Jul 17

Marching Band Philosophy by Michael Hebert

By Michael  Hebert

Music education should cross the boundaries that conventional education has put in place. By its nature, music is one of the few mediums that link the sciences with the humanities. The study of music demands precision, discipline, and attention to detail, with sets of rules and regulations that govern its place in time and space. Yet, all of this becomes flexible by music’s creative nature. Music reflects the emotional awareness of a people’s culture in a moment of time, thus freeing itself from constraint. This process only becomes possible when one can link the cognitive and affective sides of the human brain. Music seemingly achieves this with ease as music performance and perception accesses the analytical and organizational aspects of the left brain with the imaginative, creative aspects of the right brain. Music accommodates all learning styles, be they aural, kinesthetic, or visual. Somewhere along the line, education decided that it would be best to compartmentalize a student’s education. Regardless of if it was deliberate or unintentional, it has happened and it is now deeply ingrained in our schools. Music education breaks this mold by cutting down the barriers in one’s educational experience. Every subject is relatable to music and visa versa. Because of this, music education, at its best, can be a means to promote learning without boundaries or boxes that separate different types of knowledge. At its best, schooling can be about how to make a life, which is quite different from how to make a living.

The most important contribution schools can make to the education of our youth is to provide them with a sense of coherence in their studies. To provide them with a sense of purpose, meaning, and interconnectedness in what they learn. Far too often, a typical modern school curriculum reflects, far too much, the fragmentation one finds in television’s weekly schedule (the news being a very condensed and obvious form of this fragmentation). Each subject, like each program (if improperly presented by the instructor), has nothing whatever to do with any other. We must say this for television: It offers what it does in the hope of winning the student’s attention. Its major theme is the psychological gratification of the viewer. Schools, on the other hand, offer what they do either because they have always done so or because the colleges or professional schools “require” it. There is no longer any principle that unites the school curriculum and furnishes it with meaning. Music, at its best, can be a part of the answer to this problem. By laying a foundation for proper educational philosophies and teaching practices, students can learn how to de-compartmentalize their learning in the music classroom. Music education should never exist to merely catch a student’s attention. Music education should follow a great quote from Jonathan Edwards when he stated, “The best education is an education in the best things.” Students do not need to be exposed to the easier and more simplistic repertoire that modern composers are churning out at a nauseating rate. Our students deserve the best repertoire available to us. They deserve the music of great composers rather than the ramblings of modern day hacks who are more focused on their paycheck than musical integrity and beauty.

Students, in the end, really learn and retain best those things they sincerely want to learn. Teachers therefore have the responsibility to motivate, explain and illustrate not only “what” and “how” but also “why” certain knowledge and skills are important. Alfred Whitehead once said, “…so far as the mere imparting of information is concerned, no school has had any justification for existence since the popularization of printing in the fifteenth century.” With the rapid growth of technology that we are in the midst of, this statement hold even more weight for us as educators. We are not called to “fill their minds” or “prune them like flowers” or any other such thing that we hear so often. We are called to be meaning makers for our students. Our students need and crave a reason and a meaning to learn. It is our responsibility and joy as educators to make them aware of this and then mentor them in their process of discovery and curiosity. May it be our joy that our students become the beneficiaries of all that we do.