On Board With Music Education
Story by Chris Murphy-Pighin
Photo by Ron Lyon
My most vivid memory of kindergarten is of my teacher, Miss Pazel,
playing her guitar while we sang and played along with percussion instruments.
It is likely my son will not be fortunate enough to have such an experience.
These days, educators are faced with intense standards and prescribed time
to teach subject matter, most of which is devoted to English Language Arts and
Mathematics. If you ask a teacher today, he/she will tell you there is not enough
time in the day to get it all in. With a heavy focus on tested subject areas,
the arts simply don’t get the attention they deserve. When you add budget
cuts and larger class sizes into the mix, the reality is that the art and appreciation
of music is practically absent in elementary schools.
As a parent and educator, this situation does not sit well with me. Children
exposed to a broad curriculum do better in school overall. With these things
in mind, I set out to determine how NAMM members were addressing the situation.
After all, if kids are not inspired to become musicians, then music merchants
have a big problem: no customers.
The NAMM Factor
There is, however, good news. NAMM members are aware of the current music educational
climate, and are adapting their products to meet the needs of today’s
young musicians, parents, and teachers.
Walking around the largest tradeshow of its kind, I learned about outreach
programs like the non-profit John
Lennon Educational Tour Bus and Alfred Music Publishing’s Premier
Alfred Music Publishing also offers customizable textbooks like the Sound
Innovations Series. And then there are music interactive software programs,
such as SmartMusic For Students,
that are designed to engage students when they practice.
John Lennon Educational Tour Bus
The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus allows “students to learn how to
write, perform, record and produce original songs; produce and shoot music videos
and documentaries; and complete a broadcast quality music video – all
in one day!”
The tour bus literally shows up at schools and provides the program, which
is geared towards older students (middle school and up). For more information
on how to get the bus to come to your school, go to John
Lennon Educational Tour Bus.
Alfred Music Publishing
According to Alex Ordonez, Marketing Manager for Alfred Music Publishing, Premier
Support Series allows piano teachers to select a deserving student to be sponsored
by Alfred Music and receive all necessary materials to progress through eight
courses of piano instruction. “Over 3,000 piano teachers have taken advantage
of the program,” Ordonez said. “And we are looking to expand the
program beyond piano.” For more information, go to Alfred’s
Sound Innovations, another music education product from Alfred, is a programmable
textbook where music teachers can design and customize a textbook. According
to Jordan Bell, Public Relations Manager for Alfred Music Publishing, this program
gives teachers the power to design a single book that meets the needs of their
students thereby saving money for both schools and parents. For more information,
go to Sound
Smart Music, from Make Music, Inc., is an interactive technology that may be
of interest to both parents and educators. For $36 a year, students can log
onto the Smart Music website
and practice with professional level accompaniment as well as receive immediate
feedback on their own performance. In addition to a Windows PC or Mac, all you
need is a compatible microphone and a desire to hone your chops. Teacher subscriptions,
which allow educators to assign, review, and assess their students, are $140
The Future Is Now
There are numerous other programs and non-profits, such as Fender’s
Kids Rock Free and NAMM Foundation Grant Recipient Little
Kids Rock, that are making incredible strides in music education.
At NAMM, it was encouraging to see the music manufacturing industry acknowledge
the need to create innovative technology, provide outreach, and make products
that are affordable and accessible for educators and parents.
For all we know, the next John Lennon, Bono, Joni Mitchell, Carlos Santana,
and Bruce Springsteen could be sitting in a classroom today. It is important
to harness that potential. Let’s hope these gifted individuals are inspired
and encouraged to make music, enrich the world with their talents, and inspire
a new generation of musicians.
Chris Murphy-Pighin is a parent and elementary educator. She holds a Masters
Degree in Elementary and Bilingual Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in
Liberal Studies, both from California State University Fullerton. She has taught
for 12 years and currently teaches a fifth and sixth grade gifted and talented
class in the Anaheim City School District.