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The Conversation: Music Education
by Stephen Becker 1 Sep 2010

Jerome’s story this week about music education in DISD got us thinking: Why don’t most schools offer guitar or piano classes?


A weekly question to prompt discussion about the arts.

Jerome’s story this week about music education in DISD got us thinking: Why don’t schools offer guitar or piano classes? They are the two most popular instruments for kids to learn outside of school. If you played in the school band or orchestra, would you have played the same instrument if guitar or piano had also been offered at your school? Drop us a comment and let’s get the conversation started.

  • naugesque

    I was taking piano lessons outside of school (and not for free), and I’m convinced that taught me different kinds of theory than learning a melody instrument (trumpet) at school.

    But I quit piano after a year doing both to concentrate on the trumpet. It was a lot of fun, and it helped me stay musically active for many years because it was portable.

    I wish I could accompany myself singing, which may be worth learning an instrument that can play chords someday. But although I took a basic jazz piano class in college, I wouldn’t have given up the camaraderie of the band for what seemed like a solo instrument.

  • Jerome Weeks

    It wasn’t until I was watching Rodney Dittmar’s students playing guitar that I realized my private, after-class music education through grade school and high school was almost completely unrelated to anything I was learning in school. It wasn’t until I took music history classes in college that something in class synched up with what I was learning on piano and drums. It now seems a bizarre lacuna — this huge gap between academic training and a finger exercises, between theory and practice, as it were.

  • LenapeMF

    Intriducing kids to a variety of subjects is a vital part of education. I also believe that having some form of Arts/Music education is beneficial. In many ways the Art created by a society defines it and benefits people in many ways.

    With that being said:

    Much of “Music Education” in schools is not beneficial, is not music education and does very little to develop a life-long love of music in students. More people quit school music programs than stay in them because the focus end up being on competition and preparing a band to play pieces for competitions and not on learning or enjoying music.

    Now, this program in the article does not appear to be competitive. This part is a good thing. But when something is free you tend to get what you pay for, or less. “Freebird” is a classic piece of Rock History. Learning to kind of play “Freebird” does not teach one music. You learn any topic by learning the langugage, the basic skills/concepts, understanding how it is structured.

    Playing songs does not teach you music.
    Learning concepts does make playing songs easier.

    Reading “Siddhartha” does not teach someone how to write like Hesse (or give you an understanding of Jungian psychology)

    Playing Madden 2010 does not teach you how to play Football

    We don;t bring in Attorneys for free to teach kinds law
    We don’t bring in Physicians for free to teach kids medicine or biology
    Why does the education system see free music educators as being beneficial?

  • As a young kid I was always drawn to saxophone. I played from junior high into college where as a music ed. student I was able to branch out and try just about all instruments…. including guitar. It’s interesting that the school found it important enough to teach both guitar and piano as ‘sing along’ instruments but in real academia, the emphasis is put on band and orchestral instruments pretty much exclusively. Now, as a teacher and Partner at The Dallas School of Music I have many adult students that if given the chance would have started guitar or piano years ago. Lucky for me (and my colleagues) our area is full of these music enthusiasts who want access to great education in a relaxed, community setting. As for me, I am lucky enough to now play (and teach) guitar and saxophone as well as a handful of other instruments. If school music education programs want to survive, they will need to adjust their thinking – never has there been a greater disconnect between the people who want access to music education and those who teach it!