Posted by: meredithbuchanan | September 22, 2009

Learning Styles and Arts Practice

I feel as though I don’t have one learning style that really outshines the others. My preferred learning style is very dependent on what it is I am learning. I have never taken any quiz or test to officially say it, but I know I need to be able to do, see, hear, or a combination of all three to be able to gain understanding. I have always used music in my own way to help me learn new things. Often I would take concepts from a science class or health class and write a little song about the unit to help me remember all I needed to know. I did a lot of song writing as a child, I think it helped me to organize my thoughts, to edit out words that don’t matter, and to be able to say things in a clear and artful way. Song writing was also a way for me to put my creativity into a form. There were obvious rules for songwriting that I intuitively understood; it wasn’t a free for all. I think I found a lot of creativity and freedom born out of the invisible guidelines. I wonder sometimes why I don’t feel as drawn to the auditory learning style, after all my specialty is music, and music is all about sound. But for me music isn’t limited to sound. When I hear a piece of music there is a strong emotional value to it. A mood is created; you can often hear the smile in someone’s voice, or the tears they are fighting back while they sing. I think this is tied to being a visual learner, needing to see the expression on someone’s face. I also play a bit of guitar, and drums. There is so much movement involved in both instruments; music is hardly limited to sound. Music is visual, through performance, sheet music, or the color of your guitar. Music is kinesthetic, through the movement of you body to the beat, the placement of your voice to match a pitch, or the tingling sensation that runs through your body when you hear something so pleasing.

The middle school grades are such an intriguing age group to work with because they are starting to form more concrete thoughts of themselves and the world around them. Their changing bodies and minds are working through a million emotions, and it’s a big benchmark in their development. Music has the ability to say clearly what we cannot with words. It can calm us, rejuvenate us, motivate us and make us joyful. When I was a junior teen, music helped me deal with more issues or feelings I had than anything or anyone else. It’s such a powerful tool for change so it excites me to be able to use music in whatever way I can in a classroom of grade seven students.

It is my first term and I have been placed in a rotary band classroom. I have 2 questions concerning arts practices and their integration into the curriculum are as follows:

1) Can students’ personal taste in music be incorporated into a concert band classroom? How can we do that? Can we learn about the elements of music through genres that appeal to a younger audience? Is this possible in a world where songs move in and out of fashion at such a rapid pace?

2) Does the music curriculum demand too much of students? How do we show students the value of practice on their instrument? Is it possible to inspire students to practice when much of their generation is used to instant gratification?



  1. That’s a lot of questions!

    1. Personal taste can certainly be incorporated in the classroom. There are plenty of assignments that can incorporate that. Simple connection: which artist that you like is most like Mozart (young-genius-kooky-prolific)? Make video-essay-song to compare.
    Also, you often find personal tastes change after years in concert band.
    2. Every curriculum is different. I focus on creating musicians (play piano, transpose, compose, be able to listen, play in all keys). I play less concert music, but we play it better.
    3. I don’t think this generation is more used to instant gratification. But—I cant think of any discipline that creates more instant feedback–thus gratification. People who practice a lot do so because they sound good and they like sounding good. Its your job to get them to sound good.

    I suggest following the musiced chat on twitter on Monday nights.

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