On Faculty Considerations

Community engagement for music faculty in higher education traditionally has fallen into the service category of the evaluative system, alongside serving on school and university committees. This category is universally the least valued in the promotion/tenure process and in determining merit pay, following creativity/scholarship by a great distance and following teaching by at least some. As a result, instead of engaging in music education writ large outside of the higher education setting, professors serve higher education internally and do not venture out to see how their work connects outside of the academy. Many are so focused on their portion of the study of music that they lose track of how their work intersects with the whole of music making, music teaching, and music consuming in the community at large; faculty work becomes less connected. This has resulted in a decontextualized, compartmentalized education for music students in higher education and even, to some extent, in an undervaluing of some of the musics included in the academic canon. It is no surprise that institutions of higher education are not preparing students to be successful in community engagement and to teach music to the wider community. Students, most of who hope to be exactly like their professors, note this behavior, which perpetuates the problem. Higher education does not value community engagement or music education writ large. The result is that many musicians in higher education do not know how to engage the community outside the academy in music scholarship or discussion. They only know (we hope) how to engage those who have chosen music as a career.

In recent times a scholarship of community engagement has developed that is closely linked to the scholarship of teaching and learning. In order to be truly educated in music, students in institutions of higher education must become part of this larger dialogue about engaging the community outside of the academy in music. As part of this, students must see their mentors in the academy participate in community engagement and strive to be successful outside of the classroom and studio in educating the community at large. Institutions of higher education must value this type of engagement, and this valuing must have positive consequences for those faculty members who seek to learn about and successfully participate in the scholarship of community engagement.

Perhaps higher education can learn from the professional orchestra community. In the past 30 years, professional orchestras have begun to understand that their lack of engagement in the larger community is untenable. As a result, many of these orchestras have incorporated community engagement responsibilities into the contracts of their musicians. These engagement responsibilities can take many forms, so that musicians who have different strengths can be matched with the most appropriate engagement settings. Yet, engagement is expected from all. Requiring that orchestral musicians participate in community engagement has created many challenges, and orchestras are facing difficult transitions to this new practice. Musicians of long tenure were not hired with the understanding that a portion of their responsibilities would be in community engagement. Equally important, few of their musicianstrained, ironically, by the higher education communityhave had any background in or experience with community engagement. To ameliorate this, musicians are being given training in how to approach their engagement opportunities so that these opportunities are as meaningful as possible for all participants. Some of these outreach programs are limited in scope and, as yet, lack the substance that would help them really make a difference in educating the larger community. The orchestra community is, however, breaking new ground in community engagement and outreach.

Finally, traditionally in higher education, music education faculty members have owned the information on how to teach music. After all, the teaching and learning of music is at the center of their scholarship. Many music education faculty members have actively engaged in research on how persons learn music and on how music is most effectively transmitted in meaningful ways, much of which could inform the community engagement process. For the past 75 years, this research has focused primarily on teaching in the public schools. However, recent discussions in the music education community have broken out of the bounds of K-12 music education and are beginning to explore music in community settings as well. This type of discussion will be essential if music education (writ small) is to play a role in the education of the larger community in music.

Compartmentalization in music departments in higher education has built a wall between the subdiscipline of music education and those of music theory, composition, musicology, and performance. At times, the music education faculty members feel that they are not valued or respected because they have chosen to research the art of teaching music rather than the art of music itself. They also believe that the faculty members outside of music education do not value what they know about the teaching and learning of music. Likewise, faculty members outside of music education often feel that the music education faculty does not understand that they are teachers, too, and that music education does not connect with what happens in the studio or non-music education classrooms. Until these barriers come down, resulting in music faculties connecting with one another and valuing one anothers work, music education writ large will not be as successful or rich as it could, should, and must be.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 08/05/2013

Cynthia Crump Taggart

Cynthia Crump Taggart, a Past President of The College Music Society, is Professor of Music Education at Michigan State University, where she directs and teaches in the Early Childhood Music Program of the Community Music School of Michigan State University’s College of Music. She received her B.M. and M.M. from the University of Michigan and her PhD from Temple University. As an MSU faculty member, she received the prestigious Teacher-Scholar award and the Outstanding Faculty Award. Prior to teaching at MSU, she taught at Case Western Reserve University, where she won the Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award for the Humanities and Social Sciences. She has extensive elementary and early childhood teaching experience in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. In 2015, she was named the Outstanding Music Educator of the Year by the Michigan Music Education Association.

Dr. Taggart’s publications include co-authorship of Music Play, Jump Right In: The Music Curriculum, and Best Music for Young Band, as well as co-editorship of Learning from Young Children, The Development and Practical Applications of Music Learning Theory, and Readings in Music Learning Theory. In addition, she has written extensively for professional journals. Her research interests are community engagement, early childhood music, elementary general music, psychology of music, measurement, and music learning theory.

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