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Performance vs. Education

Cathy Benedict is an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies in Music Education at New York University.

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Cathy Benedict from NYU talks about balancing performance and education from an educator's standpoint. She discusses how every person involved in music ends up as an educator at sometime in their life. She also discusses balancing the demands of being a competent performer and educator. She believes that education is also a performance venue and it is important to be comfortable in each venue.

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What’s interesting is that almost every performer will at some point in time in their life be an educator, and I think that’s what we lose sight of is that even people who become studio, who have hopes being, you know, in a major symphony orchestra, eventually end up with their own studio practice. So inevitably every person who’s involved in music ends up as an educator somewhere in their life. And I think - so that’s a way to look at it, but I think we tend to ignore.

So how is it that we can model for these people? How can studio musicians, teachers model for even their students how to be thoughtful educators. And I think that message that music education is something to fall back on is - it permeates all of society. And in fact I have many students who still come in thinking that they need to pick up this degree because it’s - they really wanna be a trumpet player. But their parents have said, “Well we need you to have something lucrative to fall back on.”

But I spend an inordinate amount of time addressing the, this - that very traditional paradigm that teaching isn’t mindful and teaching isn’t thoughtful. And I think we have to battle that because especially in elementary programs, music education seems to be you go in on Monday and you teach this activity. You go in on Tuesday and you teach that activity. And that’s a big battle. It’s, you know, how do we look at facilitating environments that aren’t just about activities and aren’t just about games and aren’t just about reading and writing music. How do we look at music education under perhaps an umbrella of social justice or something.

So the way I look at music education is often completely different how other people are looking at music education. So I have freshmen who come in and they think, you know, because they’ve self-selected into music education, they think, “Well now I just have to do my four years student teaching; I’ll be a teacher.” And then they confront this particular model that suggests that they need to critically examine the models from which they came and deconstruct those quite positively and look at “what can I do differently in the field of education,” so that it is something bigger than reading and writing and notation and perpetuating the classical paradigm, the western classical paradigm.

I think that is the particular demand of a music education program anywhere in the United States; probably anywhere in the world, is balancing the demands of how do I continue on the path of becoming a powerful and competent performer; and how do I pick up all this class work I need to pick up, which means learning how to play every brass instrument; learning how to play every woodwind instrument, and yet still finding time to practice and be the best musician that I can be. And that’s absolutely, absolutely very much a part of it, that not only do you have to be a performer on your chosen instrument, but this notion that education is also a performance venue. So you have to be comfortable in both places and not - and find the time somewhere in your schedule to continue to practice and learn all this other, the other stuff that we - that goes along with it.

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CB, Performance vs. Education.doc

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