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by World Music Network April 18, 2012


The Role of Music Education And World Music

Following recent headlines that school music programmes and services are under threat due to funding cuts, it has set us off wondering how the UK music education curriculum is suited to the teachings of musics of the world.

Music education is evidently changing - with more musics and opportunities open to school pupils. The curriculum does not only house the history and practice of western art practice. Nevertheless, there is still a heavy emphasis on classical training of school pupils. Why is this? It perhaps has something to do with the fact that the overwhelming majority of music teachers have degrees based on classical music. As a result, the classical artworks (particularly with regard to Bach and Beethoven) still represent the pinnacle of musical value. As a result, the focus on classical music tuition cannot be disregarded.

On the other hand, music other than western classical is still worryingly considered as 'extracurricular'. Music education should be delivered through the community. The implementation of diverse musics in the school curriculum is evident. Nevertheless, whether support for all genres of music is indeed equal is questionable. Support should be there for any musical role; this includes the aspiring DJ or virtuoso the hardanger fiddle player.

Perhaps the biggest issue with UK music education is the implementation of the western scale (explored in Bobby McFerrin's example). Together with this, the study of harmonic theory, western art practice history, the basics of conducting, and a proficiency in performance supposedly equip the pupil with musical fluency. These skills, although obviously useful, are not necessarily applicable to the learning of diverse musics of the world.

It reopens the question of what music education in schools is for. The most significant constant is that music teaches school pupils to work together and creates a space for individual and personal development. Nevertheless, this year the government has pared back its budget for music services from £82.5m a year to just £60m. Let us hope that even with the planned cuts, music education in schools can become even more wide and diverse. 

Here is a clip of Bobby McFerrin and an example of musical education at work. In this example, they are exploring the expectations of musical tones and movement. It regards the relationship between neurology and the written or sounded score through the basis of a common understanding.