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Let’s Do the Time Warp

Music teachers rely on traditional songs, old-fashioned rehearsals, prof says

Celine Dion may be crooning in Las Vegas casinos, and Avril Lavigne in sold-out stadiums, but one place their songs are rarely heard is in music classrooms. Instead, instructors usually insist on more traditional music – and teaching methods from the 1950s, says U of T music professor Lee Bartel.

In Questioning the Music Education Paradigm, Bartel and other music academics examine how music is taught in elementary and high schools. “We should be more progressive,” says Bartel. “The models typically being used in music now were common in schools 50 years ago, but they don’t fit the current creative environment, especially since most other aspects of schooling have moved on to much more socially oriented, collaborative learning systems.”

Bartel points out that most music classes still favour the rehearsal model of education with big ensembles, which include choirs, orchestras and band music, and which children rarely listen to outside of school. “Why aren’t we doing more guitar programs, which are more culturally appropriate for many students and appeal to a greater number of kids than the big brass Sousa marches?” Bartel asks. “As well, we have to put the ‘play’ back into playing music. We create musically intolerant classrooms and teach music that is not real, meaningful or relevant to many children. In today’s classrooms of cultural diversity, we need to change both what we teach and how we teach.”

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