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  • Can We – Or Even Should We – Modernize Music Education?

    Maybe Jack Black got it right...

    By Phil O'Keefe |



    Most people agree that an educated populace benefits society—where they disagree is on what “education” means.

    With ever-tightening budgets, some make a case that music education in schools isn’t as important as math, science, and language skills. But it’s hard to make that case once you realize that the benefits of music education are beyond dispute. Kids who play music tend to score better on tests in a variety of areas—not just music. Graduation levels are higher for kids who study music, as are test scores for reading and spelling. Even attendance is better at schools with music programs.
    It’s easy to pay lip service to music education, like the states that guarantee music education programs—but never fund them. And while the stats for schools offering music programs look good superficially, dig deeper and you’ll find that all is not well.
    Having a music program doesn’t just mean checking off a box that says “music program.” We need excellent music programs. Musical tastes change from generation to generation, and while it’s important to teach music history and fundamentals, I suspect that the number of children who want to take music classes (which are often elective courses in high school) would increase if they were exposed to music education in grade school, and offered programs that gave more attention to contemporary musical styles.
    Furthermore, it's also time we reconsidered the methods and tools used for musical instruction, and provided our instructors with better tools based on their input—as well as serious research studies—of how they can perform their jobs more effectively. Computers are ubiquitous today, as is modern recording technology. Courses that taught how to use basic recording programs could also focus on music theory and how to read music notation. Much of that would be computer-assisted, thus teaching students about computers as well.
    As to funding, we're starting to see a sharp decline in high school football programs, due in large part to increasing concerns over the long-term negative effects of head trauma injuries. Let’s allocate the funds used for football programs and marching bands to more general music education—problem solved.
    As a product of the public school system, my first exposure to playing music came through music classes. I was extremely fortunate to have a series of excellent band directors, who helped stoke my innate love for music. Music became my life, and still is.
    Of course, not everyone who takes music classes will end up becoming a musician or recording engineer—but the evidence is compelling that they’ll become better at whatever they become...and that will benefit all of us.  -HC-



    What do you think? Do you have ideas about how musical education can be reimagined and improved for the 21st century? I'd love to hear what your thoughts are on the subject, so please drop into this thread right here on Harmony Central and tell us what you think. 







    Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

    Sub Title: Maybe Jack Black got it right...
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    The way music has been taught has been shaped by the shortfalls and limitations of paper. In digital design, knowledge-ware ergonomics can remove a myriad of age old interruptions that cause classes to waste time. As individuals receive ergonomically considerate course-ware and autonomy to use it, the idea of the "class" can change to serving individuals on those things which they find did not fully work for them in the course-ware. Cracks will be removed through which millions of students in the past have fallen. 


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