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Critical Perspectives in Canadian Music Education

Edited by Carol A. Beynon & Kari K. Veblen
Subjects Music, Education
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Paperback : 9781554583669, 230 pages, March 2012
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554583874, 230 pages, September 2012


Excerpt from Critical Perspectives in Canadian Music Education edited by Carol A. Beynon and Kari K. Veblen

From the Foreword: Questioning Traditional Teaching and Learning in Canadian Music by R. Murray Schafer

I have no idea how the world should be educated. Each culture has its own targets for citizenship and develops a curriculum to meet those objectives. Those who disagree with the objectives will have a rough time in school. I spent years in school trying to get out. It seemed to me that so much of education was devoted to answering questions that no one had asked while the real questions slid by unanswered. Plato taught that there was an answer to every question. Socrates taught that there was a question to every answer, but that was something my teachers didn't seem to want to deal with. For that reason I never completed my education, but instead set out to travel the world and educate myself. Unfortunately, as Ivan Illich pointed out, the effect of universal education is to make the autodidact unemployable.

It was only after many years of travelling—first as a sailor, then as a journalist, a broadcaster, and a composer—that I began to question seriously why my life at school had been so futile. The failure of the music program concerned me in particular because I had musical talent—I played the piano and sang in a choir—and had eventually adopted music as my vocation.

When the Canadian Music Centre initiated the John Adaskin Music Program, in which composers were invited to visit schools to work with children and young people, I was one of the first to apply. After visiting several schools, I could see clearly what was missing: creativity. In art classes original paintings were produced and in literature original stories and poems were written; but the music scene was dominated by the concert band or the jazz band playing classical arrangements of music that wasn't even written in Canada, let alone within the school itself.

During this period (the 1960s), a wave of international activity was aimed at encouraging creativity in music education. The Manhattanville Music Project was active in the United States, and in England composers like John Paynter, George Self, and Peter Maxwell Davies had penetrated classrooms and were writing music both for and with young musicians. I shared their ideas and wrote a series of little books about my own experiences. The books were descriptive, not prescriptive. You can't tell people how to become creative, but you can reveal the excitement of creative activity and hope that it may encourage them to try something on their own. Allowing children to become creative does not require genius: it requires humility.

Above my desk I wrote some maxims to heel myself in line:

1. The first practical step in any educational reform is to take it.

2. In education, failures are more important than successes. There is nothing so dismal as a success story.

3. Teach on the verge of peril.

4. There are no more teachers. There is just a community of learners.

5. Do not design a philosophy of education for others. Design one for yourself. A few others may wish to share it with


6. For the five-year-old, art is life and life is art. For the six-year-old, life is life and art is art. This first year in school is

a watershed in the child's history: a trauma.

7. The old approach: Teacher has information; student has empty head. Teacher's objective: To push information into

student’s empty head. Observations: At outset teacher is a fathead; at conclusion student is a fathead.

8. A class should be an hour of a thousand discoveries. For this to happen, the teacher and the student should first

discover one another.

9. Why is it that the only people who never matriculate from their own courses are teachers?

10. Always teach provisionally: Only God knows for sure.

When I began to think about these matters in the 1970s, it seemed that a revolution was just around the corner; however, it didn't happen. Instead music education programs in Canada and the United States pioneered backward. My own work in music education moved into other countries and cultures, namely South America and Japan. In South America there was no money for music so teachers had to use their imaginations. “Tomorrow, I want each of you to bring an interesting sound to class, †I would say, and the next day a whole flood of sound and noise-makers would fill the room. This became our orchestra, and we produced free improvisations, rondos, and fugues with what we had just as easily as with violins and clarinets—better, probably, because we were unconcerned about the safety of expensive instruments.

In Japan the word for music is ongaku, and it means simply “beautiful sounds. †Everything—from the singing of birds, the splashing of water, the chirping of crickets, and conventional music—can be ongaku, and this opens the soundscape and gives our ears a completely new field to investigate.

Sometimes I think that music programs in Canada are crippled by affluence. How many times have I entered a classroom to have the proud teacher point out all the rooms' possessions: the instruments lined up against the wall, the loudspeakers, the amplifiers, and the CD players. But the problem with flutes, trumpets, and violins is that all you can do is to learn to play them, and that takes years. As a result, a very expensive music education program has been erected in the form of a triangle: the children are enrolled in the program at the base and the apex is the professional performer (or the teacher) or, in a very few cases, the genius who will make the school famous.

