Today my piano turned world musics class had a really deep conversation about music and what kinds of classes are offered. The discussion started on their experiences with Andrew this week and the meaning they took away from learning from someone who has spent a significant amount of time studying and experiencing music that was different from their own musical experiences. Then they asked me if "this class will be offered again." A reminder that this class is supposed to be a piano class, but things took a different route when the question "are there more tones than the 12 that we are learning" was asked.
I asked students what they valued about our current class as it stands: exploring musics from different places, the stories behind certain musics, who gets to make music, who doesn't...etc (shout out to Juliet Hess and her recent book for inspiring these questions). Students shared with me that the "informality" of this music class is what is appealing to them. It is all about "discovery" and "experiencing new things" and "questioning what we thought we knew" (these are their words-let me tell you, I about dropped my coffee when they started talking about informal learning. I should have started recording their conversation)
The students shared with me that they appreciated my vulnerability in that I was learning with them. That I took their ideas of projects, and created learning opportunities for them to discover. That they were never sure what to expect coming into class but I always was excited to share with them something that I had learned or was going to share with them. They shared with me that this is the kind of class that could be very appealing to students who aren't interested in band/choir/orchestra (I seriously started to wonder if they had been secretly reading music education journals at this point). They shared with me that these kinds of classes could be "jumping off points" for students who are interested in music, but don't really see themselves in the kinds of classes that are offered.
I listened and absorbed everything that they were saying and now my brain is lighting up with so many thoughts of additional possibilities. In what ways can I restructure my current classes to reflect even more the desires of the students who are in these classes. The current class that I am writing about is only 10, so that number makes this a lot easier. How might I do this with a class of 25? The ideas are quite overwhelming as changing curriculum for one class in the middle of the semester was challenging, but clearly, it was the right thing to do.
So, here I sit going "ok, so that was kinda amazing, what in the hell do I do now?" It's exciting to think of the possibilities but also overwhelming.
I think, if we music educators REALLY want to create space for students to experience music in school, these are the kinds of conversations we need to have with students. Even if we ourselves have not had these experiences, it was very clear to me from the students that these experiences are valued, AND, they do occur outside the school walls. Indeed one thoughtful student shared with the class:
"I love music but I never felt like I belonged in music. I tried band. I tried piano. I tried choir. I didn't enjoy them. I didn't feel connected to anyone. Then this week I got to play tambourine and it's like I finally got to connect with music our our little community here. This opened up a whole new door of what it means to be musical to me. Before I thought in order to participate in music I had to be in some formalized kind of class. This experience has definitely shown me that music is so much bigger than that."
So....there we go.