Blogging 201 – The Future of Music Education

I’m happy to announce that I have exceeded two hundred posts!  You’re reading post #201!

I think music education is overlooking a huge opportunity in blogging, social media and other digital technologies.

Here’s a list of some jazz institutions in Canada:

These schools are centres of cultural activity; they represent excellence in jazz and are leaders in their respective communities. Jazz students need accessible heroes and educators.  In this regard, the possibilities are endless with digital technologies.  It’s time for these music institutions to take a leap forward in music education, and take advantage of the internet to influence the next generation of players.

This is what they should do:

Rethink digital presence

The above websites are all similar in that they only provide information about themselves.  They’re stuck in Web 1.0.

This could be for a number of reasons, but I think it’s safe to say that a fundamental shift has to occur with how digital technologies are perceived and utilized. The rate of giving and receiving, (a fundamental property of culture bubbles), could be exponentially higher.  But that’s not happening because there’s no educational content on these websites; that needs to change!

Lay the foundation

…that creates, supports and makes accessible a significant amount of digital content.  Actually, music institutions are content monsters; they create an enormous amount of content every day.  But they’re not digitizing it or making it accessible.

Of course, this will be a gradual process. It would be unreasonable to expect that these changes can happen overnight.  Creating a blog is a start, but I would expect it to morph into something different – something that can handle a variety of different media.

A frequently updated blog is the first step.  It’s also the biggest and most crucial; the rest will come more naturally.

Assemble the team

Producing educational content can’t be left up to one person.  The beauty of music schools is that they already have a team of musicians and faculty who are potential contributors.

However, at this point in time, most of them aren’t in the habit of producing educational content for this purpose.  This is why there has to be at least one dedicated faculty member who is responsible for organizing the team of contributors and managing the content – someone who is an educator first and an administrator/editor second.

Create and share content

The possibilities are endless; this list only took me a minute to compile:

  • Transcriptions
  • Theory lessons
  • Improv exercises
  • Analysis of tunes and transcriptions
  • Lead sheets and analysis of faculty members’ original compositions
  • Interviews – with faculty members, students and other members of the community
  • Instrument-specific content
  • Music business content
  • Aesthetical content
  • Gig listings – faculty gigs, student recitals, ensemble recitals etc.
  • Video/audio from rehearsals and workshops
  • Video/audio from faculty members’ recordings/gigs
  • Video/audio student ensemble recordings/gigs

Cultivate a community

All of this inherent giving and receiving is key to a healthy and thriving community. As I said, jazz students need accessible heroes and educators. Heroes and educators need students to share their experiences with.  This gives everyone that opportunity.

Keep in mind that I don’t use “jazz students” to mean the student body at a specific music school.  I intend for it to include everyone from the inexperienced, keen high school student playing in a bigband, to the experienced professional who may be interested in advanced theoretical techniques, big picture ideas or what their colleagues are interested in.

All of these music schools are competing for the country’s best students.  Ironically, the best students are in their backyard; they only have to cultivate a community and support them.


Where do you go from here?

There will always be newer technologies to invest in.  Video cameras and streaming technologies come to mind.  How many music schools currently own and regularly use a video camera?

Jazz guru Charlie Banacos never met some of his students face-to-face because lessons were done through cassette correspondence.  That’s easy to do with the internet.  Why don’t more teachers and music schools do that?

I foresee all music institutions creating a full-time position exclusively for digital studies.  That’s how powerful I believe this medium can become.

Plus, when you add private instruction, jam sessions, public performances, recordings and other opportunities to the mix, you’ve really created something special.

What else?

– – – –

I already know what the music schools are going to say: There isn’t any time, money, personnel or interest to invest in this kind of endeavor.

Well, I have good news:

  • Upkeep doesn’t require much time or effort.
  • Blogging is free.  In fact, most of this can be done without spending a penny.
  • Music schools already have a team of staff, faculty and students who can help and contribute.
  • This endeavor is in everyone’s best interest!

The future of jazz is in education; everything mentioned here would be a step in that direction.

Who will lead the way?

Leave a Reply