By Victor López,
Belwin Concert Band Arranger
As educators, band directors certainly understand know the importance of music education and its positive effect on students. However, when teaching popular music, some do not realize its importance and the positive effects on students’ experiences in music education
Over the past 40 years, American popular music has consistently demonstrated great variety, originality and evolution. However, while the music has evolved widely, the same cannot be said for American music education. The issue is that in the classrooms, specifically in band rooms, we have not been inclusive of all types of music; teaching and programming popular music.
I must admit that when I first started teaching band, due to a unique situation at the school, I used pop tunes and film music to lure students into the band program and eventually to classical repertoire. I treated it as if I were feeding a baby. I would feed the students the music they liked and then slowly introduce them to more serious literature, in no particular order. I knew that each student was special and that each would assimilate and relate to the music learned in their own particular way. This process worked somewhat as I was able to build the program rapidly. Nevertheless, it was not a proper way to introduce popular music overall.
Popular music has its own merit. Perhaps more importantly, music in itself tends not to operate in isolation. Often, it involves an entire worldview and lifestyle associated with different cultures and subcultures. Therefore, we must be inclusive of all kinds of music. We must not forget that in order to provide meaningful and motivating connections between students and ensembles, band directors must realize that students’ prior experiences profoundly affect learning.
Given that band directors always strive to educate both the students and audiences, a concert program where most of the audience cannot identify with the music performed will leave the attendees with an empty feeling. Whether we like it or not, we have to admit that the nature of the beast, to a certain extent, is to entertain. Having said that, do yourself a favor and make certain that you include quality popular music at your next concert. You’ll be glad you did.