After the Music Learning Revolution and that difficult question

Can you only teach music if you are a trained music educator?

This question framed one of the four debates scheduled as part of the recent Music Learning Revolution. #MLRev

Prior to the event I thought:

‘Well, no, of course not’.

I thought of parents making up songs with their children; parents in the Suzuki triangle of teacher, child, parent; that year 8 group of disaffected pupils teaching a year 7 class [1]; my own childhood piano teacher and so on.

In the event Matt Griffiths made clear that the question had in mind the teaching of music in school.

Now I thought:

What is meant by a trained music educator?

Are we thinking of a teacher who teaches five lessons a day; who is musical and musically well-educated; who knows how children’s musical thinking develops; who knows about children’s vocal development; who wears music infectiously on their sleeve; who knows how the school’s curriculum is constructed, for what purpose and how music contributes to this; who knows how to plan for progression in learning over time; who understands the dynamics of the interaction between teacher-pupil and what is being learnt; who possesses powerful pedagogical knowledge; who is able to evaluate innovative practices; whose task it is to ensure that pupils become less ignorant, minds broadened and extended?

Then this would be a well-trained music educator, indeed an exceptionally well-trained music educator who more than deserves to be recognised as a qualified music teacher upholding and furthering the values of the music teaching profession. [2]

Or am I on the wrong track altogether? Is a trained music educator simply someone who has undergone a period of specific higher education or CPD that is accredited?

Or is ‘a trained music educator’ a pejorative term hinting at a music education that would be better served if fully open, deregulated and, dare I say, de-schooled? [3]

Can you only teach music in school if you are a trained music educator?

One of my trusty advisors notes that:

‘Whereas the question looks simple, it is deceptively complex (and, in the original context, this is probably unintentional):

What is meant by ‘teach’ music? (including teach badly, teach well.)

What is meant by ‘trained’?

What is music education? (As compared, say, with, musical experience…)

Some sort of ‘exposure’ to some of the issues involved in teaching music is surely desirable, if only to preempt the need to reinvent the wheel.’

And now I think with the primary school generalist teacher in mind:

‘But answering ‘yes need to be trained’ should not be used as an excuse by those who are not trained when justifying that they do not teach music, just as answering ‘no’ should not be used as an excuse (by government) not to provide such training.’

Can you only teach music in school if you are a trained music educator?

Now I’m wondering whether the question calls for different responses depending on whether we have primary or secondary music education in mind?

Well, no solutions! Just trying to clear the ground and a bit confused.

Or is it that I can’t get out of my comfort zone?

Any further advice or clarifications welcome.


[1] See Finney, J., Hickman, R., Morrison, M., Nicholl, B. and Rudduck, J. (2005) Rebuilding Engagement in the Arts. Pearson.

[2] See Kaschub, M. and Smith, J. (eds) (2014) Promising Practices in 21st Century Music Teacher Education. Oxford University Press for fresh perspectives on Music Teacher Education in North America.

[3] One of Christopher Small’s last pieces of writing concludes that removing music from the school curriculum would do more good than harm to pupils’ experience. He has in mind the setting up of centres where musicking would take place open to all irrespective of age and based on need. See Small, C. (2010) ‘Afterword’ in (ed) Ruth Wright, Sociology and Music Education. Ashgate.


One thought on “After the Music Learning Revolution and that difficult question

  1. Lindsay Gledhill

    Good luck with your ground clearing. I think you can safely implythat by “teach” we mean “teach well” and we exclude “teach badly”..I found Jackie Schneider’s contributions so valuable becauseshe recognized that the question was a political question. Jackie is a tradeunion activist. If I understand her rightly, she accepts that at least some “untrained”people are teaching good music lessons in some schools in this country. However,she believes that the more important question is not whether they can do it butwhether they should do it, and if so on what terms. As a trade union activist,she fears the consequences of deregulation for the less privileged sectors ofthe population. But I will stop interpreting Jackie and let her speak herself. From: Music Education Now To: Sent: Thursday, 5 November 2015, 6:10 Subject: [New post] After the Music Learning Revolution and that difficult question #yiv6971557444 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6971557444 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6971557444 a.yiv6971557444primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6971557444 a.yiv6971557444primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6971557444 a.yiv6971557444primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6971557444 a.yiv6971557444primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6971557444 | jfin107 posted: “Can you only teach music if you are a trained music educator?This question framed one of the four debates scheduled as part of the recent Music Learning Revolution. #MLRevPrior to the event I thought:‘Well, no, of course not’.I thought of ” | |

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