Music education always & always looking forward.

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Everyone who starts a blog/a band/a business has that thing, that specific goal, that mission statement, that they'd like to accomplish.  I am no exception.  What do I want to do with this particular blog, and what do I seek to accomplish by the writing I do?

I've been writing/blogging/etc. for decades, it seems.  And much of the time I did so with the intent of getting my writing out there, getting out somewhere, and being seen.  I wanted to be published in different places. I wanted to be witty. I wanted to be cool. Often, my academic music path and my freelance writer path have diverged.  But with this particular blog, I can be of use in my professional & academic field and write about stuff I love simultaneously. I can use the disparate knowledge that I've gained over the years of academic musical training, my 11 years of teaching (sometimes in the trenches), and continuous pop culture obsession.  And I can use all of that to create a resource that will -- ideally -- help people.

So far in the pursuit of creating this resource (which started long before the actual blog did),  I've had old friends or co-workers who've commented that I helped make a musical pattern make sense. I've had students who come back years later to say that my explanation of how to count in 6/8 time helped. And that sort of feedback is golden. And it keeps me going for years.

I'd like this blog to become a resource for teachers.  As a teacher, one of my biggest challenges is creating opportunities & resources for students without always having clear directives about what we're supposed to be teaching. I hope that this specific resource fills a special niche (which I could not necessarily find upon first looking). If a teacher says, "Hey, I really wish I had a pop song that I could play for my students to assist with ear-training in terms of intervals --" I want to be the person to provide that.  

If a teacher says, "Hey, I really wish I could think of an indie rock song that I could use to help my students understand changing meter better," I want to help out there.  

If a teacher says, "Hey, I really wish I knew of a hip-hop song that I could play as an example of the connection between hip-hop and jazz when we're doing a Black History unit in class," I would love to be of use in that way.  

I understand, as many educators, composers, theorists, and musicologists do, that it's not useful to compare "classical" and "popular" music on a totally equivalent playing ground. But let me tell you, lots of educators in the K-12 music world do just that. My goal here is also not to say, "Hey! Popular music is just as good as classical music so you should replace all of your repertoire with pop tunes!" I'm a band kid, and I teach chorus, and I don't believe that we must throw Western Art Music completely to the wolves. (I definitely believe that our pedagogy & programming needs some serious updating & democratizing, but that's an entirely other blog entry/paper/book/doctoral degree.) I do believe in drawing up fruitful comparisons ("which large-scale genre is better" is never a fruitful comparison) and seeing the ways in which different types of music serve different purposes, appeal to people in different ways, but at times, share some of the same features. 

At one very good school I attended, the word of the day is always, "Transfer." Every single day, every single way. I told a classmate of mine that I felt like someone should shoot confetti out of a giant t-shirt gun and play "The Price Is Right" theme every time a professor used the word, "Transfer." She said it would be too much confetti to ever clean up.

There are so many skills & musical features that kids can (and should!) be able to transfer between the music that most motivates them and the music we teach them in class. And sometimes, we can even use the music they love as curriculum and get in lots of standard-meeting musical learning as well!

Ideally, I'd like to start a community where teachers give feedback about using popular music in their classrooms and share ideas & resources. Over the years, I would like to see music classrooms respect the musical interests their students walk in the door with. I would like to see teachers embrace EDM (a genre I know little to nothing about) instead of telling kids that they should just listen to Bach instead. I'd like to help teachers use popular music meaningfully & authentically in classrooms -- mostly music, because that's where my expertise is, but I'd love to see the use of more popular music in other subjects, too.

Full disclosure, I'd personally like to pursue a Ph.D. and/or write a book one day, but those accomplishments mean little when compared with fostering a community.  I learned that through my master's degree program -- the degree on the wall (which I haven't even hung up yet) means a raise in pay and a few other benefits, but the community of people I encountered in the pursuit of that degree meant even more.  

Even in trying times, which we as educators are always experiencing, we have to reach out and support each other. We have to share the knowledge we have cultivated as well as the successes (and failures!) we experience. If I can create a tool to help music teachers, musicians, and music fans learn from each other, then I feel I've done my part.  

 I hope your 2018 is as delightful as these macarons were -- both beautiful & delicious!

I hope your 2018 is as delightful as these macarons were -- both beautiful & delicious!

Don't Trip on the 3/4 Measure: Changing Meter in Blondie's "Heart of Glass"

Open to Change in a Well-Worn Tale: Minor to Major Modulation in Tom Petty's "Into the Great Wide Open"