Larry Scripp  

Learning Through Music - Music's Evolving Role in Education

Larry Scripp
September 18, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

Nearly all orchestra musicians are familiar with in-school education programs implemented by their respective education departments. But what options do players have if they want to become more active with in-school education programs or are not satisfied with their current options?

Until recently, players have explored that wilderness on their own. Fortunately, organizations such as the New England Conservatory have developed programs such as Learning Through Music (LTM). This article will provide an overview of the LTM program by its developer, Dr. Larry Scripp. Following this initial installment, we'll examine how Minnesota Orchestra violist Kenneth Freed has implemented the program for the past two years in Minneapolis as well as how Lyric Opera of Chicago violist Frank Babbitt will begin implementing the program this fall in Chicago.

- Drew McManus

The past decade of school reform has challenged musicians, music educators and general educators to reconsider music’s role in public schools.

For many musicians, the challenge is not about restoring music to its former presence in schools. It is instead about re-envisioning music’s position at the core of the public school curriculum and culture.

When I participated in public school music programs in the 1950’s through the 1970s I experienced them as ‘one size fits all’ programs entirely focused on continually preparing for large, sometimes massive concert performances and were directed entirely from the point of view of the ensemble conductor. Competition was fierce for the best seats and those who received private lessons always had the advantage over those who were trained only in the school environment. It was as if music was there for large-scale school functions yet these functions usually were designed to showcase only the talented few.

In addition, music that did not fit into the standard band literature or orchestral classics was not condoned. The many hours I spent improvising in my parent’s big band and my friend’s garage bands were entirely under the radar of public education. Music’s connection to learning in other areas of the curriculum? This point of view was never articulated in school, and it seems only my grandfather – an esteemed inventor, electrical engineer, and choral director - considered music as a tool for stimulate problem solving skill in mathematics and physics that depended on abstract reasoning.

Music in the Context of School Accountability
Today the perspective on music’s role in education by the general public and by artists appears to be broadened and deepened by scientific evidence of the impact of music learning on other aspects of learning (see Scripp, Overview of Music and Learning in Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development (aep-arts.org). Perhaps because music was removed from the school curriculum in the 1980s and 1990s, many school communities have a renewed appreciation for music programs due to extensive evidence of the impact of music on various forms of learning critical to the success of schools. And this interest has increased because music programs can be designed to promote learning in music for its own sake and, at the same time, provide important connections to learning in other disciplines in the arts and academics, as well as personal and social development.

Furthermore, because the current era of school accountability, musicians and educators are now accepting the challenge of holding music programs accountable for measuring the impact of music learning on all children’s lives, and not just the talented few. Ten years ago, music teachers told me they were upset that musicians would be responsible in any way for learning in other subject areas. Today, young music teachers are upset by the implication that the way they teach music today does not already reinforce or enhance learning in other subject areas.

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