by FMC policy intern Kelsey Butterworth
In a world where education systems are cutting expenditures in half… where arts programs are underfunded and often the first on the chopping block… where band kids are still teased mercilessly… a crack team of six renegade panelists must band together (get it?) to SAVE MUSIC FROM UTTER DECIMATION!
Alright, that was a little dramatic. But whenever a school feels the budget strain, the FIRST thing to get cut is arts. It’s become a cliche, and a dangerous one at that: without early music exposure, where the heck will passionate and professional musicians come from? No offense to the bassoon, but few young adults pick it up on a whim. Creativity starts in elementary schools, with kids learning instrument after instrument until they figure out what suits them. And not all of them stick with it, or even have an interest in music — but if there’s no music program to begin with, that number drops to zero.
At the 15th annual Future of Music Policy Summit, our “Music and Education: Advancing the Future” panel will assembled leaders in the field to discuss forward-thinking solutions for what feels like a slow-burning emergency. We tend to see music in terms of the end product, but the thousands of hours of practice and skill development that go into the end product remain invisible; how can that tide be turned?
On the panel are Dave Wish, CEO of Little Kids Rock; Anna Celenza, Professor of Music right here at Georgetown; Alex Ruthmann, professor of music education technology at NYU; Martín Perna, founder of the eighteen-year-old afrobeat band Antibalas; and Mario Rossero, vice president of education at the Kennedy Center. As some of the brightest minds in the field of music education, they’re well positioned to teach us about the most. Sitting in as moderator is Ken Umezaki, FMC board member and president of Digital Daruma, which funds select projects that Umezaki believes will have the greatest positive long-term impact for the music community, including digital start ups, select artists and charities involved with musical development.
Little Kids Rock has given over 400,000 children access to modern band education since 2002, by partnering with the most underserved public schools in America’s most disadvantaged towns. All it takes is for a teacher to request to be trained. Once they are, LKR sends them curricula and instruments, all at no cost to the school. Its unique curriculum is called Modern Band, which uses modern music and methodology to teach the kids. What better way to get kids to stick with music than by teaching them Beyoncé?
On the other hand older genres, like jazz and classical, will always deserve a place at the table. Musicians learning in these genres are participating in traditions of knowledge that reach back through the decades and centuries and relate them to the present moment. That’s mostly what Celenza teaches. She’s authored books on topics as diverse as Vivaldi and Duke Ellington, from Bach to Gershwin. In her role at Georgetown’s Dept. of Performing Arts, she’s taught on subjects ranging from traditional European music to music and politics to music journalism — remember, music education isn’t just for performers.
Up north at NYU’s Steinhardt School, Ruthmann is taking music education in a slightly more meta direction. By examining music as it intersects with new media, computing and technology (and with a grant from the National Science Foundation), his research is helping to change the landscape of music education. His blog showcases the exciting array of research he’s done and the workshops he’s led; often focusing on how technology and music education can be better integrated, as savvy policymakers consider a shift from STEM to STEAM.
Beyond leading Antibalas and educating the good people on funk, Perna has been a music educator for over twenty years. He’s taught music at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute as well as Brooklyn’s El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice. He’s also held music workshops at Yale, McGill, Haverford, NYU, UT-Austin, Concordia, and University of St. Denis at Île Réunion (an island near the coast of Madagascar). He’s also garnered instrumental credits on records by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Elvis Costello and The Roots and TV on the Radio. This dude can walk the walk AND talk the talk (on about a dozen different instruments).
Finally, Rossero became the Kennedy Center’s VP of education back in April; formerly he was the chief of core curriculum for Chicago’s public schools, as well as a member of the Chicago Symphony. In August, he announced the 19th annual Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child, a program that uses an affordable model to create long-term access to music education in its host city, this time around Houston TX. Additionally, Rossero helped secure a $6.5 million grant from the Department of Education, making the Kennedy Center the only recipient in the Arts in Education National Program category.
It’s all happening Oct 26-27 at Georgetown University. For this panel and many more, be sure to register for our Policy Summit. And because we always put our money where our mouth is in terms of wanting to make educational resources accessible to the music community, musicians can apply for discounted registration starting at $25.
Image via shutterstock.com