Being Musical… Being a Music Teacher…

March was a month of conferences for me, the most recent of which was a conference where I had been asked to speak about (amongst some number of other things) the benefits to music education of utilising the opportunities social media affords. This did not go well. I began by talking about the ways in which high school students use music rather expertly without the assistance of teachers, for: identity formation; communication (especially in regard to emotion); making sense of, or organising emotional experience; organising executive function; and I went on to assert that these four uses of music are more fundamental to human musical experience than are the ‘performance’ / ‘composition’ / ‘analysis’ modes of musical experience dictated by the curriculum; that it is a kind of concert hall-think that permits us to structure music education in the 21st century primarily in regard to such a narrow set of musical experiences (performing, composing, analysing) and to blithely ignore the

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A small rant about diagrammatic illiteracy in the Arts Curriculum draft document

This has been my longest ever break in blogging since I began nearly three years ago. Family matters have been very pressing, and I ended up shutting down all my projects until things were on a more even keel. During this time, however, I’ve either tried or wanted to blog about any number of things: the Steve Reich retrospective held at the Sydney Opera House at the end of April, the value of learning the melodic minor scale, background information on my piece Vendetta which is currently on the Trinity Guildhall Grade 5 piano syllabus, a post on how I’ve let a student down by not teaching her to read chord charts before now, a review of the Nico Muhly/Sufjan Stevens/Bryce Dressner collaboration “Planetarium” as performed here in Sydney at the end of May, a Top 5 Things Parents Need to Know Once Their Child Starts Taking Piano Lessons list, as well as a discussion of the value and challenge

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Defining Music in the National Arts Curriculum: To Conclude

I’ve been analysing the proposed definition of music in the proposed new National Arts Curriculum, one or two sentences at a time, covering with What Music Is, Values, Musical Engagement and ‘Need’, and finally  A Mobile Digital Age. The proposed definition looks to have been constructed from a preferred teaching and assessing format rather than from a genuine effort to define what music is. This is no small thing: defining music by one’s teaching preferences ossifies and endorses current teaching praxis without leaving open the possibility of innovation and improvement let alone the recognition of educational failures in the status quo. Blind spots remain invisible, and the opportunity to remap the teaching landscape goes to waste. As bad as it might be to define a subject by one’s preferred classroom activities and assessment rubrics, in this case I believe the curriculum definition is simply being determined by the way teachers have become accustomed to teaching music. Complacency is no friend

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Defining Music in the National Arts Curriculum: Values

Now let’s take a look at the next sentence in the definition proposed in the new Australian National Arts Curriculum. Again, here’s the full definition: 2.3.4 Defining Music 16. Music is the imaginative process of creating, performing, and responding to sound and silence for personal and collective meaning. Through the processes of creating musical works, performing with voice and instrument, and responding to our own and others’ music, individuals and groups communicate meanings, beliefs and values. Music engagement shapes our thought and activity, and is evident from the earliest stages of life. People turn to music at times of emotional, physical, and intellectual need. Music is a pervasive feature of contemporary life. In a mobile digital age, music engagement both underpins and accompanies many of our day-to-day activities, and, marks the significant moments of individual and collective life. At first glance there’s nothing too much one can take exception to in sentence 2. In fact, once one reworks the opening

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Defining Music in the new Arts Curriculum

Here in Australia we are going through a process of creating a national curriculum. For all these years the education system of one state has mandated a completely different curriculum to that of the next state, and children in different parts of the country can have enormous difficulty moving from one system to another should their parents decide to make the move to another part of the country. Teachers also face barriers if they should choose to move and, besides this important logistical consideration, there is a sense that a national curriculum would also have the advantage of bringing together the best of each currently operating curriculum. That’s the thinking, in any case. I’m not about to analyse the case for a national curriculum (I happen to think it’s a splendid notion), or to discuss the broad brushstrokes of the process of its development. What I am about to do (over the next few months) is to engage in some

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