The Importance of Bringing Music Education out of Conventional Classroom Settings
Most music educators feel that what they don’t earn in high wages, spacious offices, and desirable benefits they more than make up for with the comfort of knowing that their work is making a huge positive impact in the lives of their students and the communities they teach in. But while the incredibly hard work and dedication educators bring to their classrooms is important, many educators fail to focus on one key factor that could bring the widest array of enduring benefits to their students: the profound impact music education delivers outside of the classroom.
Focusing on music’s value outside of conventional educational contexts is something that can inspire students to embrace music throughout their childhoods and beyond. When it comes to the day-to-day demands of teaching music in a classroom, it’s easy to forget that music has a profound purpose and benefit that far transcends the limitations of conventional music education. In this article, we’ll show you the benefits of bringing music education outside of the classroom, with tips for how to present your lessons in ways that will remain with your students long after they’ve left school.
Where music education lives outside of the classroom
Whether it’s helping a struggling horn player develop their embouchure or running through a tricky 5/4 section with your drumline over and over again, the daily challenges of teaching music can make it easy to view it as something that primarily exists within the confines of your classroom. But the tireless work you put into your job transcends the walls of your school in countless ways. Music students bring the specialized knowledge and unique experiences they find in programs like marching band, jazz band, and K-12 music electives with them in ways that have a huge impact on what they do and who they are outside of the classroom. This can be as simple as a child recognizing a time signature or chord progression in a song they hear out in public.
For other students, the lessons they learn in music class go on to have far more transformative impacts. Countless American music students have incorporated the skills and music theory knowledge they picked up from conventional music education programs into their own creative projects and careers. From sound design jobs to indie pop bands, what you expose your music students to conventionally in the classroom has the power to give them skills and knowledge integral for helping them pursue music and sound creatively or professionally for the rest of their lives. Some students earn a living through music, others pursue it as a creative outlet, and all are transformed in positive ways by what they experience through music education.
How bridging the gap between conventional music education and real-world music contexts helps students
- Allows students to put music theory and performance lessons into modern, actionable contexts
- Helps students develop musically through self expression
- Brings students into the fold of modern music and music-based technology
- Makes music fun for kids by showing them it’s an integral part of their daily lives
- Encourages students to embrace creativity in all aspects of their lives, including non-musical educational contexts
Sadly, most music programs in America fail to teach in a way that effectively bridges the gap between conventional educational material inside the classroom and actionable lessons geared towards helping young musicians succeed in the modern musical world outside their schools. Everything from helping students navigate digital recording software to showing them how to perform and understand the music they actually like listening to are powerful actions that can transform an interest into a lifelong creative pursuit. However, doing this isn’t easy for most music educators for a few reasons.
The first reason comes down to the usual priorities that take up the majority of most music educators’ time and focus. Most educators are constantly fixated on day-to-day tasks and not on the big picture benefits of what music education can do in the life of a student. The second comes down to systematic issues in the American education system. On a national level, we’re not doing nearly enough to put music education in a modern, relatable context for students. It’s not easy, but there are actionable things you can do to bring education out of your classroom in ways that will meaningfully benefit your students.
Easy ways to bring music education out of the classroom right now
- Incentivise student attendance and participation in local music events. Don’t stop at orchestral or band music, but broaden events to music festivals, rock concerts, etc.
- Put popular music in a music theory context at every opportunity. This could be anything from assignments where students chart out their favorite songs to having your class vote on a new song to collectively learn
- Take time to connect the music you learn in class with the music with the songs and artists your students are listening to. Putting modern music in the context of history and music theory will connect what you teach to the broader world of music
- Encourage students to learn about and appreciate local music. If you teach young children, encourage your students’ parents to bring them to local concerts and events
Collectively, we’re not doing nearly enough to make music education fun, relatable, and enduring in the lives of our students, but embracing every opportunity available to bring your work outside of a conventional classroom setting is a good start. According to the National Association for Music Education, breaking down the barriers between predictable music education lessons and techniques and music in a broad, popular context is paramount in helping students fully invest in their own musical agency and creativity: “Facilitating a climate of creativity in a music classroom is one of THE most important components of music education. When students are taught to create their own music, they take ownership of their educational experience.”
The benefits of showing the value of music education within a community
Making a meaningful effort to bring music education out of the classroom can do amazing things for the musical success of your students, but it can also do a lot for your music program. Many educators are locked in a perpetual battle with local policymakers to bring more funding and attention to their programs. A powerful weapon that often goes unused in this fight is the fact that music brings a profound set of positive impacts to a community. From breaking down barriers between diverse groups of people to enrich the lives of community members through exposure to art and new ideas, music is a gift that makes a community a safer and more rewarding place to live.
Voters and politicians can recognize the value of music in their communities, but few draw the connection between something like a high school marching band and a beloved annual music festival or music venue that enriches the places they live. When educators effectively display the value of music and other arts programs in the places they live, asking for more resources becomes a more manageable task.
Ways music educators can reflect the value of their work within their communities:
- Provide parents, local politicians, and community members with literature showing the ways music is proven to scientifically benefit children, adults, and communities
- Connect your program to non-education related music events happening locally like music festivals and concerts. This can be done through social media promotion, sponsorships, and volunteering
- Team up with local bands, composers, and solo performers for collaborative performances. This will take work to coordinate, but it will provide your program with more local visibility and will show the value of music education
As a music teacher, bringing music education outside of your classroom might seem like just another thing to add to your to-do list, but it’s a crucial part of helping to sustain your program and leaving a lasting creative legacy with your students.
For help in and outside of the classroom, the Educational Representatives team at Music & Arts have the expertise and resources you need. Even without the effort of bringing your important work outside of conventional classroom settings, being an effective music educator is extremely hard work. Luckily, Music & Arts’ Educational Representatives can save you time and stress. Whether you need to track down a rare instrument or are a couple of reeds short before an important performance, Music & Arts can help. Click here to see what a Music & Arts Educational Representative can do for your music program today!
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