So it's been a while since I've posted here. College has been incredibly distracting! As part of my final year project, I'm looking to develop myself as a music educator. So I thought it would be a good idea to resurrect this blog with the intention of sharing some of my thoughts related to this project and also to try and connect with other musicians/educators who might have an interest in discussing such things. I've done quite a bit of research over the last few years into the topic of fear and ego in relation to music and music performance. It's a topic that a lot of musicians can relate to and it's something that a lot of music educators write about. So while I will update this blog with all that academic (boring!) stuff about music pedagogy/education etc. I'll also be inclined to share some philosophical ideas that have occurred to me over the course of my musical journey. So today I'll begin with something in that vein.
What is education? A quick visit to the Oxford Dictionary yields the following results:
"The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or education".
"Information about or training in a particular subject".
Very pragmatic descriptions, wouldn't you agree? It also describes education as:
"An enlightening experience".
An interesting evaluation. Certainly not in the same vein as the two statements mentioned earlier. It's certainly a more abstract statement.
Stephen Nachmanovich argues that education comes from the verb "to educe". Which our friend in Oxford inform us means:
"Bring out or develop something that is latent or potential".
There's something much more holistic in that statement that resonates with me on a deep level. Is there a difference between a teacher and an educator? I believe so. By Oxford's definition a teacher simply passes on systematic instruction in a defined, institutionalised way. An educator on the other hand would be responsible for identifying and cultivating potential latent ability within the student.
Nachmanovich, in his book 'Free Play' states:
"To educe means to draw out or evoke that which is latent; education then means drawing out the person's latent capacities for understanding and living, not stuffing a (passive) person full of preconceived knowledge". -Nachmanovich (1990)
Kenny Werner, author of the highly recommended 'Effortless Mastery' elaborates:
'It is common practice to give weekly assignments rather than support the student in understanding the material. I firmly believe that educators should rethink this approach. Burying the student in assignments will often sink him. But since many were taught this way, as a result, many teach this way. Fear and anxiety are passed from one generation to the next'. -Werner (1996: 65)
I believe this is why so many people fail at education. Be it primary, second level or higher education. The system is far too focused on the systematic instruction of information, like the programming of an automaton. This leads to indoctrination and an inflexible approach to learning. How many of us can say we've been properly educated, as opposed to simply taught?
Thus the education of musicians and artists is of prime importance, in contrast to the mere teaching of technique or theory. Educing the fearless, innovative dare-to-dream creativity of a musician is surely the route of progression for the next generation of educators, not only in music but in all walks of life. Otherwise, we risk simply propagating the fear, the anxiety and the downright dread of simply not being good enough.
Here's a link to a TED talk by the excellent educator Ken Robinson. It's a wonderful lesson in how the current system is destroying the creativity of our kids. It's 20 minutes long and well worth a watch.
Enjoy! And feel free to leave a comment.
Nachmanovich, S. (1990) Free Play, Improvisation in Life and Art, Jeremy P. Tarcher Inc., Los Angeles
Werner, K. (1996) Effortless Mastery, Liberating the Master Musician Within, Jamey Abersold Jazz, New Albany.