Challenges for Music Educators - Met and Unmet

April 30, 1991

Taking stock can be enormously helpful -- providing on the one hand a past review of accomplishments and unmet challenges and on the other a clarification of our future agenda. College faculty members engaged in teacher preparation can point to a long list of realized goals. We know how to admit good musicians with requisite intellectual abilities and prom ising personalities for teaching. We are skilled at developing the musical and academic skills and understandings necessary for good musician-teachers; our students can rely on both their functional musical skills and their are. Students leaving our programs can develop curriculum, diagnose Student learning needs, plan and teach lessons designed to foster musical growth and appreciation, manage rehearsals with skill and efficiency, select musical materials appropriate to student levels, plan performances, and attend to booster groups, fund-raising, and school trips. Music education graduates have @ad a wealth of field experience, culminating in carefully supervised full-time student teaching. In short, they are prepared to enter the profession as they find it.

What then are our unmet challenges? A few come to mind. First, it seems critical, especially in these times, for our graduates to be able and willing to lead -- to see themselves as thinkers as well as doers, as educational innovators as well as classroom teachers and ensemble directors. Presumably our students are excellent musicians who approach their teaching on the basis of current research and practice; their presence in our nation's schools should serve to improve instruction and elevate their profession.

Second, our students (and our students' teachers!) must begin to acknowledge the professional responsibility to teach all secondary-school students -- just as math teachers do -- rather than only the students who elect music courses or ensembles. We can no longer justify elitism -- if we ever could. However unintentionally, we have perpetuated the idea that K-12 music programs should be structured pyramidally, with all students receiving general music instruction only until they can perform "real" music, and secondary school music teachers, i.e., ensemble directors, instructing a very small percentage of the student body. Do we mean to suggest that eighty percent or more of the nation's secondary students cannot benefit from instruction in music? From whom should the general population acquire musical skills, understandings, and attitudes about music to be taken into adult life? If we accept responsibility for the musical education of all K-12 students, we must design college-level instruction to prepare future teachers for that responsibility, i.e., for more than teaching general music to the young, and choral and instrumental music only to the interested. We must also cultivate and develop model field-experience sites in which prospective teachers can observe and practice skills in teaching music to "general" students.

Third, our students need a positive, even proactive, approach to accountability. They must not only welcome continual evaluation of their programs, teaching effectiveness, and students' achievement, but also design the criteria upon which such evaluation takes place. They need to be aware that evaluation is a given; in the absence of criteria developed by die experts-music teachers themselves-criteria are imposed by those much less capable of judging music curricula, instruction, and achievement Clearly, professional music educators must assume responsibility as professionals in order to be perceived as such.

Our challenge in 1991? As always, we need to maintain high standards and prepare outstanding teachers. But now these outstanding teachers must be ready to lead colleagues, teach unmotivated students, and guide administrators. We have plenty to do!

2217 Last modified on May 3, 2013
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