An Arts Education Symposium
The legendary American educational philosopher Maxine Greene (b. 1917) met with Hollis Headrick (Executive Director, The Center for Arts Education), Polly Kahn (Director of Education, New York Philharmonic), Richard Kessler, and Frank J. Oteri to discuss the role new music could p[lay in arts education.
November 10, 1999
New York City
|Maxine Greene||Hollis Headrick||Polly Kahn||Richard Kessler||Frank J. Oteri|
|Professor Emeritus, Columbia University Teachers College||Executive Director, The Center for Arts Education||Director of Education, New York Philharmonic||Executive Director, American Music Center||Editor, NewMusicBox|
RICHARD KESSLER: A comment was made to me by one of the world’s most prominent composers during a conversation we had where we verged into arts education. And this great artist, who shall remain nameless, said to me that the arts education movement was about political correctness, and had very little to do with real art. And I wanted to throw this at the three of you, and to see how you would respond.
MAXINE GREENE: In its earlier days, before the partnerships, before the schools even noticed that there were arts institutions, they were closed in their own room. I don’t know if it was political correctness but I always think of it as defense against shock experiences, defense against novelties, because the job was to socialize and, so I think early art education was like that. And the art educators I know from of old, were very compliant people. Maybe they were painters at home on Sundays. But I don’t believe there’s an example of it at Teachers College now. The head of the art education department was named Ziegfeld; I think when I came he was head of the department. And the present head, found in back of the department a whole slew of boxes. And they were filled with children’s paintings, adolescent paintings that he had done in other countries. He was part of the international art education thing. And they’re hung in the gallery now. We’re having a little argument now about whether you should call them art. They’re correct, you know, and some of them are drawn very well. But you can’t find anything that makes you go: “Boy, how did he do that?” It seemed to me one of the evidences that around the world art education was used to keep kids quiet before this opening to concert halls, and to theater.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: There may be a perception that because of the different kinds of music now available and the fact that there’s so much blending and so much borrowing, and for some, appropriation, that the notion is, if we’re really going to study music, we need to either look at the classics or we need to look at contemporary music, and we need to study these pieces and understand the structure of them and we need to understand how to play them, and that’s the bottom line, in the sense of the traditional focus. So I’m not sure if that’s what he or she meant by political correctness. But I think now there’s a unique opportunity where you have so many different players in education. And I think it opens up a whole new world for students…
MAXINE GREENE: Yeah, that’s what I think.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: It’s not just about the conservatory and what, whether you think of it as classical music or as jazz, or as whatever artificial walls there are. But now there’s a range of opportunities, particularly with younger composers and performers. And kids, because the market is so segmented now for what kids hear that there are so many different opportunities, although there’s not enough opportunity, I think, for them to hear classical music and new music, particularly on the radio. But nonetheless, I think there is the sense of people who come from a traditional perspective – if they were really interested in music, they went through a band or chorus or whatever or maybe they were young composers, and then they went through a conservatory – that thinking of that training in the sense of the academy… that some of those things are not available now to kids in high schools, whether because there aren’t arts programs or music has been watered down now and it may be just music appreciation and it’s not as rigorous. So in that sense, if it is about the kind of political correctness, then one could read it that way. But I would look at it in another way, that these things all exist in a kind of balance. And there are still opportunities for regular learning that are traditional, looking at ear training and theory and all of those kinds of things: analysis that you do, and looking at the great works and whatever kind of tradition…
MAXINE GREENE: …There’s a class difference.
POLLY KAHN: Well, I agree with you. And I think it’s a retrograde point of view that assumes that what may have been true 30 years ago is still true today. And it assumes, number one, a very narrow definition of audience. You know, what I read into that is that arts education is done for the purpose of selling a ticket at full price at some point in the future and that cultural institutions and educational institutions are the same as they’ve always been. And it seems to me that one of the challenges and opportunities of arts education in the last decade or two is that number one, it has, it’s allowed cultural institutions to reinvent and redesign themselves, that I think more and more their view of audience is much larger than it’s been before, that if through education programs, the world of music opens up, if classical music becomes one of the options that’s available to people that they may not have been aware of before, that that’s an important service that a cultural institution can provide, if that leads to someone making the choice for a free parks concert or a stop on the radio dial, that that is a different definition of audience. That’s a worthy investment for a cultural institution. And that secondly, another, I think often invisible opportunity of arts education is that it reinvents the institution itself. If you think of some of the old institutions, like the Metropolitan Museum, or a New York Philharmonic, the traditional view was, we are here, we do what we do. And you can come visit us, and maybe you have a cheaper ticket entry price to do so. But the challenge of arts education has made all those institutions think about themselves very differently, and I think, increasingly, to view themselves as cultural citizens with responsibilities to the community and stronger links. So for the musician who is trained as Hollis is describing in a narrow world of people of his or her talent, going to a conservatory that is a vocational school, some of the challenges that we have is to take those people out of their history and help them learn to be involved in the society.
