Cello There: The Funny Side of Music Education

Music Education has a whimsical side to it. Music teachers and student musicians get to see the funny in class and rehearsals. Cello There takes all of this and puts it in one place where we can see a new set of Music Education Funnies every weekday by Gregory Pavliv and MusicTeachingGuru.com

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Identifying Musical Stereotypes

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Identifying Musical Stereotypes

There is no smoking gun that will immediately fix this. It has to first be acknowledged as being a real problem. Then it has to be addressed using the amazingly appropriate vehicle of music education. And then, one classroom and one student at a time, we can begin to remove stereotypes. Here is one of my favorite Buddhist proverbs that better explains the process, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The music classroom can be utilized as a school strategy to empower cross-cultural understanding.

WHAT IS MUSICAL STEREOTYPING

Do you see a connection between stereotypes and music? Think about it. Could music support stereotypes? Can a music class break them down? Are stereotypes that are part of the subculture of one group ridiculing another group considered acceptable in that group’s music? How is that music being promoted? Is the music handed down generation after generation?

These are all powerful thoughts that should stimulate a shift in perspective: stereotypes are inadvertently attached to music. And by embracing other styles of music not seen as popular to a specific community, is it not right to think that this type of exposure would have a long-term positive affect?

IN THE CLASSROOM

Granted, simply giving a student the opportunity to listen to a song in a general music class won’t do anything on its own. But a facilitated discussion that is open and honest while identifying the musical strengths and weaknesses of a piece of music or a specific style of performance opens the door. Once opened, that music may become more accepted, it could be performed by students, they may even grow to like it.

But the goal isn’t to change the world with a song. The goal is to expose students to a music that they only experience through stereotypes to hear the music for what it is and thereby attaching a human aspect to the ‘thing’ that was previously not accepted.

PROOF AND ACCEPTANCE

After reading this, you may have a classroom in your mind full of students of a specific race or status. And that’s fine. You may see a group of black students making fun of country music or a group of white students making fun of hip-hop. It could be a classroom of Latin students making fun of Chinese music or a group of Dominican students making fun of Mexican students. There is no end to the possibilities but there is something in that picture within your mind. And those are the very stereotypes we’re attempting to tackle.

There is no smoking gun that will immediately fix this. It has to first be acknowledged as being a real problem. Then it has to be addressed using the amazingly appropriate vehicle of music education. And then, one classroom and one student at a time, we can begin to remove stereotypes. Here is one of my favorite Buddhist proverbs that better explains the process, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The music classroom can be utilized as a school strategy to empower cross-cultural understanding.

AWARENESS

Part of the reason that the issue of musical stereotyping has gone undiagnosed for so long is because schools do not yet acknowledge the connection between self-expression and musical understanding in the curriculum. If such a correlation was understood, then the administration and faculty attitudes as stated above would not occur, at least not in the school setting.

Personal views are separate from professional conduct. Children up to the middle school level are able to express themselves emotionally both with and through music (Oh, 2006). Public education has treated music as a secondary content area. This means either that the department of education understand the importance of self expression but feels it is not the role of the school system to encourage it or that the department of education is not made up of music educators who understand the presence and the need for such character education, personal fortitude training and self-expression awareness in the schools.

AN INFORMAL STUDY

Here are the results of an informal study I completed while teaching music to a Pre-K through 8th grade public school in New Jersey in 2008. It shows that the students were, in most cases learning music on their own, and in so doing they were creating large walls around them so that the music they chose to listen to was of their own affiliation.

They were using music as a shield to protect themselves, and anything foreign to their immediate surroundings or any song not in their specific genre of choice was completely unacceptable to them. Before I could “teach” I did some action research with them to remove musical stereotypes. Here were my findings on Musical Stereotypes:

• Students in Pre-K through the 3rd grade hadn't developed musical stereotypes and were open to listening to all styles of music.

• Students in 4th through the 5th grade were developing musical stereotypes and were open to listening to all styles of music more than half the time.

• Students in 6th grade had developed musical stereotypes and were open to listening to all styles of music less than half the time.

• Students in 7th and 8th grade had developed musical stereotypes and were not open to listening to all styles of music.

Students use their preconceptions to decide what to learn and when to learn it. This cannot be seen as an attitude problem or as their negative stereotypes dictating responses, but as a declaration of a state of mind. There have been a series of moments that may have started in the home, may have continued with their friends in social activities and ultimately were negatively affected by the music classroom itself.

APPLICATION

When a style of music is being discussed that the students enjoy, even those students who may be considered to be a problem in other classrooms may in fact, act as the interested and eager teacher’s pet. However, when a style of music is being discussed that the students do not like, most students are immediately removed from the learning environment and mentally refuse to participate. Then the opposite result has often been seen as a student who is interested and eager in other classes is disenchanted and left bored in music class. While this is not the job of educators to please every student at all times, it is the responsibility of all educators to do whatever it takes to instill motivation, inspiration and pride in every subject that is taught.

 

Oh, J. (2006). An Exploratory study of children's musical experience, DAI-A 67/02, Aug 2006.(978-0-542-53821-6) Retrieved February 28, 2007, from ProQuest database.

 

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