The article “D96 officials wary of loan to write music honoring teacher” (News, Dec. 2) magnifies the disconnect between what people believe happens in a music classroom and what actually happens in a music classroom.

Music classes are not the same today as they were in the recent past, when most adults reading this were in school. It’s no longer sufficient (nor was it really ever) for a music teacher to stand on their podium and dictate how students should perform music, stifling students engagement in the creative process. 

This old delivery of music education was modeled after how professional ensembles rehearse. At this level, it is appropriate to have directors making musical decisions for an ensemble, just as Maestro Muti does for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 

However, translated to an educational setting that we all have encountered, this would be the equivalent to an English teacher standing in front of their students and telling them how to read and sound decent when reading aloud, but never teaching students how to extract meaning from what they are reading, let alone allow students to construct their own thoughts and write a paper. 

Simply put, it is no longer the primary purpose of a school music ensemble to simply put on a concert. 

The primary focus of music education is to learn from music. There are many, many benefits to an education complete with music that are now equally accessible to all students through modern music education. 

In our communities’ music classrooms right now, students are actively engaged in the creative process. This includes activities in composition, making critical decisions on the interpretation of music during rehearsals, critical analysis of music as performed by themselves and others, and studying the effects the music they create has on the world around them. 

It is with this new model of music education in mind, as outlined in the National Core Arts Standards which were adopted just this past summer, that this commission honoring Mrs. Gill makes perfect sense. 

Middle schools all over the country commission pieces like this to engage their students in conversations with established composers. The composers schedule time to talk directly with our students about their career in music, and specifically about the music that is being created for them. 

And that’s the biggest misunderstanding in this issue. As much as this piece will honor the career of Mrs. Gill with a dedication note at the top of the music, this is really about the students of District 96.

The music faculty in District 96 are doing a fabulous job educating their students. Mrs. Gill has done a fantastic job throughout her career to build an excellent string program. Mr. Colombo has built a wonderful band program aided by Mr. Meyers, and Ms. Lynch has an outstanding choir program. 

I applaud their efforts to honor Mrs. Gill while offering a rich learning experience for their students as part of a comprehensive music curriculum.

James Baum, music teacher

Riverside-Brookfield High School

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