Music Is Personal, Education Should Be Too
by Jason Gross
If you’re a teacher, you know that education can be as personal as music; that by creating a ‘playlist’ of activities and lessons tailored to each student’s individual needs, you enhance their learning experience, and leave them better equipped for success. As educators (and administrators) get more comfortable with edtech tools like ONEder, the process of creating a personalized learning experience for students is becoming both easier and faster. However, we all still have much to learn in this area. ONEder spoke with educators at some of the nation’s top music programs to get their advice on how we can make our classrooms as dynamic as their music programs.
Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Now a quarter-century old, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus has chalked up shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Lincoln Center, and worked with artists as diverse as Bryce Dessner of The National, and Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire. Founder Dianne Berkun-Menaker puts the students through their paces with what she calls ‘an immersion language environment’ with several levels of training that match their skill and experience, accompanied by reviews and practice. For the best outcomes in the classroom, Dianne believes that “an educator must break down a work into small enough pieces so that the information the students need is always just one step ahead – a reach, but still attainable.”
The Paul Green Rock Academy
The Paul Green Academy, located in one of the centers of the rock universe, Woodstock, NY, has a year-round program with 45 minute lessons and weekly rehearsals. This hard work culminates in themed concerts, which recently included tribute shows centered on acts like Bob Dylan and AC/DC. (And no, the student’s don’t get lessons on how to smash guitars…we asked!) Musical Director, Jason Bowman credits his skills in the classroom to his history of playing in bars: “maintaining the attention of a roomful of drunk adults through a show is very similar to leading a roomful of kids through a lesson.’ Next time your class gets a bit rowdy, channel your inner rocker and you’ll be fine!
Foundations of Music: Music for Every Child
Chicago’s Foundations of Music works hand-in-hand with schools to show K-5 teachers how to incorporate elements of music like melody, rhythm and dynamics into their existing curriculum. They put together after-school classes on songwriting and production, offer courses that cover everything from jazz and blues to hip-hop, and organize professional musicians to come and lecture at schools. Program Director, Brenda Feinberg, finds that learning music is a great metaphor for how to approach teaching: “You have to be able to improvise, and go with the moment when you are working with classes of young children. However, if you don’t know the fundamentals of what you are trying to teach, you’ll all get lost in chaos.”
Moment NYC’s mission is to bring the music and culture of the Big Apple to local students, teaching them about everything from vaudeville and salsa to punk and disco. They also arrange for professional musicians to come to the school, shaping their program around the school’s needs. Founder/Director Genji Siraisi (who’s also a Grammy-nominated producer and composer) believes education is “almost never a one-size-fits-all scenario.” When a student is struggling, he has “found that engagement is the key, whether students are bored, disinterested, or struggling with something being taught. Building a rapport with them as individuals is essential.” Genji knows that “finding ways for students to express themselves as individuals or in small groups is an effective way for them to learn who they are, their strengths and their weaknesses.”
Do you use any of these, or any other music-related strategies, to make your classroom more fun? Share your successes with music or goal-oriented action planning with the ONEder community!
Photo in header by Bernd Hentschel Fotografie