It is through the study of musicianship, whether it is in general music class, band, choir, or orchestra, that we can best prepare our students to be critical and creative thinkers in the next century. It is not only the performance aspect that leads to the creativity needed for a 21st Century workforce, but performance is a part of a balanced music philosophy that will give our students the skills needed to be successful, not only in music but also in life. By striking a balance of aesthetic and practical approaches to music in the classroom, we can better serve the needs of our students, schools, and society at large.
My thoughts here focus on how to implement into the undergraduate music education curriculum those activities that will enhance the development of musicianship, critical listening, and creativity. These guiding activities will be seen as supplementing the current methods being employed (i.e. music theory, music history, ensembles, lessons, music pedagogy) and not as an indictment or replacement of the current practices. Through these implementations the author assumes that there will be a sense of collegiality and cooperation among the music faculty and that all necessary NASM guidelines will have been met.
Sequence of Novice Teacher Development
In order to develop musicianship, critical thinking, and creativity as music educators, notice teachers will need to be surrounded by outstanding examples of each while they pursue their degrees (and during professional development activities once hired as a teacher). The best way to surround novice teachers with these kinds of examples is through practicum situations which function as a kind of apprenticeship. Student teaching often comes as too little, too late for some students who have struggled with their coursework. But practicum courses during coursework may not be enough. By implementing a system of “apprenticeships” throughout the undergraduate music education curriculum, a more fully prepared music educator may be trained. As Elliot puts it, “Students need opportunities to assume multiple roles (performer, coach, critical listener, adviser, conductor) while solving musical problems” (Elliot, 1995). Novice teachers need to not only experience these roles as students, but they also need to understand how they work in practice as music educators.
These apprenticeships can take place in several possible content areas:
Private Lessons In private lessons during the first two years of undergraduate study, the novice teacher is given the opportunity to not only perform, but to analyze and critique their own and others’ performances. In addition to “master classes,” in which the faculty member or guest professional offers insights and instructions, the novice teacher is allowed to at as coach and crucial listener as well. During their last two years of study, novice teachers should be given younger students of their own to teach under the guidance of the faculty member. While the novice teacher is teaching the applied instrument, she is also modeling the appropriate roles for her student, asking them to become performer, coach, and critical listener. By actively engaging one-on-one within the confines of the private lesson experience, the novice teacher can grow comfortable with the various roles needed to be a successful classroom teacher, albeit on a much, much smaller scale.
Ensemble Rehearsals Since some collegiate ensemble conductors would be loathe to allow students to be actively involved in musical decisions effecting the performance, a “lab” ensemble would be the best opportunity for students to practice their teaching skills in an apprenticeship environment. A non-major ensemble, or ensemble in which music majors play secondary instruments, would provide a non-threatening environment in which students could participate not only as student conductors but also as musical decision-makers. This lab experience would cover the student’s entire tenure as a music education major, allowing them to play a secondary instrument and serve as a performer, and critical listener during their first two years, and as a chamber/section coach, adviser, and conductor their last two years.
Musicology Rather than passive receivers of facts, novice teachers should be given ample opportunities to present and teach topics in the music history curriculum. Teacher-assigned topics on composers, musical epochs, performances practices, can be given according to student aptitude and interest (i.e. a string student could do a presentation on the “classical” spiccato stroke and how it was directly influenced by the advent of the Tourté bow or a trumpet student who was heavily involved in jazz could do a presentation on Miles Davis), and teacher and classmate feedback, not only on content but also on delivery, can give students authentic experiences prior to their professional role as teacher.
Although not exhaustive, the examples given here offer insight into apprenticeship situations in which novice teachers gain experience in small one-on-one settings, ensemble rehearsals, and in classroom activities. The amount of experience given to each student should be gauged according to student preparedness and exposure to the process. Experiences can be limited in the first two years of the undergraduate music education curriculum and then expanded in the last two years of study as the novice teacher prepares for student teaching.
Proposed Focused Instruction
In addition to the standard curriculum, the undergraduate music education methods courses will need to offer authentic experiences and assessments for novice teachers. Students in music education programs should begin observing professional music educators in their classrooms and participating in as many activities as possible while there. Care should be taken to insure that students are placed with music educators who understand the apprenticeship role in which the student is engaged and that the music educators are given appropriate tools for giving feedback and assessing novice teachers.
Throughout their experiences, novice teachers should be required to keep journals of best practices, tricks, and tips that they’ve learned in observing and participating in classroom apprenticeships. Online blogs or group discussion boards could be utilized by undergraduate music faculty to facilitate discussions and give feedback to novice teachers as they reflect on their experiences. Reflection on best, and worst, practices observed can help students form their own teaching style while compiling a list of “what works” in the classroom.
Improvisation and composition are two of the biggest areas in which student creativity can be enhanced almost immediately. Unfortunately, improvisation is often neglected to the point of extinction in some classrooms, especially those ingrained in the Western classical tradition of music. Throughout the undergraduate music education curriculum, care must be taken to incorporate improvisation so that it becomes a natural extension of all musical activities. Although many private lesson teachers and large ensemble conductors are uncomfortable with improvisation, there are several areas in which improvisation can be added with minimal invasiveness. These include:
Elementary and Secondary Music Methods Elementary music methods often explore the use of improvisation using barred instruments, body percussion, hand drums, recorders, and other instruments/methods, but few novice teachers are exposed to music educators who use improvisation to great effect. Coursework should be designed, with apprenticeships augmenting what is learned in class, which shows the width and breadth of improvisation and how it affects student learning. To that end, secondary music methods courses should be reminded of the positive role that improvisation has been shown in enhancing student music reading (see Azzara, 1993), and that improvisation is a skill that can be learned as well as any other in the music curriculum. Care should be taken to offer novice teachers who come from a non-improvisation background (orchestra students, choir students, piano students, etc.) experiences involving improvisation that occur in a safe and nurturing environment (non-major ensembles, classroom activities, etc.).
