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Re: music in the classroom

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From: Larry Seiler (lseiler_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Fri Feb 15 2002 - 05:21:59 PST


>No lyrics allowed. No exceptions.
> Sometimes they bring in something to try--usually a
> soundtrack they like.

had to knod my head and chuckle when I read this...because it is tough!

Had a student bring me a fist full of cd covers yesterday, a Junior...but
obviously I did not have time to read them over. I told him to choose three
he'd be interested in hearing. Tantric, Puddle of Mud, and Adema were the
cd's. I looked up lyrics on the internet at the end of the day, or from
what was available in the cover.

I don't do it often...but, I welcome such things like this from time to time
because it leads to frank discussion about artists in culture (from visual
to performing, musicians, etc;). I bring my own perspective as a musician
and artist with personal stories to boot. It allows for discussions such as
what is it artists are about? Is our concern really that yellow and red
make orange, or is it that after we've made orange it increases our range of
expression? What is expression, is there an intended audience, and why make
the attempt to reach that audience? Are we as artists providing a service?

There was an awful lot of pain expressed in those three cd's. Of the three,
Tantric had only three songs I could not play, the others were simply all
together inappropriate.

I got the feeling that the musicians in those bands all had gone thru a
great deal of abuse in their youth growing up. One cd had parental advisory
on it. Songs that invited being chained to beds and raped, abused, etc;
that life was too painful...and that things going from bad to worse wouldn't
matter.

It bothered me to think that our generation is identifying with all this.
Bothers me that state testing doesn't take into consideration that Leandra
(ficticious) might have a mother in the hospital from a drunk father putting
her there...and that doing well on a test is farthest from her mind.

It gives me a chance to talk about hope and that the arts can be experienced
in a way that can be uplifting, encouraging, celebratory.

When I give the covers back to this young man with a typed up page analysis
of the three cd's, I know that it will impress him and the others that my 45
minutes to one hour time spent represents my having given it serious
consideration. When I explain now why I won't play it, and again put
emphasis on anything I play being understood as my approval...I know my
juniors and seniors will have more respect.

In fact, I am quite sure that this one particular young man will be quite
surprised by what I found, because I know he is more or less liking music
because of its "sound" and energy on stage. However, as an art teacher I
can ask questions like, "what kind of responsibility do artists have toward
their intended audience, or don't they have any?" or how about, "if we get
a steady diet of something this negative, this downcast, etc., might it not
have some eventual effect on the hearer?"

Our small school which has about 100 high school students, (as a reminder
for ArtsEdNet folks here), had five deaths last year....of which several
were suicides....so this is an appropriate contemplative thing to ask.

I can also now point out that my time is valuable, and that simply checking
out three cd's and finding what I suspected I would took up time I could
have been planning lessons, preparing materials...or even myself creating.
That it does take so long...underscores why it makes more sense if the
students relax, simply understand I will choose the music, and we can go
about our work.

From all the pain I read about in the lyrics, I don't think my time was
wasted on this young man or the class. One of the general suggestions in
the lyrics is that no one seems to care about them. Taking some time with
something we don't have to goes a long way to correct that thinking.

Larry

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