RICHARD KESSLER: Polly, you’re particularly on the mark about audiences, and I think that it’s a value judgement about audiences. And I think that there are artists out there and people involved in the art world who see one audience being of greater value than another. Being on the stage performing at Alice Tully Hall at an 8 o’clock concert, for a paying audience might be of greater value than making music with students in P.S. 165 or whatever school it might be. And that, I think, is part of a big question about what artists do, about the value of being a music maker no matter what the environment may be. You would make the assumption that if you’ve gone into music and you’re a professional musician or composer, or you’re an artist, you go into it one against odds that you’ll make it, and you go into it because you have a burning desire to be a creative artist, a music maker, to be a painter. But you sometimes see these artists making those judgements that well, they’re doing the school gig, but when they do the concert at the Metropolitan Opera, that’s a different story. They place a value upon that. And I find that a little disconcerting, frankly.
POLLY KAHN: Well, I think we’re also in a point of real transformation with regard to that. I mean, you’re certainly correct, certainly all the training in professional schools leads one to only value yourself as an artist. Again, a musician in training – almost their sole basis on which they judge themselves is how well they’ve mastered their instrument. And then as they’re trying to find work in the music business, it is based on that audition. Nothing else matters. But increasingly, you have artists who are making their way in the world through a diverse package of opportunities, and arts education is creating this appetite, this need for teaching artists. Part of the challenge for folks like Hollis and me is professionalizing the skills of those artists and through that, raising their value. You know, we’re making a tremendous investment in the training of artists, because we know that there are skills that they need far beyond their artistry that may never have been developed in their previous education. And to achieve the kind of standard that we want for arts education we need to make that investment. My experience is that musicians who are involved as artists feel that there is a tremendous benefit to them. That that discipline that it imposes – what is it like to communicate with people who do not necessarily know or value what you do, something they’ve never been challenged, for the most part, to ask themselves before – is a tremendous growth opportunity for them. And I think that this sensibility will begin to penetrate into the bigger institutions. In the orchestra world we’re beginning to see orchestras that are willing to make professional development opportunities in this area available, slowly, to musicians. We’re beginning to see service conversion where musicians have a package of responsibility and education is one of them that they can elect into. So that I think 20 or 30 years down the road, we may well see this as a much more valued component and an anticipated component. But we’re in that learning curve right now.
FRANK J. OTERI: You might even say that when you play that gig at the Metropolitan Opera or the New York Philharmonic or wherever and you get a good review, you’re basically preaching to the converted on some level. And even if you get a bad review, there’s still a basic understanding of what you do. But if you’re successful in the classroom, and if you develop a new audience, and if you get those people in the classroom to engage in what you’re doing… and I would even go one step beyond that, not just as audience members but to get your students interested in the possibility of being a creative or interpretive artists themselves, whether it’s through visual arts or through creative writing or through music, then you’ve really succeeded on the next level. You’ve shown that the passion can be translated beyond yourself.
MAXINE GREENE: What do you do about kids’ creativity in another domain of music? I’ve run into it with hip-hop or with rap. Kids are being creative. I was once in Taft High School , doing something very unsuccessfully with poetry… [laughter from everyone] …and as they translated Spanish, and 2 kids came up later, the kind of kids I’d be afraid of in the street, and they said, “You could help us. If you know something about poetry maybe you can help us with rap.” And I was very touched by that. You know, but it’s another mode of creativity we don’t know a lot about.
FRANK J. OTERI: The fact is that rap is poetry and it’s improvised poetry…
MAXINE GREENE: It’s creativity.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: If I were working in the schools now as a composer/performer… there’s never been a time when there are so many tools that are available in the music field. I happened to be listening to WNYC, and they were looking at electronic music, so they had some pieces on by Paul Lansky, and some others. Much of it, some was recent, but a lot of this stuff predated what people were doing in hip-hop, which is essentially electronic music, and sampling. You can go back to musique concrète , you can do a lot of things, where, all of that predates what goes on now. As a composer, you have this complete range of things that you can bring to kids to open up a whole new world.
