MLK Day at Boston University

Today is a major national holiday in the United States, Martin Luther King Day. The holiday is in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) a prominent civil rights leader and anti-war activist who earned his PhD here at Boston University in 1955. King’s work has served as inspiration for many musicians, ranging from rock bands such as U2 to contemporary composers such as Joseph Schwantner. His life work has also provided inspiration to many concerned with promoting social justice in both education and community life.

Dr. King was the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize:


MayDay Group Colloquium XX (2008) at Boston University

Action for Change in Music Education is the motto of the MayDay Group. Its next conference will be at Boston University, and proposals for presentations are due shortly. The theme for the Summer 2008 meeting is "Connecting school music to the community, society, and life: Curriculum, policies, and practices."

Follow this link for the latest details:



Patriotic Music Education

In July of 2005, in collaboration with outstanding German music education scholar Alexandra Kertz-Welzel, I organized an international panel on the topic of patriotism and nationalism in music education for the Asia-Pacific Symposium for Music Education Research, which was followed by our publication of related articles and finally, submission (and acceptance) of a book proposal. The panel included representation from the United States, Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and the People's Republic of China. I also raised this topic to a meeting of the UNESCO Arts Chair and ensured that related issues were discussed at the Tanglewood II symposium.

Since that time, this theme has been publicly discussed by several other music education scholars, with particular attention to the troubling role of the National Anthem Project, a propaganda effort launched in American schools (with the sponsorship of various corporations and the United States military) by MENC: The National Association for Music Education. Over time, the purpose of the project - originally indicated with the statement that “MENC is sponsoring The National Anthem Project to revive America's patriotism by educating Americans about the importance of The Star-Spangled Banner-both the flag and the song” - was revised on the organization's website to suggest that its objective was merely to draw more public attention to the importance of music education:

  • A member of our original panel Amy Beegle of Pacific Lutheran University published one of the first important articles related to this topic: Beegle, A. (2004) American Music Education 1941-1946: Meeting Needs and Making Adjustments During World War II. Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, 26(1).
  • Professor Jere Humphreys of Arizona State University bravely declared in his MENC Senior Researcher Award acceptance speech that “the National Anthem Project sends questionable messages during this time of controversy during a foreign war and the reduction of civil liberties at home and abroad” and warned against the “messages and images this campaign engenders” (Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 54).
  • Professor Estelle Jorgensen of Indiana University (founding editor of Philosophy of Music Education Review) also wrote that “selecting The Star-Spangled Banner as the focus of a national campaign to teach the nation to sing can be read as too narrow an objective in that it forwards the limited claims of nationalism to the exclusion of building international and local affiliations and identities. Rather, music teachers need to resist the claims of excessive nationalism in order to ensure that these other interests are also served” (Philosophy of Music Education Review, Vol. 15).
  • Professor Paul Woodford of University of Western Ontario wrote that “Regrettably, music is often implicated in these kinds of emotional appeals, such as is currently happening with MENC’s National Anthem Project (whose honorary chairperson is Laura Bush) and as happened a few years ago when the American military adopted country and western singer Toby Keith’s song “Curtesy of the Red, White, and Blue, The American Way” as a propaganda tool for rallying the troops and the public behind the war in Iraq” (Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, Vol. 7).
  • One of the most prolific music education scholars of my generation, Carlos Abril of Northwestern University cautioned that most of the National Anthem Project's efforts “propel absolutist views in which declared truths take a front seat to divergent understandings and discoveries” (Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, Vol. 172).
  • In 2009, J. Scott Goble of University of British Columbia raised similar concerns in his article "Nationalism in United States Music Education during World War II," in Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, Vol. 30.

    Music educators and musicologists are also increasingly advocating for more accurate dissemination of information regarding ongoing military operations, particularly as they relate to the use of music as a component of torture and propaganda:

    SEM Position Statement on Music and Torture (ethnomusicologists) -

    Federation of American Scientists
    (objectively monitors military operations) -

    Teaching the National Anthem in
    Japan (member state, “Coalition of the Willing”) -

  • Here is a link to the Iraq Body Count project, a massive research inquiry founded by leading music psychologists such as John Sloboda, Eric Clarke, and Scott Lipscomb. http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

  • Related resources from media studies and other fields include the Center for Public Integrity's
    Report on Iraq War Deception

    Other publications of interest include "Estimated Financial Cost of Iraq War: USA $3 Trillion" (Washington Post, March 2008).