“Show Uncle Murray your flute, †my brother's wife said to her daughter, just entering high school. She brought it out and took it out of the box.

“Can you play it?†I asked.

“Not yet. †And she left the music program a year later.

Too many parents and students have been fooled into believing that if it looks expensive, the music program must be good. And those who don't learn to master those expensive tools will slip down to the category of consumers who simply help the recording industries get richer. That, I think, is the problem music education faces in Canada today.

Can we learn to do more with less? I think so, and there are many people in various countries who are demonstrating how this might be accomplished. The examinations of new approaches to music education in this very book illustrate this potential for change.

In one of my pieces for young players (Minimusic), I included the line: “MUSIC IS NOT TO BE LISTENED TO. MUSIC IS LISTENING TO US. †That is, the perfect world is listening to the imperfect world and is inviting us to go further, delve deeper, and reach higher in creating the music of the future.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Critical Perspectives in Canadian Music Education, edited by Carol A. Beynon and Kari K. Veblen

Foreword: Questioning Traditional Teaching and Learning in Canadian Music Education | R. Murray Schafer

Preface and Acknowledgments | Carol Beynon and Kari Veblen

Chapter 1: The “Roots†of Canadian Music Education: Expanding Our Understanding | Betty Hanley

Chapter 2: Cross-Country Checkup: A Survey of Music Education in Canada’s Schools | Benjamin Bolden

Chapter 3: Canadian Music in Education: “Sounds Like Canada†| Patricia Martin Shand

Chapter 4: Manitoba’s Success Story: What Constitutes Successful Music Education in the Twenty-First Century? | Wayne D. Bowman

Chapter 5: Traditional Indigenous Knowledge: An Ethnographic Study of Its Application in the Teaching and Learning of Traditional Inuit Drum Dances in Arviat, Nunavut | Mary Piercey

Chapter 6: Looking Back at Choral Music Education in Canada: A Narrative Perspective | Carol Beynon

Chapter 7: Re-Membering Bands in North America: Gendered Paradoxes and Potentialities | Elizabeth Gould

Chapter 8: Community Music Making: Challenging the Stereotypes of Conventional Music Education | Kari Veblen

Chapter 9: Still Wary after All These Years: Popular Music and the School Music Curriculum | June Countryman

Chapter 10: E-Teaching and Learning in Music Education: A Case Study from Newfoundland and Labrador | Andrea Rose, Alex Hickey, and Andrew Mercer

Chapter 11: Focusing on Critical Practice and Insights in the Music Teacher Education Curriculum | Betty Anne Younker

Chapter 12: Marching to the World Beats: Globalization in the Context of Canadian Music Education | Carol Beynon, Kari Veblen, and David Elliott

Chapter 13: Epistemological Spinning: What Do We Really Know about Music Education in Canada? | Carol Beynon, Kari Veblen, and Anne Kinsella

About the Authors


Contributors’ Bios

Carol Beynon is Associate Vice Provost of the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and former Acting Dean of Education at the University of Western Ontario. She is the founding co-artistic director of the renowned and award-winning Amabile Boys and Men's Choirs. Her research focuses on teacher development, teacher identity, and gender issues in music education; she is the first author of the book Learning to Teach (Pearson, 2001). She is currently a co-investigator on two federally funded SSHRC funded projects in music education and singing. Carol was named the Woman of Excellence in Arts, Culture and Heritage 2007.

Benjamin Bolden, music educator and composer, is an Assistant Professor of music education at Queen's University. His research interests include the teaching and learning of composing, community music, and Web 2.0 technologies in education. As a teacher, Ben has worked with preschool, elementary, secondary, and university students in Canada, England, and Taiwan. An associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre, Ben has seen his works performed by a variety of professional and amateur performing ensembles. He is editor of the Canadian Music Educator, official journal of the Canadian Music Educators' Association/L'Association canadienne des musiciens éducateurs.

Wayne D. Bowman's work is extensively informed by pragmatism, critical theory, and conceptions of music and music education as social practices. He is particularly concerned with music's socio-political power and ethically informed understandings of musical practice. His publications include Philosophical Perspectives on Music (1998), the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Music Education (2012), numerous book chapters, and articles in prominent scholarly journals. The former editor of the journal Action, Criticism, and Theory [ACT] for Music Education, his university teaching experience includes positions at Brandon University (Manitoba), Mars Hill College (North Carolina), the University of Toronto, and New York University.

