Arts Education

2016 IMEA Presentation

Hello!

Click below for slides from my presentation today at the Indiana Music Educator’s Professional Development Conference…

The science of music performance skill acquisition:
Planning, executing, and reflecting for achievement

Presentation slides

All the best,

Pete Miksza

Lessons for Ensemble Directors from Lorne Michaels of SNL

Running a Show, Directing the Band, Choir, Orchestra, etc.

I recently felt a need to unplug from the world for a moment and was fortunate to have the luxury of time to go for a run and listen to a podcast.

I happened across an interview with Lorne Michaels about his career with Saturday Night Live and his thoughts on what it’s all been about. (It’s from a podcast with Marc Maron called WTF – a terrific show – see the link below.) What struck me was that almost every major theme that emerged in regard to his involvement and ability to be successful with the show – despite over 40 years of societal change – seemed to me to be relevant to being successful in music teaching in some direct way.

As I was listening, I couldn’t help but think that these issues are some of the very same things that come up in conversations I have regularly had with preservice, current, and former ensemble directors about how they do what they do.

If you’re also a fan of SNL and are curious as to what these might be, read on and enjoy a distraction from some of the other things going on in the world at the moment.

Here are some curious parallels…

  • He arrived in NYC on a bus from Canada having previously worked for/with luminaries in comedy – Lily Tomlin, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, Dick Cavitt, Phyllis Diller, Jack Benny, those involved with Laugh In, etc. He was explicitly cognizant of the impact that these people have had on him as teachers and/or mentors.
    • Most successful people I know, music teachers or otherwise, can describe how they were lucky to have at least one important mentor and if they weren’t lucky enough to have one early in their development, they can explain how they went out to get one. For example, I can think of several good friends who have used their personal days as teachers to travel the country and visit with people who have grown the kinds of music programs they aspire to create.
  • When setting up the program he called upon his friends and mentors and got help from everyone he knew – asking the questions and seeking the advice of those who could show him the ropes and methods for how things get done.
    • One of the most inspiring instrumental music teachers I have had the pleasure to work with was notorious for the openness he applied to his program. There was a constantly revolving door to his band room with guests from all over with all kinds of backgrounds streaming in to work with his kids and show him new and alternative ideas for helping kids engage with music.
  • Lorne describes the importance of intensely focused, deliberate work for achieving success – for both the performers and the show in general. In this part of the conversation he defines success as a program that resonates with people.
    • Successful music teachers recognize the value in practice and the hard work dedicated to refinement that is essential for developing individual musicianship and for creating a musical experience that people will value and appreciate.
  • He explains that when the show is great – people can recognize it as something they feel they’ve always known and something they’ve always knew they liked but, when the show is not great – people can question whether it’s necessary at all.
    • When a musical program presents work that is sincere and refined – people can recognize it as something they’ve always known and something they always knew was valuable but, when a music program presents work that is insincere and poorly arranged – people can question whether it’s necessary in a school at all.
  • When asked about his motivation… he clearly discounts an emphasis on a perfect product and emphasizes process instead. He explains how he was driven by building the show each week, the thrill of live performance, and the elusive objective of doing the best you possibly can.
    • In my experience, this is a mindset that successful music teachers often bring to their work as they try to create an optimal motivational atmosphere for their students. They invest in the process of music learning with an eye towards the outcome but without obsessing about perfection. Accordingly, they typically express goals and outcomes in relation to students’ efforts and progress rather than a particular point of arrival.
  • Lorne has purposefully let the program evolve – although there are parallels, he asserts that it is not the same show as it was 40 years ago.
    • Despite what some might believe, successful ensemble directors do not let their programs stagnate. They choose to be informed by their students’ culture and grow their programs with an appreciation for adaptations that are necessary to continue to be relevant to their communities. Beyond that, they are willing and able to relate to their students as they are and recognize that kids and what they value changes with time.
  • He recognizes he is not, nor should be the center of power – he is a guide, someone who helps sift good and bad ideas, someone who helps people understand why they’re successful as well as why they’re not, and someone who sees their role as pulling others forward.
    • Most of the successful directors that I know inspire their students and work as much along side them as they do from out in front of them. They give feedback such that students know when they’re succeeding or when they’re not succeeding and why. They cultivate a spirit of collaboration and appreciation for students’ individual perspectives while maintaining focus on the collective objectives of the group.
  • Lorne recognizes that no amount of success will ever eliminate the facts that (a) he works for someone else and (b) that there are always others that have power over what he does – ultimately it’s not about him, it’s about the community the show plays to.
    • No music teacher works in isolation from their community. We are always beholden to the people we serve and no degree of musical success or accomplishment will ever change that.

Take a listen for yourself:

http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/episodes/episode_653_-_lorne_michaels

Note: Obviously the work space of SNL is in many ways NOT a model of the kind of atmosphere that is appropriate for kids. In addition, many performers in the ensemble have gone on to personal success as well as personal ruin. The message in this post is not that SNL is a metaphor for music education, it is that some of the principles that have helped Lorne Michaels be a successful producer are those that underlie success in any endeavor that aims to connect artists, programming, and communities.

What if elementary general music programs were cut from the public schools?

This question was one of the prime motivations for a recent exploratory research study IU colleague and co-author Dr. Brent Gault and I conducted. Resources for elementary music programs as pertains to specialist faculty, time for instruction, and space and materials are perhaps especially vulnerable to cutbacks and fiscal instability. This is perhaps partly due to the relative lack of community visibility that elementary music programs enjoy in comparison to secondary school music programs.