Early Music Ensembles/Musicology Courses Authentic experiences with improvisation can be a part of the musicology course. Improvisation was an integral part of performance up until the late Romantic period when composers began to notate cadenzas. Prior to that, performers were active in the creation of the music through their own interpretation of ornamentation and cadenzas. Novice teachers can use improvisation in Renaissance or Baroque music as part of in-class presentations or demonstrate contemporary methods of performance. Several modern translations of early music treatises are available along with journals that emphasize improvisation in early music (see Bechtel, 1980).
Non-Major Jazz Ensembles and Non-Traditional Ensembles To give all music students an opportunity to experience the truest forms of American music (jazz, blues, bluegrass, pop, rock and all the permutations thereof), ensembles that feature improvisation must be made available. Although most universities do not have non-major jazz ensembles, it would benefit any school of music to do so. If not possible, student-led ensembles such as bluegrass bands or rock bands could give musicians with no prior experience in improvisation an opportunity to experiment with the medium. This would also give novice teachers opportunities to serve as mentors, if they come from an improvisation background, bandleaders, active listeners, and critics. In this arena, the imagination can run wild with possibilities, only limited by the lack of rehearsal space and ample amounts of hearing protection.
The last area in which novice teachers will need apprenticeship experience is composition. Unfortunately, most university music theory programs fall far short of preparing students as composers. Yes, courses on music theory, orchestration, and form and analysis are offered, but rarely do these courses take the means to an end. Music students are not taught to compose, they are taught to analyze.
Too often students get the impression that composers are “born,” not made, and that somehow, even if they did learn to compose it wouldn’t be as good as Bach. Students need to be taught to compose not so that they can become a famous composer, but so that they are comfortable creating the language that they speak in rehearsal every day. Apprenticeships with composers, especially composers who compose regularly for school ensembles, would help facilitate novice teachers’ comfort level with composing for their ensembles.
Again, non-major ensembles would be a good place for novice teachers to hone their composition and arranging skills. The practical advice from ensemble members in regard to how best to write for their instrument is much better feedback than any textbook. Student composers can explore and experiment with different sounds and, ultimately, create their own.
Novice Teacher Activities
Activities for novice teachers must be authentic. They need to be real world experiences or the closest approximation possible. Opportunities for novice teachers to serve as performers, conductors, section leaders, critical listeners, improvisers, and composers must be made available to novice teachers as early as possible in their university training. In addition to the activities previously mentioned, the author cannot overemphasize how important having an ensemble in which novice teachers can actively practice their skills. Although a non-major ensemble would be considered a luxury at most universities, the benefits to not only novice teachers, but to community members and non music major students who could play, and faculty who could advise and supervise student conductors and composers are just too great. The “lab” ensemble should be as common to a music education student as a “lab” classroom is to a classroom teacher.
Additional activities and resources for novice teachers include workshops and symposia, hosted not only by the university but by other universities and organizations as well. Improvisation workshops are often done as part of jazz ensemble competitions at universities. With a little imagination, music education professors in conjunction with the jazz faculty could facilitate improvisation and jazz style workshops for novice teachers and non-majors during evening hours or time otherwise not being utilized during the course of the festival.
Composition workshops could be held in conjunction with new music festivals or contemporary music festivals. Often, these festivals have a wide-range of participants, many who teach at the university level. Working in conjunction with the composition and theory faculty, music education professors could work to bring in composers and arrangers that work in educational settings so that novice teachers and budding young composers can get firsthand experience.
Finally, Music Education Symposia in which all of these practices are emphasized would be a valuable addition to music education programs. Many universities already have well established and highly regarded symposia that feature lectures and activities for participants. Expanding the offerings to include improvisation and composition would add an extra level of creativity for novice and experienced teachers.
Novice Teacher Assessment
Novice teacher assessments should closely resemble the evaluation tools used by administrators in the public schools. Unfortunately, too often these particular evaluations are not easily adapted to the music classroom so an imprecise, if not impossible, tool is used to evaluate music educators. Music education faculty should design and implement assessments that model the kind of assessments novice teachers will use. This cannot be overemphasized: the design and implementation of assessments must be a part of ALL music courses! Improvisation assessments must authentically assess improvisation; composition assessments must assess compositions; and teaching practices must be authentically assessed using measures that give useful feedback to the aspiring music educator so that she may further hone her skills as a teacher.
Assessment should be an ongoing process that involves the entire music faculty working cooperatively to assess the novice teacher as she progresses through the program. A music education student should never get to the end of her coursework without ever having had assessment experiences that gave her authentic feedback on her work. Student teaching should not be the time that a student realizes that “teaching isn’t for me!”
According to the Housewright Declaration, “Recruiting prospective music teachers is a responsibility of many, including music educators. Potential teachers need to be drawn from diverse backgrounds, identified early, led to develop both teaching and musical abilities, and sustained through ongoing professional development” (Hinckley, 2000). It is the responsibility of music education faculty to ensure that students are prepared through authentic experiences that parallel those of their future students. And, as the declaration concludes, all music educators “must identify the barriers that impede the full actualization of any of the above [goals] and work to overcome them” (Hinckley, 2000).