Music in Our Schools: A Question of Values
Music in the public schools is not expendable. During this period of tumultuous change in public education, we have been given no choice but to reconsider carefully and objectively all that we have been committed to throughout most of this century. It is incumbent upon us to face the difficult realities of the inadequacies and ineffectiveness of music education as it has evolved. The music education professor must consider, in light of current conditions, the development of new philosophical premises and the redesign and restructuring of our programs in ways that will legitimatize the indispensability of music to the education of every child. This is not to suggest that we "throw out the baby with the bath water," but that as a profession we now must demonstrate the integrity and imagination that will permit us to critically review our past practices and plan creatively for the decades and even the generations ahead. The results of such efforts must provide directions that we can collectively embrace and that the public will respect.
Ours is an increasingly more complicated and civilized society. During difficult periods such as the present, we may feel a substantial degree of cynicism toward such assertions but, when compared to the majority of this world (and it is a relative position), this cannot long be disputed. The arts in general, and music in particular, are vital to the intellectual, cultural, and social welfare of such a society. Our Western culture in general has developed a high degree of dependency on mathematical and scientific approaches to life and tends to find aesthetic and humanistic attitudes and concerns of lesser importance. The burgeoning of technology and the rapidity of scientific and medical innovation resulting from past commitments provide substantial reinforcement for this position. However, these values are unique to Western society and appear to be experiencing some re-evaluation and diminishing influence.
The increasing understanding of the dual hemispheres of the brain portend greater insight into the essential role of aesthetic experience and aesthetically guided judgment in the reinforcement and sustenance of human identity. This fact together with the increasing concern for the dehumanization of society, and the turbulent period through which we are passing and in which traditional values are being challenged and new ones are emerging, point toward a dramatic change in our entire social environment in the coming century. As much as twenty years ago, in a talk at American University, Hans Morgenthau was predicting that a very small percentage of our total population (possibly only 2%) will be able to provide for the comfortable living of the world's total population. He predicted that the traditional Judeo/Christian work ethic would at such time have to be completely revised to accommodate a totally different set of needs for the resulting society. In a recently published interview, Buckminster Fuller is quoted as expressing many of these same projections and expectations.
Whether or not we subscribe to these projections and whether, if they do occur, they are witnessed within decades or generations, it is quite clear that a dramatically different world is emerging which will have different needs and expectations and to which we, as music educators, will have to be prepared to respond. The changes that will be expected of us, whatever form they may take, will be as painful or painless as our inflexibility or openness dictates. Over a period of many decades, most of us have tacitly accepted the long established goals and methods of those we succeeded. They seemed successful, they satisfied the apparent expectations of the community, and they were not being challenged. The education of music teachers has experienced relatively little change through this period other than those imposed (directly or indirectly) by school boards or legislatures, and by the theory and history faculties in our colleges and universities. There certainly have been some refinements in the techniques and tools of teaching and some new technology has been adopted. But, although we may credit ourselves with at least moderate success in the identification, teaching and application of these skills, it is quite apparent that, in the light of our changing world, a complete overhaul of our philosophical premises and our programs is required. This article examines the problems we face and the opportunities that lie before us; proposes possible courses of action that we might consider; and hopes to provoke further debate of these vital issues.
The role of music education is to assist the youth of our country in gaining an understanding of the potential of music's multifaceted contributions (developed further in the pages that follow), for if the art is to perform its inherent functions there must be a musically literate population that is capable of deriving the fullest measure of its benefits. Music education serves the art of music, and only by successfully fulfilling that responsibility can it effectively provide for the diverse artistic needs of the society.
Initially, there are a group of related philosophical questions that must be addressed. These include (but certainly are not limited to): what is the value and function of the art of music; does music have any meaning and, if so, under what conditions is it capable of expressing such meaning as it may have? Do these values and meanings, if present, have importance in the society and, if so, can these be articulated? As far back in history as the writings of Plato, the significance of music has been asserted, its multiple levels of communication and contribution have been recognized, and even its potential for "dangerous" or "corrupting" influences have been expressed. Plato distinguished between aesthetic and utilitarian music placing the former amongst the highest levels of possible human achievement and the latter at a very low level with the added caution that he believed it to have socially corrupting qualities. Scholars, political leaders, and religious leaders have considered these same issues in differing ways throughout the centuries. In our own time, the arguments have become considerably more complex as a result of extensive exposure to the music of many cultures, some significantly different from our own.
