Is creating a welcoming, inclusive, fun, engaging and safe learning environment enough to be an excellent choir teacher? I say no. Is choir an activity or an academic course of study? You can get a PhD in it. It is an academic subject. In this episode, I “dialogue” with many of you who joined a fantastic collegial discussion about the soul and the future of our profession.
In a school setting, I actually think it is immoral to deprive students of a rich music literacy (reading) education, taught to proficiency.Chris Munce
Me, “We need to teach literacy and vocal pedagogy as our core academic content. When kids feel confident in their abilities in these areas, they are more likely to enjoy choir long term and stick around. They are also more likely to feel like they belong because they know they can contribute.”
Straw man #1: “We need to obsess about sight reading, train little unfeeling machines who can read anything and have flawless techniques and sing like robots. It also does not matter if kids feel happy or like they belong in the class. If they aren’t good enough, we can just kick them out.” Y’all…Rigor and accessibility are NOT opposite sides of a coin.
Straw Man #2: “Those aren’t the only things that matter.” I didn’t say they were.
Straw Man #3: “But modern music notation is not used in all cultures, so by centering it in your curriculum, you are sending the signal that those cultures are inferior.” Well, you would have to be in my classroom to know that. And you aren’t. It is possible to make literacy a focal point, and have students still understand that it is one tool of many that are used to learn music.
And I haven’t even started talking about the neurological benefits yet… that’s where we get into moral imperative territory. In a school setting I think it’s actually immoral to deprive kids of this. I know…strong words…
It’s like youth sports. We could acknowledge that winning is more fun than losing. So it is important to teach kids to play the sport well so that they win more than they lose. It can be simultaneously true, that it’s not “all about winning“. There are other lessons to be learned by playing on a team. However, as the coach it would be ridiculous for me to say that the core part of my job is not teaching the fundamental skills of the game to beginning players. they learn the lessons of teamwork, and community etc. through learning the game, not separately.