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The Death Of Music in Schools?


I am writing in response to an article posted on MI-Pro, a trade website, about music in schools dying and how it has changed.  It talks about how music in schools can be rather boring and how it needs to be more motivating and would like to invite parents, pupils and teachers to add your comments and feelings about this issue.  The full article is posted here.

Tim Slater mentions his days of school music lessons being quite boring learning about Beethoven and Benjamin Britten until one day his music teacher brought in his electric guitar and taught them about the different parts of the guitar whilst plugging it in and giving a rendition of David Bowie's Rebel Rebel.  That is his most memorable part of music lessons during school.  It's true that music in a lot of schools can be very tedious and it's understandable that the Government were talking of taking music off the syllabus as a compulsory subject but what do you expect when you are learning about classical composers, clapping rhythms to a pre-recorded educational lesson tape and singing random songs that you've never heard of!

I was very luck when it came to music lessons as my school has always been known for its music department, and particularly the music teacher.  The school was always known for the music department and its various bands, whether it be the concert band or jazz orchestra and played many concerts and events during my time there from Henley Regatta and Local Radio Events to Christmas Concerts in the local church and playing for the local charity fund raisers.  The other thing that proved the success of the department was the size of the bands themselves that were some 40+ strong members from Year 7 through to Year 12 and 13 sixth formers.

Where else in a school environment would you find such a mix of age groups and children of different backgrounds?  I think music is extremely important for developing social skills as well as personal skills.  Talking from experience, I was an extremely timid 12 year old Year 7 who was scared of just about anyone I didn't know!  I remember going to my first Junior Band Practice, clarinet in hand at lunchtime and eating my lunch whilst 2 Year 9 girls were happily chatting and giggling on the other side of the room.  Being the scared fool I was, I thought they were laughing about me so decided to skip Junior band practice!  Anyway, a long story short after finally plucking the courage to go back to band practice, years later I ended up being the speaker of the entire group when the Concert Band & Jazz Orchestra visited Goslar in Germany.  I had to stand in front of all my band friends as well as our German audiences and introduce the band, in German!  Who would've thought that could have happened.... so social development is a big part in music lessons at school.

I still regularly speak with my school music teacher, and in fact play in a 60's cover band with him, so whatever he did must have worked!  He is always keen to tell me of the new ways he develops his lesson plans where now he will split a class into smaller groups of 4 or 5 and they decide between them on a pop song to learn.  That group then spend the term working through the different parts of the song together and finally perform in front of the class at the end of term.  It's a great scheme and has proven very successful both in the encouragement of music in them and also developing their social skills as they don't pick their own group and are almost 'forced' to work together with other class members they may have not chosen themselves.

All in all I believe music is fundamental in the development of people in school.  It helps encourage interaction between different ages, nationalities and backgrounds - we just need more school music teachers to change from the traditional (and somewhat boring) methods introducing some modern twists that will help engage more pupils and hopefully help them enjoy music.