In March and April of this year two articles (Music Education Needs to Be a Click Away by David Gelernter,and a response article, Real Music Education Is Much More Than a Click Away by Shannon Kelly) caught my eye.
The first article starts with a statement that most young people see music as a consumable commodity, "like toothpaste" and further, that even, putting musicians and music majors aside, Yale students just barely know who Beethoven is.
The article goes on to suggest that technology is a good way to teach music but suggests that the iTunes/Spotify mechanisms of delivery, along with poorly written and incomplete mini-printed CD covers, simply don't provide sufficient information about the composer or artists and that huge chunks of information and music is simply missing from their catalogues.
The Recommendation: using emerging technologies to create a "great music city in the cybersphere, a central market where serious music comes from all over the world; rearrange the music world" and make it easier for anyone to learn and stay. How? Well, suggestsion includes:
bundling music together (Mozart, Shubert, Beethoven),
stopping the music occasionally to ask simple music-based questions (is the key here major or minor? what instruments do you hear?)
and creating a music cyberspace (including manuscripts, printed editions, popular studies, photos, videos...)
Ultimately the goal is "to give every child a chance to attune his mind to seriously beautiful music."
The second article suggests that music education and experience requires guided and hands-on curriculum study in a classroom with professional and trained educators.
And while Ms. Kelly agrees that "it would be foolhardy to quibble with the author’s (David Gelernter) argument," students require more. They need exposure to music that includes creating, performing and responding, which can only happen through the work of a dedicated music teacher.
Based on my own experiences in both elementary education and private music lessons, I can see both sides of the discussion. Children learn and thrive through a variety of experiences. Some need a hands-on personal touch and for some technology wins the day.
All-in-all I believe that having a well-rounded cyber music library, in tandem with the personal touch of a dedicated and passionate teacher, would be the best of both worlds.
I suppose the remaining issue is ensuring, going forward, that we have the best of both worlds to draw upon so that music continues to thrive in childhood education and experience.