My school experience was very individualistic. I wanted to do well, and I did not really know or care how others were doing. My school music experience was competitive. I wanted to be better than everyone else so I could get into the best ensembles and make all-state. I wanted to climb to the top. This reflects our capitalist society as a whole.
But what would school be like if students were invested in each other’s learning? What if a songwriting class truly worked towards collective growth? How could a teacher guide students to be invested in each other’s projects? What if they collaborated towards a common goal of creating the best possible class concert or album? Imagine a math teacher tasking thriving students to help those struggling? What would that teach? How could a teacher shape classroom behavior so that the students come to help each other without the teacher even asking?
Do music ensembles teach students to work collaboratively just because everyone is in the same room? As Randall Allsup asks, to whose ends are student musicians’ talents being put? Do directors benefit more from an impressive performance than their students? What would a music class look like if, “guided by an ethos of learning from others, rather than using others”? How can we teach our students to view each other in this way? Can we, “shift the centre of ethical gravity from an absorption which is selfish to a service which is social”? (Randall Allsup, The Moral Ends of Band)
Define your morals, then lead with those at the fore. How can you show students that every person has worth? That every person knows things you do not, and that if you could learn from them, your life would be richer?
Your ensemble is not worth more than one you perceive as worse.
Your ensemble is not worth less than one you perceive as better.
You are not worth more than someone you perceive as a worse musician.
You are not worth less than someone you perceive as better.