Thanks to the Birmingham City University, I had the opportunity to attend the second day of the Music Education Expo held in London at the Barbican Centre on 21st March.
The Music Education Expo is the UK largest exhibition and professional development conference for anyone who teaches music. This year offered 54 seminars and debates for primary, secondary and instrumental music teachers to provide a supporting platform to get updated in latest technology, resources and music educational thinking, to strengthen their CVs and to implement their own network.
I had the opportunity to attend some of these debates and listened which issues are more relevants according to the operators of the educational sector. Leaving aside merely educational themes and concentrating on the economic side instead, I noticed that the central theme was the effects that technological evolution has produced and will continue to produce in music learning. The technological phenomenon has a significant extent on the proposal of new digital tools that rely on online resources, but is also affecting the musical instruments industry itself, which in recent years has started to offer new types of musical instruments to facilitate music learning, especially for children, but has also begun to modify the classical musical instruments as I will report further.
To describe this impact, I selected three debates among those I attended.
LUNCHTIME DEBATE: MUSIC EDUCATION IN TEN YEARS TIME
The debate’s panel was composed of Scott Price, secondary music teacher and MMA president; David Barnard, head of education, Roland UK; Deborah Annets, chief executive Incorporated Society of Musicians; and Alison Wolf, the author of the government-commissioned Wolf report, a review of vocational education. The discussion’s aim was to describe the path that music teaching followed during the last decade and to try to make a prediction of what could happen in the next one. One of the first items of discussion has developed around the role of technology in our lives in general and how this is affecting educational methodologies too, giving greater access to endless knowledge resources and also facilitating creativity through the use of new tools. However, there are different opinions about the relevance that technologies should cover in education. As pointed out by Barnard, it will have an important role in the future, and above all we do not know in which direction it will be pushed, since, for instance, thinking about the ‘iPad 10 years ago would have been impossible. At the same time we have to keep in mind that digital innovation must be seen as a tool to better learn and practice music, but it can’t replace the fact that music has strong affinities with the feelings and the human soul. Therefore, the challenge in this path is to create tools that can help us to develop those feelings and facilitate music knowledge sharing. However, as pointed out by Scott Price, technology is not the definitive answer to the educational needs, because the primary need is a financial one, which reflects the aim to provide an equal access to education to a high level for everybody. What is more, music education must consider the effects that technology has caused in other areas of the music business, in particular the copyright infringement issue, and that future generations of musicians need to be educated about their rights as professionals workers within the music industry.
Another point on which has been placed emphasis is the lack of importance suffered by the classical music in contemporary music education. This is a significant problem, firstly because music teachers have to ensure an education the most eclectic as possible to their students, but also stressed a lack in distributing this musical culture. This theme is intertwined itself with the necessity of innovation in teaching methods to provide a more attractive packaging particularly for the youngsters, who approach the music in completely different ways than in the past, particularly outside the classrooms.
In my opinion, this is probably the biggest need that new education methodologies should try to answer, and new technologies can help in developing new and more charming tools, but the real challenge is to find the right mix between high level tools and high level contents.
IDEAS FOR INNOVATION IN CLASSROOM MUSIC TEACHING
During this seminar, Simon Dutton the managing Director at Paritor Ltd has officially launched an innovative social network community designed for the education market: Schooble. The aim of this project is to answer to the need for improved communication between primary and secondary educators, students, parents and educational organizations. In fact, as reported by Mr Dutton, Schooble connects everyone involved in the sphere of education in a highly secure and interactive environment, allowing users to create their own unique online space. In particular, teachers can use this tool to create a career portfolio, view and support children’s work online; students can record examples or work, produce evidence of educations achievements in their own portfolio, interact with other students, access to learning materials online and finally create an e-learning passport. As regards the students point of view, this project aims to give connotations of fun to technical education. Moreover, parents can view their child’s work and catch up with teachers, and at the same time, education organizations can create their own profile to show their documents, videos, projects, teaching methods and curricula as well as inviting other “Schoobees” to join the organisation where they will automatically be updated with news posted from the organisation itself.
At the moment we can’t say if the project will succeed and if it will be an useful tool in education development, but I think this is an interesting example of how new technologies can be used to create an extensive educational environment that breaks the limits of the classroom, creating the possibility for all the actors involved in education to better interact and spread music culture.
For more informations about this project this is the website: www.schooble.com
MUSIC TECHNOLOGY SHOWCASE
This seminar exhibited two recent technological developments in music and music education, including a demonstration of how virtual music tuition is working in remote, sparsely populated areas and a long distance piano performance on Yamaha’ Disklavier.
Regarding the virtual music tuition, it’s been showed as the video conferencing technology is largely used for teaching, especially within remote areas. In this way education costs can be cut in order to ensure that all students can receive an equal education. As pointed out, this technology hasn’t been created specifically for this purpose, but both public and private teachers are using distance learning to teach music playing and the results at the moment are really enthusiastic. The central point is understanding that the virtual environment is just a tool and the good results of education depend on the quality of teaching itself. The only reported limit is the impossibility for the student and the teacher to play simultaneously, but this might be one of the technical developments to be made in the future.
The last music technology example showcased in this seminar was the Yamaha Disklavier. It consists of a normal grand piano, but has additional technological implementations: it can record performances in MIDI and above all it can reproduce it accurately! Yes, it plays alone what performers recorded and even other piano-music you want to be played! Disklaviers are already known for their educational features, can be used as compositional tools, recording improvisation and reviewing the mistakes, giving the possibility to the students or generally to performers to reflect on their own performances and transferring their works on the music scores. Further more it can be used in distance learning because it’s possible to connect Disklaviers around the world using an internet connection.
Finally, I found the whole event really interesting. It was an opportunity to give a closer look to an area of the music business that is usually not immediately perceived as such. I say this because, as a Music Industries student, I always thought only about the commercial process that is used to push a musical product and that allows an artist to be known and appreciated, but I made no considerations about the process which allows the artist to be such: music education. This area of the music industry is relevant, primarily because it plays a fundamental role in the construction of future generations of musicians, but also because is probably the leverage most directly involved in the distribution of musical culture.