  • Also, click HERE for an insightful article on the current state of the American war in Afghanistan.
  • Click HERE for discussion of the "Collateral Murder" incident.
  • Click HERE for the Los Angeles Times article "Pentagon can't account for $8.7 billion in Iraqi funds".

    Below is the opening material for the book I have developed with Alexandra Kertz-Welzel:

    Hebert, D. G. & Kertz-Welzel, A. (Eds.) (in press/forthcoming, 2012). Patriotism and Nationalism in Music Education. [Contributors: Simon Keller, Jane Southcott, Kari Veblen, Ambigay Yudkoff, Carlos Abril, CheeHoo Lum, Eugene Dairianathan, Amy Beegle, Wai-Chung Ho, Marja Heimonen, David G. Hebert, Alexandra Kertz-Welzel].

    Click HERE for a related book announcement.

    Patriotism and Nationalism
    in Music Education

    Edited by
    David G. Hebert and
    Alexandra Kertz-Welzel

    Music has long served as an emblem of national identity in educational systems throughout the world. Patriotic songs are commonly considered healthy and essential ingredients of school curriculum, nurturing the respect, loyalty and “good citizenship” of students. But to what extent have music educators critically examined the potential benefits and costs of nationalism? Globalization in the contemporary world has revolutionized the nature of international relationships, such that patriotism may merit rethinking as an objective for music education. The fields of “peace studies” and “education for international understanding” may better reflect current values shared by the profession, values that often conflict with the nationalistic impulse. This is the first book to introduce an international dialogue on this important theme.
    David G. Hebert and Alexandra Kertz-Welzel
    Preface: On Patriotism and Education
    Simon Keller
    1 Patriotism and Music Education: An International Overview
    David G. Hebert
    2 Lesson Learned? In Search for Patriotism and Nationalism in the German Music Education Curriculum
    Alexandra Kertz-Welzel
    3 Nationalism and School Music in Australia
    Jane Southcott
    4 National Identity in the Taiwanese System of Music Education
    Wai-Chung Ho
    5 A National Anthem: Patriotic Symbol or Democratic Action?
    Carlos R. Abril
    6 Nationalism and Patriotism: The Experience of an Indian
    Diaspora in South Africa
    Ambigay Raidoo Yudkoff
    7 Soundscapes of a Nation(alism): Perspectives from Singapore
    Chee-Hoo Lum and Eugene Dairianathan
    8 Conflicting Perspectives on Patriotism within Music Education in the United States During Wartime
    Amy C. Beegle
    9 "We Stand on Guard for Thee": National Identity in Canadian Music Education
    Kari K. Veblen
    10 Nationalism and Music Education: A Finnish Perspective
    Marja Heimonen and David G. Hebert
    11 Conclusions and Recommendations
    David G. Hebert and Alexandra Kertz-Welzel


Creative Experimentation in Music

Music teachers often find themselves stuck in hegemonic roles, expected to transmit orthodox performance techniques rather than encouraging creative experimentation among their students. What might happen if music education were opened to allow more room for creative musical experimentation? The examples below demonstrate how the simple act of experimenting with unusual techniques on instruments or found objects can lead to the emergence of new musical expressions. [NOTE: Updated 8/14/08 due to dead links. This website is best viewed with the Mozilla Firefox browser - downloadable for free - rather than Internet Explorer or Netscape.]

Alternative Approach to Guitar:

Andreas Oberg’s Guitar Solo via Harmonics:

Andreas Oberg has recently produced an excellent guitar instruction book with my former bandmember Michael Horowitz:


Carlos Vamos playing Hendrix’s "Little Wing":

Piano Music of Medtner and Rzewski:

Pianist Brad Mehldau:

Airto's Solo Percussion and Voice:

Blowing on a Tree Leaf in Malaysia:

Glass Harmonica:

Mongolian Throat Singing:

Vegetable Orchestra:

Thai Elephant Orchestra:

And on an entirely different note, what happens when we support music learners in their pursuits within newer traditions, such as rock music? I used to play in a Thai music ensemble, a wind band, and even (briefly) in a klezmer band, with my friend Brian (a fellow jakhe player and trumpeter), who now plays bass and sings as a member of 3rd Culture, a band that performs original music in the heart of the rock tradition. It took rock many years to become viewed by music academics as a genre with any credibility. This band seems to embody all that is good about rock: http://3rdculturenation.com/


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.

. . . . . .

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