Questions which we, as music educators, must ask of ourselves are whether or not we have fully recognized the profound implications and significance of our art; have we served it, and, through it, our society well; and have we the knowledge and skill necessary to articulate the philosophical premises that forcefully place music in the forefront of those disciplines that should be required in the education of our youth? To all of the many substantive reasons that throughout time have justified its importance to an educated populace, again our time imposes additional compelling reasons for asserting how essential its substantial presence in education has become. In a society that quite openly expresses anxiety about its own dehumanization, effectively cultivating aesthetic experience and the ability to apply its benefits to a more rewarding and beneficial life is critically needed to develop and sustain the acuteness of the senses and to maintain a humanistic perspective.
Regrettably we have not been generous in including in our self-defined diet of professional deliberations substantial study and debate of such philosophical issues. We have been the pragmatic practitioners who have developed considerable skills but may have lost sight as to why we have cultivated them. In large measure, we have abandoned our responsibility to the art of music and have accepted with enthusiasm the role of casual entertainer seeking to provide little more than instant gratification. This is not to suggest that music should not be enjoyable or that we should not provide the broadest possible exposure to all types of music. It is a matter of primacy of purpose and programmatic emphasis.
Although it may seem far removed from the realities of the classroom (inner city or rural), and although the impact of such an effort may not be fully realized for generations, the first and single most important step that must be taken is the articulation and general acceptance within the profession of a set of broad philosophical principles. These must recognize the nature of the art of music and must aspire toward improving its communicative posture in the yet ill-defined society that is on the horizon. Several suggestions grouped into four general classifications are provided below as a point of departure in the hope (and belief) that they accurately reflect the essences of our art and its role in and potential contribution to our society, and thereby constitute sound goals that are appropriate for adoption by our profession.
THE ROLES AND CONTRIBUTIONS OF MUSIC IN SOCIETY
I. Sensory Awareness:
- Sharpen the senses. Through educated listening and the development of an understanding of sound and time relationships, a greater aural acuity can be achieved. Additionally, through the observance of or participation in musical performances, visual relationships to sound events can be recognized and developed, and synchronization of aural and visual skills can be heightened.
- Cultivate a responsiveness to a sense of balance and proportion. Works of musical art are concerned with the distribution of sound through time. Architectonic structures result which necessarily deal with proportional relationships heightening one's sensitivity to the presence (or absence) of meaningful and satisfying balance or imbalance. These results are derived from a variety of components of a musical structure (e.g., melodic interrelationships, harmonic relationships, densities, instrumental/vocal color distribution).
II. Expression (feelings and values):
- Develop insight into this subtle form of human communication and expression. Music has been referred to as a "language of the emotions." In order to understand any language it must be studied (or learned from infancy). An enriched linguistic capacity permits for more immediate and comprehensible communication. The potential for emotional communication through music across cultural, social and political boundaries is very large and may prove increasingly more important in the generations ahead.
- Provide a vehicle for the metaphoric interpretation of life and for gaining insight into human traits that defy verbalization. Music has been referred to as a "metaphor for life." More accurately, works of musical literature provide the possibility for metaphoric interpretations of various facets of life's experiences. Through such means, music can contribute toward gaining a broader perspective of life and can provide a resource for the interpretation and understanding of human actions and expectations that otherwise may evade comprehension.
- Define the relationships between independence and interdependence in human interaction. Music is totally dependent upon interrelationships, be they linear, harmonic, textural, coloristic, or the many other contributing facets of a work. At the same time, the independent identity of any component (e.g., a melody, a harmonic progression, or an instrument in an ensemble) is an indispensable component of a composition. Understanding of these dependencies which simultaneously permit for and are enriched by freedoms can be meaningfully translated into human relationship terms.
- Devise techniques for the expression and understanding of human values. The effective study of music as both a scholarly and artistic discipline (at any level) contributes to the development and understanding of taste, bases for taste judgments, insight into the tastes of others (be they neighbors or half a world away), and helps to elevate the quality of human interrelationships and the aesthetic environment.
