Music educators your lack of experience w/ and/or interest in popular American music limits not only your experience, but that of your students in the musicking classroom.
As I get older I am starting to understand that the only limits that exist in my classroom are those that I and my students create. I am currently researching the preferences and dispositions of preservice teachers and the education programs they are involved in. It’s important that we all understand that teacher orientation is typically dictated by teacher pedagogy and methods courses they are engaged during study. This is sets the foundation for what many teachers (professionals) will use as their teaching premise for the rest of their careers. The more limited, or shallow, these types of musical experiences that student-teachers have, the more likely they are to replicate them in their future teaching. This is evident in the limited selection of performance formats found throughout American music classrooms.
Teaching programs should in theory, be a place where student-teachers muddle through diverse experiences that are suppose (purposed) to help bring the unknown into the space of the known (Dewey). We have to stop replicating what we think is unequivocal permanent fact, and start trying to meet our students where they are and engage in relevant learning activities. Critical Hip-Hop Pedagogies are a wonderful set of approaches to bringing in relevance into the music classroom. Let’s help children find relevance in our classrooms by we ourselves, as teachers, tackling difficult topics with hip-hop pedagogies (practice, lens, bridge). Most teachers only replicate the experiences they have had in their learning experiences and rarely move outside of this paradigm. So, how do we repair this rigid range (limited) of experiences?
Let’s take the clarion call of such educators, ethnomusicologists and scholars like Adam Kruse, Barbara Lindquist, Randall Allsup, Lucy Green, and many others that ask us to question the familiar, and engage in a search of the practices of popular music and musicians. There is so much rich, diverse and important topics that can be uncovered in working with popular music. The first step is that teachers con not simply stay in the lane of practitioners, but have to also move into the lane of researcher. Practicing these popular forms of music can have deep benefits, and can help us gain so much through critical reflection. Students are worried about you being cool because you are authentic, they are in your class to learn and grow. They relate to you because of the level of honesty and how you share the ways in which you came to understand the topic. Reading a chapter and simply sharing this isn’t enough. Popular music forms have to be taught in various formats in undergraduate programs in order for change to happen. Let’s start now, to honor the great music of America. Let’s celebrate the J-Dilla’s, Stevie Wonder’s, Stephen Foster’s, Irving Berlin’s, Kanye West’s, Eminem’s, Katie Perry’s, James Brown’s, Johnny Cash’s, Wille Nelson’s, Louis Jordan’s, Miles Davis’, Wynton Marsalis’, Pete Seegers, and Kendrick Lamar’s of the music world. If we start with our teachers we can open up spaces of inquiry in our music classrooms that have never really existed before. Let’s tackle these forms, genres and topics.