Music Education in Higher Education: 1974
Published online: 1 October 1974
- PDF: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40373350
Most of us in college teaching seldom seem to have the time to pause and consider what changes have taken place over the last decade, and what trends are evident. Ten years ago Lyndon Johnson had just become President, the student strikes and demands had not yet appeared in any significant number, large-scale federal aid to schools and colleges was not yet law, and many educators were trying to interpret the latest writings of Jerome Bruner on learning and the "spiral curriculum." It may be useful to look back over what has happened in music education since 1964.
There have been changes, to be sure, but it is encouraging or discouraging (depending on how you look at it) that they have been moderate in scope, at least as far as music education is concerned. This situation should not be surprising, because there are some major built-in limitations on the nature and scope of changes in the field. First, there are the teaching certification requirements of the fifty states. The agencies that create and administer these requirements are as resistant to change as other large bureaucracies in society. Second, there is a need for music teachers to be competent musicians. Theory, history and literature, and applied music instruction are necessary. The amount and type of work done in these areas can be altered somewhat, but clearly substantive instruction in each is vital to the training of a music teacher. Third, there is the need for the music education student to be a competent teacher. He should know how to conduct, evaluate programs, select materials, evaluate students and teaching, teach instrument fingerings, and much more. So courses in methods and education are also needed. With these necessities—certification requirements and the musical and educational needs—plus the limitation of approximately four years for undergraduate study, it is clear that radical changes in music education programs are not very likely.
Most of the changes that have taken place since 1964, as well as trends now identifiable, are more evolutionary than revolutionary. The late 1960s was a time of much talk, and some action, about innovation in education. Much of it consisted of well-publicized projects supported by U.S. Office of Education or large foundations. In 1968 and 1969 one saw or heard the word "innovative" frequently; in fact, some educators began to talk about "new innovations," a redundancy that never seemed to bother them. Today things are more stable. With the drying up of funds for such projects, the amount of experimentation has greatly decreased.
It is not difficult to identify the trends that took place one or more decades ago. One is far enough away in terms of time to be less likely of "not seeing the forest because of the trees." Identifying current trends is more risky, however. The perspective of time is absent, and the observer is too close to what is going on to be completely objective. Although what is written here must be regarded as tentative, it can serve to draw attention to some trends in music education in the colleges and universities of the United States. The points presented are not given in order of importance. Also, there is some overlapping among some of them. Most of the comments concern the music teacher education program, because that program represents the main music education effort at the college level.
One observable trend is the offering of more opportunities for undergraduate music education students to work with students prior to student teaching in the schools. At one time in music education, say forty years ago, even a freshman would spend several hours each week in a campus school observing children and assisting a teacher. With larger numbers of prospective teachers and the reduction in the number of lab schools, the practice and observation experience was largely abandoned. And it is true that students often wasted time not knowing what they were sent to the schools for. Eventually, the student teaching experience became only a full or part-time experience during the last semester of the senior year. Prior to that point in his training, the student would hardly ever see children. However, a hiatus of several years in a contact with real teaching situations is not desirable. The prospective teacher misses the motivation and insight he can gain from working in schools. In the past few years, efforts have been made to reinstate more classroom experience. Often this is done as part of a music education course. The student spends a series of three or four periods observing the progress of a music class in the schools. Sometimes he is given a small amount of teaching experience as one of several students who plan and carry out a lesson. In such cases, the work in school has some purpose in the student's mind, and he is given rather specific ideas of what he is to do in such an experience. In some institutions this field experience is now included in the freshman year, but in most cases it begins in the sophomore year and increases in amount in the junior and senior years.
A second change occurring in music education is that the student teaching experience can now be done in more varied circumstances, depending on the needs and interests of the student. In the past, it was confined to the best situations in terms of the performance group of the school—the band, the orchestra, and the choral program. Now, however, students can teach in inner-city situations, work in the special education classes, or even teach on Indian reservations. This increase in student teaching opportunities is a result of the broader interest of music education for all types of students—rich and poor, white, brown, and black, young and not-so-young.
