Music Education and the Integration of Interdisciplinary Pedagogy

I came across an awesome article from the Music Educators Journal. The article is From I to International: Toward International-Mindedness through Interdisciplinary Music Instruction. I’ll summarize the article in a sentence so you understand what it broadly is; the summary is this, “Music Educators ought to play in an essential role in the integration of interdisciplinary music pedagogy in the classroom, because of the different ways to do such and the benefits of having integrated learning” (p. 45). So that’s a pretty big sentence, but what does it mean in practice? Well, in practice it would look like this, when teaching a unit about Chinese opera the teacher should take the time to give the students an understanding of the context of the time the opera was written in (p. 49). Although this is not the only point they make in their article, I feel like that this point is the accumulation of all their ideas.

So now that I’ve summarized the article and given you one of their points, now you must be wondering what else was mentioned in this totally rad article; well, I will now tell you what else they (Alena Holmes & Sharri VanAlstine) talk about! Holmes & VanAlstine posit that Music Educators play an essential role in the development of international-mindedness (p. 45). The need for international-mindedness has been steadily rising and will continue to do so, because of how interconnected the world is and will become (p. 45). International-Mindedness is the ability to understand the background of someone’s culture and how to relate and connect to them.

However how do you facilitate the teaching of international-mindedness? Holmes & VanAlstine propose eight strategies for the integration of international-mindedness in the musical classroom. Although they may not be able to all be used at the same time, some are very closely related to another (p. 50). The eight strategies are  . . . (p. 46)

  1. Local to Global/Global to Local
  2. Contextualize Content
  3. Present Multiple Perspectives of Content
  4. Use authentic materials and practices as often as possible
  5. Learn about connections and similarities, not only differences
  6. Address multiple learning styles
  7. Integrate across curriculum
  8. Go in-depth into one culture before moving on to another
Pyotr Tchaikovsky by Nikolai Kuznetsov (1893)

Although some of them are somewhat self-explanatory and others not as much, I won’t explain each one because then you’d be reading a very long summary of this article. Instead I’ll go back to the example of interdisciplinarity pedagogy in the musical classroom. In essence, each of these eight points aim to teach students something about music and another thing. I’ll give a new example given by Holmes & VanAlstine, but use strategy three, Present Multiple Perspectives of Content (explained more on p. 48). A way to do interdisciplinary pedagogy in this context would be to talk about the widespread usage of Beriozka. Beriozka is a Russian folk dance & song, however it appears in the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 (p. 48). When teaching Beriozka, there is no longer just a close up perspective of the song such as chord function of song format such as Rondo, Binary, and Ternary; now there is a more global and wider understanding of what the song Beriozka means to the Russian people, especially Tchaikovsky.

This is a pretty condensed version of the article, however if you are interested in how Music Education can become more interdisciplinary then you should read the full article sourced in MLA 8 at the bottom. I really liked this article because I was curious how you go from Music, a field that I feel like doesn’t integrate with other fields as nicely as Psychology can. Even though I study Musical Aesthetics and Music Therapy exists, it’s extremely interesting how regular Music Education itself can be interdisciplinary with just a little of supplementary information from history.

Holmes, A., and S. VanAlstine. “From I to International: Toward International-Mindedness through Interdisciplinary Music Instruction.” Music Educators Journal, vol. 101, no. 2, Jan. 2014, pp. 45–50., doi:10.1177/0027432114556182.


7 thoughts on “Music Education and the Integration of Interdisciplinary Pedagogy”

  1. Great post, and great example of how contextualization can enhance the educational process. Reading this, it occurs to me how surprising it is that we haven’t had any Music History majors in IDS yet. This may be because it’s a challenge to align that major with grad school or career prospects, but your post just reanimates my interest in the area, and makes me realize how wonderful it would be for our historians and our musicians to have more people working at those crossroads…

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