Supporting transgender and other students communicate through music creation

CNN recently featured a story on Marcelas Owens and her journey from being known as the Obamacare Kid years ago to transitioning as a transgender teen. The story addresses a number of important themes, one of which might not receive as much attention from the media, which is the power that music played in her life. Continue reading “Supporting transgender and other students communicate through music creation”

Wayne Shorter’s and Herbie Hancock’s open letter to artists

Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock recently wrote an open letter to artists that is definitely worth a read and would be worth sharing with students. It is particularly appropriate for students in that it is addressed to the next generation of artists on how to respond to recent global events and contemporary society.

Whatever students’ plans for the future, the suggestions could serve as organizers or starting points for projects in music ensembles or classes. Much of what Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock discuss relates to the Core Arts standard of Connecting, which is often addressed less than other standards.

Much of what they say also reminds me of the work of educator, Maxine Greene.

Consider reading some of Greene’s work as well such as [affiliate links] Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change or Variations on a blue guitar: The Lincoln Center Institute lectures on aesthetic education.

What would you say to the next generation of musicians? 

What advice would you give to the next generation of music educators?



Teaching general music: Approaches, issues, and viewpoints

The feelings and perspectives that surround “general music” in music education range from the excitement of those who teach or experience it to curiosity or puzzlement from those who do not. Many people frame general music as an elementary school phenomenon that features recorders, Orff instruments, singing, and teaching approaches such as Orff, Kodaly, and Dalcroze. Others are at a loss when trying to figure out what they might do in a general music setting.

The newly published book (affiliate links included) Teaching General Music: Approaches, Issues, and Viewpoints, edited by Carlos R. Abril and Brent M. Gault is an excellent starting point for deepening and expanding one’s understanding of what General Music can be and how to go about teaching this type of music course. Teaching General Music is sure to serve as a foundational text for anyone who teaches or might eventually teach general music.


In full disclosure, I have a chapter in the book. This is currently the most comprehensive and up to date look at general music in music education. Many of those who read Teaching General Music will benefit by expanding their understanding of general music, the variety of approaches to facilitate musical engagement and learning in the context of general music, and the possibilities for young people across elementary and secondary settings. 
Continue reading “Teaching general music: Approaches, issues, and viewpoints”

Robotics to augment musical engagement?

A recent development out of Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology demonstrates how robotics can be used to augment live performance. However one feels about this type of technology and its connection to human performance, I find it helpful to think through these types of developments and imagine future scenarios that might relate to or impact music teaching and learning.

I’ve written in the past about robots in relationship to music and musical engagement. More recently, in my article Reflecting on the present and looking ahead: A response to Shuler I’ve explored future scenarios such as where boundaries between humans, cyborgs, robots, or Artificial Intelligence might be blurred in relationship to music teaching, learning, and engagement.

Speaking of robots and music education, two current doctoral students in the Arizona State University Music Education Department (Isaac Bickmore & Ryan Bledsoe) and are working with an impressive team on an initiative involving robots, programming, creative decision making, and education. If you know of any young people who program or are interested in programming, please consider inviting them to take this survey to help inform Isaac and Ryan’s work:

What are your perspectives on robots and musical engagement, teaching, and learning?

What ways might your students imagine using robots for musical engagement or learning?

CS For All: Creating music with code!

While science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is still a dominant paradigm in contemporary society, many people are engaging in STEAM (STEM with the arts included) in a robust manner. President Obama’s recent announcement of a Computer Science for All initiative (and $4 billion in funding) is an important development in STEM education as well as the potential for a larger presence of STEAM in instances where the arts might otherwise be absent.

CS For All and related initiatives provide music educators with an opportunity to take a lead role in identifying the potential for STEAM and substantive connections between music engagement, teaching, and learning and computer science.

Creating music with programming and code is just one approach to having people engage with aspects of STEAM and make connections to computer science. Continue reading “CS For All: Creating music with code!”