III. Social, Moral, and Ethical Reinforcement and Alternatives:
- Offer a means for arriving at social, moral, and intellectual alternatives to the empirically oriented western approach to life, but alternatives that provide for a balance between rational and intuitive thinking. Music brings together the need on the part of the composer, performer, and listener to draw upon the most highly developed intellectual capacities while, at the same time, providing unlimited freedom for interpretation and expression of the most intimate and personal kind. Through the development of an understanding of how these seemingly extremely disparate forces not only can work together but are dependent upon each other, the capacity to effectively achieve a rational/intuitive balance in life can be greatly enhanced—at both the individual and societal levels.
- Reinforce the social, moral, and ethical values of society while providing a vehicle for obtaining greater understanding of the values of others. Over a period of time, the aesthetic values of a society evolve through the gradual acceptance and rejection of artistic statements. In addition, through this process, societies reveal what, in general, the mood and tenor of the times may be or may have been. Artistic expression provides the "sounding board" for societal self-examination and evaluation, and in quite revealing terms, documents the values of a society. By gaining greater insight into one's own values, and by understanding the context in which they exist, we have the capacity to more perceptively approach and achieve understanding of the values of others.
- Enhance the aesthetic, social, and spiritual environment. Recognizing the power of music to both subtly and dramatically affect human emotions and thereby human well-being, and recognizing the increased understanding of psychological and physiological changes that can be incurred through aesthetic experience, increased understanding of and heightened sensitivity to music can contribute significantly to various facets of the environment and to the general quality of life.
IV. Recreation and Relaxation:
- Place in perspective and contribute to the relief of the tensions, anxieties, frustrations, and technological fatigue so prevalent in our modern society. The reality of these experiences in and reactions to life require no amplification. The fact that our society has not traditionally placed much importance on contemplation, relaxation, "communing with nature," and has encouraged the work ethic to the extent of its becoming a compulsion subtly (or perhaps not so subtly) generating feelings of guilt even when one takes a vacation. This has imposed a greater urgency on our responsibility to learn and to effectively teach how the contemplative benefits of aesthetic music can make this increasingly more vital contribution to life.
Although they may be expressed or weighted differently by different individuals, may overlap or allow for further subdivision, these expectations of the art of music are not there to be accepted, rejected, or negotiated—they are inherent in its very nature. The challenge to the music educator is to recognize the power of these characteristics to understand them, to effectively channel them, and to develop the means of teaching how they may be utilized to their fullest benefit.
What have we been teaching, how have we been teaching it, and how relative have been our judgments and efforts to the premises described above?
Clearly, it is inappropriate to offer a compendium of lesson plans here for the purpose of answering the first of these questions—details of that kind must be provided by each reader. But, in general terms, it is possible to concisely summarize some common practices to assist us in this study. These include: band, orchestra, and choral programs which have been the most pervasive (and, of course, most visible) dimension of school music programs; classes in "music appreciation" which appear, in one form or another, in most school programs; classes in the rudiments of music (clefs, notes, basic rhythmic values, meters) sometimes taught through body movement, rhythm instruments, or some other participatory procedure; in some cases schools offering music theory study; some schools providing opportunities to explore and learn about electronic music; and, in one or more of the above contexts, ethnic, jazz, music from other cultures, or folk music may be introduced.
Although examples of other kinds of educational music activities (e.g., formal study of music history, conducting, and chamber music) might be cited as occurring in some locations, the basic model does not vary significantly. Above all, providing interested (and occasionally reluctantly recruited) students with the skills to contribute to the performances of the school's band, orchestra, or chorus have been the primary commitment of our programs. The seasonal or special events concerts and our service to the athletic programs far more often than not serve as the raison d'être of school music programs.
Whatever arguments may have been used over the years to justify music programs, provide bases for seeking funding for program expansion (or for uniforms or trips), or to demonstrate need for additional teachers, the principal reasons (individually or collectively) our programs have taken the form we presently associate with them have included:
- our natural instinct to perpetuate traditions that span the greater part of the century, as well as our recognition of the fact that they are the ones for which we have been trained;
- recognition that they reflect what we have come to believe we can do best;
- recognition that they satisfy the expectations of the community (expectations for which we must assume some responsibility for having created);
- recognition that they are the most convenient and efficient programs to present considering the enormous industries (e.g., publishing, instrument, and equipment manufacture) that have developed to support our efforts; and
- recognition that these programs have been successful in many respects, have made valid contributions, and have enjoyed community support.
