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ILLA Blogs - Progressivist Inclinations in Band Programs
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Progressivist Inclinations in Band Programs

Here is an intriguing example of what is extolled as good music pedagogy in the context of a modern band program.  Read this article by Jodie Blackshaw:  http://www.jodieblackshaw.com/single-post/2016/09/08/Just-because-your-band-sounds-good-doesnt-mean-you-have-a-good-music-program

There are many things in this article that bear discussion, but I'd like to call attention to one.  The author suggests that a better approach to running a band with the chief goal of "precision" or getting a band to "sound good" is to follow a model suggested by Arthur North Whitehead  (1861-1947) in The Aims of Education and Other Essays: 'Romance,' 'Precision,' 'Generalisation.'

Quoting Blackshaw:

For Whitehead, “From the very beginning, children should experience the joy of discovery.” Firstly, students ‘romance’ the new material. That simply means play around with it through creative processes either on their own or with their peers. The material then transforms from being new information into something much more familiar to the student on a personal basis. Secondly, students gain the ‘precision’ required to perpetrate the new material (this is the technical aspect of the process, something that Band Directors do very well). Thirdly, students now place the material into a context that brings meaning to them, allowing a connectedness to develop between the material, the outside world and the individual.

For many Directors, their programs start and end with the ‘Precision’ component of the educational journey. Little consideration is given to contextualization, and how many times have you heard a fellow colleague say ‘I would do more composition/creative activities, I just don’t have time’ ?

Romance is not just about creativity, it’s focus is self discovery, a vital educational ingredient for the 21st century child. It’s possible to add a little romance into every rehearsal without too much effort at all. In fact, teaching strategies that engage the students creatively allow you a moment to step down from the podium, and regain your thoughts. Teaching with this approach provides much needed opportunities to rest your own brain a little - thus helping you to regain focus on the reason you are there - the music.

Did you notice the upending of the order of grammar, logic, and rhetoric and the heavy emphasis on the student's experience?  This is the kind of thinking that permeates modern music education.  Blackshaw would have us put play and creativity first.  A student may want to play with a musical idea, and that might even be considered a noble task, but until a foundation of grammar and logic is laid, any "creative expression" (rhetoric) will be haphazard and misguided at best.  It is far better to have, in the end, a rhetorical specimen that is good, true, and beautiful than one whose sole virtue is that it is "mine." 

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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

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