Teaching in 2021: Music History

January 22, 2021

A few years have passed since I had taught RCM music history as a private music teacher. Teaching in a private studio means that your material is always changing depending...

A few years have passed since I had taught RCM music history as a private music teacher. Teaching in a private studio means that your material is always changing depending on your students so until this month, most of my students were too young to start music history.

I now have a level 9 history class and I’m finding the scope of traditional music history harder and harder to teach as the focus does not fit my studio’s narrative or philosophy. I found I needed to start looking at my musical language choices and understanding how this affects both my students and myself. I’m constantly have to check my language choices and revamp my notes. It is certainly a learning curve but a necessary one.

I firmly believe that there is a lack of diversity in our approach and understanding of a larger world view for music: Here are some examples:

The Enjoyment of Music 8th edition Machlis & Forney

As a Hellenic Greek Orthodox woman, I have a hard time reading that Bach is one of the greatest religious artists without context. Do not get me wrong, Bach is one my favourite composers but when I think music within a religious setting – I would believe that the composers who wrote “Christ is Risen” or “Ti Ipermaho” (Champion) far greater in a religious music setting. I also have a problem expecting my students of multiple faiths to agree with that statement as well. Yes, Bach is an incredible composer for the Lutheran denomination or one could say even say within the Protestants churches. But we need to acknowledge that we have different backgrounds when studying this.

This is not just a RCM issue though – I did a google search of many universities and saw that there is often a lack of diversity and only focusing on Western European history. Is this preparing our students for a multi-cultural diverse world? Is this great music? Naturally but will students from diverse backgrounds find connectivity and be interested in it?

Yes, there is an improvement from when I studied Music History in high school but we have to seriously look at the intent and focus on what we are studying and how. We constantly talk about diversity and inclusive but unless our material as educators reflect this – we are not doing it. Then we are part of the problem and not the solution.

Recently , I read an article on how youth are not interested in completing their RCM requirements and it is a shame. (I can not find the link anymore or I would share) I would say that it is not about youth not being interested but rather a lack of connecting with the material. We need to help create a better world view for our students introducing them to music both new and old from a wide spectrum of cultures and backgrounds. I know the more study music outside my normal spectrum – the more ideas I have a composer. I want my students to have the same opportunity.

I believe that with further examination of our focus and interpretation and refocus our lenses there can be a revival of youth completing their RCM requirements and in turn be better prepared as the next generation of musicians.

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