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A Reconception of Performance Study in Music Education Philosophy

From: Philosophy of Music Education Review
Volume 14, Number 2, Fall 2006
pp. 193-208 | 10.1353/pme.2007.0010

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The actual place of performance in music education has been the subject of numerous debates over the years. Most debates have revolved within the paradigm of the performance ability of the teacher and consequently the performance ability of the students. Is the level to be attained that of a winning concert band/marching band/choir? Or, is the level to be attained the level at which the students and teacher feel the most comfortable and pleased? Most of this debate, along with the development of various assessments (including the Watkins-Farnum Test) and various rubrics to score music performance competitions, has emphasized characteristics of performance pertaining to accuracy of notes, precision of rhythm, and attendance to musicianship, style, and interpretation. On the other hand, the aesthetic value of performance has also been questioned in that the value of music in the schools should not be assessed solely by the importance placed on the attainment of performance skills by the students, suggesting that it is only through performance that one may know music. For example, in a recent article in the Music Educator's Journal, Bennett Reimer promotes the position that time spent in either performance studies and active performance in music education (both at the K-12 and college teacher training levels) is not vital to the reconception of the National Standards (USA) for music education and, by extension, the field of music education itself. In the MEJ article, Reimer wrote:

there is no reason to believe that highly developed performers make the best general music teachers, just as there is no reason to believe the reverse. We must get over the outdated and unrealistic assumption that performance is the one, singular, royal road to being musical and being an effective music educator. . . . [T]eachers cannot be expected to do what performance specialists do, and their teacher education curriculum must reflect that fact.

This position has also been recently supported by sociological publications and the following statement—echoed by several colleagues of mine—by a music teacher-training specialist,

There is one big misconception among many music education students. Many graduates view themselves as musicians who are going into teaching. I attribute my own success to the realization that I am a teacher at heart. My first responsibility is teaching children. The vehicle through which I connect to them is music.

It is likely within the previous paradigm in which these respected authors positioned their arguments for the place of performance in the music curriculum and in that regard these assertions are unquestionably valid. What this particular paradigm concerns is the quantity and quality of performance based on purely musical attributes. The omission is that it does not include the quality of performance in relationship to health-based music education, a growing area of concern in the performing arts medicine field and, by extension, music educators who are concerned about this particular aspect of performance. The reason for the concern and hence this paper calling to the philosophical community to re-think the place and quality of performance in music education is that these viewpoints have had a great impact upon the validity of music education, in that they ignore a growing body of research from the performance and medical fields. While it must be made clear for the purposes of this paper that the writers of the above quotes have framed their ideas gracefully within their individual philosophical structures of music education, it must be pointed out that current research and knowledge in performance arts, in its conception as a physical human activity, needs to be incorporated into a revised philosophy of music education and curriculum. Music performance in music education has traditionally been viewed as a cognitive and emotional experience. However, it is also a psychomotor experience, involving all sorts of soft body tissues, bones, and cartilages, which can enhance or detract from the total musical experience. Many music educators do not get enough instruction in college on how to teach voice or instruments healthfully and this is the reason for the concern among our performance and medical colleagues. Quite often, students who come from the public schools need some rehabilitation, not for reading notes and learning fingerings...



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