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The State Of Music Education In Schools

Audio

Aired 11/5/09

This weekend, the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory honor the region's hardworking music teachers with a concert. Such a celebration seems like a good time to explore the state of music education in our schools and look at a new program designed to support music education training called the California Music Project.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Study after study about education reveals the importance of arts and music classes and yet, budget after budget, California keeps cutting back. When test scores go down in math and reading, the emphasis is put on those basic subjects to the detriment of other so-called elective courses. And now the combination of standardized testing and budget cuts have put art and music classes in the highest of high-risk categories. But, when you speak with great educators, and look behind the test scores, the lessons learned in studying music, learning to play an instrument, playing in a band, learning to read music, all provide a richness to a child's education that will last a lifetime. The San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory is presenting a Celebration of Music Education concert in Escondido this weekend. It's a yearly event to honor music educators. Being a music educator in California schools today is a dicey business. It takes versatility, creativity and tenacity. And we have several of those remarkable people here to speak with us today. I’d like to welcome Russ Sperling, director of Visual and Performing Arts for Sweetwater Union High School District. He’s also the San Diego site director for the California Music Project. Russ, welcome.

RUSS SPERLING (Director, Visual and Performing Arts, Sweetwater Union High School District): Thank you, it’s great to be here.

CAVANAUGH: And Dr. Diana Hollinger teaches music education at San Jose State University. She created the Teacher Training Initiative for the California Music Project. Dr. Hollinger, welcome to These Days.

DR. DIANA HOLLINGER (Music Education Instructor, San Jose State University): Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here.

CAVANAUGH: May I call you Diana?

DR. HOLLINGER: Please do.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. And JoAnn Ford has been teaching music since the late fifties. She is now retired but still teaches private harp lessons. And she will be honored this weekend by the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory for her years of music education service. JoAnn, welcome to These Days.

JOANN FORD (Music Teacher): Thank you for inviting me.

CAVANAUGH: So let me start – Oh, and I want to tell everyone, too, I want to invite our listeners to join the conversation. You know, is your child learning music in school these days? Did you study an instrument or play a band – with a band in school? Give us a call and tell us what you gained from that experience. 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. And, Russ, I would like to start with you. I’d like you, if you would, to give us a sense of the state of music education in San Diego schools. Is it perhaps any better than it’s been in years past? Or is the situation dire?

SPERLING: Well, I feel like we’re kind of teetering on the edge right now. We are hearing from Sacramento that there are dire cuts yet again that are going to come down from the state in education. And that’s a really hard thing for us to stare in the face because we are often looked at as being that extra thing that often is the first place to cut. I had a principal tell me this morning, I’m not sure next year if I’m going to be able to keep my music teacher onboard. So it’s a struggle. It’s kind of a patchwork throughout San Diego County. We have some amazingly strong programs and that really is attributable to the teacher. They’ve done amazing things and they’re able to keep that going somehow. And then we have schools where we don’t have anything at all.

CAVANAUGH: Russ, what do you say when someone says to you, I don’t know if we can keep our music teacher next semester. What do you say?

SPERLING: I start thinking about, okay, what can I do to make it happen for that school? How can we pull something together? How can we rearrange something? But it’s a scramble. I had another principal, however, come up to me this morning and say, you know, how about we turn our arts programs into support classes? Support classes being the extra classes that students are being assigned to to help make up for their test scores. And that’s a big area for us because we’re losing kids out of electives because they’re having to double up on their math and having to double up on the reading classes. And so some students don’t have any opportunity at all to take music at all.

CAVANAUGH: Wow. And, as you said, are some districts in worse shape than others?

SPERLING: Absolutely. There’s some districts, such as Sweetwater, I think that is a really big advocate for arts education, really understands that it’s very important. We do everything we possibly can to provide those experiences. There’s other districts where that’s not priority number one but I don’t necessarily blame them. They have incredible demands placed upon them by No Child Left Behind and the testing and all the things that they have to accomplish. Otherwise, they fall into program improvement and dire things can happen.

