Peter Lutkoski continues our series of guest posts by speakers from our Future of Musicianship event on May 1, 2012 in London. A full recording of the event is available for listening and download. Peter is President of the Association for Music in International Schools, as well as Middle School Assistant Principal & Head of Performing Arts at the American School in London, in addition to being a skilled multi-instrumentalist.
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“The act of creating and playing music, alone or with others, is part of what makes us fully human.”
Preparing for tomorrow
Not long ago I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion forum on the topic of the evolving role of music in our society and its implications for music education. Six other panelists and I, all from vastly varied professional and musical backgrounds enjoyed the luxury of a few hours of enlightening reflection and debate, and I left with new insights and deeper questions. When addressing a topic as colossal as the “future of musicianship” it’s impossible to predict along what pathways a conversation might unfold, and in two hours we managed to hit on media, economy, education, technology and Jimi Hendrix, among other areas. The themes addressed are significantly relevant, particularly in considering how students today can best be educated for the unknown world of tomorrow.
The panelists and attendees, musicians and educators, are likely in our chosen life paths because we have had transformative experiences through music. Mostly we would have had direct experience with the long-term commitment to developing a musical craft, and the unique reward and fulfillment this provides. The tension and expectation we feel, often even physically, through the vehicle of harmony and rhythm, and the expression of ideas that cannot be put into words fully occupies us, in ways that are hard to imagine in any other discipline. Our greatest challenge in advocating for and protecting musical traditions is that music is experienced to be understood, and language can never quite define it.
Music for everyone
An agreed, if unstated premise in our dialogue at the panel was that music is for everyone, and a quality musical education is of benefit to all students, no matter what they end up doing in their lives. Music should be part of school programs not just to prepare future performers, but because the act of creating and playing music, alone or with others, is part of what makes us fully human. After making this philosophical commitment, in terms of educational policies and approaches, it is our responsibility as music educators to continuously uncover the myriad ways in which we can connect our students with musical craft and tradition so that they may think of themselves as musicians. The more the future generation of leaders and policy makers have first-hand experience as musicians, the easier our future advocacy for our craft will be.
“There is more than one right way to inspire musical passion in students.”
Even among the seven panelists at the Future of Musicianship event there was a great mix of opinions about what kind of music should be taught, and the best methodologies to teach it. Great teachers will always have a firm commitment to their native approach, and ultimately there will always be space for variety. There is more than one right way to inspire musical passion in students. Some core essentials of the art form, such as creativity, technique and expression, are solid building blocks of pedagogy, and will most likely be the starting and ending points no matter what style of music is being taught. As the wider field of education in all disciplines evolves and responds to the changing requirements of our world, those building blocks at the heart of musical study may begin to appear more and more essential. The big problems to be solved by adults in tomorrow’s world will require creativity, divergent thinking, collaboration and communication. Engagement with musical tasks is the perfect laboratory to explore and practise these skills. We should consider that to be well-educated means to be artistic and creative, as well as literate and numerate.
Tradition & change
“As musicians and educators we have assumed the charge of passing on an esteemed tradition”
Advocating for our craft and furthering our professional field is an ongoing, complex and hugely multi-faceted conversation. The challenges are concrete, with funding, teacher education, curriculum and school inspection processes all coming with their own hurdles and complexities. In the long term, however, there is room to be hopeful for the future of music education and the future of musicianship. Students will have increased access to music and training through developments in technology, and they will be provided with potential audiences for their creative expression that would have been unthought-of even very recently. As we start to learn more about best pedagogical practice and the science of learning, through a deepening of our understanding of the working of the mind, the true value of music study becomes more apparent. And with the passing of time, the musical cannon becomes richer, the influences more varied, and our base of experience more substantial. As musicians and educators we have assumed the charge of passing on an esteemed tradition, and with this, to participate in the ongoing dialogue about how to best develop musicianship.
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What do you think?