Post by firstname.lastname@example.org
I've been talking to several people with kids in grade school and they
were telling me there are classroom lessons for most wind instruments
except piano and guitar.
I can see why piano is excluded - schools would need too many
expensive painos and keep them tuned.
But guitar is another matter. I'm thinking it's because all the other
instruments have one basic teaching method, "classical". Guitar has
multiple methods for steal string and classical guitars, methods for
folk, popular, rock, jazz and classical, pick style, finger style folk
and classical, etc, but not one basic (accepted) way of learning the
Since there are people here who have direct experience with teaching
children, individually and in school environments, can you comment on
the reasons guitar is considered a one on one teacher/student taught
Ed and concerned readers.
Some times schools K - 12 offer guitar in the classroom.
In the K - 6 grades I've seen it offered as an after school
class. I taught such a class for children of combined grades 5 and 6
once upon a time many years ago. My approach worked and as far as the
administrator and myself were concerned it was a success. The only
drawback which hindered my continuing was the hour long drive to get
to the school, so I bowed out.
I have seen it offered in Middle School as well as High School,
but in these instances it could be called "general guitar" playing,
that is learning to accompany, learning the fundamentals of reading,
learning chords and progressions etc.
These things occurred when there was a serious interest in promoting
music in the public schools and were in fairly affluent neighborhoods
in the suburbs of the S.F. East Bay.
I can't speak authoritatively of much of the rest of the Bay Area, but
I would wager that there are such programs appearing in the South Bay
San Jose and environs since that area is very habitable for families.
Very low crime rate, higher average income, a couple of strong guitar
societies, such as the "South bay Guitar Society" and the San Jose
Flamenco Society or something along that line.
In private high schools, in the East Bay, there is a likelihood of
such classes. I believe at one Catholic High School here in Oakland,
Bishop O'Dowd high school there is a guitar teacher who teaches classes
I taught an after school guitar class and private lessons once upon
a time at a private boarding and commute prep high school in Danvile,
California named 'The Athenian School'. Very prestigious with really
energetic bright young people. I lasted two years. There was no contract,
the school collected the money and paid me at the end of the term after
taking out money for their operating costs.
I don't recall exactly what got to me, but it probably had something
to do with the effective renumeration vs the time and work spent.
So getting back to what are some of the obstacles, and some one mentioned
objections from "band teachers". There is some truth to that, since most
budgets are limited, but the real problem goes back systemically to
the teaching in college, where students are required to choose a course
direction, such as majoring in music performance or music education,
or music theory/composition or music history.
Each of these 'tracks' have their own projected futures.
Performers are the idealists. Educators are the pragmatists.
Theorists and Historians are mostly academics.
The performer goes off and quickly learns that there is a scarcity for
their performing service, especially soloists, unless they are playing
an orchestral or band instrument which can be converted to popular usage.
The Educator gets in to their job, as the "all knowing, all seeing,
all doing" musician who is the center of all learning for the young.
Here is why guitar doesn't get a foothold. The music educator mostly
has little or no knowledge of classical guitar, if they come with a
self taught background in popular styles they can combine that knowledge
into their curriculum, but if they don't they don't want their
territory subdivided into more choices which would affect their job
security. Especially if said teacher is well entrenched in their music
program and feels threatened by an "expert" performer who might
inadvertently challenge what is being taught.
I gave a demonstration to a middle school class in which everyone
had learned to hold the guitar on the right leg with the neck level
to the ground. I tried tactfully to show the difference between holding
it that way and the way we hold it, going around and making sure that
every child could hold it the way I was teaching so they could 'feel'
the distinction. Well unfortunately the effect of unintended consequences
occurred and I had just shown the poverty of what their teacher knew.
That was just the beginning, and when all was said and done, I was
hurried out of the classroom, briefly thanked and never invited back.
Heh heh. I can only hope that some of the kids were wise enough to
see the value. Mind you, I never ever criticized what their teacher
was doing. Anyway.....
So there is this systemic distrust between Educators and Performers
when Performers due to the lack of performing opportunities, attempt
to make a headway into the public school system.
'Disclaimer'. I'm sure in some communities across America there are
pockets of successful music teaching in all grade levels and that in
a few the guitar is included. After all I believe the guitar is include
as an acceptable instrument in the National String teachers Association
which tries to influence string teaching in the public schools. I just
don't know where.
Here in the East Bay, the battle lines between K - 12 public schools,
private prep high schools and the Community College Districts have
been established for well over 50 years.
Well I haven't heard of any improvement, and it could be that I'm not
up on the current situation, but to give an example, when I taught
the private students at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Ca
back in 1991-93 before losing my position to lack of funds, I had
tried to get the head of music education for the Diablo Unified
School District to be aware that DVC was now offering private instruction.
Well the head of the music dept at DVC, was not concerned enough to
contact the other administrator in fact it hadn't even occurred to him
to do so. So guess what? All the students from the local high schools
who might have benefited by going to the community college for the
first two years and then could have transferred to the State University
system were left uninformed of the opportunity.
The director of the music education programs for the School District,
never responded to my letter and had no interest in contacting DVC's
music dept head even to verify my information!
Today i believe they have reinstated the guitar's private lessons
there, but it is one of the few JC's in the State of California, which
has followed the law requiring that AA degrees in the JC programs
be on parity with the State University and the University system in order
for their transfer students to qualify as transfers. Before this edict
the JC students would arrive generally unprepared and would need an
extra two years of private instruction to make up the loss.
The legislature eventually wrote into law the means to correct this
injustice, but by in large it has been ignored and no one in power
cares to find a way to make it happen.
I remember talking to my dear friend and third teacher Jim Bertram,
20 years after graduating about this dilemma, and had mentioned to
the ombudsman for DVC, who just happened to be privately studying with
me, that there was this systemic disconnect between educational
jurisdictions. Bertram a few weeks later called and said, " I can't
believe this, so and so called and asked me if anyone from his
community college had ever inquired about the requirements for entering
CSU, Hayward, ( recently renamed CSU East Bay ). I said, "And what did
you say?" He then told me, that that was the first time anyone from
an institution below the college level had ever inquired about said
requirements. Bertram was amazed. So was I. However these things
quickly go back to the path of least resistance and I doubt seriously
anything has changed.
There you go folks. Some anecdotal information from a weary warrior
of the front lines of battle in the music field. I respect Che's
ability to not have fit in and still have had a great life with the
guitar. I have years of other stories, but times change, people change
and life goes on.
Maybe some day some where some people in public education will take
advantage of all the guitar offers for musical growth and appreciation.