The music that we let die slowly at school

A colleague posted a photo in a group of music teachers this week that read the following proposal: “remove music”, “considering that students are not receiving the services expected since the beginning of the year” . This kind of news pisses me off. Not only because it is a concrete example of the situation of music education in Quebec, but because this example is not unique or trivial.

The infernal wheel of the musical education of our society? Let’s see.

For budgetary reasons or “to diversify the school’s offer”, the music budget is reduced. With fewer resources, teachers (however creative) have a harder time making the curriculum interesting and engaging, which can lead to student disinterest.

Students are less interested or motivated by music? So, we can surely remove some course periods to give them to “what really interests them”. And that takes time away from teachers to do interesting and mobilizing projects. It also takes time away from them by increasing the number of classes they have to manage (when it’s not the number of schools where they teach). So that means less quality time and a heavier workload.

Does music have less weight in the student’s curriculum? We can therefore recover our premises. Anyway, music can be taught anywhere, right? The overworked music teacher therefore finds himself in a shabby room (often too small and without windows), and this, when he is lucky enough to have a room. Otherwise, he must share one with the daycare service, with the library or, even better, he must walk from class to class with a trolley.

The school’s music program offers few periods for a large number of groups (and students), has few resources and has no premises? The contract that includes this music program will be unattractive to teachers and risks being accepted by less experienced teachers, who will have to juggle contracts of this type in several elementary schools. Which, in addition to the workload, will add the instability of having to deal with different environments and the difficulty of integrating into one or more school teams.

Short of teachers? The contract may not find a taker and the school may find itself without a music teacher. In high school, we will have a contract so thin that no teacher will be able to live on it.

Does the contract find a taker? Then you will have a teacher who will occupy the place while you find something better. It’s hard to build a sustainable music department and develop a taste for music in a school where students change teachers as many times (if not more) than they change grade level.

The school can’t find a music teacher because of his unenviable job? There will then be a succession of substitutes, often not trained in music, or even teachers who are not legally qualified (what a great way to get them involved in teaching). No one to provide a relevant thread for the students. No one to follow up on music learning. Only someone with whom we will “park” the students for a period so that they can experience fleeting moments of “musical activities”. (It’s cute, the movie August Rushbut not so nourishing in terms of musical education.) And the students will not be passionate about music since they will not have anyone to develop this passion at home.

Are students not receiving a quality musical education? So why keep the music? If, “for reasons of staff shortage”, we cannot provide quality music lessons, let’s cut them!

And that, dear friends, is how long-term music is killed in schools.

A music program, it talks. It feeds and it needs resources to be invested in it. It is not just a position to be filled, a time slot to be filled.

We hear more and more public figures talking about the importance of music in schools. There is no longer any evidence of the benefits of learning music. And music teachers have never been more creative in ensuring the survival of their curriculum. But when rowing alone against tides of administrative obstacles, deficient resources and a lack of vision, there are limits to the miracles that creativity and goodwill can accomplish.

What is missing is a vision for music education and a willingness to invest in realizing it.

Otherwise, music programs will continue to fall for “lack of resources”. And this, gradually, in silence and the most complete indifference.

To see in video

The music that we let die slowly at school