There is something of a Talmudic principle at work in the above rationale, i.e., what is, was, and always will be. Such a view may be of value when applied to the most expansive philosophical or spiritual issues, but certainly can lead to stultification if applied to more sharply focused and societally linked activities such as education in general and aesthetic education in particular. These must be responsive to changes of social and cultural attitudes and play a very important role in the expression and interpretation of society. In our profession, we cannot permit ourselves the luxury of becoming too comfortable (and, possibly; thereby too rigid) in our ways. An awareness of this responsibility brings us to the second question in this group—how are we teaching what we are teaching?
Again, we must acknowledge at the outset that specific approaches will necessarily vary from one teacher to another and some may be significantly different from any norm we try to use as a reference. But, as before, some general practices can be identified which, at least loosely, might reasonably represent a "common practice." Some of these are suggested below.
The great preponderance of music used and the principles from which we derive our aesthetic references in public school education come overwhelmingly from the "common practice" period. Yes, some modal folk music and some melodies from non-western cultures appear, but exposure to non-tonal music is extremely limited under the best of circumstances. Collectively, the amount of music which does not reflect the fundamental precepts of common practice is miniscule.
Vast amounts of energy and resources are devoted to teaching performance skills through one of a variety of means. It is regrettably common to have a teacher with minimal skills on and only superficial understanding of an instrument trying to teach it, often as a part of a family of instruments in a group instrument setting (e.g., a teacher who may be a fine violinist trying to teach a woodwind class about assembling instruments, embouchure, fingerings, reeds, and breathing in perhaps thirty to forty-minute class periods).
Appreciation classes memorizing dates, tune hunting, and/or listening to a variety of "pop" idioms because "that's what the students know best" are prevalent throughout the country. Well intentioned in development but often demoralized and little more than repositories for discipline problems, these may represent some of the most dismal failures for which our profession has been responsible.
We could continue with the identification of other familiar patterns, but such additional delineation would serve little purpose. Suffice it to say that the approaches, commitments, techniques, and philosophies these patterns represent are primarily geared toward utilitarian music—that music which requires the least encouragement and direction, and which provides the most immediate and visible (short term) rewards. It is easiest to do, least controversial, and is totally compatible with our prevailing "instant gratification" social patterns. Ultimately, it offers the smallest contributions to both individual and society. We are, through these means, doing little to provide aesthetic education but, rather, are promulgating this temporary, quick-gratification, functional music.
Perhaps this is why thousands of instruments wind up in storage or attics after students leave school. Perhaps it is why our symphony orchestras are often viewed as museums and social gathering places rather than exponents of the art of our time providing for the aesthetic contemplation and controversy that this could foster. Perhaps it is why mediocrity flourishes in so many facets of our society, a society searching for values and too inexperienced and inadequately trained in critical processes to know how to aspire toward or even give due credibility to human values that cannot be quantified or related to practical benefit.
It is here that we have failed both ourselves and our society most dismally. And it is here that we must begin by directing our attention and energies toward articulating and pursuing the new directions that will be necessary to achieve a meaningful and effective aesthetic music education.
One of our primary goals must be to help educate the broad population in the cultivation of aesthetic judgment, critical capacities, and the appreciation of our art form for its expressive content and potential rather than the service functions provided by its most basic utilitarian branches.
Enough of the professional self-denigration and negative perceptions. It is time to set forth suggestions designed to achieve the noble aspirations laid out earlier in this article. Of necessity, the suggestions offered must reflect a high degree of speculation and idealism. If potential merit is found in these postulations, then the truly exciting and complex process must begin: debate; careful design of experiments; and the long-term gradual selection and elimination of techniques, materials, and personnel. We begin by taking a first tentative step (and not without considerable trepidation).
I. Articulate a Philosophy:
First and foremost, we must embrace the philosophical principles outlined earlier. Without these, any effort we make will be like a ship without a rudder—capable of effective motion but unable to give direction and purpose to the energies expended.
