Smithsonian Folkways at the University of Miami

I am excited to report that the University of Miami and Smithsonian Folkways will be co-sponsoring a World Music Pedagogy Certification Course at the Frost School of Music during the 2013-2014 school year. Presenters from around the country, with diverse specializatFROST SCHOOL LOGOions in world music cultures, will bring their experience, musicality, and expertise to music teachers and community music leaders in the South Florida region.  The aim of the course is to provide opportunities in learning about world music cultures, with a special emphasis on those found in our rich cultural backyard. Specialists in Afro-Cuban children’s songs and folk music, Puerto Rican drumming styles, Eastern European song, Argentinean folk music, Uruguayan candombe, Maori song and movement, Brazilian folk dance, and more will be invited to work with participants. World music pedagogues, Patrician Shehan Campbell and Ann Clements, as well as world music song leadeSmithsonianr and composer/arranger, Nick Page, are a few of the distinguished guests who comprise the faculty roster.  Follow the link for more information about the Smithsonian Folkways World Music Pedagogy course at the University of Miami:

Towards a More Culturally Responsive Music Pedagogy


If you have an interest in making music pedagogy more culturally responsive, I invite you to read an article that I recently wrote for General Music Today called, Towards a More Culturally Responsive Music Classroom. In this article I seek to characterize culturally responsive teaching and consider how it differs from other pedagogical approaches in music that have been explicitly informed by culture, such as multicultural music education. Stretching the work of Gloria Ladson-Billings and Geneva Gay into music learning contexts, I consider how we might move our attention from the things we teach to the people we work with in socio-musical learning environments such as classrooms and community centers. Finally, I discuss ideas for making these environments more culturally responsive around five pedagogical action points:

·      See and come to know students

·      Create a social learning community

·      Recognize multiple perspectives and positions

·      Connect beyond the classroom

·      Select music and materials with culture in mind

I would love to know how others have approached culturally responsive pedagogy in the arts.

From Idea to Dogma

This afternoon I was reading Janet Mills’ book, Music in the School, for a project I am currently working on, when I stumbled upon an interesting conjecture she made about the cyclical pattern of curriculum development in music. I think it is worth sharing because it provides a perspective on the evolution of curricular and instructional ideas that animate the work of many educators.  Mills describes this cycle as beginning with a (1) very good idea that is developed. For example, Guild Keetman and Carl Orff developed an innovative idea for artistically educating students in Bavaria, during the first half of the twentieth century. This is followed by a period when disciples (her choice of word) observe, work with, and learn from the original developer(s) and (2) the idea grows, takes root, and spreads. The disciples, who learned from or with the developers, then (3) pass on the idea to second-generation disciples. TheIMG_0573se individuals may or may not have worked with the developers and may only learn from secondary sources.  In so doing, they focus more on how they are supposed to do something than on asking why they should be doing that something. The (4) very good idea starts to fade to dogma. Mills states, “As the content of the curriculum becomes disconnected from the very good idea, practices develop that would be anathema to the originator, but which are still credited to the very good idea” (p. 96). For example, meaningfully transplanting the philosophical and curricular ideas of Kodály from Hungary to another time and place (21st century UK) requires a deep understanding and critical thought of its broad aims, that could be easily become obfuscated if dogma (pitch and rhythmic sequence) has already overshadowed the idea (musical fluency). When (5) dogma becomes the focus, gurus (again her word choice) replace the disciples. The gurus train teachers, provide recipes, market products, and contribute to a cottage industry around those good ideas. At this point, teachers might fail to ask why they are doing what they are doing because it just seems to “work” in the classroom. Practice may lose relevance and meaning for the very people for whom these ideas were first developed—the students. Mills claims that over time this leads to the (6) failure and disuse of the dogma, until (7) another very good idea is developed.

I leave you with some lingering questions and a final thought. Are some or all of the theories, approaches, methods, or philosophies that guide teaching practices on a wide scale victim to this or other cycles? What role do our national organizations and leaders play in this process? How do they play into this model? How can the forces imbedded within any of these stages, if they do hold up to scrutiny (especially 2-6), be disrupted, challenged, or at the least made more transparent? This last question in particular brings to mind Cathy Benedict’s (2009) reminder that we “need to interrogate the indiscriminate embracing of these methods as a possible form of control and coercion, as well as the possible appropriation of musicking as a way to increase the social capital of music teachers” (p. 222).

References and Articles of Interest
Abril, C. R. (2013). Critical issues in Orff Schulwerk. In C. Wang (Ed.) Orff Schulwerk: Reflections and direction. Chicago: GIA Press.
Benedict, C. (2009). Processes of alienation: Marx, Orff and Kodaly. British Journal of
Music Education, 26(2), 213-224.
Bennett, P. D. (2005). So, Why Sol-Mi? Music Educators Journal, 91(3), 43.
Mills, J. (2005). Music in the school. New York: Oxford University Press.

Peter Webster Sparks Imagination

IMG_1463One of the first words that comes to my mind when I think of Peter Webster is imagination. Through his long and productive career, he has challenged us to think more expansively and imaginatively about our work–the ways we teach, how we learn, what we do, and how we do it. His talk last week at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, as part of the Stamps Family Distinguished Visitor Series, was no exception. In his talk he took seven big ideas and teased out what they suggest for the new directions we go in music education, from preschool to college. Those of you thinking about new directions in music education will probably be able to see where your work fits within this conceptual framework. The seven ideas are: (1) adaptive constructivism, (2) creative thinking, (3) interdisciplinary thinking, (4) embedded balanced assessment, (5) who we teach, (6) what kind of music, and (7) learning in new venues. PW has made his key note presentation available to those who would like to see it:

2013-02-09 18.51.36This quote from J.K. Rowlings’ commencement address at Harvard succinctly captures an essence of imagination that speaks to its importance and power:

Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and, therefore, the foundation of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.


Documentary on Sam Pilafian

Master tubist and music pedagogue, Sam Pilafian, was the focus of an examination conducted and documentary created by University of Miami Master’s student, Elizabeth Elliott. She  has great interest in matters related to education, teaching and learning and social equity and is studying conducting with Gary Green at the Frost School. This is the product of a project on pedagogy that she created in our Seminar in Music Education.

The Pedagogy of SAM PILAFIAN by Elizabeth Elliott in Seminar in Music Education at University of Miami (password: fundamentals)

Handbook of Children’s Musical Cultures

I am excited to be a small part of a most ambitious and impressive collection, The Oxford Handbook of Children’s Musical Cultures, ably led by Pat Campbell and Trevor Wiggins.  Chapters run the gamut from the musical cultures of girls in the Brazilian Amazon (Beatriz Ilari) to education and evangelism in Sierra Leon (Sarah Bartolome). My chapter is a phenomenological study of band members in a Chicago-city high school. The book will be in print any day now.