Music Education

benedict cathyCathy L. Benedict, University of Western Ontario
CMS Board Member for Music Education

The Music Education Advisory Board continued to build on the strategic mission of CMS. The Board views its own mission as one that engages in outreach throughout the music education community through sessions and discussions situated not only under the auspices of CMS but through other conference and educative venues as well.

While I was not able to attend the Society for Music Teacher Education (SMTE) board meeting as board member for music education. I did send a detailed report that was included in their minutes. In that report I addressed the first ever CMS Travel Grants for Historically Discriminated Populations and three initiatives:

1. The successful implantation of the Initiative on Latin American Music and Musicians.

2. The series of educational webinar presentations on Latin American topics

3. The CMS Task Force on the Undergraduate Music Major document (as of now) released via the CMS website - including the ongoing Task Force webinar series and several Forum pieces on TF-UMM issues appearing in Symposium—with several more to follow.

The strength of the music education board is made manifest in diversity including the career representation of its members. From doctoral candidacy to late career representation the advisory board is poised to think through education issues from a broad spectrum, thus positioning itself to speak to multiple constituencies.

To that end, I would like to report that as a board we proposed two separate panels for this conference under the heading of Neoliberalism and the Academy: The Music Education Marketplace. We had originally conceived this presentation in two parts. The first was to focus on pedagogy, curriculum (including MOOCs) and institutional polices. The second, whom we presented at this conference focused on state accountability and assessment systems. Both taken together were developed to suggest that an unexamined acceptance and reliance on these systems of teacher accountability, curricular structures, and pedagogical strategies might be both a manifestation and reproduction of neo-liberal productive strategies.

The committee and I believe addressing this topic speaks to one of the major emergent needs of the tertiary music education community. In order to be an “agent of change,” an awareness and articulation of ideological discursive forces is necessary. Given that any practice is always framed by an idea that precedes it – given the fact that we presuppose these ideas to be assumed and self evident – they are nothing but. Clarifying discussions of these assumptions, as to from where our ideas come and how they fit in an ideological spectrum and their impact, is both necessary and crucial.

Our most immediate plan is to formally write up the panel presentation and submit to the Symposium as a framework for further consideration and conversations. We also believe this broad framework of neo-liberal polices could and should provide an umbrella under which other conversations take place. We are considering a pre-conference format, or panel, to which others outside of the self-identified music education community would be invited to add their much needed perspective.

In terms of looking ahead to other music education board submissions for next year we would also plan to interrogate and explore the necessity for and differentiation between both instrument specific pedagogy and instructional pedagogy. We find that the word "pedagogy" means something completely different in the context of an instrument specific course. In those instances, most people are referring to taxonomy of skills and abilities needed in order to develop technique, not necessarily how that information is conveyed in either a private or classroom setting. We plan to pursue this issue in the next conference and grapple with the ways in which the term pedagogy (and by extension methodology) is used in order to articulate how they intersect and ways that we can help future collegiate educators explore the value of both.

We are also interested in pursuing and untangling the notion of “literacy” and what that means to and for different constituencies. While there are multiple literacies the preoccupation and even reliance on the primacy of functional literacy (reading and notating western classic music) as seen as an end-point in the formal process of schooling masks an ideology that rarely goes unexamined throughout all disciplines. We acknowledge the role of musical notation, but we hope to push and challenge the limitations of thinking of notation as one set literacy and consider the detrimental aspects when functional literacy is favored over musical experiences that are generated from differing engagements with music.

We believe that the above work being done in the music education advisory board furthers the CMS ‘Philosophy of Change’ agenda. Larger conversations of ideological forces and a broadening of a vision of pedagogical practices within the ideological spectrum moves CMS not only into the forefront of mainstream culture but challenges and interrogates it as well. A curriculum that meets the needs of today is one that provides critical strategies, rather than methods and structures that reproduce and further ideological productive strategies that constrain and control.

Lastly, the music education advisory board believes there must be more space for critical dialogue and conversations. We have seen a shift in the past years as more challenging topics have been part of the conversation, but we suggest a format that would force the complexity of issues. We are suggesting a directed call for interdisciplinary debate panels that would address a specific topic that would be prepared before the conference. The participants would need to familiarize themselves with formal rules of debate (in this case Karl Popper) where there would be a given topic or proposal (which could reflect the theme or common topic), an affirmative team (which agrees with the proposal) and a negative team (which disagrees). People would need to be chosen to participate the first year. However, if this were to be found an interesting format we could in the following year have people either apply or again hand pick teams from those who expressed interest. It is not necessary for either team to believe in the proposal. What is necessary is to present the salient points to the audience for consideration, thus, framing the multiple and often paradoxical complexities within the issue.

The advisory board and I want to thank CMS for providing a platform that brings multiple voices together under a far-reaching vision with multitudinous possibilities for critique, movement and agency.