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My Philosophy of Music Education

By Alexandra Aber

    I believe the purpose of arts education is to emphasize the humanity of the creator, and to situate the creator’s humanity in the broader community. Thus, my music classroom is a vehicle through which students learn humanity and global citizenship. My music education program facilitates this learning through four modes of collaboration: collaboration among students, between the music program and other subject areas, between school and community, and between teacher and students. This collaboration creates a web, which draws upon and acknowledges the expertise of all within the community.


    As a collaborative process between students, music education is a universal language, allowing diverse students to compose, interpret, perform, and connect to music together. In my classroom, students must listen to one another’s perspectives and draw upon their intersecting identities and differences to work toward a common goal. Thus, students practice fundamentally important social emotional learning skills when making music together. The music classroom also has the power to both capitalize upon established social groups and expand social groups between students. Through intentional grouping of students in collaborative work between students, for example, I cultivate a continuously transforming classroom and school culture, providing students with a sense of membership in a community.


    I approach music education from a multidisciplinary, holistic perspective, as music creates a bridge between all subjects. Collaboration between a music education program and other subject areas not only strengthens the school community, but also allows for a greater depth of understanding of all subject matter. Understanding what students are learning in other classrooms, I program music that connects to other disciplines, drawing upon students’ strengths. For example, I connect my music education program to language arts through the development of literacy skills. Students compose music while also composing poetry and using music to tell stories. In the general music classroom, I incorporate children’s picture books to teach music concepts and skills. Music education also connects students to humanities, as students discover music within historical and cultural context. When students learn about a particular period in history, geographical region or culture, I collaborate with other teachers to reflect that period, region, or culture in the music classroom. Music education also functions as a vital bridge between right and left brain to help students understand mathematical concepts, through the process of learning about subdivision, meter, and rhythm. I help students learn scientific concepts in the music classroom through the physics involved in the acoustics of sound and vibration, and through collaborative projects like creating a music garden. For young students, many songs connect to biological sciences as music and the arts reflect life and so, naturally, reflect the human curiosity for studying living things. My music education programming connects to physical education as well. Music should always quite naturally include movement, as music is an expression of the body. I love to incorporate elements of yoga, breath-work, and mindfulness, all of which link to social-emotional learning, as well. Finally, all of the arts are inextricably linked and I actively connect music in my classroom to periods in art history, and music as an element of theater, film, and dance. Having taught all subject areas at the early childhood level through a constructivist lens, I have developed many musical tools for helping students use music and the arts to construct meaning. 


    In collaboration with the community, music education acts as a link between the school and the world, situating learners within time and place. As a music educator, I connect to culture bearers within the community to create a culturally responsive and culturally diverse learning experience for all students. We invite the community in to experience projects and performances alongside us, which establishes the school as the greatest asset to the community, a place in which the youth of the community learn, but also a place which serves all within the community. As the music educator, I will propose collaborative projects and performances in which other subject area teachers will participate, and in which the greater community (parents, neighborhood, city, extended families around the world) can participate, as well.


    Finally, I will facilitate learning of humanity and global citizenship through collaboration between teacher and students. My classroom is a humanist space, allowing students to see and be seen. As a music educator, I believe strongly that my role is not only to impart knowledge, but to learn and grow alongside students. I view my role in the classroom as less a teacher than a learning facilitator, an expert learner, learning alongside children, bringing my own diverse cultural background and musical experiences into the classroom. As the biracial child of civil rights activists, my own childhood was full of diverse music, which served as an instrument of social change, historical reflection, and cultural progression. My own cultural perspective and identity from various and distinctly marginalized groups has deeply engrained the importance of critically examining the dominant culture as a means of survival and overcoming. My perspective has shaped a strong belief in the importance of critical pedagogy and multicultural education. In collaboration with students, I recognize that they are the voices of tomorrow, and in my class, music will inspire students’ agency in shaping the future they want to experience.


    Every day, we enter the music classroom and leave a little bit transformed, taking with us a new piece of self and a new piece of the world outside of ourselves. Through collaboration, my music classroom will act both as a mirror, reflecting students’ personal identities and membership in cultural communities, and as a window, allowing students to respectfully engage with cultures to which they do not belong and perhaps bring the outer world in.


“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows” ~ Sydney J. Harris

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