FRANK J. OTERI: Well, that’s why I always say to people who are, you know, talk about introducing new audiences to music, why are you bothering to introduce them with Mozart or Beethoven? Play them Stockhausen‘s Gesang der Jünglinge play them John Cage, it’s closer to what they’re already hearing, it’s closer to what they already understand… or Steve Reich …
POLLY KAHN: I think that’s absolutely on the mark…I would always prefer to start with the 20th century idiom for kids, and move backwards, because that, their connection to a Haydn symphony is far more remote than, starting with Steve Reich, you know, there’s an immediate, the common language, you have the driving rhythms and pulse, the energy, often the instrumentation, which relies so more much on brass and woodwind sounds rather than string sounds…
HOLLIS HEADRICK: If you try and draw analogies to what kids know, structure, narrative, I mean, looking at Steve Reich, you could use a piece like Different Trains, you can connect that to a study of the Holocaust. You can look at how is this a piece of music. Now how is this different than a piece of, you know, rap, which includes sampling, sounds that were originally created by other creators years ago and have been imported into a current piece that’s referential of a certain time… I mean, all of these things are parallels that you can draw from.
FRANK J. OTERI: Well, the thing with rap that’s so fascinating is that if you really go in depth into rap, like serious rap listeners, you’ll find tons of references to pop culture, older R & B albums, movies, television sitcoms, even commercials. There are as many loaded references in a Public Enemy album as there are in Ulysses. They’re there. But they’re just a different set of references.
POLLY KAHN: But, then, you go to some of the challenges, too, because around the table, we would all agree. But we have two constituencies who are the agents of the information. Number one, when you’re working in the classroom, a teacher needs to be your collaborator.
FRANK J. OTERI: Right.
POLLY KAHN: Often, the teacher is far more uncomfortable starting with new music. If they’re a music lover already, they may feel we need to work, you know, we need to work from history up, or even if they have no particular experience with it, people can often be very frightened of it. So part of the challenge is to bring the adults who are in contact with the kids to a degree of receptivity and comfort with any musical experience. You know, what can we do to enable people to go in with fresh ears and a willing attitude to anything they’re going to hear and that becomes a challenge for folks like Hollis and I who design such programs. And secondly, there’s the artist who is the agent of some of that information. A part of what many of us have tried to do in our involvement in arts education is to really turn the traditional model upside down. Most of us were raised with the assumption that there are 500 facts you need to know about Beethoven before you really can understand Beethoven’s Fifth symphony. What we are tending to do is say, what is really interesting about this, you know, this piece of music or these first 4 notes that this guy wrote in this famous symphony, and how can we take something maybe with four notes, create something of our own, and through that, discover ourselves as musicians and composers, learn about Beethoven and Beethoven’s Fifth through a real organic investment in the piece. And once that has happened, then, knowing more about the life of Beethoven is something that might follow, but it is not the opening gate. And we have work to do with artists who need to approach it in a way that is completely at odds with their own training, and we need to break down some of the doors of fearfulness, if you will, that many adults carry into new music experience.
FRANK J. OTERI: Although at this point of the game, I would daresay we have a whole generation, say people who are under 40 or people who are my age and people who are younger, for whom Beethoven is as obscure a name as Bartók.
POLLY KAHN: Right.
FRANK J. OTERI: And one is no more frightening or less frightening than the other. They’re all on equal footing. So then where do you begin?
HOLLIS HEADRICK: Frank, I think you really hit on something. I think one of the things that’s the most enjoyable for teaching artists, and certainly when I went into the classroom, is that because most kids don’t know the repertoire of any particular tradition, they’re not coming with preconceived notions. Well, they know what they’ve seen on television or heard, but you can say something to them and elicit the kind of response and participation from their perspective, rather than the perspective that comes from being, or going through, training as a musician, or just being an adult and hearing things and making up your own mind. So what’s always been enjoyable to me as a teaching artist is to go in and deconstruct something and unpack it, and get back to the kind of naïve sense, which is I think maybe what Polly’s referring, not naïve in the sense that you don’t understand it, but looking at a kind of unifying idea and then from there looking at the kind of things that as a musician, you’d get to last. You always learn about the structure and the harmony and the analysis and then from there you work to the meaning of the piece. But if you look at the meaning of the piece first, which is what is ultimately communicated to the audience, and then from there, you go, then you’re able to draw people in, whether they’re adult learners or younger learners. And then you have lots of different ways of manipulating the material, rather than doing it from strictly a musical perspective.
