A Change of Perspective with Contant Principles of Teaching

I was asked to write an article for the Kansas Music Review about two important principles with teaching music in urban settings. Click here and then click on “A Change of Perspective with Contant Principles of Teaching” when you get there.  Hope you find it helpful!


I’d Rather Teach Street Musicians

It’s that time of the school year: Countless social media posts celebrating all-state ensembles, superior festival ratings, and on and on about “winning” (and often by teachers who have the advantage of affluent environments to foster the success). Amidst this often ego-driven high-fiving (and I’m just as guilty as anyone else!), I was blessed to discover of this video of the great jazz (though classically trained as well!) clarinet player and singer Doreen Ketchens and her band so I would be reminded of how students SHOULD be “winning”…that this excellent playing (and singing!) of culturally important and relevant music on traditional band instruments with such expression and feeling–on a street corner rather than Carnegie Hall or other prestigious venue, not in expensive concert dress or with top-of-the-line equipment, with what might be considered “unbalanced” ensemble instrumentation, and not for any apparent extrinsic reward like money or prestige–is a true goal for students.

As I reflect, I’m feeling a little silly about my obsessions with what is, in a broader perspective, music education minutiae: which reed brand is the best, which method book to use, earning a superior rating at contest, and so on.  Instead, I was reminded by these musicians of what I really should want my students “to know and be able to do.”  Rather than illustrious careers of highly trained, elite concert performers, I’ll feel greater accomplishment when my students grow up to make the music of street musicians.

Atlanta Public School Defendants Should Have Same Fairness Afforded Their Corporate Antagonists

I certainly do NOT approve of the cheating by educators, but was it necessary for the defendants to remain in jail while awaiting sentencing, or that they were charged under racketeering laws used for organized crime that did not seem to this case? And could this heavy-handedness be yet another example of the assault against educators, and, in this instance, African-American ones as well?

It is within the corporate realm that so-called education reformers have amassed billions of dollars for their unsuccessful reform efforts and vicious attacks on teachers. Typically, when there is wrongdoing in this corporate realm, entire businesses are charged, fined, etc., while individuals are less likely to be indicted. In fairness, shouldn’t that be the case in this scandal as well? Though there are individuals at fault (as in corporate scandals), it seems like this issue is the result of systemic industry-wide problems caused by the over-emphasis of testing results and maybe it is from this wider perspective we need to solve the issue.

But instead, we single out a few educators, throw the book at them, and feel smug that justice has been served. I don’t believe this is fair or that it will ameliorate further abuses.  And, sadly, justice has not been served for under-served, over-tested students.

Long Live Piano Instruction!

…been concerned about current reports of the alarming decrease in children learning piano, but just returned from adjudicating a huge (1,365 students) K-12 piano festival and the excellent performances by the overwhelming majority gave me hope about the future. There are so many benefits, I hope the current trend of decreased study is temporary. Has anyone told you they regretted learning piano as a child? Me, either!