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Explore Nontraditional Music Programs

Be more inclusive and engage more students with nontraditional programs like mariachi, taiko, ukulele and more.

Like most secondary music educators, your teaching credential probably allows you to teach K-12 music — anything from elementary classroom music to high school band.

We each have our specialties, but many secondary instrumental educators have found success and great personal satisfaction by learning about and providing more comprehensive and inclusive music-making opportunities.

Three Ways to Engage Students

Larry Livingston, chair of the conducting department at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, speaks fervently about his trio of recommendations that allow for the awakening, engaging and challenging of even more students in our incredible, life-changing art form.

1. Broaden the base

2. Teach so that students will be able to continue to enjoy music-making without us

3. Acknowledge and honor ALL music

Be More Comprehensive

In serving our school populations most efficiently, Livingston recommends considering the following when developing a more comprehensive music program.

1. Do our programs reflect our demographic?

2. Are we maximizing the kids and music relationship?

3. Is it OK to demythologize classical music?

The traditional approach to school-based, music-making requires students who want to be musicians to play a traditional instrument in a traditional ensemble. But this may not be as powerful as a new school of thought—give students the opportunity to explore the power of music in their lives.

The music education experience should instill students with passion and provide them with the power for music-making that will encourage them to continue their experiences well after they leave our ensembles–no matter what the genre.

Mariachi Success

One example that addresses all of the above is evidenced by the growing popularity of mariachi programs. Schools with a large Latino demographic have found great success in engaging students, parents and local communities by implementing standards-based, traditional mariachi programs. Students are not only participating in school-based mariachi programs, but they have also begun to form their own ensembles outside of the school day within the community. Monaco Middle School in Las Vegas, has a successful program that serves almost 600 students.

More Success Stories

Other examples of successful programs that are gaining traction by introducing more students to the joy of music-making are listed below.

World Drumming at North Attleborough (Massachusetts) High School

Taiko Drumming at Crespi Carmelite (California) High School

Music Technology at Huntington Beach (California) High School

Hip Hop at Clark Street (Wisconsin) Community School

Ukulele with the Langley Ukulele Association in British Columbia

Enrollment is overflowing in classes like those listed above. Through these types of experiences, even more students are discovering the life-fulfilling joy that music-making provides — no matter the genre.

This article originally appeared in the 2017 V2 issue of Yamaha SupportED. To see more back issues, find out about Yamaha resources for music educators, or sign up to be notified when the next issue is available, click here.

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