Sunday, May 27, 2012

Why Music Matters, Beautifully Stated

There have been plenty of essays written in the past several decades about why music (and by extension, music education) is so important, and this is a great addition to the collection.  It's by Karl Paulnack, Director of the Music Division of the Boston Conservatory, and it comes from a welcome address that he gave to freshman students in 2004. (How have I gone this long without running across this address before now?)  Here's one of the money quotes, in my opinion:
[...]I have come to understand that music is not part of "arts and entertainment" as the newspaper section would have us believe. It's not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can't with our minds.
Read the whole thing; it's worth your time. And if you're in an area where the schools are considering cutting back on fine arts classes, please share this with the people who are pondering such an awful decision.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About the Calendar, Part 2

I was going over intervals with a student today, and, as frequently happens, he thought the next interval after "major seventh" was "perfect eighth."  He was of course embarrassed that he didn't realize it was also called an octave, since there's a key on the saxophone with that name...

KID: Oh, right...oct- as in octagon.
ME: Yup, and octopus.  And the eighth month of the year used to be October, just like SEPT-ember was the seventh month, and November and December were the ninth and tenth.
KID: But wait--that's only ten months!
ME: Right...until the Romans got hold of the calendar and added two months named after their most famous Caesars.
KID: (thinks for a second) So what would that be...May?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Dictators

The subject of Fidel Castro came up, and we discussed the urban legend of how he had supposedly been rejected by an American baseball team, and how history would have been different if he had made that team...

ME (sportscaster voice): And Castro hits a bomb to center field....oh my; that really WAS a bomb to center field!
KID: And he yells, "Praise Allah!"
ME: Umm, I'm pretty sure Castro isn't Muslim.
KID: That's what he wants you to think...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kids Say the Darnedest Thinga About the Calendar

Yesterday, the subject of our late school start (public schools in Texas can't start before the week containing August 21) came up:

ME: Back before that law was passed, some schools started as early as August 1, which pushed marching band back into the middle of July.
KID: Yay--right when it's snowing.
ME: Wait--what do you mean, snowing? In July?
KID: Yeah, it snowed. Remember? Not this year, but the year before that.
ME: It doesn't snow in July here; I think you mean January.
KID: *facepalm*

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Rhythmic Subdivisions

Kids say the darnedest things about rhythmic subdivisions...

ME: How many sixteenth notes go into a half note?
KID: Lots?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

So You Say That the Rest of School Could Learn from Jazz Band? OK, I'm LIstening...

A Facebook friend linked to a very interesting article in Psychology Today where the author, William Klemm (a neuroscience professor at Texas A&M) suggests that the one subject in school that's really doing things well is...jazz band.
Hearing such wonderful music from children raised a nagging question. Why can’t kids master complicated science, math, language arts, or social studies? Why does everybody struggle so mightily to get kids to pass simple-minded government-mandated tests in academic subjects? And then it hit me. Jazz-band teachers do the right things in teaching that other teachers need to learn how to do. Two things are essential in teaching, the professionalism of the teacher and the motivation of the students. Most school jazz programs provide both. Sad to say, this is not so true of traditional curriculum.
Read the whole thing; it's definitely worth your time. And feel free to hit the comment button to continue the discussion if you wish.