Classroom and Instrumental Music Instruction: an Unbridgeable Schism?
by Bruce Gleason, Ph.D.
first job in rural Kennedy, Minnesota in public school music consisted
of teaching classroom music K-7, elementary band, junior high band, junior
high choir, high school band, high school choir and jazz ensemble (I was
also a substitute bus driver and the assistant speech coach).
The best part of this situation resulted
in departmental faculty meetingsI was the only one there! While
the work in this capacity was considerable, the experience was invaluable.
Rather than guessing what my beginning instrumentalists knew about pitch,
rhythm, dynamics, etc. (or being upset with their lack of knowledge and
the training they had received), I knew what they had been taught in their
classroom music experiences because I had been the teacher. If I wanted
students to understand 1) a counting system before fifth-grade band, 2)
that note placement on a staff indicates the pitch of the sound, and 3)
that pitch has to do with what is in the mind and the audible sound rather
than the placement of fingers on an instrument, it was up to me to teach
them before they got to me!
I use this example to introduce this column,
Connecting Classroom and Instrumental Music Instruction. Each
issue will bring suggestions on how to connect the various aspects of
what a student may have received from several different sources. With
increased interest in the music teaching approaches of Orff, Kodaly, and
Dalcroze an increasing number of instrumental teachers are hopeful that
their beginning students will have some kind of grounding in music literacy
before they begin instrumental instruction.
Ann Kay, veteran classroom music teacher
and director of the graduate Kodaly program at the University of St. Thomas
in St. Paul, Minnesota says: Zoltan Kodaly suggested that the ear,
eye, heart and hand should develop in equilibrium, not one before the
other. Unfortunately, for decades most students have been pushed to place
most emphasis on the eye, resulting in what Bobby McFerrin refers to as
paper trained musicians. Suzuki instruction often overemphasizes
the ear which causes many students to struggle with notation. Other students
are so over-trained technically (the hand), that they seem not to be able
to attend to, nor hear the subtleties of shading and nuance of tone that
create artistry, (the heart). It appears that balance is the key.
Balance is indeed the key, and perhaps the
best way of achieving this is for instrumental teachers to communicate
and effectively connect with classroom music teachers.
Talk about mutual goals for students. What
should students know and be able to do by the time they are of band/orchestra
age? Guiding the dialogue should be ideas of what is best for all
studentsnot just the select ones.
Students will be faced with plenty of new
information when they get an instrument in their hands. Dont start
from ground zero if you don t have to. Review and reinforce the musical
concepts students have learned in classroom music. Transfer what students
know to what is being taught in elementary band and orchestra.
If you have a counting system that you prefer,
show students how it relates to the one they already know (or use the
one they know!). Does the elementary classroom music teacher know what
counting system her/his students will use in your class? She/he may be
able to prepare students better if you've effectively shared this information.
Students can say both tah, tee-tee and count one, two
and, in both classroom and instrumental lessons. Build on what students
know, and encourage the classroom music teacher to prepare students for
the next chapter of their musical journey.
Many of you have plenty of experiences in
connecting classroom music with instrumental instruction. In addition
to my comments and ideas, we would like to gather information from you
for future issues of the Kjos Band News.
Send your comments to:
Kjos Band News
Neil A. Kjos Music Company
P.O. Box 178270
San Diego, CA 92177-8270
Dr. Bruce Gleason is an
assistant professor of graduate music education at the University of St.
Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota where he teaches courses in music education
and advises graduate research. His current research areas include comprehensive
musicianship and band history.
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Neil A. Kjos Music Company. All rights reserved.