Winter 2020 Editor's Letter: The Transformative Power of Music
As pianists and educators, many of us excel at creating meaningful musical opportunities for students and audiences whose backgrounds are similar to our own. But, how might we serve people whose experiences are different from ours, in their own communities, in ways that enable them to participate in personal music making (or "musicking," as Christopher Small 1 calls it)? This issue of the Piano Magazine is devoted to answering that question, as we consider the transformative power of music. The articles explore the role of music in the lives of people of all ages, from diverse backgrounds, in various locations, and look at how traditionally-trained musicians are enabling people to experience music in ways that are life changing.
The articles in this issue depict intersections among music advocacy, social justice, inclusive music making, and community. Several of the authors portray going into communities that may be unfamiliar, whereas others describe leveraging the human capital in their own studios and schools to enhance opportunities for others to participate in music. The common theme of these articles is the value of human capital and how music can be a vehicle for human beings to reach their expressive and personal potential.
I'm struck that several articles highlight meeting people on their own terms and turf (speaking colloquially)—the trained musicians don't see their mission as one of promulgating the nineteenth-century conservatory model of music training; rather, these wise educators discover what the individuals need to actualize and maximize their musical potential in ways that are personally meaningful and fulfilling. Geoffrey Baker, in his carefully researched and insightful book about El Sistema in Venezuela, reminds us that assuming that classical music should play "the leading role [in music engagement programs] is an implicit and unexamined assumption." 2 Wayne Bowman notes that music education "…can harm as well as heal,…[as] intended results on one level may harm on another." 3
So, I am not suggesting that these articles provide a panacea for the world's problems or for every human interaction that we might have through music. However, I hope that some of the experiences shared and topics explored in this issue spark an idea or raise your awareness of how honoring those who participate in music activities, whatever their entry point, can transform lives. I have noticed that my own interactions with students, colleagues, and community members, in musical settings, have changed since reading and reflecting upon these articles. I know that I cannot implement many of the ideas from this issue in my own community, nor should I try to adopt them wholesale, without any consideration of how people in my community want to engage with music. Yet, I find myself more acutely aware—listening and remaining open to musical opportunities that could lie just around the corner for me and those around me.
1. Christopher Small, Music, Society, and Education (Hanover, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1996).
2. Geoffrey Baker, El Sistema: Orchestration Venezuela's Youth (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 13.
3. Wayne D. Bowman, "No One True Way: Music Education Without Redemptive Truth." In Music Education for Changing Times: Guiding Visions for Practice, edited by Thomas A. Regelski and J. Terry Gates, 3–15 (Dordrecht: Springer, 2009), 11.