CAVANAUGH: And let’s talk about the reasons why music education is in the state it’s in. And one of those reasons, of course, is budgetary. That’s basically what we’ve been talking about. Diana, how is the state’s current budget situation impacting schools’ education programs? You have a pretty broad view of the cuts that the state has made and how that’s being felt in music programs across the state.

DR. HOLLINGER: Right. I mean, I don’t think we really even know what the impact is at this point, and times of extreme crisis is not even a good time measure, I don’t think. However, one of the things we do need to be aware of is that cuts made in times of crisis affect us for a long time past that crisis. You cannot cut something for one or two years and say, oh, we’ll bring it back next year because the cuts are long term. You cut something that is now not feeding into something else. We are actually still feeling the impact from Proposition 13 from the 1970s. We’ve never fully recovered from that. We still have about half the number of music students in music education in K-through-12. And we’ve never fully recovered and partly that’s because we start cutting the things that are the least visible first, which would be elementary music and then junior high music because the things that are most visible are the marching band at the football game…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

DR. HOLLINGER: …and the choir at, you know, at graduation and those sorts of things in high school. But it’s like cutting off the roots; the flower only lasts just so long.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

DR. HOLLINGER: And we are already at the place where we simply don’t have enough teachers for the jobs we have because it’s cyclical. You don’t have as many programs so you don’t have as many people going on to become teachers and you don’t then have enough teachers to fill the programs we even have. And I’d like to jump into something – on to something that Russ said a little earlier. And he and I have been on events like this before and talked about this before, that we think that the single most important component of a great music program and great music education is the teacher. And one of the things I tell my music education students all the time when they ask, will I have a job? I say, you know, great programs are almost never cut. When a principal is looking around to cut something, if the program is struggling, if the teacher isn’t doing a good job, if there aren’t enough students in it, they’re not something that’s going to be cut but if it’s vital, they won’t cut that. And a good and tenacious teacher will overcome budget difficulties, they will overcome constraints in scheduling, they will overcome educational deficiencies. I mean, they will just find a way. They will raise their own money, they will meet their students after school, they will help their kids sign up for summer school, they’ll do whatever they have to to keep things going.

CAVANAUGH: Well, Diana, though, how do you fight an attitude that music education is not important? How do you fight that?

DR. HOLLINGER: I think that things are coming around so that we – that people in general believe that it is important again. I think that there’s a bit of a grassroots cry to educate our children again probably as a backlash for the No Child Left Behind, the way it has been instituted. Even though music is actually recognized as one of the core subjects by the National Board of Education by the federal government, we don’t test it. And we tend to not also be able to test things that matter to us. What we can test are numbers and things like that, and so we’ve been testing that to death. And the push, of course, is to get those scores up, and so kids get pulled out of everything else.

CAVANAUGH: I’ve invited our listeners to take part in this conversation, tell us about whether or not their children are getting music lessons at school or what music lessons they had as kids and how that helped them in life, 1-888-895-5727, or indeed, any solutions they have to the current problem we have in having music education in our schools. Let’s take a call right now. Rod is calling from Del Mar. Good morning, Rod. Welcome to These Days.

ROD (Caller, Del Mar): Good morning. Thank you for taking my call. I have a couple of few questions. One is that music education has been taught the same way for decades and decades and there are out there new methodology like an institute, Intel Music, for instance. And one is, why would not consider more modern approach to music teaching? And secondly, what – why don’t we just try to outsource music teaching if we cannot deal with it internally? Those are my two comments I would like to hear.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that, Rod. And I’m going to ask Russ or Diana. Russ, would you like to take on all or part of that question?

SPERLING: Sure. Well, gosh, if music is indeed a core subject and it’s viewed that way by the public, I wouldn’t know why we would want to outsource that. And I don’t – That just troubles me to think that we would be outsourcing education to whom, and would we outsource algebra to somebody else? I’m not sure we’d want to do that. And I agree with the caller that we have other ways of teaching music. We have…

DR. HOLLINGER: Yes.

