Questioning Authority recently checked in with David Sanford, associate professor of music, for his views on president-elect Barack Obama’s proposal for Music Corps, a program that would train professional musicians to teach for a year in public schools.
QA: President-elect Barack Obama recently proposed a Music Corps program that would put trained musicians into public schools where there is not enough money for music education. Is this a good idea?
DS: After "No Child Left Behind," I think anything that acknowledges the arts in schools is a positive thing. I think the fact that these would be working musicians might actually enhance their appeal to kids to some extent as well. For the musicians obviously it's a boon as it gives them a brief period of financial security, teaching experience, and an immeasurable contact with a young audience.
QA: Some people have suggested that being an effective music teacher takes more than just being a good musician. Do you think the program could train people sufficiently?
DS: It's definitely a step in the right direction, but I can't see it being a sufficient replacement for a trained music educator in the long run. My brother has a music education degree and has taught in the Denver area for more than 20 years, so I know the amount of work that goes into the degree, and the breadth of knowledge and understanding that it takes. From what I've read, they're talking about a summer training session, which is probably adequate if the students are finding out about the artist her/himself, and/or the music itself. I suppose it would depend on the age and level of the students too. I think it would result in some very creative teaching, which would be wonderful, but I'd hate to see music educators, who probably know a wider range of musical styles and techniques than most trained performers, left in the cold.
QA: Are there aspects of music education for children that Music Corps might do more effectively than public school music teachers?
DS: Again, I think the excitement of meeting with an established professional musician in and of itself would have a bigger impact on students who might not have been interested in music, or never considered it something that they can do.
QA: Are there musicians out there who would be enthusiastic about such a program?
DS: That I can't answer. The majority of the players whom I know well do teach in high schools and colleges. I would assume that from a solely financial standpoint any musician who normally freelances would welcome the opportunity for benefits and a salary/stipend. I would be surprised if there weren't a large number of applicants.