This “article” is a series of 3 papers written by students in an Entrepreneurship in Music course. The topic of the paper is “Music in 2020.” In other words, where do you think music will be in 2020? What will be new? How will the musical landscape have changed and evolved, and how should we prepare for that now? The three authors all express unique ideas and perspectives on the future of music. I suppose none of us know with certainty what the future will hold, but with innovative thinking and careful planning, perhaps we can influence that future just a little bit!
Music. It is difficult to find a place where music does not exist in some form. From car radios to television commercials, restaurants to shopping destinations, elevators to airplanes; music plays an active role in today’s society. While certainly styles and preferences have changed through the years, the over-arching category of “music” has remained relevant by changing with the times. Will this change in the next decade? Will certain genres of music become obsolete or out-dated in favor of other, newer styles? Will music become more individualized, voiding the opportunity for collaboration and social interaction? Will particular types of music be reserved for a focused group of individuals? These questions and more are the focus as I seek to address the issues music may face in the next decade.
In the realm of classical music, technology has made great strides. The development of the digital piano (will this grow to be more popular and commonplace than the acoustic piano?), score digitization, online streaming of classical works, and even a USB pedal page-turner. However, technology is often the vehicle for remote and isolated forms of communication. With its influence, music has become portable and personable with digital music files, ipods, all-in-one cell phones, transportable televisions, and other devices. Some say these are all positives; however, the effect is that music often blends into the background of daily activity. Are those who walk down the street with earbuds in their ears actively listening to the music streaming through their ipod or does it catch their attention only once in a while? Similarly, the dialogue element of conversation – listening, responding, and full engagement is lacking for many students due to limited understanding and experience. Online dialogue and texting are quite different than face-to-face interactions, as the former often permit multi-tasking: multiple conversations with different people occurring simultaneously. Can you imagine this in person? The type of listening and interaction that take place in a private piano lesson is quite different than what students experience in the world of technology. As I sit down with 7th grader, Ben, I realize this has become the norm. “Listen to me play this phrase and then repeat it back to me,” I explain. After one measure, Ben jumps in to repeat. “Be sure you listen to the whole phrase first before repeating it, okay?” I clarify. The situation repeats itself. Why is listening – true listening – such a difficult task for students today?
Music is a language. In centuries past, it was a common language spoken not only by performers and composers but by the audience, many of whom were amateur musicians. Concert attendance was comprised of knowledgeable enthusiasts who understood what was happening onstage. Today, that luxury is limited to a small percentage of our society. Concert attendees nowadays are often in it more for the social experience because they cannot understand the musical language as it is communicated. This divide between the performers and the audience is similar in private teaching; parents with little musical background can offer moral support at home but they are unable to assist their children in practice during the week and therefore become less involved in the learning that takes place.In addition, singing, music-making, and music-listening at home are most likely limited or non-existent in these situations. The true language of music is becoming foreign to many in our society and with that comes the loss of its value in schools, churches, and communities. Communication cannot be effective with an audience lacking understanding of and experience in music-making.
Music is becoming less of a priority in today’s world. Due to a generation with little music comprehension and experience, and the lessening value of music-listening and communicating, most students do not take music study as seriously as other subjects, most parents are not involved in their children’s music learning, and often times, music is viewed as an extracurricular add-on for those with spare time. Many students today are involved in at least one sport and for the over-achievers, sports and the weekly piano lesson somehow manage to coincide in the schedule.
Music programs are in danger of being removed from public school curricula in favor of fundamental subjects such as math, reading, and writing. In addition, how many elementary general music programs really teach children music? Many engage in workbook activities, videos, and study about music. How much singing are elementary children doing in school? Are they learning music by ear or are they given a book of notation for de-coding? In beginning band and orchestra, how much singing takes place? Are students learning proper technique on their instruments? Are they developing their aural skills to fix intonation problems or are they simply given tuners to keep on their stands? Is the director more concerned about teaching music or playing the next concert? Students without the fundamental skills (singing, aural skill development, sense of rhythm) possess lower and lower-levels of musical understanding upon entering school music programs, forcing directors to accommodate with more and more watered-down curriculum and expectations.
As the next decade progresses, I predict that these issues in music performance and education will worsen. However, in the age of ipods, digitization, and electronic instruments, I believe technology will be included in a greater capacity in our approach to music education and student learning. Tools such as portable recording devices, built-in metronomes, and downloadable staff paper are easy to incorporate into private lessons; however, in the next decade, I believe that more substantial forms of technology such as laptops, instant digital recordings of acoustic performances, YouTube videos, and digitized scores will become invaluable to our success as teachers.
Music is one of the greatest vehicles for communication. I believe in the value of individual lessons (rather than solely classroom interaction, as in most public school music programs), teaching for musical understanding, and engaging children in singing. I plan to set expectations, collaborate with each student and their parents to set goals and work to achieve them, develop listening skills, engage students in musical dialogue, provide one-on-one interaction, teach music as a language, and involve the parents in weekly lessons, rehearsals, recital experiences, and practice assignments throughout the week.
The study of music should prepare and inspire learners to continue learning, discovering, and communicating music on their own. Developing independent musicians is my primary goal in teaching. I hope to become less and less relevant to my students as the time of study progresses. I want my students to take responsibility for their learning and understanding by asking questions, practicing at home, and attending lessons and rehearsals with a mindset conducive to discovery. Through active engagement in the weekly musical encounters, it is my hope that parents will become more aware of the importance of music, will learn alongside their children, and will provide a more positive and supportive atmosphere for music learning at home. In addition, I want to encourage reflective conversations between parents and their children in the time that follows lessons, rehearsals, and concerts. I hope to facilitate the sharing of musical knowledge, the building of communication, and the true understanding of music. This is the future of music.