SPERLING: …in – at Hilltop High School, for instance, in the Sweetwater District, we have an electronic music course, and that is being more prevalent out there. But the thing I want to remind the listeners is that we ask our students to still read Shakespeare. We should be still teaching Mozart. It’s the classics that we aspire to, not the comic book level learning that we want for our students.

CAVANAUGH: And, Diana, are there new, innovative ways of teaching music in schools these days?

DR. HOLLINGER: Sure. I mean, we’re always struggling to keep up with what kids are doing out in the real life. You know, they – our kids are more savvy about music than ever before. They all carry their own personal iPod, their own personal music collection. But Russ is right, sort of the basics have not changed. I want to respond to something that you asked earlier and also to the listener that called in about, you know, why is this important and why do we teach this. And Samuel Hope, who’s the executive director of the National Association of Schools and Music, he says we have five ways to communicate and organize thought and knowledge. The first one is letters and words, which is our language. And the second is numbers and symbols, which is mathematics. And – But the next three are still images, which is art in architecture and design, moving images which is dance and film, and abstract sound which is music. And we tend to only place emphasis on the first two. And if a child does not excel at the first two, then we spend more time teaching him that or her that rather than – at the expense of the other three. And so there are other ways besides numbers, mathematics and language, to communicate and to organize sound, and music is one of those. And if we have a child who doesn’t communicate well with the first two, then he or she just doesn’t do well in the education system as we have it set up today. And, of course, we’re going to have students at risk. Imagine if you spend eight hours, as a seven year old, just studying words and numbers and you’re bursting to express something and you can’t do it. I mean, this is just an accident waiting to happen. And I don’t – I mean, we don’t – we can’t just do a little music. Let’s outsource this and sing some songs after school. That’s not how you teach. You don’t teach algebra that way, you don’t teach somebody to read that way, you don’t teach science that way. You cannot teach anything that way. So it’s very important that you have a structured, you know, step-by-step education so that students have access. Understanding how to read music and to sing music and to play music is access. It’s social justice, you know, it’s…

CAVANAUGH: Well, Diana, I wanted to ask you, I think that some people actually could make the argument that if a student in a higher grade is suffering in math or reading that they should use their electives to bone up on those subjects. But I think some people might be surprised to find out that the real impact of these cuts to music programs…

DR. HOLLINGER: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: …are happening in elementary…

DR. HOLLINGER: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: …education.

DR. HOLLINGER: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: Why is that happening? How does that work?

DR. HOLLINGER: There’s such an emphasis at this point on the scores of what – of the things they can test and, again, remember, the things that we can measure are very limited and, you know, we can limit – we can measure money and numbers and things like that. But remember, we can’t measure love and happiness and kindness. And so I always tell my students that the things that really matter to us are very difficult to score and to measure and yet this is where our emphasis is. And so, for instance, a low performing school, what will happen is the government will come over and take it over and demand the students are following a scripted curriculum, a scripted lesson plan, and it doesn’t include anything that’s not being tested. And so they lose science even. Science, music, art, anything at all that’s not on the test. And we know that there’s a correlation between music and reading. We know – and language. We know that there’s a correlation between music and mathematics. We know that students who study the arts do better in their other subjects. And the most that you take that away, that the, you know, there’s just only so far they can go by studying the same thing the same way for more hours.

CAVANAUGH: Russ, you want to…

SPERLING: What I’d like to say is that part of it is, has to do with expertise. The way we train our elementary teachers is…

DR. HOLLINGER: Oh, yeah.

SPERLING: …is, you know, broad-based. They’re supposed to teach all the subjects. Well, for almost 30 years we weren’t requiring our teacher candidates in California to take any art classes at all. So most of our elementary school teachers in the system today…

DR. HOLLINGER: True.

SPERLING: …do not have any arts background.

DR. HOLLINGER: Right.

SPERLING: And so the way to provide music education is to have an expert in the classroom. Well, that ends up being an extra expense.

DR. HOLLINGER: Umm-hmm.

SPERLING: And it also needs some central coordination.

DR. HOLLINGER: Yeah.

