Balancing Classical and Popular through Music Appreciation and Learning

Short, 200 – 300 word response:

Popular music and the way it is often learned, created, and produced should be taught to students, along with Western art music, music literacy, and traditional music skills. How popular music and Western art music are balanced will depend on the specific class and its goals. The best example of authentic popular music learning in my orchestra class is the “Senior Song” in which The Priory orchestra seniors perform as a group at the end of the year concerts and ceremonies. If they want to do a medley of popular songs, which is most often the case, they must arrange it themselves and generate parts and a score using notation software (if they prefer to use sheet music). In addition to this, they must schedule rehearsals, working on their own, as well as with me.

There are times in which they struggle, including learning how to arrange for their specific group, playing their part with confidence, or finding time for everyone to rehearse. As Tony Wagner states in his TEDx Talk, Play, Passion, Purpose, we learn a lot, if not more, through our struggles and failures, rather than the successes.

Motivation to practice classical music can often be difficult for kids. I often tell them that their favorite piece of music should be the one that is in front of you right now. This helps them to connect with the music and express its character, mood, or feeling. If students only practice music that they are used to listening to, then they will not expand their outlook on life. I agree with Richard Gill, who in the Module 2 video of Coursera’s the The Place of Music in the 21st Century states, “Children should have a wide range of music… It’s about learning stuff you don’t know…” The music teacher’s role is to help expand students’ minds. Music and the other arts are wonderful places to do this.

*Assignment for Week 2 in Coursera’s The Place of Music in the 21st Century Education.

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