RICHARD KESSLER: So much of this comes out of standardized forms of music appreciation and talking about music. I think that more and more things have been headed towards the direction of, at least thinking that, in order for people to truly understand it, they have to be engaged in it. We have to get to the natural state of being a music maker, the idea of people making music together, experiencing it, and then talking about it. But having that opportunity to be involved with the elements, to be involved in the most basic form of playing with sounds, the most basic form of soundscape and sound construction, and from there, beginning to learn some of the basics of an aural vocabulary: loud, soft, fast, slow, texture, invented notation. But it’s that kind of engagement, in the most rudimentary sense, that to me has always been the door you have to go through… I remember sitting in music history class at Juilliard, just bored out of my skull, because somebody was just talking about music when the last thing I wanted to do was talk about music, I really wanted to make music.
FRANK J. OTERI: After I’d played the piano for a number of years, my family said, “O.K., we’re going to have you take piano lessons.” My teacher said, “Well, your fingering is all wrong. You have to learn about the great masters, the great geniuses and their masterpieces.” I was horrified. I thought, “I don’t want to learn about them. I want to play the piano. And I don’t want to play their music – I want to play my own music.” And I think this notion of masterpieces and geniuses and wow, Mozart is so much better than all of us, we can never be like him, I think this is a really dangerous thing to tell kids. I think it discourages them from being creators themselves. I was all upset with an article in a newspaper that Richard showed me a few days ago. It was about a really interesting education program, but at the end of it…and it was probably totally innocent but it was a real flag for me… the writer said that we could never be like Mozart. I thought, well, why not? You know, I was so offended by that.
MAXINE GREENE: It’s so stupid. [laughs]
RICHARD KESSLER: Maxine, I have always seen you as one of the true leaders behind the idea of creativity in the classroom, the imagination, the power of the imagination. One of the first to really flesh it out in writing and thinking, and asking people to think about it, and demanding that people think about it. What got you there? What led you to that point? What was it, teaching…
MAXINE GREENE: That got me interested?
RICHARD KESSLER: Yeah, all of a sudden to be heading towards the place where you wanted to talk with people about this and wanted to develop and expand this and bring people into this discussion. I’d love to hear about what existed before that time.
MAXINE GREENE: I guess it’s hard to go back from now, but I think, one of the things that struck me in all the philosophy I studied, you know, was the containment, the tightness of it, and the, people binding themselves to what was empirically verifiable, nothing else had meaning. And my view of imagination is in many ways like [John] Dewey‘s. Dewey says that facts themselves are nothing unless imagination opens intellectual possibilities, or it is imagination that opens up not only alternatives, but you go beyond the little box. As you were talking before, you know, you were all kept from imagining when they taught about Mozart, you know. And one of the hopeful things about these kids is they can see possibility. Their teachers may not like it. Then I found something that contradicted all of this in such a funny way. I was listening to [Phillippe] de Montebello the other night. And you know, he’s Mr. Elitist. I was once on a tour with him, on a Red Sea tour for the Metropolitan. He was talking the other night about the Egyptian show at the Metropolitan. He was talking to the curator about what it was to discover the Middle Kingdom, and the joy, and the pleasure of opening up to things you never imagined before. He can do that. You know, I don’t want to shut that kind of mouth either. I was hoping kids would hear that. Sometimes Isaac Stern does that, makes you think, what fun, what a wonderful thing to look through these windows, you know, and not stay in your own place. And that’s part of what imagination does, all these new possibilities… and education, I notice in the education reports, in Linda Darling-Hammond‘s, they never mention it. They don’t mention it as a human capacity and I don’t know why.
RICHARD KESSLER: They can’t measure it.
MAXINE GREENE: I know. That’s the trouble. ‘Cause I give papers from the predictable to the possible. If you were going to remake education, you’d have to allow for that, and you’d have to laugh away the measurable.