SPERLING: And that, you know, you’re basically going to be sharing a music teacher among five to ten schools. Well, San Diego Unified really does a good job of that in that central office capacity but other districts don’t have that.

CAVANAUGH: We have to take a short break. When we return, we will continue our conversation about music education in California and in San Diego schools. We haven’t forgot about JoAnn Ford. She is here. She’s going to be receiving an award at the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory Music Education Concert in Escondido this weekend. And we will hear about her work in teaching kids music right here in San Diego. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: You're listening to These Days on KPBS. I’m Maureen Cavanaugh. That beautiful music you just heard was from the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory. And they will be having their celebration of music education concert this Sunday. One of those people being honored at that concert is one of my guests, JoAnn Ford. My other guests are Russ Sperling, Director of Visual and Performing Arts for Sweetwater Union High School District. He is the San Diego site director for the California Music Project, and Dr. Diana Hollinger. She is the – she teaches music education at San Jose State University, and she created the Teacher Training Initiative for the California Music Project. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And let’s go to the phones right now and speak with Vicky in the College area. Good morning, Vicky. Welcome to These Days.

VICKY (Caller, College Area): Thank you for taking my call. I am an expert on teaching dance, ethnic dance, from many different countries, and I’ve been a part of different programs and one of them, for instance, was at El Cajon Valley High School. I was teaching multi-cultural dance, and it was a performance oriented program so that the students were not able to perform unless their attendance was good so it was actually keeping students in – coming to school instead of dropping out…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

VICKY: …which was a big problem, or ditching school. And it worked very well in that program. I’ve also been teaching Italian dances this semester at Washington Elementary in Little Italy and I – and that dance incorporates music. I just want to make sure that we continue to talk about the arts instead of just music because dance and music are totally integrated and I’m even incorporating tambourine playing with the elementary school kids. And that’s a part of the Center for World Music program which is bringing music and dance into the schools in the San Diego City School District. So…

CAVANAUGH: Vicky, thank you for the phone call. Yes, indeed, the arts tend to feed each other and we should never forget that. But I – we are talking about music education rather specifically during this discussion. Diana, I do want to go to you because you are – You’ve created a Teacher Training Initiative for the California Music Project, and I wanted to know are there a lot of undergraduates who are entering the music education field?

DR. HOLLINGER: Oh, yes, absolutely. There are – I mean, no matter what the budget cuts are, there’s still this love, this sort of thirst that kids have to perform music, to teach music, to pass on music. They see it more as a calling. You know, I think less as a field than as a calling. And most of them have this sort of – you know, this experience that they come with of having played in a band, or orchestra, or sung in a choir and they want to recreate that, you know, for the students that they work with. And so, yes, there’s still a good number of students. They are questioning, of course, when they come in, will there be a job for me? That’s always the question. But we certainly still have undergraduates going into education, music education.

CAVANAUGH: And, Russ, you described earlier on that a music teacher these days has to be a sort of a feisty kind of person, innovative, creative, versatile. Tell us a little bit more about that.

SPERLING: Well, I think that one of the things that I try to communicate to students here at San Diego State in music education is that, you know, it’s going to be really important that they’re very fine musicians because the content is, you know, is what drives all this.

DR. HOLLINGER: Absolutely.

SPERLING: But, on the other hand, you have to be good at marketing because you’re going to have to recruit kids into your program. You have to – and market for concerts. You have to deal with all of the paperwork and administration it takes to run a program. They’re running miniature programs…

DR. HOLLINGER: Umm-hmm.

SPERLING: …and if you’re a high school band director, which is something that I did for 14 years, then you’ve got your nonprofit booster club that, you know, we had a budget of over $100,000 a year. So – and not to mention travel director and…

DR. HOLLINGER: Right.

SPERLING: …and logistics and just – it’s really quite a job but it’s incredibly rewarding.

CAVANAUGH: And you have a new program that you wanted to mention?

