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Commentary

  • MAC Corner: Action Items

    Mike Lawson | July 25, 2013

    By Marcia Neel

     

    Strategies for the Instrumental Music Teacher from the Music Achievement Council.

    It's been a few weeks since the end of the 2012-13 school year and if you are like most, thoughts of the upcoming 2013-14 school year have already begun wafting into your consciousness. Questions like, "How might I do things better next year?" will grow louder and louder in your "self talk," as Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser has so perfectly labeled it.

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  • Plotting a Course for Professional Development

    Mike Lawson | July 18, 2013

    by Matt Parish

     

    From online distance learning to major clinics and graduate coursework, there are plenty of options for a music teacher seeking professional development.

    A music teacher's education is never over. In fact, as technology continues to evolve at an increasingly faster clip and education standards play a growing role in curricula, it's more important than ever for educators to stay engaged with programs designed to keep methods and knowledge up to date. With shrinking arts budgets in school districts across the country, though, the onus is shifting more toward individual teachers to make the most of the professional development options available to them.

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  • From the Trenches: Why Not Focus on Positive Trends?

    Mike Lawson | June 21, 2013

    As the 2012/2013 school year comes to a close and plans for the upcoming year begin to take shape, this is a good time to evaluate where we are, the condition of our programs, our prospects for a new year, and ways we may work to improve our programs. This is also a good time to take stock of the environment in which our programs exist, the bigger picture of music education across the country.

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  • Music Law: Crimes, Cash, and Copyright

    Mike Lawson | April 4, 2013By Kevin McNamara

    The law is a funny thing. On the one hand, it serves to bring order and promote justice and civility in our society. On the other hand, written laws and regulations are often viewed as being so thick and complex as to be completely unintelligible. As music educators, we can obsess about tone, rhythmic precision, and how in the world we can get our back stand cellist to play his forward extensions in tune, but we may not care about all this legal mumbo-jumbo.

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  • Playing Host to the Afghan Youth Orchestra

    Mike Lawson | April 4, 2013

     

    By Amédée Williams

    Many musicians and music educators ponder the age-old question: How do you get to perform at Carnegie Hall? My solution may surprise you: Make a phone call to Kabul, Afghanistan.

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  • ASTA and the Future of String Education

    Mike Lawson | April 4, 2013Q&A with Bob Phillips from ASTA.

    Providence, Rhode Island was the scene of the 2013 American String Teachers Association national convention, which took place from February 27 to March 2. This annual gathering featured over 200 education sessions, star-studded performances and concerts, and a lively exhibit hall featuring over 100 string-related companies.

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  • From the Trenches: What Have You Done for ME Lately?

    Mike Lawson | March 8, 2013

     

    During the days leading up to the 2013 Grammy Awards in early February, I found myself involved in a curious and somewhat frustrating debate on a music education group on LinkedIn regarding this question: What has the Music Industry done for music education?

    The implications of this statement were clear:

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  • Guest Editorial: Personality Types

    Mike Lawson | February 14, 2013

    By Dr. David Snyder

    It is not uncommon to hear experienced directors talk about other music teachers or student teachers and say things like, "She's a natural" or "He has a wonderful teacher personality." These statements, and others like it, usually refer to particular personality characteristics that some people possess in regard to how they work with young people, their ability to be in front of others, or how well they can get others (particularly children) to follow them. But what underlying personality traits draw music students to become music teachers? Is there a way to define and identify these personality traits, so we can encourage more students with these traits to join the profession? Are there other personality types that avoid the music education field or tend to drop out of music education programs?

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  • The Rosewood Forest: Chasing an Answer

    Mike Lawson | January 11, 2013

    For those of us who are percussionists, rosewood has always been the standard of sound and quality for marimba and xylophone keyboards. For music teachers that are non-percussionists, you may not be aware of the vanishing act that has been occurring with this valuable resource. Commonly known as Honduras Rosewood, Dalbergia stevensonii is a rare and dwindling species that grows only in Central America and has been the single best choice for marimba and xylophone companies since the early days of J. C. Deagan in the late 1880s. Its amazing ability to produce a full and lush musical tone when cut and tuned is simply unmatched.

