This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the Association for Popular Music Education National Conference, held at the Berklee College of Music in beautiful Boston. This was a really amazing conference – in addition to be incredibly well run, the organization is doing incredible work in helping to bring popular music into the classroom as an equal partner alongside all other forms of music. I firmly believe that, as educators, we need to embrace all forms of music if we hope to reach all students, and popular music can help us to reach students who might otherwise slip through the cracks. Personally, I was a teenage punk/grunge/rock guitarist and music lover long before I became a classical musician, so popular music has always been a big part of my life. I hope to continue sharing my love of both classical and non-classical music throughout my career, and APME is a great venue to do so!
At the conference, I spoke about my experiences with and strategies for introducing informal music pedagogy into the curriculum of preservice music teacher education. For the past several years, in my methods courses for preservice teachers, I have introduced Lucy Green’s work (specifically drawn from Music, Informal Learning and the School: A New Classroom Pedagogy, which is an amazing book that I think all teachers should read!), provided performance opportunities and class time for performing student-chosen music in small groups, and allowed the students the free space to explore learning this music with minimal intervention. The students express great enthusiasm for choosing their own music, and often pick popular music they love (recently, it’s been as diverse as Lady Gaga, John Mayer, and Coldplay in the same performance). In addition to expressing their enjoyment of learning this music, my students often work far beyond the course requirements to stage elaborate performances (choreography, anyone?). This enthusiasm also shows them how this approach might help them to connect with their own future students and the music they love. As a teacher-educator, I want teachers to feel comfortable incorporating authentic music learning through popular music into their classrooms – Lucy Green provides an excellent model for doing so!
I met many amazing musicians, educators, and popular music advocates at this conference, and heard some really incredible concerts – if you aren’t already a member of APME, I highly recommend becoming one!