By Mike Vaccaro
(from Mike's Musings #21, our newsletter)
Several weeks ago, I gave a talk to The California Music Educators at the Anaheim Hyatt, as anoffshoot of the NAMM show. My complete talk is available on YouTube, from these links:
- For Music Teachers and Administrators Part 1
- For Music Teachers and Administrators Part 2
- For Music Teachers and Administrators Part 3
- For Music Teachers and Administrators Part 4
First, let me say that these K-12 teachers, and the college students aspiring to enter music pedagogy, are the angels of the whole musical scene.
One of the subjects I touched on was the state of music education for K-12 teachers, and the travesty presented to them in instrument classes. That’s where you study a family of instruments for 16 weeks and then go on to another family of instruments for the next 16 weeks. Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion, and Strings in just 64 weeks over 2 years.
No one can convince me that they can even learn the basics of clarinet, sax, flute, oboe, and bassoon in 16 weeks. As I said in my lecture, these students, training to be teachers, are about one page in front of their own potential students when they start. By the time a teacher, trained in this manner, has spent a few months on the job, these same teachers are at least a page behind the student.
If this is the scenario we're dealing with, It is important for all students to study privately to develop in a timely manner. To add to the dilema, this is one of the more time-consuming disciplines, and most band programs at the Elementary and Junior High only have one hour a week with the student.
Not only is it 64 weeks to learn every instrument in the orchestra and be able to teach them, but they must do it while thinking of Junior and Senior Recitals, private lessons, and practicing on their major instrument, marching band, and re-studying the basics of history, philosophy and math etc. for the umpteenth time. Some students are even studying the Business of Music at the few places it is taught.
Let’s face it, not all music students are going to be teachers or professionals. That makes Music Business classes mandatory. ADMINISTRATORS please accept and fix this situation.
Back to the K-12 group and their ADMINISTRATORS. Are the administrators even aware that his isn't anough study time on each instrument, much less each family of instruments? I challenge ADMINISTRATORS to find a new way to give their college students more time to get to know their subject matter. How about a whole year for each family of instruments.
I don’t claim to know the problems of music administrators, but I have seen the problems of the teachers who graduate and don’t know how a middle G on the trumpet feels, or who can't read Viola clef and play a C, G, Bb, or Eb scale on the viola. I asked the room how many people knew how to create an octave on the flute and out of a group of 40 educators only 2 people raised their hands. This is a perfect example about what I am talking about.
The only suggestion I could give the educators at the seminar, was to study an instrument privately from an outstanding teacher and then, after the first year, switch to another instrument. By the time they near the end of their career they just MIGHT have a pretty good idea of what a student feels on several instruments. The dilemma is that the teachers, in many cases, have started a family, might be practicing their principal instrument, work long hours and have the vicissitudes of adult life to deal with. Tough to get in a half hour or hour on a new instrument, as a beginner. And still get ample rest to deal with the students.
I leave it to the ADMINISTRATORS along with the UNIVERSITY, or COLLEGE, to do something for our music teachers and their students as soon as you can as the system must change!
ON A MORE POSITIVE NOTE
I have been collecting accessories from the finest providers in the industry. This will give you the opportunity to try reeds, ligatures, reed systems, double reeds and various items at my Los Angeles area shop. Try before you buy! Simultaneously, I have a store for those who can’t make it by the shop. I will let you all know the day the location and the shop opens for musicians. These products are aimed at the professional musician (which of course means they are better for all student musicians).
Please email any questions here.
Be happy with where you are at while you are trying to get to where you want to be.
Until the next Mike's Musings, here's wishing you all the best!