Archive for August, 2007

I haven’t properly posted about last semester’s Music Appreciation class, so let me now.

I was happy with it.

I taught it in reverse-chronological order and focused primarily on music after Debussy. I think teaching it in reverse was neither here nor there, but focusing on new music seemed to engage the students much more. I posted some of the topics here, and got some of the best comments I ever have in this class. Overall, it was fairly successful for a Music Appreciation class.

Now let me tell you what I really want to do.

I often begin my classes by stating “We can’t learn things from classes and books. We can only learn from meaningful experience. Classes and books only prepare us to make the most of a meaningful experience when we find or create one.” I certainly believe that Music Appreciation texts and CDs will not equal a meaningful experience.

Many Music Appreciation classes have a live concert component where students attend three concerts and write reports. I teach section of 200-300 students and find this to be a daunting administrative task. More distressing however, is that I have no way to teach the class directly about the random concerts they might attend.

But what if you could have a live concert in the class, during the class.

Well, nice if your school wants to give you thousands of dollars for your class, but fat chance. Where can we get those kinds of resources?

A text and set of CDs generally costs close to $100. What if there was a concert series that sold subscriptions for $50. What if those concerts happened in the class, during the class. What if 220 students bought $50 ticket subscriptions as their textbook?

What kind of concert series would you book with an $11,000 budget?

What if your Music Business majors handled the booking and marketing of said series as part of their Classical Music Business Class, and students could have internships running the series?

It’s happening at Millersville University. Now.

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Writing at the End of the World by Richard Miller

I’ve been reading Richard Miller’s Book about the place of humanities in education and in life. It’s a thought-provoking read for anyone working in any purely creative field, though it is written from the prospective of someone who teaches writing.

The book searches for the purpose (point?) of things like poetry, prose, and music through the lens of a handful of tragedy’s that have become part of our collective conscience: Columbine, The Unabomber, Chernobyl, 9-11. What place does something like a poem have in a world like this? Further more, what are we to teach people in our fields?

Miller gives part of his answer, or at least a reason for pursuing an answer, at the end of the preface.

“Schools currently provide extensive training in the fact that worlds end; what is missing is training in how to bring better worlds into being.”

The book is not a new-agey feel-good testament to the healing power of the written word. It is a rigorous examination of assumptions about the limits of, place of, and usefulness of creative work. It is an exercise in critical optimism.

Educators, especially those in the arts and humanities, will find many of the questions they ask themselves tackled in this well-researched, probing book.

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