Week One of Semester 5 has marked a most welcome transition back to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and back into active learning.
During my first lecture in Popular Music Studies, I was introduced to a speech that I felt perfectly explained my beliefs surrounding Music Education, as well as my relationship in the subject material. The speech was given by Christopher Small at the Music Educators National Conference in Washington D.C., 1990, and below I'll share a series of quotes which I found particularly poignant. But first, I have to introduce my new favourite word, coined by Christopher Small during this speech, Whose Music Do We Teach, Anyway?
Essentially referring to the act of 'doing music', musicking encapsulates all that occurs in relation to making music, including performing, composing, listening and dancing. It highlights that music is a process, rather than an object or an outcome, and I think it is a brilliant attitude to approach learning and music education through. It also infuses the concept of music with a sense of motion and activity, rather than a feeling of passivity as often occurs in our music classrooms. In Teaching Junior Secondary Music we discussed starter activities as a way to immediately get students interacting and engaged in the lesson, and allow them to begin musicking within the first few minutes of the lesson.
Whose Music Do We Teach, Anyway?
This brief passage so concisely captures exactly my thoughts on music and musicking. I often reflect on why I find so much more joy in watching my students perform at the end of a term, showcasing their growth and developing skill, than I do watching a professional choir or orchestra perform.
It seems logical that I should enjoy more skilful music performed by people who have dedicated their lives to the art, however this quote from Small makes the difference so clear. As many professional musicians do, my students put as much skill and devotion as they have available into their performances and practice, however, it is my devotion and skill as a listener that is challenged.
I attend concerts with the intention to enjoy and relax, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, I am so much more invested in the performances of my students because I have encouraged, coached and celebrated them throughout the preparation and learning period. I think this mindset is further affirmed through this secondary quote.
It also highlights the true value of music, not in the object of the music itself, but its perceived value to the people engaging in musicking. This eliminates the need for a division and judgement between classical and contemporary scenes and music, as the value of the music no longer lies in its merit as a composition or performance, but in the space and meaning it holds for the people engaging the the musicking.