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Music education: should art and performance be taught in schools?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by JimmyM, Apr 19, 2010.

  1. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    EDIT: for newcomers, i started this thread at a time when jeff berlin and i, to make an understatement, weren't getting along. since then, we have come to an understanding, and i actually appreciate his views on separating art and performance from academia now. so if you see anything insulting about jeff that i said in there, it was only done trying to get his goat and i take it back and apologize to jeff. and though i haven't fully given myself over to the idea that art and performance classes are a waste of money and time, i'm beginning to think that i gave them way more credence than they deserve, as you will see later in the thread.

    not going to edit any posts...what i said i said. but please just bear that in mind as you read. and now, the thread:


    there is a person on here who constantly beats the drum for separating art from music, learning ONLY musical facts in a scholarly manner, and calls anything related to the art of music being taught in schools or lessons a waste of time. i think that's a ridiculous notion, quite honestly, but since this person refuses to debate it with me, i thought i would start a new topic and see what people think. i'm especially interested in what the more scholarly among you think, but anyone is free to comment, as i don't discriminate ;)

    my feeling is this ain't golf. it's called the "art" of music for a reason. it's not a sport, and the "just the facts, ma'am" approach is good for sports, but not for music. the nuts and bolts and the art of music are inseparable. we have all heard the scholarly jazz guy who devoted a life to only facts about music get up on the bandstand and absolutely suck if they're not playing jazz, and many of them actually suck when playing jazz, too. they're stiff, boring, lots of fancy notes but precious little to say. i liken it to writers who throw in every 10c word they know to impress people with how smart they are but you can't understand a word they say.

    so why shouldn't the artistic aspects of music be taught? they don't come by osmosis just because you know the nuts and bolts. little touches that separate the artist from the scholar will never be known to the student if they are not taught. to divide the two is absolutely ridiculous in my mind. yeah, if you want to get into the artistic part of it, listening to records is a great way to start, but it isn't the whole story. i'm not saying the artistic aspects of a type of music should be the foundation of a well rounded musical education, but they absolutely should be taught because how will you know them otherwise? you can be a great technical player and listen to records all day for a year and still have trouble with copping stylistic fine points. so what's so bad about short courses that explore the artistic side in depth?

    as for performance classes, if performance isn't the goal in learning how to play well, what the hell are we doing it for? i know plenty of musicians who are good sitting in a chair at home, but turn on the recorder or get up onstage and they freeze. i also know lots of people who look like absolute death onstage and do very inappropriate behaviors while they're onstage. chewing gum, wearing jeans to a gig where you should wear dress pants, talking to each other constantly, telling inside jokes, etc. why wouldn't you want a student to take performance classes and work out some of the kinks in school instead of on a paid gig? just playing well doesn't cut it and never did.

    so those are my reasons for supporting art and performance being taught in school. again, i'm not saying to put the nuts and bolts before the art and performance aspects, but again, it's called the "art of music," and ignoring the artistic side reduces music to sport. i guess that's great if you're trying to show everyone how smart you are and how fast you can zip across the neck, but if you want people to be moved by your music instead of being dazzled by your raw skill, i say teach artistic and performance aspects in school.
  2. Bardley


    Nov 16, 2007
    Louisville, KY
    I agree with you, Jimmy. The art cannot be separated from the performance. I can't really add much as you have some great examples. I was a music major for two years in college before switching to telecommunications and I have seen exactly what you describe. After all, it's not the "science" of music, it's the art, just as you said.
  3. Music should always make people happy. To me that is its purpose. People who enjoy music, both playing it or merely listening to it, do so because it makes them happy.
    I say do what makes you happy. if learning basics by ear and jamming with your friends does it then cool, go forth and be happy. if your goal is Carnegie Hall and you are willing do whatever is needed to achieve that goal then, go forth and be happy. There is room in the world for all flavors and styles of people and musician. We should all be a community of people who support, encourage and express ourselves via our music. no matter what level or art or performance you are at. No matter how well you can read music or charts. Its whatever makes you happy.
  4. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    I have a relative who plays, reads, and understands theory fairly well, but can't make the hang interpersonally, can't improvise or solo worth a darn, and generally approaches life as though it were a theoretical construct. Whenever I play with him I think of this quote:

    “Once you achieve technical facility, you’re either a musician or you’re not. You’re either a creative person or a stenographer.” Charles Mingus
  5. Dark Horse

    Dark Horse

    Jul 31, 2008
    Austin, TX
    I don't worry about any of that crap...I'd rather just play.

  6. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    Thank you for this post.
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    i'm not sure if that coincides with my pov or jeff's ;) do you think your relative could learn the artistic finer points or do you think it's something you're born with and nothing will ever change it? i personally think many aspects can be taught, but i do hear what mingus was saying...some folks have a higher capability of creativity than others, mos def.
  8. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    The way I look at it, both are things we need to learn as musicians.

