Monday, November 16, 2009

Tom, Dick and Someone

Just read an article, drawn to it as I was by the headlines, in The Sydney Morning Herald about classical music by someone called Tim Dick. Headlines of this nature attract attention and can make people very angry. I was not angry because, as a wise person once said, ”when we get angry we close our eyes.” I would love to be assured that it was either Aristotle or Socrates and would happily know the author of this thought.

What I deduced from the article was that Mr Dick has had a bad experience with classical music. This can happen; most people I know who play this so-called classical music have had a bad experience somewhere, sometime, somehow with music.

Nonetheless, I’d like to invite Mr Dick and his guest, to attend, as my guests, the Sydney Sinfonia’s first Discovery concert in march 2010 in which we Discover Gustav Mahler. I want to have the chance to demonstrate that classical music has the power to change lives in a positive way. I don’t want necessarily to change Mr Dick because that presumes arrogance on my part, but I want him to know the other side of the coin.

It is good to have people such as Mr Dick out there as it helps to keep us honest and think about the way we play music. While I do not agree with a single thing he said I do defend his right to say it and I hope he will take me up on my offer.

ANGER AND FRUSTATION BOILED OVER IN ME THIS WEEK SO MUCH SO THAT I WENT ON A SHOUTING RAMPAGE.

EVERYTHING I’VE SAID ABOUT ANGER I FORGOT WHEN I LEARNED THAT

A COLLEAGUE OF MINE’S DAUGHTER, A THIRD GRADER, HAD A SCHOOL CONCERT AND THE WHOLE SCHOOL PERFORMED TO A BACKING TRACK WHILE LIP-SYNCHING TO THE MUSIC OF A WELL-KNOWN POP PERSON WHO HAS BEEN LIP-SYNCHING HER WAY AROUND AUSTRALIA.

Someone’s being paid a teacher’s salary for that clap-trap, for that outrageous, unmusical, unmitigated mind destroying rubbish. Then when I calmed down a little I thought about the possible advantages of lip-synching and came up with the idea that at least the kids had to listen to something and concentrate and possibly memorise something from which some good might have come. But it is tragic to think that this is probably not an isolated example.

I will keep saying it until the governments do something about it, but we are a musically bereft nation and until every child in this country is receiving proper music instruction from a fully-qualified music teacher we will remain forever a cultural back-water. Why do some people believe that a serious music education is too hard for children? That sort of belief is a type of cringe. We say implicitly to the child: “a serious music education is too hard for you, you poor dumb little Australian mis-fit of a child, so we’ll give you some clap-trap from an imported no-talent, lack-lustre, unmusical personage so you can lip-synch?????” Tragic beyond belief.

Cultural back-waters seem to hold little interest for Mr Garrett and there are calls from him for thoughts about a new cultural policy. Great idea and thank you Mr Garrett. However, to underpin a cultural policy we need outstanding school-based education in all cultural endeavours if the country is to become serious about these matters. I can’t imagine lip-synching is high on Mr Garrett’s agenda.

12 comments:

  1. Fabulous Richard! I couldn't agree more. I'd be the first person on a plane back to Australia if the Australian govt showed some positive move toward a decent cultural education as much as they provide such a good sports education. Almost all of my conservatorium collegues have left Australia and are using their talents overseas for this very reason. Australia is a cultural back-water, and is only getting worse.

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  2. As a pre-service music teacher who is studying in Sydney and currently on placement in a primary school as part of my degree, I couldn't agree more.

    I often remember back to my own days in primary school, where our music lessons consisted of singing tired old songs accompanied by a cassette tape while following the lyrics on overhead projectors... where our musicals were the entirety of grades 3-6 on stage, literally doing nothing but standing and singing in costume to yet another cassette tape. I compare these to the exciting and fascinating materials and techniques I am being given to teach children music with, and am so saddened to finally find myself in a real classroom and to have to start from square one, no matter what grade I teach.

    When is the government going to realise how big a problem this is and how unequipped general primary school teachers are to teach music?

    I can guarantee that there will be more and more schools out there who supply children with singing along to Rihanna and Lady Gaga (yes, I've seen it myself) as their only musical experience in years to come, unless something is done soon!

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  3. Well said, Richard. Rage is fine from time to time. We seem to have been around this track so often over the last twenty years plus.

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  4. Dear Richard,
    I agree with your rage and frustration. As a fully qualified music teacher (Melb Uni)with previous experience in primary, secondary, preschool, catholic, government and private school classrooms,I see many like myself moving out of the classroom due to the lack of interest and support by the "powers that be" to give all australian children access to quality music education.I have spent the last 15 years concentrating on building instrumental teaching programs that make music accessible to students of all capabilities instead of battling the energy sapping politics in schools on the value of music lessons. Some will see that as running away from the problem of course, I prefer to suggest that I am making better use of my skills whilst still furthering the development of music education in Australia.

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  5. It is of concern though that the average age of the classical music concert goer is increasing, not decreasing, but perhaps that has something to do with ticket prices being stupidly high. In London you can see the show for as little as 5-10 pounds, here it is $40-$50

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  6. We're not just dumbing down the kids either. I remember attending Mass at St Mary's (Sydney) Cathedral a few years ago and being handed a pew sheet on arrival. I enquired as to whether there were any hymn books and was told that the words were all in said pew sheets. I then asked how we were supposed to know the tune, and was told that I would be "led" by a cantor at the front. Apparently "leading" means singing the hymn at the same time as the congregation whilst standing with one hand in the air throughout the unidentifiable hymn. If we don't give people the chance to identify with written music, how are they supposed to improve their knowledge?

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  7. Just brilliant! Spot on!

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  8. Richard - maintain the rage (Gough doesn't have the mortgage on this) -- I took my secondary kids (small singing group) to a Schools Performing Arts Festival (regional Vic) - they said - "we were the only group playing the music ourselves and not using a CD" - what a disgrace - not on the dedicated teachers who had the children beautifully costumed for their performances, but on this debacle of an education system which does not fund QUALIFIED music teachers. Gabrielle

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  9. Richard - and Music Education community - I believe we need to research the work done by our colleagues in England to secure billions of pounds worth of government funding to the same end. Our British colleagues succeeded in having these funds pumped directly into ensuring a music ed for all primary students. Let's get in contact with them and see what successful strategies they put in place.

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  10. An angry man opens his mouth and shuts his eyes.
    - Cato

    (So I'm 4 years late finding this blog... but it was relevant to that which I was seeking! Your compulsory testing post...)

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