Another idea being tried with regard to student teaching involves a period of internship rather than the conventional. student teaching. The internship lasts at least one full semester. Generally, it calls for a small stipend on the part of the participating school. The intern teacher then serves as a teacher aid to the regular teacher. The idea is that the intern teacher, by being present for more than eight weeks or a quarter, can make a greater contribution to the welfare of the students and be of more help to the regular teacher. Usually, the first several weeks of the student teaching experience consists of becoming accustomed to the situation and learning what is expected. Therefore, the contribution of the student teacher to the school music program comes after these first weeks. The longer period of internship seems to modify the problem as well as provide a more thorough apprentice-intern experience.
A third change in music education is that the past decade has seen a modest change toward more substantive music methods courses. In the past there was a tendency for methods courses to concentrate on the superficial aspects of teaching—ventilation, seating arrangements, and purchasing procedure—or to be highly activity-oriented, with sometimes little intellectual involvement. Although these types of methods classes have certainly not disappeared, many such courses now involve the students in basic psychological, philosophical, educational, and sociological principles that have application for music teaching. The problem with the "cookbook" type of methods course in which the students are given highly specific procedures is this: The situations that the students face upon assuming a job differ so widely that often the specific steps turn out to be useless. What seems more effective in the long run is to provide the students with some useful and practical generalizations that can apply to a variety of situations. And with thousands of different schools in which music teachers are employed, there certainly is a variety of situations! Also, there has been the realization that teaching is not a simple craft one can do by learning a few rules or steps. It requires much intellectual ability and a willingness to devote a great deal of time to it if it is going to be successful. The trend toward more substantive type of methods course is partly a reflection of a more sophisticated view of teaching.
Another trend is the increased attention given the methods of some of the prominent foreign music educator-composers. For example, there is much interest in the Hungarian Singing School developed by Zoltán Kodály, the ideas on "Music for Children" of Carl Orff, in the string teaching techniques of Suzuki, and there is a renewed interest in the theories and practices of Emile Jacques-Dalcroze. The value of some of these programs lies more in the area of rigorous practice than in any new methodological approaches. Some of them are contradictory with one another, so it is impossible to follow consistently through with several of them simultaneously. Each has its camp of ardent advocates in the United States, and they tend to vie with other methodological camps for attention and members. Often lacking is the realization that each method will have to be adapted for use in American schools. It is not possible to pick up an idea that was developed for Hungary and drop it down on school districts in the United States. The two societies are too different for this to be successful.
In addition to the pedagogical values of these programs, they have added to the status of music education. Having a prominent international composer such as Kodály or Orff providing ideas for music in the schools, especially elementary schools, has given a psychological boost. Today, many elementary school music educators seem to take more seriously what they are doing than they did before. No longer do many of them look upon themselves as the "singing teacher" whose job is mainly teaching some simple songs. In some cases, well planned curriculums for elementary schools are being propounded. In addition, a greater variety in content is being offered.
Another change in music education is a modest increase in the attention given to music instruction for all students in the elementary and junior high schools, to the humanities-fine arts type of course in the high schools, and in some cases to music theory courses in high schools. Traditionally, music education has been almost entirely a performance-oriented program. The best music education program, it was felt, was the one that turned out the band, choir, or orchestra that best emulated the professional organization. Not much interest was shown in the students who were not going to be members of the performing group. As a result, music education, especially at the secondary school level, involved only a small percentage of the students, often less than 10% of the school enrollment. Over the past decade, there has been a small increase in the quality of instruction given students in their required classes in the junior high and middle schools and in courses for high school students who are not in performing groups.
One of the more popular forms of such a high school course is humanities-fine arts type. This course takes a broad look at the arts, and in the case of humanities, some philosophical ideas as well. These courses put music in a perspective with the other arts and point out the importance of these experiences to humankind. The courses vary greatly from school to school. One is never sure if he sees a title such as "Humanities" or "Fine Arts" exactly what the course will contain. Often they are developed by each school because of the unique circumstances of their students. Clearly, the quality of such courses varies.
Another change in music education is the greater attention being given to testing. One fact promoting this change is the interest and attention in accountability. The idea of accountability appeals to some laymen, especially state legislators! It is based on the principle that a teacher or school should be held somewhat accountable for the amount of learning that takes place in the classroom. The local school board or state legislature wants to know if the money it puts into a program or school is producing any results. In the past, education has expended funds in an attempt to teach children, but has had little evidence as to how these expenditures have affected learning. Therefore, nearly forty states have legislated some form of accountability for the school systems. Now, if there is to be accountability, there must be measurement. Accountability cannot exist unless progress of the students is carefully evaluated. So music education is being required to devote great attention to defining clearly how learning makes itself evident and how it can be measured.
