ReAL TaLk

Substance over Rote teaching.

I feel that there is little education in the public music education programs anymore. It’s all about working on very little repertoire for half a year or more, making and tweaking a recording or a test, and then getting an “honor”, or an “award”.

The kids aren’t taught how to construct a major scale, what a minor scale or its forms are, much less the differences between half and whole steps sometimes.

Teachers rarely teach or require students to understand the history of a piece or the biography of its composer and how the piece relates to the world it surrounded, and still surrounds.

So no, I’m not impressed with “awards” that often times falsely boost a program’s ego—-especially when they come at the expense of true learning and education.

So many “awards” that are received seem empty. What I mean by this is that there often times isn’t much more than rote teaching used to achieve these awards. The kids often times don’t understand what they’re playing, or how to play it. They simply “mimic” instructors, like the habitual churchgoers goers in a Catholic service. These “awards” inflate egos and mirror ample substance, when in actuality, substance is minimal.

Colleagues seem enraged when I’m not impressed by their winning competitions or awards. I acknowledge their work and the recognition that occurred, but I’m not impressed by the awards.

A lot of things go into winning these “awards”, and much of winning has to do with the privilege of the program, their ability to rehearse many hours, their bulging budget (it costs money to record, rehearse, and to apply for these “awards”), and the obscene amount of hours the directors impose on the kids.

Some programs rehearse two-four hours a day, and up to six hours on the weekend. If your students choose to, and have the luxury of time to rehearse this much, you should expect decent results.

Also, many of the programs that rake in trophies have a plethora of funds, top notch instruments, world class private instructors, an ocean of parent volunteers, and administrative support. Many programs nation wide don’t have the benefit of the amazing cocktail of the above. But those that do, well……more awards are earned. However, having taught for over two decades in numerous demographic areas, these awards do not mean that the award heavy programs are more educated or that these programs have more talent——— they just have all the components that make the award winning machine tick in its favor.

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