II. Assert and Substantiate the Importance of Music:
In our goal to produce a literate and critical population, we must accept and assert the discipline of music as one of fundamental importance to the social, cultural, and historical education of every student. It is not easy to speak about music, but we must cultivate these skills in order that we might help our students to recognize the meaning and potential metaphoric implications of works of music, to place these in the historical and social context of their time; and to induce more critical and insightful capacities to permit us to understand the artistic expression of our own time, and, aided by it, the complexities and intricacies of our environment. The ability to speak about music effectively may be the biggest challenge of all that we must set for ourselves, for it must pervade everything we do. As a philosophical principle it must pervade our lives. As an educational tool, it must be finely crafted and remain second to none. In the way of a brief example, if we can recognize that music, as life itself to one degree or another, is not adequately represented by linear time (an infinite invariable succession of moments) but is more accurately represented by what might be termed "experiential time" (many different events occurring successively and concurrently which are both dependent upon and independent of each other, and which may be perceived as happening at different speeds—a complex fabric of event/time relationships), we open up a new vista for understanding life itself.
Rhythm is but one dimension of a multidimensional set of possibilities that provide us with the means of gaining greater insight into our art, and through it, our lives. Other patterns and levels of perception that could be examined include: mono versus multidimensional texture; mono versus polychromatic (referring to color) music; associative versus non-associative music; and music having an undulating as compared to a dynamic tension curve.
III. Restructuring the Performance Program:
Strictly in the context of the above references, we must redesign and reconstruct the performance dimensions of our programs away from a largely utilitarian and highly exploitive design toward one that is more sharply focused on aesthetic education. In some respects, this could be perceived as the single most dramatic effort we might make, but it well may be at the same time one of the most important practical steps that must be taken.
There are several important implications intended in this recommendation. First, that an active performance program, as the vital and integral essence of our art that it is, is not only appropriate and defensible in but also essential to aesthetic music education in the public schools. Secondly, that beyond the earliest stages, ensemble experience should begin with chamber music (both vocal and instrumental) and subsequently include large ensemble activities. And finally, that the literature studied be selected for its artistic merit and educational value and its importance in the scheme of our cultural heritage rather than for its entertainment value.
In regard to the first of the above suggestions, we must recognize and assert the obvious fact that music only exists when brought to life in performance. Therefore, the active participation in and understanding of the processes of bringing music to successful performance is a vital part of the aesthetic education of all children. The cultivation of the aural and visual senses, and a carefully designed progressive challenge for the development of the coordination of these senses (in the context of an aesthetic, cultural, historical, and intellectual setting) will provide a growth experience for mind and body that will be ultimately recognized as indispensable.
The diversity of ensemble experience suggested embodies the potential for posing some of the most difficult problems when placed in the context of a currently typical school format. But, if what is being suggested here in general is accepted, these problems must be addressed and solved. In order that the communicative ability and techniques of music can be fully comprehended, active participation in making music is essential for all children. Again, if such activities are kept in the context of the principles already outlined, the intellectual understanding and aesthetic sensitivity we seek will be greatly enhanced and reinforced.
In enthusiasm for the development of proficiency in performance skills in school ensembles, we can never lose sight of one of its primary purposes: to assist students in learning to listen—not the technical listening alone (i.e., correct notes, intonation, balance), but listening for meaning in music—its expressive content and the means it uses to convey its special messages; and to arrive at critical judgments always insisting upon clear expression of the rationale. Well developed quasi-robot performance skills are, at best, only the most rudimentary tools for artistic expression. Concern for and insight into the expressive content of the piece, awareness of stylistic expectations, and sensitivity to the subtleties of the work are the essential goals that are, more often than not, ignored. Focus on these more substantive and long lasting goals has been unintentionally thwarted by well-intentioned choices that were designed to provide motivation for students to elect and pursue musical activities while in school. Such worthy goals as competitions, all-state ensembles, and other recognitions which stimulate the competitive spirit, although entirely appropriate to the structure as it has existed and, in fact, the natural culmination of it, rather sharply identified the philosophical premises that have pervaded music education—and these quickly can be seen to relate more closely to those which may be more appropriate to athletic programs.