RICHARD KESSLER: When I was working as a consultant for the Cleveland Orchestra I had a discussion with Pierre Boulez about orchestra education programs. And Boulez said to me that one of the difficulties with orchestras and education was that symphonic music was about memory and respect, and that children’s lives and worlds were about spontaneity and creativity, and that in order for education to be effective, somehow or another you had to find a way to bridge those two worlds.
POLLY KAHN: Very interesting. I can’t disagree. I think the challenge is to develop kids and teachers that are so invested in the excitement of making music, listening to music, that we can overcome, in a way, some of the unnatural distance of the concert hall.
POLLY KAHN: In the programs that we run in the [New York] Philharmonic, it’s very true that the most challenging moment in the program is the moment when the kids come to the concert. All the work that we can surround it with, where the kids are so invested as musicians, as players of the recorder, as composers, as reflectors, as critics, all those ways, we can create opportunities for them that are full of life and spontaneity. And then they’re asked to come into a situation where they have to set those things aside. What we try to do is make the investment in listening so palpable that they can’t wait to get to the concert because there is something for their ear to do at that moment that makes that concert tremendously important and overcomes that proscenium problem. But it takes a lot of work around it. And it’s something, certainly as, you know, someone who lives in this world, that I worry about a lot. I would also add that so often you need to go back to what a musician brings to the table. My own idiosyncratic theory is that dancers in their training, and actors in their training, are trained to please the audience. Their goal is out there, just like in the dumb way, for instance, that a ballerina is brought up. They’re taught to smile all the time – I mean, it’s very unnatural. And I think that musicians are trained to please the composer. And that when a musician and an orchestra comes out, on a certain level, they’re saying: “Did I do right by John Adams tonight? Did I do right by Mozart in my playing, and in our playing together?” And if the answer is yes, they’re satisfied. I don’t think they’re trained to say, “this music – did I contribute to making this music really reach out to the audience” And that again is part of the challenge and the training and I think it’s something that needs to be addressed, because it contributes to that distance, that perceived distance.
FRANK J. OTERI: And then with orchestral music you have the other layer of not just pleasing the composer but pleasing the conductor.
POLLY KAHN: Absolutely.
FRANK J. OTERI: And they’re facing the conductor – that’s the person that they’re looking at, not the audience. And they’re looking at their music, so it’s the text, it’s the presence of this person directing the text, and then the audience is third on the list of priorities already, within that structure.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: And also I think a lot of it has to do with just some basic issues of familiarity, in having the music in the air, so that when you come in, if you’re listening to an orchestral concert, you hear that. I mean, some of that comes through the classes, so that kids in school are prepared when they come in. But if they’re not really prepared, it’s so foreign in lots of ways. Although they’ve heard it, because it’s part of music scores for movies and television and radio, but they’re still not aware of it. It’s not prevalent in the culture or in homes like it used to be. So you have to combat that problem. And then there’s the formality of the presentation, which you don’t get in many other settings. Where, if you look at popular music, even though there’s the formality of the stage and the audience, it’s all about that interaction. You play to the audience because there’s that interaction. But with musicians, even though the greatest communicators get it across to the audience, there is still that respect, as Richard was saying, to the composer, or to the conductor or an interpretation of the particular evening or a particular piece, and it’s the time that it was written, and all of those factors…
FRANK J. OTERI: Usually… there’s this solemn disconnect playing music of the past for an audience from today. Nowadays there are some ensembles who come on stage wearing blue jeans and sneakers… But the traditional thing where everyone’s in black tie, and is completely formal, and they all enter the stage at once and they tune up, and they’re completely oblivious to the audience while they are tuning up. I think it’s a real disconnect for young people, it’s a real disconnect for people, even more than young people, people who are not exposed to music. It doesn’t make sense to an outsider; it’s an inexplicable ritual of a secret community.
POLLY KAHN: You know, it’ll be interesting to see how technology begins to impact on this because… Opera has had a tremendous resurgence in interest. I think it has all to do with the presence of opera on television…
FRANK J. OTERI: …And supertitles.
POLLY KAHN: Exactly. Exactly. Supertitles were a way of drawing people in. And that it’s a medium that has worked very well. I can only speak from my own experience that seeing a concert, seeing and hearing a concert on television, say Live from Lincoln Center, I see the concert one night and I’m in the concert hall the next night. It’s a very different experience and television, to a large degree, I think, assists the aural, the listening experience.
