Working from home? Switch to the DIGITAL edition of Musical Merchandise Review. CLICK HERE to signup now!
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

Fighting the Good Fight and Connecting with Kids

Christian Wissmuller • August 2019Editorial • August 11, 2019

Photo by Stanley Morales

We report often on the valiant efforts of the likes of NAMM’s annual D.C. Fly-In and other organizations (VH1’s Save the Music, Mr. Holland’s Opus Music Foundation, and countless along the same vein), but – as the Grammy Music Education Coalition recently reported – 3.8 million preK-12 students in the nation don’t have access to music education. This, despite the fact that 82 percent of parents and 89 percent of teachers consider such instruction as vital to student creativity.

When President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds (ESSA) Act into law on December 10, 2015, advocates for music education, most MI retailers, and certainly MMR applauded this significant step towards formalizing and finalizing that the study of music and the arts is essential to the development of young scholarly minds. Sadly, when school districts find themselves struggling with budgetary constraints, arts are still often the first to go, even in a post-ESSA world.

Aside from the above issues, however, is the question of how to make those children who are receiving instruction in music scholarship actually give a damn about it. In a June 2019 column in The Washington Post by Valarie Strauss, the author notes: “Here’s what is missing in music education: cultural and social relevance. We’ve become very well grounded in traditional education theory, techniques, and subject matters. But being culturally responsive means teaching music where kids are, and with what interests them.

It means using songs by Bebe Rexha or Wiz Khalifa before an American folk song. It means teaching kids to play a synthesizer, electric guitar, or drum kit, not just a violin or recorder.”

The thrust of Strauss’ column suggested that many music education curriculums are both woefully out of date and racially-biased. If you think you’re going to engage some 13 year-old, inner-city kid by teaching him or her how to play “On Top of Old Smokey,” then I know plenty of folks who’d like to have some of what you’re smoking. The good news is that the teaching programs at MI retailers are providing a welcome counterpoint to some of the stuffier school curriculum by offering more relatable, impactful, and meaningful instruction.

This year’s Top 100 Dealer awards at July’s Summer NAMM spotlighted many operations which build their business around lesson programs and outreach to the local community.

One of the taglines of our own Menzie Pittman’s Contemporary Music Center (CMC) in Virginia (see Pittman’s “Small Business Matters” column on page 43) – the 2016 Top 100 Dealer of the Year – is, “The first goal of CMC is to advance a music student’s experience.” And he backs it up with lessons, camps, festivals, performance spaces – you name it. And these are based in curriculum that actually resonates with today’s kids.

Fighting for the importance of music education is a worthy, valuable, and honorable expense of energy and time. Recognizing that some – not all, but some – kids aren’t going to walk away with any lasting takeaway from a lesson focused exclusively on music from bygone centuries or dusty songbooks that have no bearing on their own lives is crucial, as well.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!