When one chooses (somewhat chaotically) from 5 possible tracks at a conference, criss-crossing from one theme to another specialty, as the spirit moves, throughout the day, it can be difficult to sense a theme or make an assessment as the zeitgeist.
Today I attended sessions from the Artistry, the Disability and the Jazz/Pop tracks, and to my surprise there really was a distinct theme running through the whole of my day: permission.
From Forrest Kinney giving teachers and students permission to improvise without ‘knowledge’ through to Peter Mack giving teachers (and by extension, students) permission to be musical in the way they perform/interpret notation, to Barbara Kreader giving teachers permission to broaden their curriculum beyond classical repertoire and Scott Price giving teachers permission to alter their teaching methods to meet the needs of children with autism – everyone was doing it: giving us permission.
What I liked about this was the sense of being in the middle of a tsunami of professional change: all the presenters were saying “you don’t have to do things the way you’ve always done them”, in so many disparate ways: Deborah Rambo Sinn discussing fingering for small hands, for example, and Kristin Yost demonstrating ideas for recitals with a rhythm section.
But, on the negative side of the ledger, I figure that all this permission-giving reflects a series of lacks in our profession:
- a lack of confidence in ourselves,
- a lack of competence at things we intuit are important,
- a lack of understanding of current educational thinking,
- a lack of general knowledge about the world, and
- a lack of critical thinking skills.
Of course, that’s what people come to conferences to address: the lacks they feel they have in their professional praxis. But the presentations were each, in their own way, more about saying “It’s OK to do this” than about anything else: the nuts and bolts were very frequently less important that the over-arching idea that teachers should feel free to do things in ways that make musical sense.
I’ll repeat that: teachers should feel free to do things in ways that make musical sense. And I can’t for the life of me understand why music teachers need to be given permission to do that.
How did music education reach this point – where musical sense has such a low priority that we run conferences to assure ourselves that is, after all, important?
Sober thoughts, indeed, at the end of my 2013 Pedagogy Saturday!