FRANK J. OTERI: Well, it adds a focused visual element.
POLLY KAHN: But it also takes your ear in a certain direction, if it is something that is well shot. You’ll know when the French horn is about to have a solo. The camera is there. Your ear follows that in a way that you may not experience it in the concert hall. And I think that it’s a very positive thing. It creates a realm of interest that may not be there when you’re in the concert hall.
FRANK J. OTERI: I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a second, but as a teenager when these concerts first started happening (I go to tons of concerts now), but I found nothing more boring than watching an orchestra on television. I didn’t get it.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: There are certain mediums, certain musical styles that work well on a hi-fi, and you experience it that way first before you do in a concert. You know, pop music is an electronic medium; it’s created in a studio. It doesn’t have an acoustic signature; it was actually created in a studio. It’s electronic music, if you want to think of it that way. In the same way a lot of other new music, even though jazz you experience in a club, perhaps in its most optimal setting. Nonetheless, it still works well with a stereo. But acoustic music, with an orchestra, it just doesn’t.
FRANK J. OTERI: Over the stereo at all?
HOLLIS HEADRICK: It doesn’t.
FRANK J. OTERI: Really? I’m a record collector, and many times I prefer orchestral recordings to concerts…
POLLY KAHN: It’s a totally different experience.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: It’s a totally different aural experience.
POLLY KAHN: Right. And, you know, when we were talking before about the challenges of bringing kids into a concert hall. I mean, we certainly have a lot of work to do to help enhance that experience and make kids feel invested in it. But I don’t think you can minimize it. As somebody who sees kids every week go into a huge concert hall for the first time, it is a very powerful experience for them. And that acoustic experience, the surround of the setting, is something that has a big impact on kids. I am not an adherent of the thunderbolt theory. I don’t think it’s enough to just do that: march kids in and do a great performance and the world will be changed. I don’t believe that for a minute. And that’s why we do all the work around it. But I also see in ways that I didn’t really value as much, what it is to go into a space that sounds that way it is, for kids to experience a hundred people all working together to make this mysterious thing happen. And, you know, I don’t think that should be undervalued for all the challenges that are also inherent in that.
FRANK J. OTERI: You know, I think the really interesting parallel model to this – I’ve never been a sports fan in my life – last summer I was taken to my first Yankees game ever by friends of mine who are sports addicts. And suddenly I was mesmerized, because for me, as a teenager watching a baseball game or a football game on television was as boring, if not more boring, than watching an orchestra. It really didn’t mean anything to me. And I went to this game, and I saw it live, and all of a sudden it made sense. All of a sudden it was wonderful. Here was this audience, you know, with 10,000 people – and it was mobbed, and they were all responding to every move and it was a very highly idiosyncratic language, you know, balls and strikes and this is a foul – I didn’t know any of this language. And I thought, everybody here understands this. This is as arcane as understanding what a second theme is in sonata form. Or understanding retrograde inversion. And if you can understand those things in baseball, you can understand those things in music. So why is it that so many people are so turned on by team sports? Why can’t that energy be turned into people being turned on by team music making, which is what the orchestra is?
RICHARD KESSLER: Many people in this community still bristle when they hear the phrase “learning through and about the arts.” That there’s something about learning through the arts that still disturbs them. It’s the question of why we can’t just appreciate it in and of itself as an artistic value. Why does it have to be used to teach another subject? Why does it have to enter the school systems through a back door? Is it being marginalized? Is it being misunderstood? Is it being perverted to some degree? I think the great irony, I believe, is that this is really all happening in the schools. This debate passed a long time ago, but in the artistic community the discussion is still there. And for many people the discussion hasn’t even been had yet.
MAXINE GREENE: Learning through the arts is either a means to the end or it’s, like for Judy Burton, you know, she starts looking for transfer… and I think Howard [Gardner] objects to that. The other things that are so interesting to me, none of us can keep track of how these things slide and shift. It may be in a couple of years that multiple intelligences are thrust aside.
RICHARD KESSLER: Is there anything wrong with using musical form to help a student understand form in language? To help a student using a musical phrase, to help a student who happens to hear things in a more musically-oriented way, to understand how, to help them, in fact, write a sentence, see the beginning, middle, end in terms of form, in terms of sentence structure? Why would someone object to this?