We were curious as to what types of experiences might be left over for students should elementary music specialist-led programs be cut – and how those experiences might vary for students from different demographic segments of the nation?

ECLS wordle copy 

The background:

We analyzed publicly available data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) conducted by the National Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences, and the National Center for Educational Statistics. The ECLS collected data about a nationally representative cohort of approximately 3.8 million kindergarten children (K class of 1999) as they progressed through elementary and middle school.

Regarding music, the ECLS collected information about the nature of the musical experiences the children received in their academic classroom setting as opposed to their music class-specific experiences. As such, the data allow for a rough estimate of the kinds and amounts of musical experiences students receive from their academic classroom teachers apart from those that may be delivered from an elementary music specialist.

Drawing from the data that were available, our analyses were conducted to determine:

  • The frequency and duration with which children received music instruction in their academic classroom setting
  • The frequency that music was used to teach math in the academic classroom setting
  • The percentage of children receiving formal/private music instruction outside of school
    • We also examined each these types of experiences according to student urbanicity (i.e., rural, suburban, urban location), socioeconomic status, and race.

Classroom teachers most frequently reported engaging children in some sort of music activity once or twice a week for 30 minutes or less. This excerpt serves as a summary of our most compelling findings regarding access to such classroom experiences:

Music instruction (in the academic classroom setting) appears to be… …less available for students of color from urban and rural settings and of lower socioeconomic status. In addition, access to privatized formal instruction seems readily available for those children who are arguably the least in need and significantly lacking for those with the greatest need.” (Miksza & Gault, Online First, 2014, p. 11)

We’re happy to report that the article is now available as an “online first” offering in the Journal of Research in Music Education.

Miksza, P., & Gault, B. (online first, 2014). Classroom music experiences of US elementary school children: An analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of 1998-99 (ECLS-K). Journal of Research in Music Education, 62, 4-17. 

Ed Policy and Music Teacher Preparation

This weekend I had the opportunity of co-presenting a session on embedding educational policy issues in music teacher preparation coursework at the bi-annual Symposium on Music Teacher Education in North Carolina. It was a pleasure to work with our newest Jacobs School of Music music education colleague, Dr. Lauren Kapalka-Richerme and IU JSOM alumna, Dr. Carla Aguilar who is currently coordinator of music education at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado.

This is us enjoying the day! And here is a link to our presentation slides: Aguilar, Miksza, Richerme – Policy – SMTE – 2013.

Also, check out the SMTE Policy ASPA Facebook page here: SMTE POLICY

photo

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Theoretipracticaliexpealidocious

Preface

This post includes a few brief, light-hearted thoughts I put out to the music education graduate research colloquium today during our faculty roundtable on the theme of, “Intersections Between Research and Practice.” This event was intended to be an introductory colloquium during which the faculty shared 5- to 7-minute reflections on how they see their own research impacting their practical concerns. If you’re curious, this was my take…

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The Future of Music Education: Continuing the Dialogue about Curricular Reform

I’m excited to report the publication of a recent article I wrote for the Music Educators Journal titled: “The future of music education: Continuing the dialogue about curricular reform”

The heart of this article is captured in the opening quote: “The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.” Alfred North Whitehead

In this article I highlight several trends regarding critical arguments that have recently been raised when discussing the secondary large-ensemble tradition in the public schools. In support of secondary school ensembles, I argue for a discussion of curricular reform that avoids polemical rhetoric, straw men, and hasty generalization. I also suggest taking special care when considering the incorporation of new technologies and popular music idioms in music education curricula.

I describe how critical energies might be redirected to what I see as urgent needs for the profession such as:

  • Directing advocacy efforts towards increasing access to music education for underserved populations of children
  • Focusing advocacy efforts towards enhancing support for foundational elementary music experiences
  • Transforming teaching to maximize what’s possible from within the large-ensemble model without needlessly tearing it down by:
    • Increasing the breadth of comprehensive musicianship experiences possible
    • Increasing the degree of individual student empowerment
    • Broadening the range of collaborative approaches to music-making that teach­ers and students could engage in
    • Broadening the inclusiveness of repertoire in large-ensemble curricula

After briefly, yet sincerely, acknowledging the certain need to expand curricular offerings for music in the secondary schools, I close with the following:

“…it will be necessary to cultivate dispositions of patience and reflection with visions of curricular transformation if we hope for significant and lasting changes in the nature and quality of music education for all.”

Please check out the full article here (free to all NAfME members – or email me if you’d like to read it):

Miksza, P. (2013). The future of music education: Continuing the dialogue. Music Educators Journal, 99, 45-50.

Arts Ed: Reasons to Advocate and Levers to Pull

Reasons to advocate: Inspiring stories

The collegiate chapter of the National Association for Music Education at IU (see their blog!) recently participated in the music advocacy groundswell event (found here) by collecting stories from children about why music matters to them. They made efforts to contact public school teachers in the greater Bloomington area and reached out to the teachers from their hometowns. They ended up collecting nearly 18,000 words worth of inspirational stories of how music has played an essential role in kids’ lives across the country.

The comments the children made are powerful to say the least… they speak of many benefits of music that we, as musicians and teachers, know to be true – finding a place to belong, uncovering a special talent, learning about themselves, developing a means of self-expression, bringing them closer together with friends and family, connecting to a greater community, music as a release and a joy, the acquisition of skills and dispositions that are benefits in other areas of life, etc.

Here is a word cloud from the collection of stories that emphasizes the sentiments the students most commonly expressed – click on it for a close-up:

Better wordle 2

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