One more once…

Sometimes we end up in familiar circumstances, even when we believe we have moved on. In my role as a public school music teacher, I have decided to accept an offer and will continue serving in that capacity.

Unfortunately, I am following, yet another, ridiculously rude and unprofessional situation in the class.  Musicians – and, specifically, music teachers – get it together.

On my year 20, I walked into a classroom with parts of instruments lying around the room. A clarinet bell over here, a flute head joint on the floor, mouthpieces of various types all around.  Piles and piles of papers on every surface. Stacks of unsorted music just lying around.  Filer drawers of former students’ music from two or more years ago.

This simply is unacceptable, and it is not the first time I have inherited this type of setting. The gig is overwhelming; I get that. But, there are basic organizational skills we simply must learn. The chaotic condition not only is unsafe from a pedestrian perspective within the room, but it contributes to an overall unhealthy environment. I don’t want to hear how much x, y, or z is needed when the equipment that is available is not cared for. Seriously, parts of instruments lying all over the place, some with no case to be found.

Pass the word — music teachers, band/orchestra directors — clean it up; sort into score order and file away. Teach kids to sort — work it into the class period. It is a great skill that transfers to a broader perspective. Reduce the ‘stuff’ in the room; keep it safe and open.

Posted in band and orchestra, Music Education | Leave a comment


This past weekend, many of my acquaintances, along with their clients and proteges, performed in the Drum Corps International (@DCI) championships. I have been out of the loop for some time now, but I must acknowledge that my work now is part of the continuum of my time with both the Blue Devils and the Cadets. Having gotten interested in the activity when I was just too old, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have had to work within both organizations at such intimate levels.

I did not witness the extreme spectacles in person, but I did watch through live stream. And, my goodness…the levels of proficiency — levels — are indescribable. Furthermore, and equally important, the ways each group was able to connect with the audience was unlike I have seen before. BRAVO

I have soft spots for both the Blue Devils and the Cadets because of my direct involvement in years past; however, all groups were stellar!

The Blue Devils on Twitter
The Blue Devils Performing Arts
The Cadets on Twitter
The Cadets/Youth Education in the Arts

And, congrats to the Vanguard organization for their successes this year!

Santa Clara Vanguard on Twitter
Vanguard Music and Performing Arts

Posted in arts administration, Arts Education, Cultural Education, drum corps, Music Education, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Getting into a practice

Well, I cannot believe it has been a full year since my last post. I had every intention of developing the blog practice with my new move; clearly, the practice needs developing. Nonetheless, I want to continue my (occasional) contribution to the topics of music education, music as a part of a community, the integration of these ideas, and, of course, the notion of engagement.

This spring 2018, my “notes from the field” type of article was published in the Academic Exchange Quarterly. It is a compact description of ways to engage in a changed and changing focus on school, schooling, student development, and music.

Reviewing Engagement in the Middle School Band


Posted in Arts Education, Community, Cultural Education, education, Music Education | Leave a comment

Still more on ‘engagement’ & band

I have thought that students who participate in their school band are inherently engaged in learning. That is not necessarily so. As established through various agreements around engagement, it is more than just doing. In a traditional band setting, students sit in their sections and rehearse as a full ensemble, with various levels of enthusiasm and attentiveness, for the duration of the rehearsal, which also vary from school to school. The expectations and demands of teachers and students have changed, including the way content is delivered and received. The band, often long standing institutions within the institutions, should also be addressed in ways that encourage greater participation from the school population, and that means that the content delivery may look different, as well.

My evolving position on music education and the way I structure my classes for heightened student engagement have been shaped by professional experiences, conflicting philosophies of music education, and by pragmatic necessity for program existence within the school. I suggest that a particular axiology is inherent to the program design; for me, placing importance on new strategies for a changing sociology, and including student reflections on ways engagement strategies are implemented in the band class.

Schewe (2016) reminds us that phenomena, like engagement, are changing states of being and are affected by various environments. She continues that the development of engagement strategies should be goals toward the motivation of students. Marzano (2007) encourages action steps to promote physical activity, to challenge students’ thinking, and to stimulate attention. The large ensemble is not the only means of teaching and learning, and in some scholarly writing, it is now suggested that the focus of large ensemble instruction is detrimental to individual musicianship and growth, hence to the music education profession (Wiggins, in Kooistra, 2016; Mantie, 2012). This article is not going to defend or deny such position; however, this may be an example of the unsettling condition suggested by music scholars, Elliott and Silverman (2012).

Over the years, different words have been used when referring to students’ on task behaviors. I like to think of our current trend toward engagement to mean not only that students are task-doing, but that they are fully and actively engaged with their own learning. Having been in the profession for a good amount of time, I have encountered time and time again colleagues who opine that strategies of the day are not intended for or useful in the band room. I encourage any colleague who feels this way to acknowledge everyone’s evolution, including ours in the band room, and try reaching students in ways that may seem different; in most cases, that will be the point. As Reeve (in Marzano, 2007) suggested 10 years ago, “when engagement is characterized by the full range of on-task behavior, positive emotions, invested cognition, and personal voice, it functions as the engine for learning and development” (p.99).


Kooistra, L. (2016). Information music education: The nature of a young child’s engagement in an individual piano lesson setting. Research Studies in Music Education, Vol. 38(1), pp. 115-129. DOI: 10.1177/1321103X15609800

Elliott, D., and Silverman, M. (2012). Rethinking philosophy, re-viewing musical-emotional experiences. In W. Bowman and A. Frega (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Music Education, pp. 37-62. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mantie, R. (2012). Striking up the band: Music education through a Foucaultian lens. Action, Criticism, & Theory for Music Education, 11(1), 99–123.

