2011 NAMM:
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 Support Series.

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 Premier Support.

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 Innovations.

SmartMusic

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 a year.

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.

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