In some respects, even the choices of music that students have had to respond to also reveal a philosophy far different from that being proposed herein. The standards of difficulty have often strained the upper limits of our performers, demanding high levels of technical achievement. As a result, teachers and students have been hard pressed to try to achieve these often unrealistically high technical standards and have been unable to pay attention to the artistic expressive content of the works they were struggling to master.
Technical achievement is not to be minimized. But, technical achievement for its own sake and as the primary goal of music study totally distorts the role of the teacher and the perspective of the students. Artistic merit, expressive content, aesthetic value, relationship of the artistic statement to life—these are the substantive matters that will have life-long value to each individual. The joys derived from the mastery of a virtuoso passage are short-lived.
With these observations about our performance programs behind us, we can attempt, in primitive form, to outline the directions that could be followed in the redesign of this facet of our school programs. First, from the youngest ages, children (all children) should be taught to sing musically and to learn to read the music they are singing. In addition, they should be guided in the development of improvisational skills (vocally and, later, instrumentally). While these skills don't necessarily develop at the same speed, each should be cultivated as quickly and actively as age and capabilities permit.
As early as possible and practical, children should have small vocal ensemble experiences, settings where they will be expected to carry their own part in a responsible way. The goal in these activities is not performance before any public, but a personal development and expanded understanding of the music being studied. Performances may certainly be desirable when they result from the collective growth of the children (both in skill and understanding) to the extent that they are motivated to want to express themselves through music to others.
These musical experiences in the public schools (throughout the curriculum) should have no ultimate professional implications whatsoever. It is not our responsibility to produce clones of ourselves (which too often seems to have motivated many of us) but to produce a literate population that understands music in the manner outlined.
The study of musical instruments should result from the expressed interest of students and should not, in any way, come from the various directors' needs to produce specific ensembles (band or orchestra). Directors' jobs should not depend on their success in producing such ensembles but on the results they get in educating students at the highest level in the art of music. Consequently, "directors" of such large ensembles may or may not continue as definable positions. Rather, instrumental music instructors should be concerned with helping students gain sufficient skills on their instruments for the purpose of deriving the greatest pleasure from playing them and being able to join others in the playing of quality music that can be studied from all avenues suggested earlier. The results may be trios, quartets, or any other combination of like or dissimilar instruments up to full orchestra and bands—depending upon particular situations. We should not consider ourselves obliged to produce a given proportion of instruments on the basis of the normal distributions of these instruments in orchestras or bands. The vast majority of these students are not being prepared to compete in the music profession. They are being encouraged to develop skills and understanding that will permit them to obtain a lifetime of pleasure and artistic reward. They are being provided with one means for gaining greater insight into an art form, to transfer that insight into its natural metaphoric implications for the greatest understanding of their own life's experiences.
A valid and valuable social group experience and often a strong esprit de corps are associated with large ensemble membership. Although this is not a primary function of music education, it cannot be ignored and must be encouraged in the context of the new program development. The pressures we usually face in rehearsals are self (or community) imposed resulting from the need to prepare for a particular (and often tight) schedule of performances. We must eliminate or at least sharply reduce such performance commitments and use rehearsals as they should be used in a public school setting—as learning experiences (in the broadest sense of the words). Rehearsals should not be limited to the mastery of balance, dynamics, and other such performance considerations. Rather, they should include the study of the internal structures of the music, discussions of the content and intent of the compositions, a look at the life and times of the composer and where this particular piece fits into his or her total output and artistic life. Such settings can (and should) include listening to recordings, possibly seeing video tapes, and should be related to the historical and social events and possible extramusical influences of the period. It should be a time for an expansive education of the mind as well as the vocal cords or the fingers, arms, or lips. It is a balance between the two that must be accomplished, not a choice that must be made. Rehearsals should not have the same motivations as practice sessions for athletic events; they are artistic and academic educational settings in a public school schedule.