Marzano, R. (2007). The art and science of teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Schewe, A. (2016). Making Student Engagement Visible: Using Self-Determination Theory to Examine How Two Social Studies Teachers Support Students’ Needs for Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness. Dissertation, Georgia State University.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

3 years later

Sometimes, you need to step away; and, I stepped away for nearly three years. Here is what I’m currently working on:


For decades, it has been widely agreed that engagement in schools refers to students’ behaviors with which they intensely apply themselves to learning. Attributes of students’ willingness and desire to participate play a role, but contemporary perspectives on engagement in school include students’ ability to persevere through challenges and for sustained periods of time (Fletcher, 2015; Loveless, 2015; NSSE, 2013; Strong, Silver, & Robinson, 1995). Fletcher (2015) adds that successful educators are the ones who create conditions within classrooms that allow opportunities for students to engage. Through academic challenges, or rigor, collaborative activities, and meaningful relationships and interactions with the teacher and adults, students are more likely to feel supported and will participate willingly in the learning activities.

Importance of engagement

The National Survey of Student Engagement (2013) results in mathematics suggest that self-reported high engagement is not an indicator for high achievement; however, high engagement is an indicator for school connection. Students who are engaged in the school process are more likely to stay in school, are more likely to learn skills around problem solving, and are more likely to acknowledge a sense of belonging to the school community. These positive factors contribute to higher graduation rates and generally higher grades. Low engagement tends to be prevalent in higher poverty communities, increasingly evident as students move through the system and into higher grade levels (Fredricks et al, 2011).

Relevance of engagement to music education at the middle school level

I am a middle school instrumental music teacher with over 18 years of experience in music education. I have come to support the position that visual and performing arts classes, including the school bands, must coexist as both an artistic experience, with a focus on aesthetics and musicianship, and as a utilitarian, academic support experience. The classes cannot exist – dare I say should not exist —  as only one or the other, but as both, simultaneously.

Posted in Arts Education, education, Music Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

continuing the thought…

I am drawn toward a pluralist perspective on the purpose, importance, and placement of music in our public and private lives. Music education sits at an intersection of interpretive and critical epistemologies. I understand music to be an opportunity that goes beyond the task of rudimentary mechanics of operating a manipulative (instrument). Isolated, that is a mechanistic task. Music is a process-oriented experience, not to be solely defined by its measured outcome; in fact, in some cases, the outcome is irrelevant. Eisner (1991) asks whether or not everything can be measured, and suggests that researchers who are looking for a true measurement mistake the measurement for adequate subject matter; or, that the outcome is greater than the process.



Eisner, E. (1991). The enlightened eye. New York: MacMillan.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

incomplete justification

It is the school band, comprised of a plurality of students – amateurs – who are participating for many different reasons. Kaplan (1966) refers to Reimer and says that we weaken the position of music education when we provide unnecessary rationale for it. He continues that the uniqueness of the aesthetic is what provides a contribution, not words; we are involved with subjective experiences. I know this, I support this, and yet, I still get sidetracked with the notion of justifying our time together, progressing, and pushing students to more and more.

An importance of music education is that it needs renewed affirmation. Kaplan identifies an example of incomplete justification for music education through specific outlined objectives. They include such things as “unify and stimulate group morale”, “stimulate general interest in musical activity”, “encourage and stimulate some form of music for every child”. He calls these justifications byproducts to a appease administrators and school boards and the like. They are used because they are measurable by instruments of social sciences, and therefore, are used as unnecessary rhetoric.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

whew! yes to the dialogue

After my Jan. 6 posting, my concern about presenting to/with peers in a forum to confront v. being confrontational, I feel that I accomplished what I hoped I would – healthy, thoughtful engagement of individuals around a professional concern, dilemma, and possible opportunities.  No confrontation. Validation of multiple perspectives. Now, onward to finish writing it up and getting through the next phase…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

confront v. confrontation

Glaser (2005) reframes issues around confrontation to say, “Confronting the truth takes courage. Yet, it doesn’t have to be confrontational.” When considering collaborations, she outlines how confrontations can manifest, suggesting that the confrontations stem from “I-centric” thinking. For a few years, since I set the direction of my dissertation, I have felt that the general topic would be poorly received by my peers and by my larger professional associations. Aligned with Glaser’s sentiments, I have felt that my “expectations will not be met” (p. 233). What expectations?  Perhaps, for me, it is the possibility for other ways to look at a professional dilemma within a community; it is developing alternatives to something otherwise standard; it is finding a way rather than insisting on the “right” way. Let it go.

I’m taking the deep breath.  This coming weekend, I have an opportunity to share in a group format, at my regional professional association conference, some alternatives to the profession. How do I take the “I-centric” confidence issue out of my thoughts as I prepare and implement?  

I will further consider Glaser’s recommendation to use the opportunity to simply put a new platform in place for dialogue. Current realities and future possibilities.  There is no right or wrong. I need to use the opportunity to share, hear, be a part of a forum to address what is working and to a assess what some others are doing around the community. Through the dialogue, we can shape – or at least identify – possibilities and attitudes. 

I’d like to think that I’m a “We-centric” individual working with others (p. 234); that I can anticipate (as I have) discomfort but create the space for healthy dialogue to take place. For turning potential “breakdowns into breakthroughs” through reframing the context in/through/by which our profession has succeeded and failed for decades.

Glaser, J. (2005). Creating we. Avon, MA: Platinum Press.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“The band”

Current practices in the pedagogical band world privilege and sustain one kind of musicality, or relationship with/to music, over alternative musical subjectivities. To the extent that this is the result of unquestioningly reproductive rather than mindful practice, music educators involved with pedagogical wind bands risk operating unethically, without full appreciation of the consequences of their actions.

— David Elliott (2012)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment