EducationWatch: 10th AMTA Conf.

Conference provides specialized training for aspiring music therapy professionals
Laurel Fishman

The 10th Annual American Music Therapy Association Conference took place Nov. 19-23 in St. Louis and brought together an international group of dedicated professionals and students aspiring to enter the music therapy field. The convention provided specialized training for music therapy for early childhood and school-age children, and for those seeking careers in hospice, palliative care, mental health treatment, and other medical settings. In more than two dozen intensive workshops, experienced music therapists explained and demonstrated successful evidence-based protocols, interventions and strategies. The conference also offered sessions on helping special-needs children, including a session focusing on autism. Arthur Hull, a musician/percussionist considered to be the father of the community drum circle movement, led experiential sessions imparting techniques and orchestration skills, teaching attendees to lead others in rhythmic improvisation, vocals, games, and hand drumming.

The Journal Of Research In Music Education recently released "The State of Music In Secondary Schools: The Principal's Perspective," a national study examining the viewpoints of more than 500 secondary school principals representing urban, suburban, and rural middle and high schools across the United States. Besides indicating that rural schools and schools with large enrollments of students of lower socioeconomic status are least likely to offer a wide variety of music classes, the study found that 98 percent of secondary schools offer music programs but only one in three schools require students to participate. Northwestern University assistant professor of music education and study co-author Carlos R. Abril surmised that while the digital revolution has changed how youngsters acquire, listen to, and create music, secondary school music education programs have not substantially changed for 50 years. According to the study, music technology — which links student interest in computers to learning music — is offered in only one in 10 schools, and standardized tests and the No Child Left Behind Act are viewed as having the most negative impact on school music programs.

The Sorenson Legacy Foundation recently awarded Utah State University $3 million to fund an endowed arts program and an interdisciplinary endowed chair. Half of the donation will fund arts education initiatives to research and develop best practices for integrating arts education with core curriculum subjects and to develop the skills of those who teach music and the arts in elementary schools. The second $1.5 million will fund a joint-appointment endowed chair in elementary arts education to be shared by the university's Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services and the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. The position, titled the Beverley Taylor Sorenson endowed chair for elementary arts education, is named for Taylor Sorensen, a philanthropist and former teacher who has worked for the past decade to make the arts a fundamental part of Utah-based elementary school education. Taylor Sorenson developed Art Works for Kids of Utah, a model program demonstrating that the arts in elementary schools foster children's social and emotional growth and also improve comprehension of mathematics, science, reading, and writing.

The Wallace Foundation recently added several new downloadable arts education-related publications to its Web site. In addition to materials regarding education and leadership in schools, the foundation also added music and arts education advocacy-related content. Cultivating Demand For The Arts addresses how arts education plays a vital and underappreciated role in expanding participation in the arts, and also covers how the demand for music and other arts education must be strengthened if more Americans are to reap the rewards. Revitalizing Arts Education Through Community-Wide Coordination focuses on continuing urban-area efforts that counter a generation-long decline in public school arts education through the formation of coordinated networks of schools, cultural organizations, local governments, and fund-raising to work together to revive arts education.

The Guitar Center Music Foundation's December online auction offered an interesting combination of experiences for aspiring artists including the opportunity for an artist/band to be photographed by renowned rock photographer Robert Knight (with a resulting image to be displayed for 90 days on the Hollywood, Calif., Guitar Center storefront), plus a copy of Knight's coffee-table book, Rock Gods: Forty Years Of Rock Photography, a day of in-studio recording, and coverage in Spin Magazine. Knight is scheduled to participate in the GRAMMY Foundation's upcoming Music Preservation Projct event "Music In Focus" celebrating the intersection of music and photography. Funds recently raised from a pair of other auctions will be used to support music education. England's Sunbeams Music Trust, which provides therapeutic music to people with special needs and holds 100-plus live music workshops per month, recently collected $177,000 from the auction of a rare piece of Beatles memorabilia. The item was a 1911 salary register from Liverpool City Hospital containing the name and signature of scullery maid E. Rigby, and was initially sent to Sunbeams founder Annie Mawson by Paul McCartney in 1990 bearing an official McCartney tour stamp. It is presumed that this item served as inspiration for the Beatles song "Eleanor Rigby." A recent Little Kids Rock online auction was held featuring autographed drumming merchandise including drumsticks from Ringo Starr, a Sabian cymbal autographed by Phil Collins, and a DW collector's series snare drum and Pro-Marks drumsticks autographed by Neil Peart, among other items. Proceeds will advance the organization's mission to restore and revitalize music education in U.S. public schools.

(Laurel Fishman is a writer and editor specializing in entertainment media. She reports regularly for and GRAMMY magazine, and she is an advocate for the benefits of music making, music listening, music education, music therapy and music-and-the-brain research.)

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