Music and children have been two central themes in my beautiful life, so I’m thrilled to begin articulating my point of view as a music educator. In case you don’t know, we’re at a critical juncture, at least here in Southern California, where arts programming has been of late and remains either scarce or at best vulnerable, and where new catch phrases like “arts integration” are currently going down the wrong road, minus substantive input from seasoned arts specialists. It’s essential that we re-focus on time-tested approaches to excellence in arts programming and commit to new ones grounded in what we know. So this piece is, as much as a philosophy statement, a defense of consistent, truly collaborative models for music and arts education.
First, very importantly, my approach is, yes, fundamentally integrative. I don’t want the term to become a pejorative! My natural, joyful focus is on providing avenues through which children and young people can express themselves, build musical skills, and perhaps catch the expressive “bug”, with its happy itch for deeper musical exploration, while meanwhile benefiting from the musical elaboration of all kinds of curricular themes. This translates to endless excitement, for my students and for me.
I’ll also declare here that I’m a generalist, a term I was introduced to beautifully a decade or so ago by my gifted architect/artist collaborator Ricardo Accorsi. (More about the relationship between architecture and music someday, with pleasure.) As a generalist, I provide opportunities to challenge and enrich all students, not just the most musical ones. It’s a privilege, and amazing terrain: the positive energy, playfulness, openness, curiosity, and courage of children. They teach, lighten, inspire, and delight me daily. So, with this background info as context, I’ll share an overarching educational philosophy that rings true to me these days, within which I’m passionate about integrating music, the arts, and more.
Individualized Learning for Individual Learners
I think about how many times a new declaration of what to teach and test has been made in recent years. In the midst of it all, and armed with everything I’ve learned since my own early childhood, through teaching, and in raising my three grown sons, it seems to me now that everything comes down to individual learners, to who they each are and what makes each one tick, to going deep into projects that interest them as fulcrums through which all kinds of learning can occur, including critical thinking, analysis, research, synthesis, expository and creative writing, and substantive exposure to relevant technologies. Continue reading