• Perspective: GetBanded

    Mike Lawson | June 16, 2014

    In the January 2014 issue of SBO, I wrote an editorial titled “The Music Ecosystem.” The idea behind this was to take a moment to consider the many people who contribute to a healthy school music program. These include the director and school music staff, parents and boosters, private instructors, retailers and repair techs who provide and service instruments and accessories, those product manufacturers who are continually innovating in order to meet the needs of student musicians and school programs, administrators who manage funding, staffing, and scheduling, and even corporate donors and sponsors.

    Shortly after that issue was published, I found myself at the NAMM Show, the annual music products industry convention in Anaheim, California.

  • Perspective: The Cost of Music Ed

    Mike Lawson | May 19, 2014

    How much does it cost to build and maintain an excellent music program? I suspect that you would find a pretty wide range of answers depending on who you talk to, where in the country you are, and a host of other factors. Of course, the definition of an “excellent music program” is also widely up for debate.

    A proverb states that the only essential ingredients for education are a teacher, a student, and a log on which to sit. There’s some obvious, broadly applicable truth to that. In basic terms, what more is needed besides someone who can bestow knowledge, someone who will receive knowledge, and a location in which this transfer can take place? It doesn’t take much imagination to consider the vast quantity of scenarios for which this proverb holds true. What happens if we apply this simplicity to music education?

  • Commentary: El Sistema

    Mike Lawson | May 19, 2014

    Traditional Public Music Education and Innovative El Sistema Programming: Two Platforms that Share a Common Goal

    Over the past five years, since I was introduced to El Sistema and entered the field in the United States, I have continually been asked about the relationship between El Sistema-inspired work and the traditional public school music education systems. There are many elements that make El Sistema programming innovative, including the intense time commitment on the part of the student population, the integration of teaching artists in addition to trained educators, and the tapping of funding from a wide array of sources. Combining those elements with the wonderful work happening in so many school music departments can help further our common goals.

  • Perspective: Opening Doors of Opportunity

    Mike Lawson | April 16, 2014

    Studying music can lead to many exciting career possibilities

    By the time you read this, most of the high school seniors in your schools and districts will have received the much-anticipated piece of mail that will shape the course of their lives: college acceptance letters. Hopefully all of your students are on the way towards matriculating and making their academic dreams come true. Certainly, their resumes and applications have been strengthened by participation in your courses and ensembles, whether at the elementary, junior, or high school level.

    Much is made of the lifelong benefits of musical study, and for good reason, but there are also plenty of tangible benefits to consider as well. By now, you have probably heard the story of Kwasi Enin,

  • String Section: Bach

    Mike Lawson | March 17, 2014

    Bringing Bach to the Future

    A hundred years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find an orchestral concert program that did not include something by Johann Sebastian Bach. These days, I find the opposite to be true. You may hear some Bach at a student recital, but on the professional concert circuit, interest in programming Bach seems to be dissipating. More than a few classical music managers have even told me that soloists who play much Bach these days are essentially shooting themselves in the foot.

  • From the Trenches: Déjà Vu All Over Again

    Mike Lawson | March 17, 2014

    New music/arts standards will drive education for the next decade… or longer

    In March of 1994, 20 years ago this month, two of the most historically important efforts to advance music and arts education came to fruition:

    1. The codifying of the arts as a core subject with the passage and signing of the Goals 2000 Educate America Act (the Clinton Administration’s name for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that governs all of public education in this country) and,

    2. The release of the National Standards for Arts Education.

    These two events, culminating simultaneously, set the stage for the future growth, and defense of, music and arts education.

  • Perspective: A Microcosm of MIOSM

    Mike Lawson | March 12, 2014

    March has been designated as “Music In Our Schools Month” by NAfME, with the support of a host of other like-minded organizations. Some may scoff at this, as for so many teachers and students, the same could be said about every month during the school year. Is it any more meaningful than those ubiquitous, self-declared statements about the “official beverage of summer” or “official snack of hard working people”?

  • Guest Editorial: Music Ed in Crisis

    Mike Lawson | February 11, 2014

    Teachers must take control of the future of their programs

    These are trying times for music educators. Our state and local governments are suffering from severe financial shortfalls, which have resulted in severe budget cuts. The brunt of these cuts is falling on public service institutions, particularly our public schools. In some cases, funding cuts are endangering the very existence of music education programs in our schools.

  • Perspective: The Ecosystem of Music

    Mike Lawson | January 21, 2014

    Many of the readers who responded to the January 2014 survey on instrument rentals noted that the best way to ensure that beginning students end up with quality instruments and a hassle-free rental agreement is for the educators to make friends with the owners and reps of their local music store. “You provide the store with a lot of business,” writes Barbara Anastasion of Sykesville, Md. “It is a give-and-take relationship. Both parties – teachers and stores – should be working together.” This idea of a mutually beneficial partnership is one that is found throughout the music ecosystem.

  • End Note: Measuring Success

    Mike Lawson | December 16, 2013

    There are many relative measures of achievement in education. This is particularly evident in the responses supplied by those educators who participated in this year’s edition of the “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” report. When asked about their proudest moments, some directors singled out successes of an ensemble or group. Many others shared anecdotes of a single student who they helped to some remarkable or unexpected achievement.

  • Perspective: Making a Difference

    Mike Lawson | December 16, 2013

    As the year comes to a close, SBO continues its tradition of dedicating the bulk of this December issue to honoring a director in each state of the U.S. by giving these educators an opportunity to tell a small piece of their story. This year’s report is filled with inspirational anecdotes that give us pause to reflect on the amazing impact that so many directors are making on their students, programs, and communities. There appears to be a common thread that weaves throughout the music education profession from year to year, namely the ability to reach those kids who are at-risk or simply don’t have the opportunities that many others might take for granted. We’ve all heard about the tremendous successes that programs like El Sistema and others have had with children from very disadvantaged backgrounds, but this sort of salvation story happens on a widespread basis within many traditional music education programs in the U.S., too.

  • String Section: Diversity

    Mike Lawson | December 16, 2013

    Racial Diversity and the Symphony Orchestra

    I have long been intrigued by the lack of diversity in classical music, in part because I think there are a variety of reasons for it, some of which are not at all obvious. I recently had a conversation about this topic with Dr. Aaron Dworkin, the founder and president of the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization, which encourages black and Latino students to participate in classical music. I am a member of the advisory board at the Sphinx.

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