Dr Brandoff opens with two vignettes; one where he describes a time of personal social frustration where he wanted to punch a wall (but played some classical piano instead – he demos it live!). His second example is a patient case (see slide).
As a palliative care expert and pain specialist, he gives us an overview of patient needs, in the context of his profession, and in the context of US healthcare. He considers opioids an important part of pain treatment, but acknowledges the rampant public health opioid crisis. We look at some disturbing stats of overdose deaths involving opioids in the US, correlated with heroin and fentanyl takeup, and a more local analysis of the picture here in Massachusetts.
Our first speaker, Dr David Silverstein, leads us through a fascinating overview of ‘music and the brain’, and he begins with a quotation from Hippocrates:
And men ought to know that from nothing else but thence [from the brain] come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. And by this, in an especial manner, we acquire wisdom and knowledge, and see and hear, and know what are foul and hat are fair, what are bad and what are good, what are sweet, and what unsavory… And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us…
We see evolutionary comparisons of the prefrontal cortex of various mammals, from rats to humans. As Dr Silverstein puts it “[our brains] hitch a ride on blood oxygenation”. Neurology and psychology are the fields by which we learn about our subjective brain experiences.
Popular Music Education as an antidote to McDonaldization
John Kratus, Professor Emeritus of Music Education, Michigan State University.
John begins with an overview of the concept of McDonaldization (Ritter 1993) – defined as a rational process combining efficiency, calculability, predictability and control, starting with McDonalds itself, and then extending the metaphor towards the ‘template’ that he suggests represents typical K-12 music curricula in the USA.
He cites Ritter “people are the greatest threat to predictability” and suggests that McDonaldized curricula need to suppress students’ agency.
Advocating for Popular Music Education – where do we go from here?
Steve Holley, Music educator
Steve begins with an overview of US music education generally, including high schools and universities, asking ‘why adapt now?’ and describing a necessary journey toward curricular adaptation. He takes us back to the mid-20thC innovators (USC, Miami, Berklee) who ‘took a chance on jazz’, and observes that the music education community thought they were crazy. Within 50 years of those early adopters, jazz in music schools had become mainstream. Steve believes that popular music education today is where jazz music education was in the 1950s, and predicts a similar trickle-down effect in future years, giving examples of schools where this is already starting to happen.
Evan begins by describing the program beginning with a ‘chicken and egg’ situation in his institution. A committee was formed to figure out how to launch a popular music degree – but no-one on the committee had a popular music background. The committee pushed ahead, based on the institutional promise from ASU that faculty would be hired when the decision had been made to launch.
Practical Production Analysis: Helping Students Produce Competitive Songs
Misty opens by describing her particular students as ‘in the box’ producers – that is to say, they create the entire sound recording in a Digital Audio Workstation. The problem she’s trying to solve is this: the students’ recordings are just not ready yet [for the commercial marketplace]. So today, she will be sharing her approach to helping students to make their song recordings competitive, in the genre they want to produce in.
The approach starts with the assumption that students ‘have their chops down’ – that is, they can write melodies & lyrics, understand harmony, and can program beats. With this out of the way, the students are asked to work on these four areas:
Matthew opens with a discussion of the role of curriculum in popular music education, noting that the skills musicians gain in Higher Ed are arguably much more important than the qualification. Like the industry, he says, we must be ruthless in prioritizing meaningful musical career skills, rather than focusing on those elements that are the easiest to teach, or have heavily established pedagogies.
I’m in Nashville, at the #apme conference, hosted by Middle Tennessee State University. Popular Music Education is still a relatively young field, at least in terms of having its own conference (launched ~10 years ago) and journal (launched last year). More about AMPE at popularmusiceducation.org. Conference schedule here.
Coming from Berklee, perhaps I’ve become too comfortable with the idea that everyone talks about popular music pedagogy all the time. A lot of colleagues here are from institutions that have a long history of classical music education, but have only recently launched popular music programs. They are often seen as mavericks in their schools, and are viewed with some suspicion by more traditional teachers and departments. So there’s a palpable sense of community here, and even during this first morning of day 1 I’ve frequently overheard the phrase: “I’ve finally found my people!”.
This morning, on the final day of my visit to Berklee Valencia, I attended a gig/masterclass with the remarkable Dutch jazz trio Tin Men And The Telephone. ‘Jazz Trio’ is really an inadequate term for this ensemble. It might better be described as ‘interactive iPhone jazz gaming with live humans’.
The setup is as follows: the trio is piano, upright bass and drums. The drummer has a MIDI drum pad and snare sensor. The bassist has an effects pedal. The piano has a MIDI converter attachment, feeding a MAX patch, with occasional effects processing of the piano signal.
Paper: Online Tools to Promote Music of the Midwest Robert Willey (Ball State University)
ABSTRACT: An approach to teaching a music industry class involving the promotion of regional music is presented. A variety of tools are applied, including cell phones, lap tops, web browsers, iTunes, streaming Internet radio, and Google drive, forms, maps, and gmail. Many of the class meetings are flipped, with students watching lectures and studying at home and working in groups during classtime. The class is modified in the summer to be taught online with more individual than group projects, and office hours performed using WebEx online meetings.
Ninety percent of the students in the class take it as a general elective. There is an entrepreneurial emphasis in which students explore their interests and apply their portfolio of skills in whatever major they come from to develop a project that fills a community need. Electronic tools help us reach outside our small-town environment, get practical experience, and develop contacts.
Robert begins by talking about his ‘graphic curriculum maps’ – which are flowcharts that describe the learning journey. His pedagogy of ‘Specifications Grading‘ is partly influenced by the work of Linda B Nilson.
Our first session today is a panel, chaired by David E Myers, entitled “Inclusion, Access, Relevance: Addressing 21st Century Higher Education Challenges through Shared Governance”. This is perhaps the biggest strategic conversation in US Music Higher Ed right now – the institutions know there is a problem, but many seem unable to improve student or faculty diversity in any significant way.
[JB comment – I have my own theories about this, and take the view that repertoire is the primary culprit; classical music is a European tradition, and it has not absorbed non-white cultures easily. Institutions still build much of their curricula around the Common Practice period, and then express surprise that the programs are less appealing to those from other musical/cultural traditions. The question is – which lever of change is the most moveable – faculty, repertoire, curriculum or recruitment…?].
This week I’m in Santa Fe. I’ve never seen New Mexico before (except through the fictional eyes of Jesse, Walt, Hank, Skylar, Mike etc) and it’s quite beautiful – the view from the hotel is filled with sandstone fort-like buildings and distant mountains. The event is the College Music Society conference, an annual get-together of higher education music schools from across the US. Most of the major conservatories are represented, as are the music departments of many of the universities.