accomplishments."
Understanding the Role of the Arts
"The fact that both principals and classroom teachers support music's role in the school curriculum is a hopeful sign for arts education. Results of a recent national survey reporting that 92 percent of elementary schools offered music are reaffirming."

The most immediately applicable and useable information of the article came in the conclusion section. I highly recommend all teachers and principals to read these brief sections I've included in full and challenge you to implement some of the "Hints" in your own life.

"Helpful Communications Hints

Transferability of Skills
 * Make teachers and principals aware of historical and sociocultural information related to music material used in class.
 * Relate musical skills (reading and writing notation) to skills used in the regular classroom (reading and writing language).
 * Highlight skills that music instruction develops (listening, creativity) that can be used in all instructional situations.

The Processes behind Musical Outcomes
 * Invite classroom teachers, principals, parents, and others to participate in a music class so they are aware of the "process" behind musical development.
 * Use music programs as opportunities to demonstrate how students achieve performance skills.
 * Invite teachers, principals, parents, and others to participate in music-making in both grade-level and schoolwide programs.

Highlighting Musical Achievement
 * Find prominent places to post students' achievements as documented in photographs, compositions, concert programs, drawings, and essays.
 * During performances, explain the context of unfamiliar or complex pieces so the audience has a greater understanding of what they hear.
 * Publish a music or arts newsletter that highlights the music education program.
 * Simulate a music class during a performance to demonstrate what happens in a "typical" music lesson."


Abril and Gault continue to shed light on the drastic decline of Music Education in California schools by citing a "Music For All" study that analyzed programs public schools in California schools in regards to each discipline, general music education, choir, band and orchestra. I learned a great deal about the preconceptions and reality of why programs were disappearing throughout the state. The state saw a decline of almost 50% of all music related courses. "School principals throughout the United States reported that standardized tests, budgets, and the No Child Left Behind Act were all factors that hurt music programs"

As a fairly new teacher in California, the article laid out why music programs have disappeared. I had heard all the horrible stories of amazing school music departments being "widdled" down to extreme levels over the years however this article put it all into perspective with numbers that really drove the point home. This article and its citations had a direct connection to my passion for teaching music so when they start talking about the large numbers of students not having an opportunity to experience music, I imagine my students my colleagues without the opportunity to explore their passion.

Closing Thought
"Perceptions about music education shape and are shaped by people's values. The values held by decision makers, at both the local and national levels, have a significant impact on music teaching and learning."


Stacey Caillier said...

This is really interesting! For future posts, I'd love to see the summary and your reflections at the beginning and then get into the quotes. That would help me get a sense of what the article is about from the beginning.

Stacey Caillier said...

Well done! I love the "tips" you included here for other educators - not just music educators - to think about. The quotes you pulled out will come in handy when you write your Understandings section for your proposal in the spring. Keep this up!!

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