    It took me a long time to learn theory and scholarly things about music because I felt like I just wanted to play, and to make 'art'. However, I soon learned when I picked up the DB, that they are both needed. It's what makes the instrument exist, and to me, it allows me to express myself better.

    I think that playing without scholarly wisdom can get you so far, it's one trick out of the bag, but theory is another. Why not have both?

    Knowing one technique got me so far. Knowing both techniques doubled how far I got. Now it's just growth..
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    that was my whole purpose in starting this thread, herb. i'm totally down with learning the musical facts. but there are some who say art and performance have no place in music school, and rather than making this about art vs. nuts and bolts, i'm using the nuts and bolts as a given and just wondering if others think art and performance are worthy of scholastic study.
  10. Out of curiosity, what kinds of study would these courses involve? How would you go about teaching the "artistic aspects" of music?
  11. Sgt. Rock

    Sgt. Rock

    Apr 10, 2010
    This is ridiculous.

    Arguing that you can't separate the art of music from the scholarly study of music is exactly like claiming that you can't separate the learning of a language (written alphabets, rules of grammar, punctuation) from story telling (Moby Dick). It's nonsense.

    The only reason that Jeff Berlin ruffles so many feathers is that he's addressing musicians. If he were a chemist or a physicist, or even a linguist no one would bother arguing with him. Actually, in those fields, he wouldn't have to make a case for separating scholarly study from practical application. Everyone in those fields already knows and accepts that they are two different things and there is a generally accepted order in which to learn them.

    It's a good thing that music doesn't blow up when you don't learn the rules before playing it.
  12. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    To reinforce my opinion, I don't know of any critically acclaimed, master-piece, virtuoso musician that doesn't know both.

    The only person that comes to mind is Billy Sheehan, but he atleast knows minimal theory, and I wouldn't call him a virtuoso in the least.

    That's another thing about music with me. I strive to be a virtuoso, a master of my instrument. That means learning everything I can about it, and music itself.
  13. Shakin-Slim


    Jul 23, 2009
    Tokyo, Japan
    Music is art before it's anything else and while we have to gain the competence to play before we can be 'artists' it is all with the goal of art in mind. Or else it should be. I'm currently listening to the album 'The Jazz Experiments of Charlie Mingus', I don't know how any of his work, or any of the other musicians I listen to could not be deemed art. I believe the wish for art should come first, then the musical capability or nuts and bolts and then the creative artistic output. I'm currently working on a composition, a lament, and can't help but feel like the work we do as musicians is art.
  14. Shakin-Slim


    Jul 23, 2009
    Tokyo, Japan
    I just spent about half an hour trying to find this quote to put into my post but you already had it haha. I think it sums it up exactly. After you've got the smarts, then you can either be creative, create art, or just use your smarts and be nothing great. Both are equal components
  15. Don Sibley

    Don Sibley

    Jun 27, 2005
    Fort Worth, TX
    I guess I'm unclear as to what you mean by the "artistic finer points" of music. Are you referring to the ability to play with expression, to improvise, compose, or to communicate with ones audience? I'm not disagreeing with you, just unclear on your meaning.
  16. THand


    Jun 9, 2008
    Subscribed....and looking for the popcorn ;)
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    from idiosyncracies of a given genre to something simple like accenting the beat and backing off notes that aren't on the beat. there is plenty to learn artistically. if i was a teacher in college, i'm sure i could make an entire lesson plan out of any type of music that would be good to fill a semester, AND teach the student something that mere nuts and bolts can't. latin, for example, has tons of idiomatic idiosyncracies that you won't find anywhere else, but if you never played it, you wouldn't know what they are.
  18. Andrew Jones

    Andrew Jones Banned

    Feb 28, 2001
    Northampton Mass
    Well,,,,,, What exactly is the artistic side? How extreme are we talking?

    We talking a instrumental phrasing class? Songwriting? Arranging?

    Are we talking a spoken emphasis by the instructors while the curriculum might be different?

    Are we saying a band the sounds like the shaggs are a valid senior recital?

    we need to accept that we are talking about a period of 4 years. That's NOT a lot of time.

  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    yes, it's such a ridiculous nonsense notion that every college in the world offers courses in creative writing. sorry, try again.
  20. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups


    obviously not.

    so is that a legit argument against not offering courses in the artistic side of music? i don't think so. besides, who says you can only go 4 years? i know people who take classes long after their 4 year degree.

    btw, i must apologize to herbie 80's. i did word the thread title to be sort of an us vs. them thing, and i shouldn't have. let me make it clear that i'm for a lot of things that folks like jeff stand for. but i'm very against separating the art out of music and deeming it unworthy of study.

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