Friday, January 29, 2010

Music Educators

Joining my local community band at age 55 has been my very first exposure to the concert band experience and to what music educators are up to in directing them. My participation has helped me have a fuller appreciation of the differences between music education and music therapy. As I mull possible posts delineating the two, I find myself slipping into framing the issue as if music therapy were better than music education. I know that's not the case, so before saying anything else, want to talk about music education on its own.

For one thing, I simply cannot imagine on a daily basis walking into a room full of dozens of adolescents with noise makers in their hands. Granted, my background includes dealing with emotionally disturbed adolescents both as an attendant/group leader and as a music therapist, and one assumes "normal" adolescents don't present as many behavior problems. But still, my hat is off to anyone undertaking such a daunting task.

Music educators also have to be familiar with all the instruments and how to play them and their myriad idiosyncrasies, along with being able to transpose all kinds of stuff in their head and in general having what I call "theory mind". It's all way beyond me. I was amazed to discover that horn players are expected to be able to transpose in all sorts of ways when sight reading. If I were to devote myself to that and no other musical tasks I might become barely proficient, but it's not playing to my strengths, to say the least.

Music educators also have to be concerned with preparing their best students to be ready for the next level of achievement. If this were not the case, the feeder system would break down and we wouldn't have good numbers of people ready to play at the high level needed for professional organizations. 

On a more general level, educators are tasked with preserving the canon and the playing styles needed to present it as it's meant to be played. Without that, entropy would set in and all kinds of beauty and technique would be lost. There's more to making music than the printed page and music educators have the mission of preserving that which is beyond notation, yet so very crucial to successful presentation of the canon (whether Beethoven or Sousa).


  1. I'm playing Brahms 2 next month with the Hillingon Philharmonic. It includes a major solo in the transposition fom hell - horn in B natural basso!. (2 lines down and put a sharp in front of everything except B)

    That solo I might need to practice a bit...

    About music education, I'm incredibly grateful for the education I received on the horn. It's the least I can do to pass it on from time to time when I have the chance. But that's not the same as being an educator full time.

    Teaching generally is daunting. One member of my family is a primary school teacher, she normally deals with a room full of children in the age range 4-6. She says they will eat you alive if you don't have your wits about you!

  2. Ouch!!! My hat's off to you for undertaking that transposition, and I'm sort of amazed you can do it in your head.

    Your point about being a full time educator versus offering pointers from time to time is well taken. I didn't even go into how for music educators, they deal with the students, but what the administrators and the parents think is what makes the difference in job security.

    Also, haven't forgotten your horn help and want to do another horn diary, but we've had even more snow, and they're using the word "blizzard" for this weekend's weather. Spending more quality time with the wood pile and the wood stove than the computer here lately ;-)