Don't stop the music
James Rhodes latest documentary on Channel 4 may of gone under the radar to many television lovers. In the two part documentary series, James helps to tackle the mis-conception that music lessons are for the privileged in life and aims to get more “working class” and less fortunate children playing music.
The angle taken by Mr. Rhodes not only asks the question, why do so few children in our public schools play instruments? But also asks the question why do so many who learn an instrument through our schools start and then stop!
When I was growing up and going through the school system in the 90’s and early 2000’s, I felt that the way music was being taught was not relative to what I as an adolescent perceived music to be.
I was brought up on bands such as, Green Day, Offsrping, Blink 182 and Limp Bizkit, so why was I being taught about Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart?
Now I have nothing against classical music, as I have got older my appreciation for music has become far broader than it was at the age of 14, I actually love Beethoven and credit the late classical and early romantic musicians as the greatest that our continent has ever produced. The problem lies in that as a 14 year old growing up in a land locked county in southeast England I could not relate to what Beethoven was trying to tell me.
Our music education’s strong link with classical FM of course has a major role to play in what is in our children’s music syllabus. However I question whether or not we could teach the same principles of music that are taught in schools up and down the country in a more contemporary fashion. For instance, Whilst I was at secondary school we were learning about minimalism, now minimalism for those of you who were not fortunate enough to be in my GCSE music class, is a genre of music based around a concept, this could be a melody line, a rhythm or a basic chord progression. This idea of this music is to gradually transform the piece by changing something very subtly every bar of phase in the music. We would look at Russian and American composer from the early 20th century to learn about this.
Now as an adult and music teacher I find it amazing that the education for music board continue to use such “out there” and distant pieces to help relate to our children in understanding a concept, especially when you could take rap music and use it as a minimalistic study! Subtle changes over an already existing idea… sound familiar! By using this technique you will be showing the class a concept that pre- dates there grand parents, as well as putting it in a contemporary format, thus giving the student a much higher chance of relating to the concept than the current syllabus will allow. Hopefully many children will then dig a little bit deeper as I did. I realized very quickly that I could play all the Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Offspring songs out there. I then decided to go back and look at who influenced the bands that I had cherished so much. Little by little I worked my way back to the techniques and pioneering attitudes of Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. More importantly I understood what these musicians were trying to tell me.
Mr Rhodes has come up with a fantastic solution to our young musicians crisis, lets hope our education boards take note!
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