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Elliott, David J. Music Education as/for Artistic Citizenship.

Music Educators Journal, 2012,

21-27.

Music Education as/for Artistic Citizenship

According to this article, music educators need to look for the why we teach music

instead of just the how. While music teachers are commonly taught to see music as a subject

that stands alone and does not depend on other areas for validation, this reaches beyond the

defense of music as a subject. The reasons for teaching music are numerous, but teachers need to

look at how their teaching can benefit society as a whole. Music cannot exist in a vacuum, but

must be connected to the social issues and movements of the world around us. Elliot argues for

what he calls praxial music education. Praxial music education looks at participation in music as

a part of the traditional and the ever-changing musical-cultural values of musical pieces and

processes (22). By taking part in a music class, student should be interacting with these values.

A students participation should be a positive transformation of students individual and

community lives (22). This means that taking part in a music class should both induct students

into musical culture and shape their world view in a constructive way.

Elliot also advocates for what he calls artistic citizenship (22-23). By this, Elliot means

that musicians are members of several different groups. They are citizens of the world, their

country, community, and school. They are also citizens of the musical world. We have a duty to

use our musicianship to better the groups that we are citizens of. In schools, this might mean

teaching music that brings awareness to the LGBT community. Elliot gives the example of

playing pieces written by LGBT composers. Another example was a choir that brought
Protestant and Catholic youths together to sing about peace after a car bombing in Ireland.

Artistic citizenship means using music to better the world.

At first, this article struck me as quite odd. While I strongly agree that music classes

should teach students to be good people, it seemed strange to see it in writing. In light of the

recent shooting, this article makes much more sense to me. Band teachers have a unique

opportunity to influence the lives of their students. In many small schools, those teachers see the

same students from fifth through twelfth grade. For seven years, a student may study under the

same band teacher. If all the teacher passes on to that student during that time is notes and

rhythms, they have failed the student. It is not enough to teach students how to play their

instruments and how to comprehend, discuss, practice, and listen to music. The music that we

play in our ensembles must have deeper meaning. For example, there is a wide variety of music

that was written during the Holocaust. If a band is playing one of those pieces, the teacher needs

to discuss the origins of the piece with the students. They should understand the tension and

horrors of the time that led to the emotions that the composer sought to convey. This will

heighten their understanding of the music, but it will also help them to comprehend what was

happening to humanity at the time. A similar effect can happen when studying music by LGBT

composers, or performing music from the Apartheid. Students absolutely need to be fluent in

how they discuss music, but they also need to learn about how music interacts with the world

around them. Through learning how music affects, and is affected by, the world around them,

students should learn to become better world citizens.