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The complex reality of the process of music education.

1. Introduction

In the present paper, I focus on the rhetoric of music education, the purpose and structure of music education, the ethical practice of music-related informal learning practices, the constantly evolving opportunities for musical engagement, and the multidimensionality of music learning. The theory that we shall seek to elaborate here puts considerable emphasis on the discourse of music education, the importance of expression and emotion in music education, the growth of music education, the multidimensional problem of music education, and differences in contextual forms and functions of musical experience.

2. The Practice of Music Education

Shepherd maintains that music's true power and significance cannot be grasped by students if music teachers are insular in their approach in regarding music as autonomous and purely musical. "An effective music education must be based on an understanding of the character of music as a fundamentally important form of human expression and communication." (1) Johnson holds that new musical forms, media, and social practices have become the dominant and global standard for what contemporary, postmodern music is about. "Bands, choirs, and orchestras are practicing and teaching musical understanding and skills that are self contained, useful only within a very limited and now largely historic repertory, and are mostly inapplicable and even counterproductive for present musical applications and understandings." (2) Reimer reports that the most important concept in the history of music education is the concept of aesthetic education: the essential nature and value of music education are determined by the nature and value of the art. Musical materials used in the classroom should be genuinely expressive music. Musical performance is in danger of becoming obsolete in the art of music. "To the degree that music educators are able to construct a convincing explanation of what music is like--its diverse yet distinctive features and the many contributions it makes to human welfare--the profession will understand the domain to which it is devoted and be able to implement programs that effectively share its special values." (3) Reimer emphasizes that music and the other arts are basic modes of cognition. Aesthetic education attempts to nurture characteristic interactions with music, all engagements with music activate the "listening mind," and there is no neat "line" between the inherent and delineated aspects of musical experiencing. "In each particular musical experience we are sharing with our students, we must make room for, and give all due recognition to, what our students add to the experience from their own, individual perspective." (4)
   Some values are claimed for music education on the basis that they
   are unique to music but are not necessary for all people. These
   values have to do primarily with the development of musical talent.
   [...] Most nations in the world train their talented young people
   outside of the general education system, in special schools devoted
   to such purposes. That is the most cost-efficient way to do it.
   [...] And is it not also reasonable to regard the special subjects,
   and the teachers of them, as frills rather than basics in
   education, so that support of them is contingent on generosity
   rather than necessity? [...] Music must be conceived as all the
   great disciplines of the human mind are conceived--as a basic
   subject with its unique characteristics of ways to know and ways to
   be intelligent, that must be offered to all children if they are
   not to be deprived of its values. [...] Any single aspect of the
   music program--a performing group, a general music class, a
   composition lab, a listening-focused course, and so on--can be, in
   and of itself, a valid instance of aesthetic education. (5)

Reimer remarks that a philosophy of music education is necessary if one is to be effective as a professional and if one's profession is to be effective as a whole: the major function of music education should be to educate human feeling through the development of responsiveness to the intrinsically expressive qualities of sound.
   Music is a direct presentation of the feelingful dimension of
   experience. We get the feelings directly from the music--not from
   ideas about music, information about music, the vocabulary of
   music, facts about music, the history of music, cultural
   backgrounds of music, music theory, philosophy of music, or any of
   the other associated learnings in the music education enterprise.
   All those learnings (knowing about and knowing why) serve a
   purpose--the purpose of enhancing the quality of the direct
   engagement with the sounds of music themselves--of knowing within
   music. Knowing about and knowing why are means. The end is enhanced
   knowing within music (and knowing how) in direct, immediate musical
   experiences. [...] A major way to encourage knowing within [...] is
   to help reveal to both musicians and listeners more and more of the
   inherent workings of music so that the possibilities of feeling
   they contain become more available. That is a major, foundational
   role for all music educators being the expert guides to the inner
   workings of a great variety of musics. (6)

