Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sound Opinions: The World's Only Rock & Roll Talk Show

I consider myself to be an avid National Public Radio listener. Be it driving to work and listening to Morning Edition or lounging at home on a Friday evening taking in Ira Glass' stories of This American Life, National Public Radio has been my go to media source for keeping informed of the news, peoples, cultures, and stories that inhabit the world around me.

I must, however, admit that I am partial to the shows that Chicago Public Radio produces because (1) I am a born and raised Chicagoan and (2) the shows, such as World View and 848, tend to reflect the diversity of interests and concerns that I, along with a great majority of Chicagoans, consider to be of great importance.

One show that has become a mainstay on my weekly "things to listen to" list is Sound Opinions. Dubbed "the world's only rock and roll talk show," this nationally syndicated NPR broadcast brings together 2 music journalists, Greg Kot, music critic for the Chicago Tribune, and Jim DeRogatis, music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, to discuss all things pertaining to popular music.

A typical hour long show covers the week in music news, reviews of new albums, interviews with special guest musicians, and a whole lot of banter between the two hosts.

Connection to Music Education....

What I have found to be pivotal in maintaining interest and excitement in my general music class is creating relevancy between musical experiences I create for the classroom and the musical experiences of my students outside of school. Making such connections I believe compel students' interests in and desires for participating in an open forum type classroom where all inquiries, answers, judgments, arguments, etcetera, of "their" music are valued and respected.

Sound Opinions can be a great educational tool.

Currently, my general music students are engaged in a Best of 2007 podcast project. They are having a blast.

I've listed some reasons why a project like this contributes positively to my students' music education:

1. They are required to choose their most favorable pieces of music from 2007.
2. They must decide on a short clip of the music they have chosen that best encapsulates the musical information they would like to share with an audience. In my opinion, this process gets at the core of why they dig the chosen music.
3. They have to research biographical information and decide on what important and engaging information to include in a very concise informative segment within a podcast.
4. They are ultimately engaging in a process of musical exploration and discovery. Isn't this what we want to teach our students? To be inquisitive consumers of music who are equipped with a backlog of experiences that will help them to better choose what they listen to and support?

I encouraged my students to listen to Sound Opinions' Best of 2007 episodes to get a taste of how professional music journalists approach their work.

If I can, as a music educator, cultivate within my students a passion for music similar to that of the hosts of Sound Opinions, I think the world will be a better place.

Take a listen to Sound Opinions via your radio dial or through the program's website and see how you might be able to incorporate ideas similar to that of the show in your own classroom.

In Final....

We should be fostering an environment in which the art of musical discourse, be it written or oral, is encouraged.

It seems many music education blog posts end with a question. So...Here's mine:

What can you do in your music classroom to foster an environment in which musical discussion or discourse is valued and used as a means for creating well versed consumers of music?

Enjoy Being...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Writing & Speaking Musically

Is there a dictionary somewhere out there that may facilitate one's ability to write and speak about music with understanding, articulation, clarity, and inclination? I'm not talking, necessarily, about a dictionary of musical terms. Terms we were forced to learn and regurgitate for music theory and history exams during our undergrad years. There are plenty of those. I'm talking about a dictionary of words that may help one to become adept at recreating a musical experience through written and/or spoken commentary.

It's pretty discouraging when your own students comment on music as if they've never done it before...Maybe they haven't. I'm sure many of you have heard the perennial descriptions of music by your students that start something like this:

It sounds kind of like....Uh....
I don't know how to describe it....
The guitar part just rocks....
I liked when....

Well...Maybe in order to combat this lack of fluency when describing music we need to go to the sources that allow us to consume and ponder articulate thought and commentary about music.

I'm talking about music journalism.

Let's start with you all, the music educators of our world. How many of you read and/or write concert or album reviews? How many of you require your students to? Well...If you do one, then do the other. If you do both, more power to you. If you haven't done either, now is the time to.

It is paramount that we, as music educators, create and implement reading and writing experiences in our classrooms that stretch our students' abilities to communicate with musical understanding and inclination.

It is our obligation to help students build a vocabulary that will allow for mature, well thought out, articulate, and eloquent written and oral communication of music commentary.

The following is one contribution towards the facilitation of such objectives or goals:

Check out our Musically Inclined Dictionary. A one stop shop that my students visit to find and/or contribute a word in the name of music commentary and discourse.

So...Why not create an online dictionary for your students? Here's what I would do....It's quite simple:

1. Go to www.pbwiki.com. Set up a pbwiki page for your class' music dictionary. It's free!!!
2. Give students the password you have chosen for access to the page so they can add words they discover to be useful in conveying music.
3. Start creating experiences that will allow your students to use this resource extensively.

I'd like to hear what other music educators are doing to facilitate the maturation of our students' abilities to comment on, in both written and oral form, music.

Enjoy Being...