June Countryman teaches aural skills and music education courses in the Music Department at UPEI. She holds B.Mus., B.A., and B.Ed. degrees (Mount Allison), M.Mus. (UWO), and Ed.D (OISE/UT). She has lengthy experience as an elementary music teacher, a curriculum writer and program consultant, and a high school choral teacher. Her research interests include improvisation as a tool for musical growth, children's informal musicking on school playgrounds, sharing power in teaching contexts, and teacher professional development. Dr. Countryman was awarded UPEI's Hessian Award for Teaching Excellence in 2008.

David J. Elliott joined NYU in 2002 after twenty-eight years as Professor and Chair of Music Education at the University of Toronto. He has also served as a Visiting Professor of Music Education at Northwestern University, the University of North Texas, Indiana University, the University of Cape Town, and the University of Limerick. He is the author of Music Matters: A New Philosophy of Music Education (1995) and editor of Praxial Music Education: Reflections and Dialogues (2005/2009). He has published numerous journal articles and book chapters and presented more than 200 invited lectures and conference papers worldwide.

Elizabeth Gould serves as Associate Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. Her research in gender and sexuality in the context of feminisms and queer theory has been published widely, including Philosophy of Music Education Review, Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture, Educational Philosophy and Theory, and the Brazilian journal labrys: études féministes estudos feministas. She served as lead editor for the book Exploring Social Justice: How Music Education Might Matter (2009) and organized the conference musica ficta: A Conference on Engagements and Exclusions in Music, Education, and the Arts (2008).

Betty Hanley is Professor Emeritus at the University of Victoria, BC, Canada. An outstanding contributor to arts and music education in Canada, Dr. Hanley has organized symposia and conferences, written and edited books, and conducted research in music pedagogy and arts policy. She has published articles in the Canadian Music Educator, British Journal of Music Education, Arts Education Policy Review, Canadian Journal of Education, International Journal of Community Music, Journal of Music Teacher Education, and Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies. She is an honorary member of the Canadian Music Educators Association and has received its Jubilate Award.

Alex Hickey has a broad scope of experience in K-12 education and teaches part-time in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University. He has worked as a sole-charge teacher in a one-room school, as a high school art teacher, as an art and technology education coordinator at the school district level, and as a curriculum consultant at Department of Education. He is a former Director of Program Development (English and French) for the Department of Education in Newfoundland and Labrador and is currently Coordinator of the Virtual Teacher Centre, an online professional development entity for teachers. Alex is a practising visual artist with a fascination for digital technology, media education, and peering over the horizon of invisibility.

Elizabeth Anne Kinsella is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Her work draws on social science perspectives in the study of professional education and practice, with a particular focus on the health professions, epistemologies of practice, and reflexivity in professional life.

Andrew Mercer has taught music in Newfoundland and Labrador since 1994 and has been involved with Internet-based music education since 1995. In 2004 he joined the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovations, where he pioneered the practice of teaching of high school music via the Internet. His work on Internet-based music education has been featured in Canadian Music Educator, Popular Science, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Nippon TV, and elsewhere. He has presented his work on web-based music education at numerous conferences, including the 2008 ISME Conference, the MTNA National Conference, and the MENC. Andrew's most recent work explores the educational uses of such new technologies as Second Life and Apple's iPhone.

Mary Piercey is a Ph.D candidate in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her research explores how the Inuit of Arviat, Nunavut, use their musical practices to negotiate social diversity within the community in response to the massive sociocultural changes caused by resettlement in the 1950s. Ms. Piercey lived and taught music at Qitiqliq High School in Arviat, Nunavut, founding and directing the Arviat Imngitingit Community Choir, a mixed-voiced group specializing in traditional and contemporary Inuit music originating from the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. Mary now lives in Iqaluit, Nunavut, where she directs the Inuksuk Drum Dancers and teaches music at Inuksuk High School.

Andrea Rose is Professor of Music Education at the Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. Artistic Director of Festival 500 International Choral Festival and Co-Director of The Phenomenon of Singing International Symposia, Dr. Rose is active as musician, educator, lecturer, and collaborator. Her primary research interests include the development of critical pedagogy, leadership, and citizenship in music/ arts education, the nature and role of indigenous music/arts in school curricula, the development of web-based contexts for music/arts education and dialogue-based education.

R. Murray Schafer is a noted Canadian composer of interdisciplinary works performed worldwide. Author, iconoclast, and founder of soundscape ecology, R. Murray Schaefer has contributed to educational thought and practice. Murray's books The Composer in the Classroom (1965), Ear Cleaning (1967), The New Soundscape (1969), The Tuning of the World (1977), A Sound Education, and The Thinking Ear: On Music Education continue to catalyze educational thinking in Canada and elsewhere.