3. The Rhetoric of Music Education

According to Partti and Karlsen, societal changes affect how individuals create and maintain their musical identities: possible adaptations for music education should imply that experiences of online practices be considered valid within formal education (it is imperative to educate music teachers to utilize research as part of their own planning of educational environments). "The online world certainly adds to the possibilities of possessing multilayered and contradictory music-related identities." (7) Lamont and Maton highlight the range of challenges facing music education: the challenges facing music education are real, pressing and complex. (8) Westerlund and Vakeva observe that a philosophy of music education presents a coherent and comprehensive conceptual way of looking at music education: educators can guarantee the value of their educational practices by making value choices in the music they teach (music education should keep the focus on the musically objective). (9)

Woodford states that music education should take a "radical liberal" turn in order to prepare music students to participate in democratic society. "If music and other teachers are to provide the necessary educational leadership in democratic society [...] then they had better learn how to communicate with the public in ways it can understand." (10) Students in performance classes should be given "frequent opportunities to formulate, clarify, express, and justify their own informed musical understandings and opinions with others through musical sounds, physical gestures, and the spoken word." (11) Woodford affirms that music should be judged on its own terms, or according to prescribed practice within a community, whereas music education should be a search for personal integrity and identity.
   People were naturally varied, or unequal, in their respective
   talents. They were not created equal. This was all the more reason
   why a democratic principle of equality was needed as a guide to the
   rule of law. For unless all individuals were treated as equals
   before the law and by the institutions governing society, the
   strong and the gifted would use their powers to oppress the weak
   and less gifted. [...] Rather than seeking exceptional music
   teachers, I am actually calling for an improvement in professional
   standards. [...] Music classrooms and rehearsal rooms are all too
   often drab and joyless places in which drill prevails over inquiry
   and in which students' heads are stuffed with facts. (12)

4. The Growth of Music Education

Broudy thinks that cultivation of the virtues all are signs of perfecting and perfection: although music, structurally and qualitatively, is what it is apart from the listener, "it takes a 'tuned' man, that is, a man cultivated in music, to discern the goodness in the music. Therefore, the standard of both music and men is the connoisseur." (13) In aesthetic experience we perceive objects in order to grasp their sensuous characteristics, and music education is all deliberately instituted procedures designed to shape the musical skill, knowledge, and taste of the learner.
   To say that music ought to be part of general education is to say
   that all of us ought to be musically literate, that is, able to
   express ourselves in musical terms and to understand these terms
   when used by someone else. These might be called the skills of
   expression and impression. These skills would include the skills of
   listening, reading, composing, etc. as well as of musical
   performance. In formal education, educators strive to guide the
   behavior of learners into specific routes of value realization,
   selecting materials and methods according to some principle or
   theory. It is not just habit, not impulsive, imposing their taste
   on students. [...] The ancients recognized the difference between
   music that was good musically and that which was good morally or
   intellectually. Plato was adamant on this point: aesthetic
   experience had to be judged by its effects on the whole life of a
   person or a society as well as by artistic standards alone. (14)

Reimer insists that our approach to teaching performance should be guided by the fundamental principle "that we are developing an inherent human intelligence, in which thinking, feeling and acting are uniquely conjoined in the process of bringing music ideas to sonic fruition." (15)

On Regelski's reading, the goods of music are rooted in the situated and highly specific conditions of the here and now, "to current life, the experienced quality of 'good time' between the recently remembered past and the avidly anticipated future. [...] Means and ends, process and product are inseparable and are jointly conditioned by the intentionality governing the situated context of music-making."16 Regelski insists that a praxial approach to music education will emphasize getting people into action musically.
   It will stress the kinds of musical praxes that have the greatest
   likelihood of contributing to a life that is more fully lived
   through musical involvement. It will provide choices for such
   musical meaning-making by modeling valuable alternatives for
   musical involvement and by insuring that students are both capable
   of and interested in regularly making music a meaningful part of
   their lives. In sum, a praxial approach to music education will
   demonstrate and teach what music "is" and "is good for" in the
   broadest and most relevant functional terms. (17)

