Using Symbolic Interactionism in the music classroom

Educators often face the challenge of introducing students to unfamiliar material such as a scholarly article in a journal or a musical practice from a cultural or social system far removed from their own. It is difficult to help students become invested in something that doesn’t make sense or means very little to them, so educators often fall into the habit of saying things like, “This is an important concept because it’s something you need to know; it’s significant in the field you’re studying; it’s something that’s fundamental to a big idea,” — basically, “this is important because it’s important.” But if we want to convince someone of something, we need to know how and why it’s important, not just that it is important. We need to examine how we can bring students through this process of understanding what we may consider ‘important’. 

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Why Ethnomusicology (Part 1): Why music teachers benefit from ethnomusicological approaches

Explorers in the wild.

Discovering the music of other cultures.

Living among the natives.

Understanding world music.

A harmonic analysis of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.

Which do you think is the odd one out?

Many of our perceptions and impressions of music inform us that Mozart doesn’t belong on that list. These same perceptions group the first four items on the list together, and are likely to associate those items with the term ‘ethnomusicology’. It’s understandable. This is how many of us learn about music; we learn that there are different ways of approaching different ‘types’ or ‘genres’ of music. But it’s also limiting, and, in many ways, harmful. Breaking this down and understanding why is an essential aspect of the pedagogy of music, which aims to create more meaningful educational experiences for students and teachers. 

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