Bear with me; we have as much time to discuss this stuff as we want.
It has become something of a national pastime in the United States to bemoan the state of music education in the public schools. I regret, in particular, the demise of band and choral programs, programs that didn’t just teach kids how to play instruments and sing but, much more important, how to contribute (musically) to a larger community, the whole a thousand times greater than the sum of its parts.
Having said that, I do not miss – not for a moment – the sorts of “music appreciation” classes I was subjected to as a child. If my experience in the public schools of Willingboro, New Jersey in the 1960’s is in any way representative – and I suspect it was – then I would suggest in-class music appreciation did more harm than good. These sessions were inevitably taught by a well-meaning “specialist” who came in for forty-five minutes every couple of weeks, specialists for whom we – the students – reserved our most contemptuous behavior. The only enduring memory I have of these sessions (and remember, I LIKED music) goes back to sixth or seventh grade when, every time the nice lady attempting to teach us something turned her back, I shot a spit ball at her bee-hive do through a BIC pen with its innards pulled out. In this I was not alone; I would estimate that roughly 50% of the students (whatever was the percentage of males in the class) did the same thing. The fact that these teachers did not kill us where we sat was a testament to their essential goodness and sense of duty; they were on a mission to enlighten the barbarians or die trying. God knows what they found in their hair at the end of the day.
I bless them all and belatedly beg their forgiveness.
But (finally!) to the point. No matter what the state of music education in the schools is today; no matter how much money PTAs manage to raise and contribute to after school music programs; no matter what sort of classroom outreach is provided by the professional musical community, the ultimate responsibility for inculcating a respect for a wide range of music falls (as responsibility always falls) on parents.
There are people in my very own household who do not agree with me on this, and while I respect their opinions (well, sort of), I believe myself to be absolutely correct. There’s an old adage that says “parents: if you want your child to read, then read to them and let them see you reading to yourself”. The musical corollary says “parents: if you want your child to appreciate a wide variety of music, then play it for them and let them hear it while you play it for yourselves.”
So: parents, it’s up to us. I will begin putting forth my suggestions tomorrow and again, I hope that readers will contribute as well.