Popular, including Garage Band Music in High School Band Class

In an article in the Alfred Publishing’s Music Ledger Lines blog, Victor Lopez talks about how he used popular music to build his band program and then took them down the path of more serious, traditional band music.

Areas to address: 1) Define “Pop” music, and 2) Why do we struggle with this more on the band side? and 3) What is wrong with including it in a wide variety of music literature?

What IS Popular Music? Is it the music of the day, music on the radio, or what? When people like J.S. Back, Beethoven, Handel and Brahms wrote music, people went to hear it as soon as it was written. Was it “popular” music then? I say yes. And it was successful because people listened to it, which they did because they LIKED it, ….. it was POPULAR. So where do we get off with this idea that only music written long ago (and exactly how long ago is that?) is real and classical and education-worthy?

If the performer likes it ( they will join the program to play ‘fun’ stuff) and the audience likes it (and they pay the bills), then IS IT MUSIC? Can I not teach notes, key signatures, accidentals, rhythms, tone, articulation, phrasing, etc….with a piece everybody recognizes or thinks is fun?

Beginning Band students learn to play ‘pop’ or recognizable songs. They get to Middle School and entertain the crowds with recognizable music, comical music AND some serious band literature.

But then, somehow, they get to high school band and we have to use “standard” band literature. What year did “standard” music end? How far back must we go to play “traditional” band literature. When did that end? Ok, yes, some of that will always be good. But when I listen to Show Choir music I hear Broadway, Pop and Modern. Marching Band, on the other hand, often involves highly intellectual music, i.e. clap when it gets loud….but you can’t tap your foot to it.

A college professor told me just a few years ago that if public high school instrumental music did not find a way to incorporate the Garage Band musicians, that we would continue to face decline.

What say YOU?

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