    Did you know?

    What you may not know is we are in danger of losing this wood in the future. And while research has been conducted by many marimba companies to find a worthy substitute, nothing significant has been found to date. Dalbergia stevensonii grows mainly in the tropical forests of Belize (formerly the British Honduras, hence the common name of the wood), parts of Guatemala and the very south of Mexico. Currently, the species is included in the CITES Appendix III list, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. CITES has three levels of classification for at risk or endangered species. This inclusion actually only applies to the forests of Guatemala, not Belize where most of the harvesting occurs. A decision on Belize's proposal for inclusion of the species under Appendix II will not be made until after the CITES Conference of the Parties in March 2013. Under Appendix II (a listing that would usually apply to all range states where the trees grow), international trade is still permitted but more paperwork is required to demonstrate that the wood has been sustainably sourced. The areas are dangerous to work and inspect since this area of Central America experiences a high rate of violent crime. As a result, illegal logging already takes place there.

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  • Musicology in the Ensemble Setting

    Mike Lawson | December 14, 2012By Kenneth Dale Disney

    The eighth and ninth national standards of music education call for the development of relationships between music and other disciplines, and the fostering of understanding music "in relation to history and culture." Music professionals often assume that our methods of achieving these goals are understood, but such an assumption is dangerous in the modern educational environment. Pressure for lean budgets, focus on test scores and data, and new evaluation methods that lean heavily toward traditional classroom methods have made music programs a tertiary concern for administrators, who feel pressured to meet federal and state benchmarks. The latest example, the common core curriculum, reemphasizes a universal focus on math and English skills. While this is a desirable goal, the initiative ultimately places even more accountability for growth in tested areas upon the shoulders of all teachers, including music specialists.

    Directors can turn to musicology, the study of music in a sociological, historical, or anthropological light, for help. Besides fulfilling obligations to national standards eight and nine, musicology can streamline the rehearsal. Proper and realistic planning can result in adding relevant information to the music curriculum and create evidence of a music teacher's commitment to common core standards and other school goals. This article proposes to integrate musicology into the performance setting, adding tools that bolster students' understanding of music's relationship to other subjects, especially history and language arts, in order to justify music to an increasingly wide audience of stakeholders. Importantly, this article also proposes these solutions in a way that allows ensemble directors to continue focusing on performance.

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  • From the Trenches: My Annual Holiday Gift List for Santa

    Mike Lawson | December 14, 2012

    Ho ho ho, everybody! Yes, indeed, it is that time of year. It is time to find out who has been naughty (and you know who you are!) and who has been nice, who will find a lump of coal in their stocking, and who will find something a little more pleasant. So, with the marching band season and the holiday chorus and band concerts behind you, it is time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the parade of presents!

    Dear Santa,

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  • Noise Exposures in School Music Classes and Marching Band Rehearsals

    Mike Lawson | November 15, 2012

    By Lilia Chen, MS, CIH, Scott E. Brueck, MS, CIH, and Maureen T. Niemeier, BBA   

     

    The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was recently asked to evaluate a high school band director's noise exposure during music classes and band rehearsals (see "The Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program"). The band director was concerned about hearing loss from loud noise while teaching music classes, and during band rehearsals and performances. Music classes included fifth and sixth grade band, music arts, and marching band rehearsal. Most classes had 15-30 students. The marching band had about 90 students and band rehearsal lasted 50 minutes each day. Music classes were held in the 1,700-square foot band room. The marching band rehearsed in the band room or in the 6,000-square foot cafeteria. The band director sometimes taught lessons after school which contributed to his overall noise exposure.

    Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) 

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