Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Entertainment: Why is it not part of the school music curriculum?

I teach middle school choir in a Midwestern suburban school district in a very conservative area of the country.

If there is one thing my choirs do better than most, it's that they ENTERTAIN!  Why?  Because we ROCK!  And, we MOVE!

Parents, have you ever been to a school choir concert where you were not entertained?  Have you ever thought, "shouldn't this be fun and uplifting?  Shouldn't this be entertaining?"  If you've ever wondered why a school concert wasn't entertaining, I'll tell you why.

It's because there is absolutely no mention of the word Entertainment in any of the state music benchmarks or curricula.  If there are parts of the country that have entertainment as an included element, I am not aware of them.  I've been to choir concerts where the audience was forced to watch the director rearrange chairs on stage during the concert.  In the Entertainment Industry, this is called "Dead Air," and is one of the most embarrassing things for any entertainer.  In the TV or Radio industries, if you are the cause of Dead Air, it can cost you your job!

At the time of this writing (August of 2019) the Detroit Youth Chorus is in the semifinals of the TV show, America's Got Talent.  The DYC is a choir that is inspirational to the kids in my choir program becasue they perform similar music while utilizing similar choreography.  The music is mostly Pop, Rock and R&B (Contemporary Commercial Music).

I can pretty confidently state that the majority of school choir directors are, sadly, not fans of this awesomely energetic performing group.  Why, you ask?  Because they are not singing in the great Western European canon of choral music tradition.  They're signing modern music in the way it is supposed to be sung; with bright vowels.  Something that is generally discouraged in Classical Music and all traditional Choral Music. This choir, who is one vote away from the FINALS on a hugely successful American TV show, would likely not receive a First Division rating at an adjudicated Choral Festival event in Michigan (the state in which I also teach)!

Statistics show that within the next few years, the population of white students in the K-12 education system in the US will fall below 50% for the first time in the history of this country.  To think that it's still acceptable to only utilize the Western European choral tradition as the standard by which choral music is taught and evaluated is patently wrong and horribly outdated.  It's doing a cultural disservice to the (soon to be) majority of our students!

Additionally, studies now show that greater than 80% of all paying gigs (jobs) for singers are those singing CCM (pop/rock/R&B) styles. Yet, 90% (or more) of the Universities in the US only offer Classical/Opera or Jazz as options for voice majors.

It's time the US moved into the 21st Century in the area of Choral and Vocal Music Education!  The number of voice majors at the university level has dropped significantly in the last ten years.  We need to modernize our practices or our field risks going the way of the Dodo bird!

In an added attempt to not be misleading, I feel I need to state the following:  I am NOT a proponent of only having school music groups perform Pop/Rock or modern, contemporary sounding music.  If the above comments have anyone thinking that is my stance, it is not.