SPERLING: Yes, in addressing the elementary music issue, you know, Diana mentioned before that we haven’t had all the music programs come back from Prop 13 and the South Bay is one such area. We have a couple of districts down there that do have music but a couple don’t, and so we’re trying to start some music for elementary schools and one of the keys is to have instruments. We need to have instruments. And I know that there are people who live in the South Bay that might have a clarinet or a trumpet or a violin in the closet that they’d like to donate. I’d just encourage them to take a look at givemusic.org, that’s givemusic.org, and there’s information about how they can donate that instrument so they can put it in the hands of an elementary school student.

CAVANAUGH: I think there are many people who have clarinets and trombones in their garages.

SPERLING: Yeah.

DR. HOLLINGER: For sure, yeah.

CAVANAUGH: JoAnn, I want to take – get you into the conversation. You’ve been waiting so patiently there.

FORD: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much. You’ll be awarded the Profiles in Music Education Award during the performance by the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory this weekend. Well, first of all, congratulations.

FORD: Thank you very much.

CAVANAUGH: Now, you have been teaching. You’ve been one of those teachers in the music trenches, as it were, in San Diego for many years. I wonder how you would describe the challenges faced by a music teacher.

FORD: I have a different program to talk about rather than the instrumental program. I’ve been a classroom music teacher.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

FORD: First of all, I was an elementary, general elementary teacher, and then went into the music prep time teaching. So I have students that are required to be there, not the – And it’s wonderful and I’ve done a variety of students. I was telling Russ earlier, the schools that I – where I was teaching were Riley, Revere, which has closed, and Whitman, so I had an example of all kinds of students from top to bottom. And so I had to be very creative, and that’s been mentioned before today, the creativity. A music teacher has to be creative. You create your own programs, you find your own equipment…

DR. HOLLINGER: Umm-hmm.

FORD: …and you bring it to the classroom and you hope to motivate the students. At Riley, I walked in with a boombox and I had it made. The only trouble is, it only tuned one music classical station.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, that’s wonderful. Now, of course, you were a harpist with the San Diego Symphony for many years.

FORD: For eleven years, yes.

CAVANAUGH: And I wonder, you have such a strong music background, what is it that you try to get across to students about why it’s important for them to learn about music?

FORD: It’s something that they can carry throughout their life. They will – it will help them in all the subjects that they work in, which has been mentioned before. It will help them stay in school for some of the problem children. I wouldn’t want to be in math class all day if I didn’t know how to do math. I would love to go to a music class…

DR. HOLLINGER: Yeah.

FORD: I like math, though. But I would love to go to a music class or an art class or anything where I could be creative, and it would help me stay in school and belong to a positive group. I was fortunate that I had a marvelous education growing up all the way through elementary school. Mr. Popejoy used to come with his little green Willys, take me from school to school so I got to play the piano. And the teachers that I had in junior high were symphony members and I had another instrument because it was too hard to carry the harp to school and I didn’t want my dad to have to drive it to school every day. So the instrument that they needed was a rather small instrument: the string bass. So I learned to play the string bass. So it was self discipline. I had to learn it on my own so that I could play in the orchestra.

CAVANAUGH: That’s what they say, you know, the whole idea of learning music, learning to play an instrument, being in band teaches so much to kids, not just how to play but discipline to practice and the idea of being a place on time, learning to work with others, the list goes on and on. I wonder, JoAnn, when you hear about all the budget cutting and so forth, and you think about the kind of music education you received in public schools, do you say to yourself what’s going on? I mean, what goes through your mind?

FORD: I’m sorry that these students are missing so much. It makes me very, very sad and I want to do something. And that’s why this California Music Project, I just found out about it a couple of weeks ago and I thought I have to get involved in that project because we can bring teachers in. Elementary school teachers—this was mentioned before—have to…

DR. HOLLINGER: Umm-hmm.

FORD: …teach every subject. And it’s very hard to get into the music, the young art – Young Audiences had a program and I went in and helped teachers teach music, and that was fantastic because then I knew that they would carry on. So that’s the kind of help that I hope this California Project will do.

CAVANAUGH: Diana, tell us a little bit more about the California Music Project and the kind of teacher help that the project is providing.