Another change somewhat related to the development of the measurement concerns the attention given to the competencies of the teachers and students. The basic idea here is that passing a course does not always insure all the competencies necessary for teaching. The attention to competencies calls for dividing the program into small units of study that in total will provide the future teacher with the necessary competencies. For example, there may be a unit on instructional media such as overhead or film projectors; another unit on the child voice, another on music tests, another on materials for beginning band, and so on. The student is then tested on his knowledge in each of these areas rather than taking a general methods course.
In one university, Eastern Illinois University of Charleston, Illinois, the entire professional educational course sequence of education, psychology, philosophy, and so on has been placed on a competency basis. The students no longer attend conventional classes. Instead they are given readings or they attend special instructional sessions on specific points. Then they are examined on that particular area. If they fail the examination, they do more studying and take it again. They are given no grades on this work. The faculty of Eastern Illinois University has mixed feelings about the success of the program. It involves a great deal more work on their part, and in some respects it changes the relationship of faculty and student. On the other hand, the program is geared to specific requirements, and there are fewer classes that are "rap sessions."
Another development over the past decade is the greater variety of music being covered in teacher education programs. There has been an effort to move beyond traditional l8th- and 19th-century Western art music. Some attention is now given to non-Western musics, rock, electronic, jazz, and other types. A feeling exists that music is music, and that the inclusion of more types of music provides for a more interesting and educationally valid learning experience. Clearly, such a view is not without its problems because it is hard enough to know one type of music well, to say nothing of all the types that exist in the world. Perhaps the change here is more one of attitude than of content. No longer is there a feeling of "looking down" at other types of music or the attitude that other types are not worth studying.
Somewhat related to the interest in all types of music is the increased attention being given to improvisation. Part of this trend is a result of the interest in jazz and the pedagogical ideas propounded by Carl Orff. The increase in attention given improvisation also stems partly from a philosophy that advocates greater individual expression. The feeling is that while one may not have the technical competencies to compose, it is possible to do simple improvisation and in that way gain a greater involvement with music.
The type of training given music education majors has been enriched by some attention to the guitar. Because the guitar is the second most frequently played instrument in the United States today, and because it is especially popular among young people, it seems that it is important for someone who is going to teach choral or general music. Therefore, some instruction on guitar is required in many music education programs.
There has been a slight increase in flexibility in the ensemble and recital requirements of music education majors. Because of the variety of teaching situations that they may encounter, it seems valuable for the students to have a broader ensemble experience. For example, one person I know went through a bachelor and masters program in music education at an outstanding music school with a major on the alto clarinet. He played it for five years in the band and used it for his area of applied study. Such an experience seems a bit narrow in view of the things that he might be called on to know when teaching. Sometimes different types of ensemble experiences are accepted, including experiences in stage band and chamber music. In some cases, recital requirements have been made more flexible by allowing two or three accompanying recitals for piano players in place of the usual solo sonata-type recital. Sometimes a greater variety of music performed on these recitals is also allowed.
Slightly more flexibility is allowed in the general studies allocations in the certification programs of the states. The general studies hours are the specified requirements in the social sciences, languages, physical sciences, and so on. Generally, the number of hours required is sizable, sometimes amounting to fifty semester hours. In addition to this rather large total number of hours, allocations are made for each subject matter area. Although Sputnik began beeping in outer space in 1957, the effects of that event did not work their way into certification requirements until well into the 1960s. Most states during that period of time experienced an increase in the number of hours required in the general studies. Now the trend is shifting back a bit toward greater flexibility and in a few cases slightly fewer hours are required. The change is sometimes not evident in the number of hours specified, but rather in the types of courses that are accepted to meet the requirements. In some institutions, for example, the music history and literature courses are included as general studies courses.
With regard to masters degree programs, there has been a tendency over the past decade for the masters degree to become less important. Gradually it seems to be considered as a fifth year of study. The large universities have devoted more attention to their doctoral degree programs and attempted to maintain standards and requirements for that degree. The masters degree study has tended to shift from a few large institutions to smaller institutions. In some cases, the programs have become weaker in terms of the requirements, especially a written document. In some colleges a student can earn a masters degree almost entirely by taking courses in the evening and workshops in the summer.
