Responding: Review of Ethnomusicology Pedagogy at the 61st SEM Annual Meeting

By Xiaorong Yuan (Heidi), Kent State University

As ethnomusicologists, we spend our professional time in the classroom or preparing to teach. However, what we teach, how we teach, and why we teach ethnomusicology to different levels of audiences and students has become an issue that needs to be discussed. In 2016, at the annual SEM meeting in Washington, D.C., several panels and papers had insightful discussions about pedagogy that ethnomusicologists use and address when they are teaching. This report selects three panels related to ethnomusicological pedagogy: the roundtable panel “Music Pedagogy for the 21st Century”, “Global to Local Music Outreach”, and “World Music Pedagogy Workshop”, which highlight the diverse possibility of teaching ethnomusicology in a variety of environments and methodologies.

The roundtable panel “Music Pedagogy for the 21st Century: Guiding Principles”, chaired by Robin Moore (University of Texas at Austin), addressed numerous issues, including disparities between the repertoire taught in music schools or conservatories and the types of music preferred by the general public, declining audiences for traditional orchestras and operas, and the growing numbers of music majors graduating today who remain unemployed or underemployed. The presentations proposed a new set of principles or curricular priorities that could be used to guide efforts at reform going forward. Robin’s panel also consisted of contributors to a book manuscript on curricular innovation in music programs and she suggested the scholars training in ethnomusicology also engage in such experiments.

Sonia Seeman (University of Texas at Austin) emphasized that as ethnomusicologists, we are largely housed in music schools that emphasis Western European art music, and have the task of providing windows into musical practices that are often different than those of our students and our colleagues and lack the cultural capital associated with canonical musical repertoires. She bolstered her argument by considering the consensus-building techniques necessary for introducing curricular change, and how such administrative services draw upon ethnomusicological fieldwork techniques.

Michael Tenzer (University of British Columbia) proposed a reconstructed approach to musical transcription in order to effectively anchor future university music curriculum across all music sub-disciplines. Transcription can engage the general student in many ways, as well: it need not imply staff notation, and the creative task of visually representing music can powerfully reward music and non-music students alike.

Mark DeWitt (University of Louisiana Lafayette) suggested pulling vernacular styles of music into the university setting, styles in which some students are already highly skilled when they begin their studies. He argued that the academy must work to establish its relevance. To bridge the gap between musical vernaculars and academic pedagogy, we must research models of music education outside of academia that have worked in communities, and then adapt those models to the university setting.

Paul Klemperer (Independent Scholar)’s presentation focuses on the insights that professional musicians can offer universities with degrees in applied music. In particular, he suggested establishing mentoring programs, in which aspiring performers at universities apprentice with musicians in surrounding communities, which would afford students crucial insights into professional music making and better prepare them for their chosen career.

Justin Patch (University of Texas at Austin) points out that there is a widely-shared belief that collegiate music curricula should expand their focus on popular global and vernacular musics, in addition to courses in business, technology, and other topics. He added that the expansion of offerings in pop music performance provides students opportunities for leadership and creativity in musical contexts that are not as common in the performance of Western art music or global styles. Such groups also open up music department offerings to talented young people whose lack of formal training does not afford them access to canonical groups. Through an examination of educational theory and interviews with pedagogues at institutions that include pop performance in their curricula, his paper offered a new perspective on the role that pop pedagogy can play in meeting the goals of a revised music pedagogy in the 21st century.

The section “Global to Local Music Outreach”, sponsored by the SEM Student Union and the University of Maryland, had two parts. Part one was off-site outreach, which took the conference participants to Joe’s Movement Emporium in Mount Rainier, MD. This workshop involved taking participants off-site to an already selected afterschool program at a community-based non-profit arts organization to share and observe interactive performances and hands-on activities. The activities at Joe’s Movement Emporium included short interactive performances, hands-on activities, and displays. They highlighted various music traditions for children ages 5-13, many of whom come from an underserved demographic. We were observing the scholars who were leading activities and how they find creative ways to engage with diverse audiences that are not usually reached by academic institutions. For example, an ethnomusicologist had the young children’s group listen to instrumental performances of Korean change, Indonesian gamelan, Japanese Koto, and American banjo, as well as Native American dancing. Part two of the outreach offered two different options for participants: short performances of music, and an informal set of posters and interactive stations. The facilitators oversaw the presentations and performances for the children. They then led a discussion with SEM participants on theoretical, practical, and ethical issues to consider when organizing outreach events.

The “World Music Pedagogy Workshop” involved five workshops that shared different methodologies with the scholars who attended the panel. First, Patricia S. Campbell and Christopher Roberts provided updated information about University of Washington’s annual Smithsonian Folkways certification course in World Music Pedagogy on their website. Additional courses are offered at the University of West Virginia, Indiana University Bloomington, and the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minnesota). They also introduced the resources provided by Smithsonian Folkways Online, which include audio, video, print, electronic, and human resources that are sampled in courses, as well as musical experiences that are tailored for use at various levels, including classes for children, youth, and adults in both university and community settings.

Next, Amanda C. Soto provided a method for learning Irish music through dancing the jig and reel through and playing various instruments, including the hornpipe. People were divided into two groups, one dealing with a drum rhythm and the other learning a basic Irish dance. Similarly, Terry Miller and Priwan Nanongkham (Kent State University) introduced a Northern Thai ensemble, Pong Long, by teaching different melody and rhythm patterns on the instruments. They were assisted by Supeena Adler, who taught the dance pattern associated with the music. Michael Bakan also demonstrated Balinese music through the practice of the Monkey Chant, kecak. Finally, Edward J. P. O’Connor, whose research is on folk songs and dances of the Czech and Slovak Republics, presented about public and private school teachers, as well as college faculty who wish to increase the diversity of their offerings in classes and performance.

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