Music Education – The Wannabe Sister

My own county has been experiencing severe budget issues ever since I have been a teacher here (five years) and while they are known throughout the entire country for their avid support for the arts, even they were considering significant cuts to the arts programs including cutting elementary instrumental programs.  I know that my county is rare.  Most counties will cut the electives before anything else.  Many counties have diverted to the ways of Lowell Mason and Julia Ettie Crane and have hired on a music teacher to basically supervise activities at between 8 – 12 schools, requiring the elementary teacher to teach music in addition to the curriculum.  Would this legislation fix these issues?

I suppose it depends on whether music becomes a core subject for all grade levels and whether or not they deem music on equal footing with math or science (I am somewhat skeptical about this one…  Okay, extremely skeptical about this…) The real question to me, however, is if music becomes a core subject, then will it be required for all students?  And is that really a good thing?  Part of the appeal of the arts is free will… Joining music is currently a choice.  Also, would students be required to take standardized music tests?  This is already happening in a 5th grade for students within my county.  It is kind of crazy… And I haven’t really noticed any improvement in student note reading, singing, or even listening.  So are these tests working?  Or is it just another way to defend music education?  And why defend ourselves anyway?  It seems to me that we are constantly trying to compare ourselves with the core subjects.

Music ed is kind of like the youngest sister who is so unique, brilliant, and loved, but wants so desperately to be like her older sisters that she completely changes her outward appearance to match that of her sisters.  She wears make up to look more mature, and hides her silly mannerisms in order to be taken more seriously.  She discards the colorful wardrobe that she once wore and instead switches to a wardrobe of navy blue and white to match her role models’ school uniform.  Any bit of individualism is hidden just so she can be respected more… And yet, is she herself in this way?  Is this how we want to be as musicians?  I fear for our own students if we take this path…

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