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Critical Reflection on Dialogue Project

Raven Reynolds

Amanda and Natalies video centered on the journal A Safe Education for All, and discussed the very real issue of harassment, especially in the music classroom. Harassment stems from factors such as intolerance and ignorance. At times people dont understand what they are presented with and as a defense mechanism try to make fun of the situation to help themselves feel better. That is where the educator must step in and help create and maintain a climate where everyone is equal and tolerant of one another. I wholeheartedly agree with their analysis of the piece in that we need to be ever vigilant of what is happening away from the podium. What is happening in those five minutes before class begins? Who is saying what? Why are they being said? Often times I find that when something derogatory is said about a culture or a specific ethnic group, the speaker was ignorant of those cultural differences. It is our job to show students how to be productive, compassionate, and understanding individuals in an interconnected patchwork of peoples, languages, and cultures. The first step in creating a safe space is paying attention to your classroom dynamics and identifying at risk students. At-risk may mean many things. It may mean the shy child sitting in the corner, or it may mean the overly nice girl who constantly goes out of her way to get your attention, it may even be the child you least expect. In Amanda and Natalies video, they point out that by paying attention and identifying at risk behavior, we facilitate an environment where the students want to learn and it becomes a great tool for recruitment into the program. Music making isnt just about the space we create for our students; its also about the space they create for themselves. Each time you walk into the practice room you feel different. Maybe this time youre beyond excited to begin working on the solo you just got in the mail. Or maybe youve been practicing said solo and youre hung up on one measure, for so long that youve finally had enough and stormed outside for a breathe of air. Anything but those same three beats. This idea ties in, not only with the article I read for the dialogue project but Juancarlos and Matts article as well. Theirs was Reframing Student Practice to Facilitate Life Long

Joyful Musicianship. Think about that. Reframing student practice to facilitate life long joyful musicianship. Many questions pop up from that one sentence. What is student practice? Joyful practice? What is that? What is the difference between life long musicianship and life long joyful musicianship? Why might practicing not be enjoyable? What is practicing? Is it playing straight through a piece? Is it learning one measure and then jamming out the rest of the time? From my experience, the best way for you to practice is hardly ever the same as the person next to you. And there in lies the problem. How do we teach practicing? Should we even teach practicing or should we leave it up to chance? Let our students figure out the best way for them? I think we should be showing students how to practice but not limiting them to what we think practicing is. Theres always a feeling of accomplishment when weve left the practice room having achieved what you set out to do. Whether its two measures or two pages. There is also, that familiar feeling of anger and guilt when you leave and instead of learning those two measures you spent the time improving or composing a new piece. But why? Juancarlos and Matt call this, informal learning. Maybe you didnt set out to write a couple bars and time flew away and now you dont have time to hit your solo piece. But didnt you actually learn something? You sat there. You wrote a few notes down or you played them on your instrument. You analyzed your melody, reworking what didnt seem right, playing a string of notes until something solidified on the paper or instrument in front of you. Humans have the amazing capacity to learn whether its through a structured or laissez-faire method. My point is, learning happens in different ways for students. If one of our goals as music educators is to foster lifelong musicianship that is both joyful and engaging we need to give them the tools that best fit their learning style. We need to stop limiting them to what we see as the right way and incorporate other learning styles. Finally, we need to encourage interdisciplinary learning in our music classrooms in a critical and engaging way. More and more, we find ourselves experiencing low recruitment numbers, little money from the school budget and, worst of all, the effects of standardized testing. I think we, the artistic community,

are largely to blame for what is happening in schools across America. Our arts classes are cut from the budget while huge increases in funding are seen in athletic and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) departments. I think weve marginalized creativity in a show of solidarity. We are artists. We are musicians. We are the select few. We could never envision a world without galleries and museums, opera houses and Broadway. Unfortunately, weve taken the arts out of the mainstream and made it unreachable to the general population. Here is a perfect example. The use of music technology in music classrooms has skyrocketed in the last ten years. The availability of programs with huge catalogues of real and electronic instruments has allowed for a wide range of people to access the information and use it to not only compose music, but share it with a wide variety of people. These people are composing music using a computer, with instruments they didnt have to spend the time learning, and creating very musical and creative art. Weve become too selective as music educators, creative advanced ensembles, which forgetting about the other people. The ones who dont have the finesse to learn an instrument yet still want to be creative and engage in music making. So how can we bring in those students that dont, wont, or cant, learn a traditional instrument? We find ways of creatively and critically making connections beyond the classroom. Gian and Natalies article Encouraging cognitive connections and creativity in the Music Classroom brought up just this point, we are all a community of learners and it is in our best interest to make connections between subjects, genres, philosophies, etc. It has been proven time and time again that students remember and retain information better when they can relate it to other subjects or ideas theyve learned. Interdisciplinary teaching is by far the best way to achieve a holistic education. It is one where we can teach our music pedagogy while still integrating other subjects and cultural movements that are pertinent to a student. Cultural revolutions inspire artists and leave behind tangible and applicable relics of the time.

Its time that we begin teaching our students ways to utilize music to their best advantage. We can do that by giving them the safest place possible to realize themselves and others; their respective places in this world. We can foster an environment where they can critically reflect on their learning both internally and in a communal setting. Gian and Natalie said it best. One of our biggest goals as educators is to show our students how everything relates to everything.