Music Teaching as a Component of Musicianship

February 28, 2005

Music is a human endeavor that is meant to be shared. Exceptions can be found where music is meant for personal enlightenment or meditation (e.g., Chinese ancient qin music and Japanese priests shakuhachi music). As long as the music is shared, someone is learning about the music and about the culture and the people who make the music. In this sense, J.S. Bach taught me how to write chorales in the seventeenth-century style, although he never taught me in person. I also learned about the cultural context of Bach chorales through musicologists, about their sounds and interpretations through performers, and about the theories behind them through music theorists. Furthermore, conductors often serve as teachers of the ensembles, performers and composers as teachers of the audience, and musicologists and theorists as teachers of music students. Examples as such are endless. One may begin to see how all musicians are involved in teaching both directly and indirectly through scores, papers, and recordings.

Skills in performance, composition, keyboard, analysis, sight-singing, and listeningand knowledge in music history and theoryare traditionally accepted as the core of musicianship. Music analyzing, sight-singing, composing, playing, and critiquing are common musicianship activities. Music teaching, however, is often seen as the music educators territory, especially when it comes to pre-college level group music teaching. I suggest that all musicians should view music teaching as a requisite proficiency, just like analyzing, composing, playing, and critiquing music.

The role of music teaching is crucial in the continuation of a musical culture. The way that anyone acquires musical concepts and skills is through teaching and learning, which is the foundation of musical transmission, continuation, and development. All responsible musicians must carry through the process of teaching so that the tradition gets continued for the benefit of future generations.

Musicians understand the music better through teaching it. The teaching process helps musicians to think through the music in ways that they might not have otherwise. Whether it is a theorist presenting an analysis or a performer preparing for a recital, a certain logic in a presentation will make sense to an audience which may be less trained in the same music specialty.

Skills in music teaching should be included in the training of all musicians early on, just like the orthodox musicianship skills. Musicians should not wait until they anticipate taking in students to acquire music-teaching skills. In performing, composing, and other musical endeavors, all musicians are attempting to share musical experience with an audience. Musicians (teachers) must be effective communicators who understand sequential presentations and the social and developmental psychology of the audience (students).

All musicians must possess some teaching skills that are congruent with broad principles of teaching, particularly music teaching. Musicians should know how to communicate with various types of audiences effectively. They should understand different settings in music teaching, such as individual and group, young and mature, and concert hall and classroom. Musicians should understand the difference in presenting different types of music, such as Renaissance and twenty-first century music, classical and folk, and American and Russian. All musicians need to know how to engage an audience so the music sharing experience is more meaningful. They should know what type of guidance is needed to make the musical experience meaningful, which leads to musical growth in the audience.

By virtue of its importance in the development of music and all musicians, music teaching should be a component of musicianship. The next step is to think about what it means to college musicians and the curriculum in which we teach.

As a result of this article, I am hoping that all CMS members consider being part of general musicianship, be involved in a dialogue concerning the importance of all musicians understanding and involvement in music teaching; and take a more active role in training music teachers at all levels.

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