Issues emerging from Richard Gill’s TEDxSYDNEY talk

A summary of the issues, as compared to the exploration of the talk itself.

1. The need for a definition of ‘properly taught music’ if this is to be put forward as a “right of every child in every circumstance”.

Richard Gill gave anecdotal examples of music education experiences he has facilitated, but his talk did not outline what he believed ‘properly taught music’ would look like in the classrooms of the future. Does it involve individualised instrumental tuition for every student? Does it involve every child in Australia learning to read music notation? Does it involve students developing a social understanding of music, studying it as another ‘text’ that is presented to them in 21st century life? And Richard Gill was keen on singing – how does that fit in? Is group performance important for every child too? And what about composing music and writing songs?

2. An urgent need to recognise that asserting the intrinsic meaningless of music is not a winning strategy for music education advocacy. 

I can’t really figure out why it was popular to assert that music didn’t mean anything, but really, people, we know music communicates emotional meaning and identity meaning as well as changing our perception of time. And that’s why it’s good to learn and to learn about!

3. The need for music educators to understand how music works as a meaning-making process.

If music teachers have no awareness of music as an act of communication then it is unlikely that they will be providing particularly insightful music education. This really is a litmus test for all music teachers – if you don’t understand that music is for communication then get out of the profession.

4. The need for music educators to recognise the depth and breadth of musical experience that students bring into the classroom prior to formal music classes.

This, rather than thinking that “the child’s first aural experience” takes place in the classroom. The classroom is the extension of the child’s experience, not the other way around.

5. The need for music educators to mobilise and facilitate the transformative power of music in the lives of every student.

Music classes that don’t have as their foundation this transformative power of music are merely babysitting sessions, not music education. Music education should always be creating opportunities for students to understand themselves, their communities and their world a little better.

Are there other issues that struck you while watching Richard Gill’s TEDxSYDNEY talk?

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