Partnerships between P-12 schools and arts organizations are now well established within arts education. Affirming this thirty-year evolution, The New Handbook of Research on Music Teaching and Learning (2002) contains several chapters on the connections between music education and arts education. These chapters consider issues such as the roles of artists in schools, the relationships between schools and arts institutions, the implicit role of advocacy within many partnerships, arts in support of academics, and governmental/philanthropic assumptions regarding partnerships as a legitimate delivery system for arts education.
As music educators consider the role of higher education in partnerships, especially the potential influence on students and curricula, we should think about the rationale for our involvement. As a baseline, we must position ourselves within those strengths in research and practice that have evolved in American music education over many years. We know a great deal about effective music teaching, and it is essential that we hold arts education partnerships accountable for rigorous standards.
Without disparaging the excellent work of many arts and music education programs, acknowledging some of our continuing challenges may be helpful. To be frank about music education, we must confess our culpability in the small percentage of students who participate in secondaryschool music programs, our relegation of general music to the primary grades, our over-emphasis on performance and competition, and our tendency to isolate ourselves from the larger worlds of the arts and education. As Allen Britton once observed, we have devised a world of school music that is too frequently distinct from the breadth and quality of musical experience beyond the schoolroom walls. We have divorced ourselves from larger arts and education matters, and we have worried that bringing artists into schools may usurp our authority. The typical curriculum for teacher education in music has not changed significantly in many years, and higher education generally reinforces the divisions and dichotomies present in P-12 music programs.
In fact, these concernsparticularly the performance orientation and musics isolation from other subjectsare precisely what some arts education partnerships have claimed to address. When the notion of artists in schools first took hold in this country, the intention was enrichment of existing arts curricula. However, with the demise of music and arts education programs in the 1970s, arts organizations assumed a broader role, sometimes as external providers of arts education through artist residencies. In the 1980s and 1990s, a number of factors converged to reinforce the idea of partnerships as a delivery system. The resulting mix of views around the function and teaching of the arts in education has been termed by some the best of times and the worst of times for arts education.
To be honest about partnerships, we must admit that much of what has happened with arts organizations interest in music education could be cast as revolving, rather than evolving, roles. Too many partnerships have failed to understand the historic place of music in American schools and ignored the knowledge that informs advancing practice. They have sometimes accepted mediocre standards for childrens learning and promoted music doing for extramusical outcomes, as opposed to music learning. In pursuit of advocacy, some partnerships have employed instruction that is inconsistent with research-based understanding and failed to validate artistic worth. And while assessment of student learning has been emphasized, the lack of attention to instructional integrity has limited the value of many assessments. Recognizing these problems, arts organizations have initiated professional development that teaches artists and classroom teachers the very skills that teacher education programs in the arts have long addressed.
Despite these concerns, there are important reasons for higher education music institutions to support partnerships. Partnerships represent a broadened constituency of individuals and organizations committed to ensuring that Americas children have excellent arts programs in their schools. In the midst of arguments over sequential vs. exposure programs, specialist vs. artist roles, and music learning vs. music as a tool for curriculum connections, many now recognize that much can be accomplished by working together, and that partnerships can be a vehicle for finding common ground in the midst of disparate views. Given their resident expertise and interests, universities have a responsibility to foster the evolution of arts education, in part by expanding traditional performer and teacher preparation to encompass new models of music teaching.
Partnerships represent an important evolutionary step in music education if they are accountable for effective practice and if they enrich sequential programs. The primary reason for having artists in schools is to enlarge the work of specialist teachers. In music, the artistry and personal traits of the performer or composer provide a dramatic opportunity for children to understand how music works in the larger society. Engaging children with the work of artists involves them directly in doing what people do with music in their lives (authentic experiences, in contemporary terms). When done with sensitivity to childrens realities and without compromise of artistic worth, the interactions can be powerful.
Will the place for music in the lives and learning of children be advanced if institutions such as schools, arts organizations, and universities collaborate in seamless models of professional preparation, program implementation, and professional development for vibrant music classrooms? I believe it will. If college and university preparation of all musicians moves toward collaborative mindsets and efforts, then music educators, performers, composers, and others may together develop programs perceived as fulfilling relevant and integral roles within school curriculums. Music specialists may feel less isolated, and performers and composers may discover rewarding career paths they had not anticipated.
Preparing music specialists to engage the community and preparing community musicians to work successfully in schools have important implications for university curricula. Divisions between music education and performance, for example, can be bridged by exploring how a variety of music careers relate to community engagement. Working together from their respective strengths and expertise and supported by mentored internships, students can develop integrated performance and communication skills. These skills may embody strong teaching, tap into peoples natural intrigue with music, and provide high-quality, ageappropriate musical interactions. Cross-divisional and institutional collaborations can connect students with the larger world of music and the arts. While the preparation of specialists as the primary agents of music learning remains paramount, music education can be conceptualized in a broader context that unites career artists, teachers, and institutions in sharing responsibility for excellence. Such community-wide commitments may help build a lasting place for music in our schools.