history

Music is actually a lot more than playing, and knowing how to write and read, there is a whole history that grows with each passing day, meaningful past creations, cultural movements, places, and people. Music teachers should always pay attention to these things as it contributes to the general knowledge and inspiration towards making music.

There is a problem about knowing how to do something but not completely knowing how or why, nor knowing how to explain it, this can be an issue that blurs the goals and inspirations as musicians.

History

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Music history is something that can help in various fields. First, you get a look at hundreds of artists, composers and bands with a wide arrange of genres, inspirations and styles that will surely be a great influence in future creations.

History also teaches about the musical evolution in terms of the similarities between composers from each era and context, and the evolution of technology, this sort of musical progress or change is an important part of human history as a whole as it shows quite a bit

In an article by Scott Huntington from the Oxford University Press’s
Academic Insights for the Thinking World, he talks about David Gonzol, who was his teacher at the time, and on the importance of learning about music history he said:

“All the best professional and amateur musicians, from Ella Fitzgerald to Paul McCartney, Adolph Herseth to Johann Sebastian Bach and Clara Schumann to Jean Ritchie, all made sure to know their field thoroughly and well. They knew their own performing skills, other performers, the repertoire, the history, the theory, the business, the culture, the people, everything. One can sing a melody or play a harmony, only if one really understands how those melodies or harmonies have been valued in their particular culture. How they have been performed, thought about, composed, improvised, listened to, danced to and worshipped to. Truly successful musicians understand all their music because they worked hard at becoming terrifically well-rounded. As cellist Lynn Harrell once said to a sixth-grade boy, ‘There are no shortcuts.’”

Dr David Gonzol

Culture

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The cultural impact of music is without a doubt one of the most important parts of its history, from Beethoven’s nine symphonies, which have been considered the cornerstones of Western civilization to Elvis and the Beatles in the 20th century.

Music can be one of the purest ways to express oneself, and this a lot of times comes in times of anguish, turmoil, fear, rage, sadness and very strong joy. Therefore music has been the main event for many counter culture movements, such as jazz, blues, rock, punk, electronic music and hip hop. While some of these are now established genres and made a partial transition into the pop culture, their origins came from a place of disagreement and incomprehension.

As Sheila Whiteley says in her article, Countercultures: Music, Theory and Scenes:

Music played a major role in the way that the counterculture authored space in relation to articulations of community by providing a shared sense of collective identity.

Sheila Whiteley

Music is a lot more than just performing, as every creation and performances are in a way representations of human emotions in different contexts, which then become signatures, time machines, and inspire people beyond borders and time, even more so now with the internet. Music connects people, and the only way to truly understand this is to learn its history.

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In an age of tight schedules and fast paced days of work, many people have learnt to see the world as a giant machine made of cogs and levers, even when it comes to music with specialists operating it, if you are not a specialist you will be seen as the one that is not doing what you are supposed to. Now this may seem over the top, however this has some truth to it. This machine changes, with each passing year every person has to apply to a different set of skills and mindset which will determine the standard or desired usefulness, to play the role that is, above anything else, safe.

There was a time when musicians filled this role, and it offered a certain stability and status, with time this has become more complex, one of this complexities come from a series of cultural movements and events which defined the way some people express themselves, but also disturbed the status as specialists in the giant machine.

Rupture

There was a rupture, academic music became its own thing and every other genre another, to put it in another way a man wore a suit and tie, and another ripped jean and a big t-shirt. This could just mean that everyone is different and there are different ways to express yourself, but there is more to it than that. While some genres like Jazz and in some degree Blues, still manage to stay in between these two forms of music, other such as rock, pop, hip hop and techno are all part of a movement that established some prejudices and labels that don’t necessarily go with them.

To know how these came to be it would be helpful to explore the origins of these genres and what is the difference between the man with the suit and tie and the man with ripped jeans and big t-shirt.

Most of these big changes occurred in the late 20th century, as people embraced the modern world, which paved the way for incredible technological advancement, and social rights, but also gave birth to large scale wars and conflicts involving those same rights.

Throughout all these changes music played a very important role. In the late 19th century and the 20th century this rupture occurred with Jazz, this became a very important moment in history not only because of the music itself as a new genre, but all it implied.

Jazz

For starters Jazz was very much black music, by black Americans that not only invented a genre, it took the best of European music and African rhythms, which made it a place of reconciliation and to be free.

While it still retained many of the complicated techniques that made classical academic music such an incredible experience, it’s as if the man with a suit and a tie, took of the tie, threw his jacket and rolled up its sleeves to just let go and improvise. This is also the boom of musical improvisation, where while there is a structure, feelings don’t, and Jazz follows this sort of mantra which would otherwise be inconceivable on an academic environment.

Rock became a thing in the 50s, going through Psychedelic music in the 70s, Punk and electronica in the 80s, and the world just blew up, leaving behind a trail of beautiful disasters, and capturing the feeling became the most important thing thus, connecting with others.

Education

This is often taken for granted in music education, as if the individual inspirations don’t matter inside of the classroom or session, once the class starts, everyone trains to be an academic music interpreter.

This may not always be the case, but it is uncommon to find an approach that inspires a student to student connection through their different points of view of music while still incorporating the theory and knowledge that forms discipline and improves the way we structure music in our heads, to perform better and compose with better understanding of music overall. It shouldn’t feel like teachers are ignoring a part of history, music is music and everyone has its own alignments and freedom to use their knowledge as they see fit, and a music class should encourage that whether it is in a classroom or online.

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AN ONGOING CONCERN for many independent music teachers is the change of commitment level of students during the summer months. While some teachers enjoy the usually lightened studio schedule during the summer months, most of us depend on our teaching as our livelihood and have bills that do not go away during this time. I would love to hear your ideas, especially those of you that have been successful at insuring yourselves regular employment year long!

ESTABLISHING A SUMMER REQUIREMENT (a minimum number of lessons, with the option of replacing some private lessons with one of the various summer workshops), has been most helpful for me in keeping things going in my studio.  Though I  cannot really make anyone take classes, the ones that do are assured their slot, or first choice of times in my schedule when the school year comes back around.  My students and parents seem to really enjoy the flexibility with having a couple of options for summer lessons and a variety of supplemental classes.   [···]

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