For The Music Teacher’s Bookshelf

Graham Strahle
| February 27, 2019

Two new publications earn their place on every secondary school music teacher’s bookshelf, and we survey them briefly here.

The first, from Routledge and published last year, is World Music Pedagogy, Volume III: Secondary School Innovations. Rather than presenting ready-made lesson plans, it provides a range of teaching scenarios that explore in a very practical way musical traditions across a range of cultures.

Co-authored by Karen Howard of University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, and Jamey Kelley from the University of North Texas, this book is aimed at students from age 13 upwards and is intended as “a tool to help middle and high school teachers to think globally in the music classroom”. For teachers, it aims to provide ways of enabling students “to think critically about the world around them”.

West African drumming, African American singing, traditional Chinese music, and music from Morocco, Western Samoa, and Scotland are covered in detail. There is also a lot on composing, improvising and technology. The book is philosophically strong and brave in how it tackles a range of cultural issues head-on. For a country as ethnically diverse as Australia, it could hold particular value in our schools.

Just a note of caution though, on the term ‘world music’. This is now viewed by some commentators as outdated, culturally messy and even offensive in the way it rather crudely lumps together music of non-Western traditions. See an earlier article we have published on this.

Also published last year is Music and Music Education in People’s Lives, Oxford Handbook of Music Education, Vol 1 from Oxford University Press in an updated edition. This was a major text when it first came out in 2012, because it broadened considerably the viewpoint about where and how music can be learned. Up until then only school classrooms and studio teaching had been considered as the focus of music education, but with this book a whole range of other social contexts entered the picture. They include community settings (take choirs for instance), the domestic environment of music-making amongst family and friends, through to even “travelling in a car, walking through a shopping mall, watching a television advert, or playing with a toy”. All these contexts are of equal significance, suggest the editors Gary McPherson and Graham Welch, “in the sense that our myriad sonic experiences accumulate from the earliest months of life to foster our facility for making sense of the sound worlds in which we live”.

Music and Music Education in People’s Lives has a particular Australian significance because several of its 42 contributors come from this country. McPherson is Ormond Professor and Director of the Melbourne Conservatorium, and other local writers are James Renwick, Richard Letts, Andrew J. Martin, Katrina McFerran and Bradley Merrick. It is an expensive book but well recommended.

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