IV. Effective Utilization of New Technologies:
Finally, an entirely new world of technology portends the probability of enormous changes in teaching. The speed of development and the heretofore unimagined possibilities that are being and will continue to be opened up through these means pose an enormous challenge to the music educator (as it does to all educators). The need for active education and re-education of teachers has never been greater from this one perspective alone. The opportunity for imaginative application of this technology is exhilarating but, at the same time, imposes an extremely heavy responsibility on the teacher. This increasingly more sophisticated equipment will, in the final analysis, do what we direct it to do. If we do not bring a strong philosophical commitment and a clear set of worthy educational goals to our use of this technology, we will do little more than give the illusion of improving education while perpetuating in fancier and, for the moment, novel attire commitments and directions that have outlived their usefulness. There is also the danger that we will be enticed away from principally aesthetic studies to those that lend themselves most easily and quickly to the new technology. It is, after all, much easier to identify those components of music that lend themselves to quantification (e.g., frequencies and rhythmic values) than it is to analyze aesthetic content and expressive meaning. Yet it is the latter that is the primary concern of art and those factors that ultimately establish the value of art.
It is hoped that the preceding pages will not be perceived as a sweeping indictment of music education as it has been and is practiced throughout our country. It would be more generous (and more appropriate to their intent) if these remarks were regarded as an effort to constructively criticize our collective endeavors over many decades and to offer some speculations and suggestions as to the opportunities that lie before us. We are living through painful years but, at the same time, though a period which promises momentous changes in the world as we have come to know it. Philosophies, expectations, lifestyles, values, and human interrelationships (to name but a few) face impending changes that may have no parallel in history. These may yet prove to be tumultuous years in many ways, but it is clear that when they are behind us life as we have known it will rapidly become a part of ancient history.
It is during times like these that education faces its greatest challenges. Consciously or not, society must turn to the knowledge we have accumulated and to those who have been charged with the responsibility of protecting, interpreting, and transmitting it to that society to help guide it through its period of difficulty. But, more importantly, the education profession provides the vital resources required by the architects of the future as they address the complex issues and decisions that will finally shape the new millennium. It is in preparation for adversity that the education profession through promulgating perspective, judgment, and values, as well as through hard knowledge, makes some of its most vital contributions to the ongoing society. During times of adversity and when society is on the precipice of epochal changes, education assumes even more critical obligations. These take the form of placing its vast intellectual, creative, and research resources at the ready disposal of society and, in calling upon its wealth of accumulated knowledge and its special insights into and sensitivities to its society, contributes to the definition and development of that new era. Possibly more so than any other time in history, music education (along with its sister arts) bears an especially heavy responsibility. We cannot ignore the fact that music is one of the most pervasive and powerful humanistic forces in the world. Although it has, at times, been used poorly, there is poor music, and it has been misunderstood, whatever failings may be identified the fact remains that music is one of the strongest communicative forces at the disposal of humankind. We must also accept the fact that as society changes, so the role of music in our schools must change. In a society that almost literally bathes in music all the time on a daily basis (music of all periods and places) through radio, television movies, shopping malls, elevators, and even at concerts (all kinds), it is no longer enough for music programs in the schools to "provide exposure" or to service special events. Our responsibility is to find the means for providing aesthetic education and for dealing with the issues of artistic values and communication.
What we have done in the past may have been appropriate to its time. What lies before us, although impossible for anyone to articulate precisely, will be different from the past and will demand a sensitive and imaginative responsiveness and leadership from us. We must assume an active role and a partial responsibility for shaping the future. The challenge is enormous but the opportunities it offers and the contributions we could make toward an increasingly more civilized and humane society are of such magnitude that it is incumbent upon us to direct all of our energies and resources toward these ends.
Music is indispensable to our schools. In the decades ahead as we emerge from these difficult years, we must bring music back to our schools with a new vitality and a new sense of purpose and direction. Our responsibility is to teach our youth how to listen, how to think about, how to speak about, and how to meaningfully relate music to their lives. We must help them gain an understanding of aesthetic values and their role in the totality of life's experiences and demands. We must expand their minds and sensitivities and not permit ourselves to be enticed by the glamour and momentary rewards of the service functions we have been asked to perform. As we educate ourselves, we must educate our communities to the broader and more profound responsibilities music has in the schools beyond those with which we have been identified in the past.
Society's patterns are cyclic. We will not remain in these depressed conditions indefinitely. It may be a long period or a short one before we see the recovery we all await with great hope and anticipation. If the enormity of change that appears to be before us does materialize (and this author is convinced that it will), we may witness a prosperity and richness of life such as would be beyond the most creative of our collective imaginations, it is for such a period that we must plan and toward such a period that we must dedicate the finest of our intellectual, creative, and research resources.