From Pestalozzian to Virtual Collaboration

When music was first introduced into American schools as a subject area (1838), it happened here in Boston through the efforts of Lowell Mason, who was inspired by the work of his New England colleagues William Channing Woodbridge and Elam Ives Jr. During this early period, music education in the United States was based upon various reinterpretations of the pedagogical writings of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (see photo above by one of my recent graduate students).

A few decades after the emergence of public school music programs (and America's first school band - also in Boston, 1850), Boston University began offering the first music degree program in the United States (1872). Warren Freeman (then dean of the Boston University School of Music) helped establish the field's leading research publication Journal of Research in Music Education (1953), which was followed by Boston University's development of the first Doctor of Musical Arts degree program (1955). Later, Boston University hosted the landmark Tanglewood Symposium (1967), and more recently, it launched the first online doctoral program in music (2005) under the leadership of Andre de Quadros, M.Ed., and the Tanglewood II Symposium (2007). Although many American universities have contributed greatly to the development of music education in the United States - Oberlin College, Columbia University, Florida State University, University of Michigan, University of Illinois, and University of Washington, for example - Boston University's role has been particularly noticeable as a center of innovation at various points in history.

The field of music teaching has continued to change dramatically across several generations, due not only to the emergence of new pedagogical approaches, technologies and demographic shifts, but also because music educators have increasingly asked important questions regarding the ultimate objectives of music education: Why should music be taught, what kinds of music, what skills and understandings should students develop through music education, what are the most effective ways of fostering music learning, etc.

Research and scholarship enable such questions to be adequately answered, and a variety of scholarly approaches is necessary in order for research to make a meaningful contribution to the improvement of music education. But it is also necessary for policy makers to acknowledge the relevance of research, and to consult experts as they develop educational policies and practices. When the content of music education is decided by politicians rather than music teachers and scholars, and when the education of prospective music teachers fails to instill independent critical thinking skills, music education can become misguided, ineffective, even perversely ideological.

Only in recent decades has it been possible for music educators to gain a global understanding of the current state of music teaching throughout the world. A deeper awareness of music education in other nations enables enhanced critical reflection regarding current problems and new possibilities for practices at home. Awareness of musical practices in other nations also enables music educators to better understand the larger world of musical behavior in which they play a critically important role as agents of change.

Recent technologies are also rapidly creating new possibilities for exponential change in this field in terms of the ability to create, record, and disseminate musical creations within a global online community and in real time or virtual environments. The possibilities for music education in the future are fascinating to consider.

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Here is a useful website for information regarding international music education:

Victor Fung’s International Music Education Links


Here are some useful websites for information regarding current issues in music consumption:

The Future of Music


International Federation of the Phonographic Industry


Here is a useful website for information regarding cultural traditions of indigenous peoples:

Cultural Survival


On January 11th I was invited to a meeting in Seattle on the development of lesson plans for Smithsonian Global Sound. This is an important new resource for music teaching:

Smithsonian Global Sound


David Font’s recent MA thesis discusses the work of Smithsonian Global Sound:


Here are some useful blogs for information regarding the latest technological developments of relevance to music education:

Alex Ruthmann’s Blog


Jonathan Savage’s Blog


Miikka Salavuo’s Blog


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