I want to actually have a set curriculum to follow, one that progresses up through all grade levels (spiral curriculum).
I’ve seen many elementary programs that do quite well at this—they build on new knowledge every single year. At least in Nebraska, this happens in the larger districts. The smaller schools kind of get to do whatever they want, if their districts don’t set standards (we don’t have any state standards when it comes to music—which is actually another rather interesting conversation, at least I think).
But once you get to middle school, it’s as if everything shifts completely to performance. I don’t think music learning should stop there. There’s nine standards: (1) Sing, (2) Play instruments, (3) Improvise, (4) Compose, (5) Read/Notate, (6) Listen, (7) Evaluate, (8) History, and (9) Related Arts. I might have mixed 8 and 9 up, but that’s beside the point—the point it that by middle school, kids have probably done a lot of singing and a decent amount of playing. What they haven’t done as much are the other standards, which I think are all important.
So in a performance ensemble, I don’t think performance should be the sole focus of the class. Sure, it’s a big part, but the performance and repertoire you’re working should become the vehicle for learning. Continue to discuss important composers. Relate the music to other areas of learning—after all, there’s many other subjects out there, and they’re all equally important. And improvising and composing are important to everyone, not just jazz musicians and music writers.
Plus there’s always more just to learn about music itself, whether it’s in the theory world, the artistry side, or just the mechanics of your instrument.
It’s a big thing to try to tackle… and honestly, in my first job, I can’t see myself taking everything on at once. For one, the kids probably wouldn’t like that much change. But I’m really passionate about the composition idea, so I’d love to get going on that. I’m intimidated by improvisation… but it’s important enough that I don’t want to leave it out. And tumblr has given me so great ideas on incorporating history in a meaningful and fun way (Facebook walls for composers we’re studying, anyone?).
And I guess it’s nearly obvious that assessment would have to be happening with all of this—both formative and cumulative. Being isolated in the bubble of college ideas, I forget that out in the “real world” assessment still doesn’t regularly happen, aside from playing tests for chair placement. But if you start adding in all the other standards… there’s a lot more things for you to be working on with the students.
Like I said, it’s a lot to chew on. And I doubt I’ll get to it all even in my first few years, by the time I’ll be working through being a new teacher and trying not to rock the boat too hard, least of all taking into account my administration’s expectations. But in a perfect world… this would be a lot of it.
Great question! I may have rambled on a bit there, but there’s so much you can talk about with this!