Juchniewicz examines the impact of social intelligence in relationship to effective music teaching (effective social skills are a component of effective music teaching). (18) Plummeridge notes that musical activities should be part of children's general education because they improve intellectual performance and social skills. "Attempting to judge music education in terms of student achievement in other areas of the curriculum would obviously be quite ludicrous, but this would be the logical outcome arising from a justification which relies on transfer theory." (19) Portowitz et al. argue that underlying learning skills may serve as mechanisms that link music education and cognitive modifiability (mediated music lessons provide a conducive environment for the development of select general learning skills). (20)

5. Conclusions

The results of the current study converge with prior research on the contribution of music education to cognitive development and social well-being, the effects of music education on the cognitive and social development of children, the effects of music on the brain, equality of musical opportunity, and the aesthetic rationalization of musical value. The implications of the developments outlined in the preceding sections of this paper suggest a growing need for a research agenda on the values and practices of school-based music education, the flourishing of new musical styles and genres, the connections between identity and music, the music-related practices, and different modes of transmission of music teaching and learning that are inherent in informal contexts.



Spiru Haret University


(1.) Shepherd, John (2009), "Breaking through Our Own Barriers," in Thomas Regelski and J. T. Gates (eds.), Music Education for Changing Times: Guiding Visions for Practice. Dordrecht: Springer, 118.

(2.) Johnson, Roger (2009), "Critically Reflective Musicianship," [1], 18.

(3.) Reimer, Bennett (1989), A Philosophy of Music Education. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 85.

(4.) Ibid., 89.

(5.) Ibid., 8-9, 5, 10.

(6.) Ibid., 95, 98, 82.

(7.) Partti, Heidi, and Sidsel Karlsen (2010), "Reconceptualizing Musical Learning: New Media, Identity and Community in Music Education," Music Education Research 12(4): 374.

(8.) Lamont, Alexandra, and Karl Maton (2010), "Unpopular Music: Beliefs and Behaviours towards Music in Education," in Ruth Wright (ed.), Sociology and Music Education (SEMPRE Studies in the Psychology of Music). Basingstoke: Ashgate.

(9.) Westerlund, Heidi, and Lauri Vakeva (2011), "Who Needs Theory Anyway? The Relationship between Theory and Practice of Music Education in a Philosophical Outlook," British Journal of Music Education 28(1): 37-49.

(10.) Woodford, Paul (2005), Democracy and Music Education: Liberalism, Ethics, and the Politics of Practice. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Press University, xi.

(11.) Ibid., 89.

(12.) Ibid., 3, 99, 85, 49.

(13.) Broudy, Harry (1958), "A Realist Philosophy of Music Education," in Nelson Henry (ed.), Basic Concepts in Music Education. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois, 66.

(14.) Ibid., 67.

(15.) Reimer, Bennett (1994), "Is Musical Performance Worth Saving?" Arts Education Policy Review 95(3): 20.

(16.) Regelski, Thomas (1996), "Prolegomenon to a Praxial Philosophy of Music and Music Education," Musiikkikasvatus: The Finnish Journal of Music Education 1: 26, 32.

(17.) Regelski, Thomas (1997), "Action Learning: Curriculum and Instruction as and for Praxis," in Marie McCarthy (ed.), Music Education as Praxis: Reflecting on Music-Making as Human Action. College Park, MD: University of Maryland, 109.

(18.) Juchniewicz, Jay (2010), "The Influence of Social Intelligence on Effective Music Teaching," Journal of Research in Music Education 58(3): 276.

(19.) Plummeridge, Charles (2001), "The Justification for Music Education," in Chris Philpott and Charles Plummeridge (eds.), Issues in Music Teaching. London: Routledge/Falmer, 24.

(20.) Portowitz, Adena, Osnat Lichtenstein, Ludmula Egorova, and Eva Brand (2009), "Underlying Mechanisms Linking Music Education and Cognitive Modifiability," Research Studies in Music Education 31(2): 107-128.
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Author:Popescu, Crinuta
Publication:Geopolitics, History, and International Relations
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXRO
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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