During the past decade, a fifth year has in some states become a requirement for the permanent teacher certification. For this reason, many teachers look on the degree as the acquisition of the specified number of credits and consider it accordingly. Unfortunately, some of the faculty so treat it, and the rigors of gaining such a degree in many cases are largely a thing of the past.
No article on the state of music education in higher education should fail to mention the work of the Teacher Education Commission of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), which was chaired by Robert H. Klotman of Indiana University. This commission was appointed in 1968 to make a thorough study of the teacher education programs in the colleges and universities of the United States. It consisted of six music educators from the colleges and public schools. The group then divided itself into a group of five task forces to examine various aspects of teacher education and to make recommendations. Task Group I dealt with the qualities and competencies of music teachers. Task Group II made recommendations for needed changes in teacher education. Task Group III identified innovative practices in teacher education. Task Group IV dealt with the competencies of elementary classroom teachers, and Task Group V recommended standards and evaluative criteria for music education programs.
The final report of the commission was published in 1972. It contains a number of suggestions relating to the changes already described earlier in this article, plus a discussion of the desired personal qualities and musical competencies of music teachers. Considerable support was provided to goals and methods of the Contemporary Music Project of the MENC. A few suggestions of the Teacher Education Commission are subject to debate. For example, the commission recommends "that all music methods be taught by successful music educators regularly engaged in teaching music students of ages appropriate to specific courses." A careful reading of the complete statement reveals that keeping abreast by such activities as supervising student teachers is acceptable as regular contact. Also, the Contemporary Music Project concept of comprehensive musicianship is an ideal that is generally accepted, but the need to combine courses to achieve it is still open to discussion.
The recommendations in the Final Report of the Teacher Education Commission have certainly been influential. They have been discussed at meetings of the National Association of Schools of Music, and the NASM and Teacher Education Commission cooperated closely with each other. The document has also been given considerable attention by people involved in teacher education.
The music education profession has strongly been identified with the Contemporary Music Project. Originally, the CMP began with the placing of young composers in school situations, so that they could learn of the problems and opportunities of writing for school groups, and in turn the schools could learn more about contemporary music. In the middle 60s this idea was enlarged upon to include attention to a more comprehensive look at music. The results have included a number of publications advocating more integration of music history and literature with theory and applied music. The project now is terminating after about fifteen years of existence. Throughout its life, it has been supported both in terms of personnel and funds by the MENC.
The employment situation is one that interests nearly everyone. It is somewhat reassuring to report that as far as can be determined a relatively good balance exists between the job demand and people available to fill music positions. The situation is especially favorable in the elementary and general music area. It is less favorable for teaching instrumental music at the high school level. There is also a great need for string teachers in the schools. At present, some of the larger schools of music cannot supply candidates for all the general music or string positions that are reported to them.
It is a rather similar situation at the college level, although supply and demand is more difficult to determine there. Some students cannot find the job they want, in the area they want, with the salary they want—which is really not a new situation. One hears about hundreds of candidates applying for an opening that is announced by placement agencies. However, one suspects that many of the persons applying for that position are really not qualified. Several department chairmen have reported to me that after looking through 75 or 100 curriculum vitae sheets they ended up with only about four or six people who they felt were qualified for the position. To date, almost all qualified music educators have jobs, but not always in the situations that they want.
The shrinking job market has caused teacher education faculties to think about a greater selectivity of students. As long as nearly everyone who graduated could get a job with no trouble, there really wasn't much incentive to be selective. However, now it is only students who are competent and interested who should be selected for the program and be employed in teaching positions. This situation encourages a more careful look at the kind of student who is selected. Unfortunately, this evaluation of candidates for music education degrees comes at the same time that college enrollments are falling. Many faculty members are now most interested in maintaining music department enrollments just so they can hold on to their jobs. So there may be a counterbalance to greater selectivity. However, there is a certain amount of investigation and consideration of the students selected and basis on which admission decisions are made. Some departments have gone through more extensive interviews and screening tests to make more likely that only students with reasonably good prospects of becoming successful teachers are admitted to the teacher education program.
All in all, the current picture of music education in higher education is one of adjustment and change, but with a steadying influence of the demands for a competent faculty. It is certainly not a shrinking field. The economic pressures facing education obviously do have an effect on the quality and amount of instruction provided. However, there is no reason to be dismal about the directions and trends that one sees with regard to music education.
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