I started the music technology program here for the very reason of reaching out to students who otherwise wouldn't consider getting a music credential. These are students who love to listen to and create music in settings a bit different from those of a traditional "classical" ensemble. And we've been very successful in servicing this "outsider" student audience. An unforeseen benefit has been the interaction between so-called traditional music majors and the music tech majors. There's great cross-fertilization of ideas, and sometimes, through peer interaction, students from one side of the path cross over to the other and experience the best of both worlds.
While I do advocate for this approach in music education at any level, I don't believe that implementing technology alone is going to suddenly bolster enrollment in music classes and programs to the point where our classrooms are overflowing. I felt like this course was optimistically suggesting that tech is going to be this pied piper that prevents the exit of students from music classes as they move beyond the elementary level.
One argument against this is that our art, the art of music making, requires not only great enthusiasm from the student, but dedication, concentration, and regular practice. This is applicable in everything from composition to applied performance to musicology to recording engineering. Technology makes it very easy for students to start making music with very little effort or prior training. And that's great! But a monkey can stack a bunch of loops and create something that, at least on the surface, sounds polished. Once the novelty of the tools wears off, then we're back to basics: techniques of composition; music theory; historical and cultural context; critical listening; and practice, practice, practice.
That's where we see retention slide. At least that's what I've seen. "What do you mean I'm not going to be able to just screw around with Garageband all semester? You mean I gotta produce something?!"
There's a line where music becomes hard work for a student. Some of us gleefully hopped over that line and busted our humps to get where we're at today. And for us, the reward has been so worth the effort. For others,however, they might just be satisfied with simply being connoisseurs of music that is created for them. I like to call it the Guitar Hero syndrome. It's one thing to mash buttons in time on a plastic controller. But it's quite another thing to play bar chords, bend strings, improvise, build up callouses, etc. with the real thing. Some stick with it, and some move onto the next screen-based distraction. For the latter, we can hope that an appreciation is developed for what it takes to become an instrumentalist (or singer or producer or composer, and so on).
So, definitely…let's give more time to contemporary popular music. Let's employ apps and websites that allow students to explore the elements of music, improvisation, and composition. Let's share our love of music and our enthusiasm and try to foster the same in our students. But let us also keep realistic expectations of what the tools of technology can and cannot do for us as we accompany them on their journey of discovery.
This was a great course. It challenged me with new ideas. The interviews, for the most part, were thoughtful and engaging. And the optimism of the course was contagious. It inspires me to advocate for many of the approaches it put forth. So I guess my action plan is to share my experiences with using tech at the college level with those on the front lines that are our elementary and secondary music classrooms. I've been meaning to propose a workshop for our all-state music convention that takes place in January. I know they're always short on tech-centered presentations. I would think a lot of people would be interested in knowing more about some of the ideas we've been discussing. Dr. Humberstone has definitely inspired me to quit procrastinating!
Thanks for reading, and best of luck in your future endeavors with your students.