What does music education In schools really teach?

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What does music education In schools really teach?

Ever since I was young I loved music. It was a joy to pick up two sticks and knock them on different objects giving different pitches and sounds. It was just fun to make my own music.

However, this quickly expired in primary school when we were given the opportunity to learn a musical instrument.

When it came down to selecting an instrument we didn’t have as much choice as we first thought. If we were lucky, we got a chance to pick our favourite and then hopefully be able to play it. However this wasn’t always the case. It was often deemed that a certain instrument that wasn’t our preference was more suitable for us – and this was unfortunate for us.

No one else in my family played any musical instruments so it was much to their surprise when I came running home to mum saying with excitement, “I want to play the violin!”

In the beginning I practised most nights, not because I was told to or even that I had to do it, but because I really loved playing my own music.

  • It didn’t matter that the violin was out of tune
  • That it mis-pitched
  • Or that it sounded like screeching tyres (as do many beginner 6 year olds when they start off ... hey, just sayin'!)

The impulse to play was to truly have fun, not to play for recognition or to be liked. Every time I picked up an instrument I picked it up to have a joyous time.

However, everything started to change in my first year of ‘musical education’:

  • There were expectations to sit, listen and to play only what I was told because everything else natural to me was considered wrong.
  • Everything was focussed on structuring our minds to understand what the teacher was teaching so we could play for our exams and so we could know how good we were: this included the way we were taught to read music.

My perception of music changed from then on. No longer did I feel the freedom to truly have fun with music ... even as a youngling I felt the tension and pressure to get things right. It was horrible, I could no longer equally enjoy the music with everyone else.

Every note and pitch became a competition, making it impossible to truly have fun and express myself through music and enjoy it with others.

Now the pressure was on. We would fight and connive to get into 1st chair saxophone or violin: play games to win over the teacher or make ourselves look better than another student. Everything became a vicious game of who was the best and who could play the best.

But the question is – what defines ‘the best’?

  • Is it the student who practices hours on end every day to memorise the perfect rendition of Mozart’s 3rd concerto?
  • Or the student who puts so much effort to get it right, that in the end if they don’t get it right or aren’t recognised as doing a good job, they would be crushed?

OR ... what if being your best was ...

Truly playing from the loveliness that first inspired you to play

  • With all the natural magic that happens
  • Knowing that there is no ‘right’ note but enjoying what comes through to play
  • Having the trust and confidence in yourself to play to others without the tension of having to get it right or impress them

Through my years of playing in numerous ensembles in the education system including conservatorium based jazz bands, school bands and community bands, never did I think I was good enough. There was always something else to perfect, a new technique to learn, a new G flat 7th chord to memorise.

It wasn’t until I claimed myself as not being just ‘a musician’, but someone who plays an instrument and expresses through music, that I truly started to have fun again and to reconnect to the person who had an ever so grand time being himself, i.e. me!

Filed under

CompetitionChildrenConfidenceTensionEducationSelf-expressionMusicians

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    By Luke Yokota

    Luke has a passion for health and education. He is light hearted, fun, quirky and always ready to for a conversation. Luke sees every day as another opportunity to learn and develop.