Patricia Martin Shand taught at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music from 1968 to 2011. She has published ten books and more than fifty articles on Canadian music in education, music curriculum, string pedagogy, and music performance. She has served on the boards of OMEA, CMEA, and ISME, and has chaired the ISME Music in Schools and Teacher Education Commission. She received the Jubilate Award of Merit for outstanding contribution to music education in Canada, and the Friends of Canadian Music Award for lifetime achievement in Canadian music scholarship.

Kari Veblen, Assistant Dean of Research, teaches cultural perspectives in music education, elementary methods, and graduate courses at the Don Wright Faculty of Music, University of Western Ontario. Musician and educator, Veblen studies international trends in Community Music. She also pursues a twenty-five-year fascination with transmission of traditional Irish/Celtic/diasporic musics. Lectures and learning have taken her worldwide.

Betty Anne Younker is Dean and Professor of Music Education of the Don Wright Faculty, University of Western Ontario. Previously, Betty Anne was Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Music Education at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include critical and creative thinking within the disciplines of music philosophy and psychology. Publications include articles in national/international journals and chapters in several books. Dr. Younker was teacher in band, choral, and general music settings in the public school system. Presently she serves on several editorial boards and committees for a variety of professional organizations.


Music education in Canada is a vast enterprise that encompasses teaching and learning in thousands of public and private schools, community groups, and colleges and universities. It involves participants from infancy to the elderly in formal and informal settings. Nevertheless, as post-secondary faculties of music and programs are growing significantly, academic books and materials grounded in a Canadian perspective are scarce. This book attempts to fill that need by offering a collection of essays that look critically at various global issues in music education from a Canadian perspective. Topics range from a discussion of the roots of music education in Canada and analysis of music education practices across the country to perspectives on popular music, distance education, technology, gender, globalization, Indigenous traditions, and community music in music education. Foreword by composer R. Murray Schafer.


``A collective work of impressive seminal scholarship, Critical Perspectives in Canadian Music Education is a unique and strongly recommended addition to academic library World Music History collections in general, and Canadian Music History in particular. ''

- Midwest Book Review

``There is plenty here to inform, challenge, and inspire even the most experienced educator! Carol Beynon and Kari Veblen are to be congratulated on compiling such a rich collection of perspectives on Canadian music education. Insights into specific historical and cultural issues are considered alongside more global aspects concerning the content and methodology of the music curriculum in the twenty-first century, making the book of interest to an international readership. The negative experience of formal education in the 1960s reported by Murray Schafer highlights the importance of asking ‘real’ questions. This book goes a long way to addressing that concern. ''

- Jonathan Stephens, Professor of Music and Music Education, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

``From the maxims of R. Murray Schafer that launch the book to the culminating epistemology of music education that brings it to a close, this insightful collection represents a landmark contribution that challenges the status quo and bridges the past, present, and future of Canadian music education. Beynon and Veblen convene a stellar group of Canada's leading researchers in music education to examine critically and prompt questions on a broad range of topics. Collectively, the authors reveal the geographical uniqueness and cultural diversity of Canadian landscapes of music education. ... An outstanding model for building a sense of shared commitment among music educators at the national level while acknowledging the diverse perspectives within regions. ''

- Marie McCarthy, School of Music, Theatre and Dance, University of Michigan

``The examination of the work of school music teachers . .. is incisive, thoughtful, and exciting. A foreword by R. Murray Schafer sets the tone, as he points out that many of the difficulties encountered in the school system cannot be solved by purchases and possessions, but will be swept aside by the excitement of creative activity. ... Passion and commitment to sharing a love for music underlies each of the essays. The authors question attitudes about popular music, Canadian music, gender roles in bands, e-teaching of music, music in non-European establishment traditions, native transmission of musical knowledge, the place of choral groups in society, the role of class and gender stereotypes in the choice of instrumental and voice options, the need for music specialists, and the tentative nature of the support given to music programs. ... The Canadian perspective comes through loud and clear in each article and is necessary to understanding the points of view presented. It also allows for the kind of attitude that will best serve young musicians. In the words of R. Murray Schafer, “Allowing children to become creative does not require genius; it requires humility. ''

- E.A. Breen, The Music Times, July-August 2012

``Anyone committed to music education would profit greatly from this book. But clearly it is a call for change and therefore must be a topic of discussion among policy makers. ''

- John J. Picone, Canadian Association of Music Libraries Review, 41, no. 3, November 2013