Is music the project itself, or is there a more project-based approach?

In the typical orchestra room, students sit in a certain formation and the conductor tells them what to do, how to play it, maybe demonstrates occasionally what it should look like. I have always thought of music and the arts as a more project based approach to learning, but in some ways it really looks the same. Especially in my 8 am orchestra class last year, when it felt like pulling teeth every time I asked a question about the music, there was something off about student engagement.

Similarly, I have often struggled with ways to implement many of the teaching strategies and technologies we have talked about this year into he music room without making it a music history or music theory lesson, that is more focused on concepts rather than performance. In the last three weeks, I’ve thought really hard about translating these wonderful project-based strategies into the performance classroom. While I know that performances are already fairly motivating and project-based, I want to take it even further. Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Students need to be in charge of defining their own sound- they need to listen to each other play, and help each other refine technique so that it sounds unified. This means having a discussion about voice, perspective, how they want to be represented….
  2. Students need to feel that their performances make a difference, that they are authentic, purposeful, and have the ability to move people deeply. Doing a recording that will be published or a radio broadcast will be more motivating than just performing for their parents.
  3. Students need to be in charge of their own assessment and evaluation. What and how will they be accounted for? I am tired of coming up with ideas for making students on time for an 8 am class- maybe they have better ideas!

There are many other little take-aways from this version of Alaska Studies that I have put in my tool box, and I have really enjoyed getting to know a new technology and negotiating the presentation of a region of Alaska with some excellent teachers.

2 thoughts on “Is music the project itself, or is there a more project-based approach?”

  1. Thank you Sophia, I love your reflection on how to apply student collaboration discuss voice, perspective, how they want to be represented. As well as the creation of an authentic audience, beyond parents.

  2. Thank you for deconstructing the misconception that just because it’s music it’s also project-based. I think giving students more choice in all of my music classes would have helped me be more engaged. I also really like your idea of creating space for more discussion about performance and sound. If my band class would have had more of that in middle school I think it would have helped me connect to other players and, in the end, be a better sounding band.

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