DR. HOLLINGER: Sure. Sure, I’d be glad to. Well, three years ago we put together, up here at San Jose State, a pilot program for the Teacher Initiative Program, which is what we’re speaking about here. And my goal when I presented it to the California Music Project Board was to do something that would hit music education at every level because I feel like we’ve hit – we’ve been hit at every level over the last 40 years or so. And, you know, there have been these programs that can do small grants, for instance, to send somebody in for a time or visiting artists but I was interested in doing something that was long term, it was comprehensive, and it was sustainable. So we attempt to help the music teacher who’s in place now and the K-through-12 students who are in place now by sending in undergraduate music education students to assist for eight to ten hours a week. And those of us who – well, we’ve all of us on your show today have been in the classroom and we know there’s not enough time to do anything, to make copies, to take a student off and show him a fingering, to do anything. So having an extra person in there is incredibly helpful. Meanwhile, these undergraduate students are getting early teaching experience, which is invaluable because remember that the single most important thing in education, music education, is the teacher, so we need to make them very strong and very tenacious. And part of this program also is developing new leaders in California, and overseeing this at each site will be a graduate student in music who helps the students who are out in the field, goes out and observes them, gives them teaching tips, sort of organizes this thing because we’re also learning we’re losing our leaders because the Cal States are where we teach our music education students and, for the most part our music programs are there, but the UCs are where we grant doctorates. If somebody wants to pursue a doctorate in education, music education, they generally leave the state…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

DR. HOLLINGER: …and they don’t always come back. So part of this initiative was not only to provide strong undergraduate teachers to help the programs that are in existence to make sure we don’t lose anything else, but also to train leaders so there would be lots of Russes and Dianas and JoAnns because…

SPERLING: God help us.

DR. HOLLINGER: …there’s just not enough of us.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you so – Well, let me go to the phones, if I may. You know, there are so many people who want to get in on this conversation. And I want to get in a few calls before we run out of time. Let’s talk to Randy in Pacific Beach. Good morning, Randy. Welcome to These Days.

RANDY (Caller, Pacific Beach): Good morning. Thank you so much. Thanks for taking my call. I was really happy to hear that you guys are speaking about music today. It’s such an important aspect of all our lives, it’s in everything we do, everywhere we turn. There’s music everywhere, the radio, you go to a wedding, oh, the music at night, music at work. It’s so important and integral in our lifestyle. I just want to speak about a little bit so…

CAVANAUGH: Okay, Randy, if you can just speed it up a little bit that would be great.

RANDY: Yeah, yeah. When I was learning music, I learned trumpet and I reached a certain point in my musical education and then I dropped it. And, looking back, I feel like I dropped it because I was bored with it and it wasn’t as popular. And I would say about 80% of my friends or the people I come across and I ask them about music, usually they say I’ve tried it before. I used to play music…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm. Right, right.

RANDY: …you know, I used to. And that’s where I feel like sometimes music education’s lacking that openness to give the keys or the opportunity to people – for people to express themselves.

CAVANAUGH: Right, let me – I’ve got it now. And let me ask my guests, you know, I think, as you said, there are a lot of clarinets and trombones in the garage…

DR. HOLLINGER: Right.

CAVANAUGH: …you know, as Randy’s talking about. Is the goal of music education to actually make someone into a musician, Russ?

SPERLING: Not necessarily. But what we do want, as JoAnn said, we do want them to have a lifelong experience in music. We want them to become educated in music, and we want them to experience that. I mean, that’s something I think we have on athletics, right? You can’t play football at whatever age but you can play the violin for the rest of your life. So, yeah, I understand what the caller’s talking about. You know, it does take some tenacity to learn an instrument and to continue an instrument, and that self discipline and time, and so people do give up on it. But I think it’s a good point. I think we, as music educators, have to look at that and that’s something we do talk about: How do we make sure that students are involved in it all the way through K-12 and then they pick it up again in college and then when they graduate college, they join a group, a small ensemble or they’re just playing with their family, hymns at Christmas or whatever it might be.

