Expanding Beyond the K12 Music Education Model of Teacher Training

POSTED: Dec. 07, 2020

By: Herbert Marshall, Ph.D.

My work is focused primarily on general music and music and movement in early childhood education. I have experience with learners from 3 days to 90 years. Expanding beyond our K-12 roots is essential for future teachers because, even though the learners in front of them may be primarily within this age range, knowing what is developmentally appropriate before age five better informs how they meet those kindergarten students and begin their informal and formal learning in music. Further, if we believe in life-long music learning, then we must have some concept of what that looks like in order to develop musical skills and understandings with actual goals in mind. And what if the school music educator sees few opportunities for musical engagement after grade twelve in her community? The community-minded educator should be able to nurture music and arts institutions in the community, perhaps lead one herself, and consider a multi-generational collaboration to build partnerships between school and community. Thus, life-long, community-minded music educators need different skills and experiences then their peers.

To facilitate this, we hope to develop a Kent and community partnership to provide more music and arts instruction to the region. This would be an asset to the community, which does not have enough accessible arts opportunities, particularly for the area east of Kent. To begin this process, with division support, I forged a partnership with Head Start of Portage County and began providing music enrichment at the Kent Child Development Center (before the pandemic hit). This is a site that Kent students will be able to visit, observe, and participate in early childhood music instruction. An expanded arts center, with a variety of offerings and constituents, will be a resource for fieldwork and teaching experience for our pre-service teachers as well as curriculum development and research opportunities for our graduate students and faculty.

A core topic in general music at this time is Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging. I have been infusing this topic into my methods courses for a decade, but the need has never been so great, and the breadth of scholarship is expanding exponentially. Because many general music curricula are centered around folk music, we are in a monumental period of self-reflection and critical scrutiny around Whose music? and Is this relevant to the learners in our community? and Do these songs and activities respect diverse cultures or do they perpetuate bullying and marginalization that will further disenfranchise some students? General music teachers are researching the origins of many core songs and activities and replacing some that no longer are appropriate—a painstaking but absolutely essential process. We want young people to feel a sense of belonging that comes from seeing themselves reflected positively in the songs, stories, and movement they experience in music.

A good deal of this critical self-examination is being done by practitioners of the active approaches—those inspired by the scholarship of Bennett, Dalcroze, Feierabend, Gordon, Kodály, Orff, Suzuki, and others. Because all these approaches grew out of the Western canon of folk and classical music, the leadership within these organizations are engaged in thoughtful substitutions of problematic repertoire and an examination of the structures inherent within their institutions. Although an uncomfortable process, this is ultimately a fertile time for centering our practice around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. I currently serve on the leadership team for the Alliance for Active Music Making (www.allianceamm.org/) and I am the President-elect for the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (giml.org/ ); I can attest to the time and energy currently being put toward making the general music classroom a space that is responsive to, and respectful of, all learners. Thus, this is an opportune time for Kent State to welcome back the active approaches to campus for summer professional development! We have worked within the structures of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association and the Gordon Institute for Music Learning to invite certified instructors to campus this summer to offer professional development for music educators from all over the world. Kent State was once a major hub for best-practice pedagogy in general music and we are working to reclaim that position.