Music Education Research

May 12, 2009

Comprehensive Music Education, 40 years later….

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rick Dammers @ 8:14 pm

Reimer, B. (2007). Comprehensive education, comprehensive music education: A new vision. Music Education Research International. 1(1).Retrieved May 9, 2009 from

Bennett Reimer addresses the ongoing need for a more comprehensive approach to music education. He begins with a brief history of the CMP movement, and the conclusion (which I share) that we haven’t come very far. As I have reflected on this failure, I remember a conversation with Eunice Boardman, in which she pondered whether this was a result of the  movement not having a specific methodology. I tend to think that it is, but I wonder more broadly if the problem isn’t the lack of a community of practice that flourishes in the school setting. (The Wisconsin CMP project would be a contrasting but supporting example, where progress as been made through the establishment of a community of teachers). I think the issues are also structural. Performing ensembles, by nature, are not fertile ground for comprehensive, constructivist learning. The student to teacher ratio, interactions of sounds in the learning space, and performance expectations are just a few factors that limit the inclusion of many of the national standards.

As Dr. Reimer notes, there is much good in our performance-based ensembles. While we need to continue to work to make these ensembles more comprehensive, I think the past 40 years indicate that we should have modest expectations. Instead, our focus should be to create a community of practice that can mirror the resiliency of our performance ensembles and stand along side them. I am becoming increasingly convinced that technology-based music classes can (and are) becoming the focus point for this movement. While we are just starting (much like the band movement in the 1930s- see previous post on Joseph Maddy), it seems that this movement is already underway.  A potential anchor point for these classes could be Dr. Reimer’s definition of intelligence: “Intelligence consists of the ability to make increasingly acute discriminations, as related to increasingly wide connections, in contexts provided by culturally devised role expectations.” (p.5)


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