CAVANAUGH: Right. Let’s take another call. Robert is calling from Tierrasanta. Good morning, Robert. Welcome to These Days.

ROBERT (Caller, Tierrasanta): Hi.

CAVANAUGH: Hi.

ROBERT: How you doing?

CAVANAUGH: Great.

ROBERT: Yeah. Hi, Russ, how’s it going?

CAVANAUGH: Oh, I see.

SPERLING: Hi.

ROBERT: This is Robert from Tierrasanta. I’m the choir and orchestra director at Serra High School.

CAVANAUGH: Ah, welcome.

ROBERT: And I just happened to hear this on my prep period. I’m getting ready for my choir class. And I wanted to call in because I think that something that is missing from this conversation that’s really important that I haven’t heard yet because we’re talking about instrumental music primarily that I’ve heard so far on the program, and I think that one of the biggest things that the teachers have lost from the cutting of elementary music are choral programs…

DR. HOLLINGER: Umm-hmm.

ROBERT: …because when you don’t have students learning music from a very young age, it’s much more difficult for them to get ahead in a choral program than it is an instrumental program. An instrument is tactile, it’s something that they can get their hands on, it’s something that they can grasp really quickly. But the…

CAVANAUGH: Let’s get a comment on that. Robert, we’re running out of time. I’m sorry. I’d like to get a comment on that from Diana. Hi, Diana.

DR. HOLLINGER: Hi. Actually – Yeah, probably we’ve said instruments only because Russ and I are band people…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

DR. HOLLINGER: …in our past lives. But absolutely. You know, one of the things about the voice, of course, is it doesn’t cost anything so, you know, you can – and you don’t have to pack it up to take it with you. I mean, it’s just there and so it’s…

FORD: I like that.

DR. HOLLINGER: …mobile and it’s free and and we – I mean, it’s certainly one of the things we should be doing almost without thinking. It used to be, like you said, elementary school teachers would sing songs in class and, you know, that was just part of everything, and we have lost that. And, you know, one of the things about our society is we’re not comfortable with our voices, which is sort of a response to the last caller who said I’m kind of done with trumpet. I don’t feel talented, a lot of people say. And it’s not – you know, nobody says, well, I don’t feel talented to read or…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, right.

DR. HOLLINGER: …you know. And it’s a thing – we have lost the comfort level to sing and to, you know, express joy in music. So I think he’s right. The voice is something that we need to not forget.

SPERLING: It might be Simon Cowell that has made us all fearful of opening our mouths.

CAVANAUGH: Well, we will be hearing some of the vocal talent in San Diego when we end this segment, which I’m afraid we have to do right now. I want to thank our guest – my guests so much. Russ Sperling and Diana Hollinger. And JoAnn Ford, congratulations again.

FORD: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: JoAnn will be honored. This Sunday there will be a Celebration of Music Education Concert at 4:00 p.m. at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, featuring the San Diego Youth Symphony. For more information, you can go to KPBS.org/TheseDays. And coming up, the return of the Weekend Preview right here on These Days on KPBS.

Comments

Avatar for user 'robynsway'

robynsway | November 5, 2009 at 10:32 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

My son has had weekly music lessons for years. His teachers have not been qualified school teachers. Wouldn't "any" music instruction be better than none? There are so many musicians who would make great adjunct part-time music teachers at the schools. Further, there are plenty of non-teachers who can instruct math, etc better than many formally trained teachers, so to refuse such talent simply because they aren't part of the Union of School Teachers is not using all the wonderful resources available

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Avatar for user 'eugedsm'

eugedsm | November 5, 2009 at 3:21 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

A more shocking and sadder state of affairs lies ahead for the profession of music education... though more people want to dwell on the plight of children who do not get to have music. Teachers will need to volunteer which will ultimately be the demise of the entire profession. We are not a socialist country (yet) and El Sistema will not work here in America. Instead, we should allow music programs in schools to die if they must, and begin to build for-profit community music centers that can sustain our profession until the cycle returns and our societies once again understand how important the arts truly are.

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