HOLLIS HEADRICK: I think that a lot of it goes back to the traditional boundaries that people want to maintain. The arts are here, and in and of themselves they have an intrinsic value, and so we have to respect them in that regard… It’s not so much the use of them, I mean, it’s both the use of them but it’s also the view of them that they somehow have to come out of their special and exalted position, and that they can’t share the domain in learning of the other subject areas. I think one of the issues is that when you’re doing an interdisciplinary program you have to respect both the arts domain and the other learning area, whatever that is. And both of them need to be taught well. And frequently, the connections are not very strong and they tend to be surface, and so it makes the connections and the content and the subject matter and the goal of a particular lesson, or unit, or module, not very significant, because the art is not taught very well and neither is the other subject area. So I think that’s one of the things that really needs to be addressed and that’s an issue about pedagogy; it’s not about only the subject matter.
MAXINE GREENE: I think one of the things that should help is the understanding that all the disciplines are interpretive. There’s no objective world that is grasped. Each discipline is a kind of dialogue. Whatever people understand by constructivism brings them closer to what we’re trying to do: you create meaning, and you open channels. It’s false to see the disciplines as givens. I keep hoping that we can see connections like that. And that’s different than saying we learn math by studying music. It’s all an effort to open the dialogue, to interpret, to be there, to do it against your own lived life.
FRANK J. OTERI: I think that some of the fear, in some ways from composers and artists, is that if you’re using music or you’re using painting to explain science or to learn social studies, does that mean that math and social studies and communication arts are more important than painting or music? Are these secondary skills? And I think they’re worried that what they’re doing is becoming marginalized, and that people aren’t going to get a real sense that this is a pursuit that’s valid as its own pursuit, just like science is valid as its own pursuit.
POLLY KAHN: Well, I would argue that that marginalization is part of what got us into trouble 20 years ago. I agree completely with Hollis that part of the intrinsic challenge of building any arts education program is to strike that balance. What are the artistic, what are the goals and objectives with regard to the acquisition of knowledge without the art form. How does that, or does that not correlate with other areas of study? But that it is healthy for that to be a conversation, that it is an organic part of the program. And as long as the conversation is there, I think there’s more hope that both the artistic discipline and the other areas will be respected and measured against their own work. Part of what got us into such a tantrum years ago is that the arts in schools were so marginalized. When they came into question because dollars were tight, there was nobody to advocate for them. You know, the music teacher was the person that made the Christmas Assembly function – that was their job…
MAXINE GREENE: …Or the band.
POLLY KAHN: A very limited role. Part of what is a good outcome of the hard times we’ve been through is that cultural organizations got kicked into a greater understanding of the investment that they needed to make in the school system. They went in at a time when there were very few arts teachers there, and through that developed the skills of talking to teachers and administrators who were not themselves arts specialists. It developed a whole new language that they didn’t ever need to speak before. Now certainly in New York, arts specialists are coming back into the system, I think that both the schools and the cultural institutions are seeing what the arts can contribute to the schools because they experienced the absence of them, and that they’re very motivated to make sure that that arts specialist is part of the team. The arts specialist can uniquely contribute to make the presence of the arts in a school even stronger when they also have a partner in a cultural institution.
MAXINE GREENE: There’s a lot of resistance still among the art educators. Even Judy Burton thinks artists ought to have a course at Teachers College before you allow them into the classroom. And that really worries me.
RICHARD KESSLER: What I’ve found that a lot of people, and I would call them maybe non-practitioners, to some degree, have failed to see, is that, I think that schools are about entry points, and the entry points are different at every single school. We were going through some of these concepts at the American Music Center with some of the staff, and there were some questions raised about art for art’s sake. Why is it learning through the arts? Why is it learning through music? Why is it using music? Aren’t we diminishing it? And my feeling is if it really is about learning through and about the arts or through and about music, as you learn through music, you will learn about music. If you do a program in the schools and the schools tell you that they’re interested in an integrated curriculum, and they really want to see a way in which an artist and arts curriculum and arts focus can enliven work across the curriculum and can make these kinds of connections, they want to see this happen. They believe in this, and they will sometimes tell you if it’s not about that they’re just not interested. And that’s understanding the politics of an individual school. But you’ve got to find a way to get it in. And if you can find that entry point, if you can find that way through the door, then it can go a lot of ways, because it’s about art.
POLLY KAHN: Right.
MAXINE GREENE: One of the things that’s so amazing to me is that not enough people realize the frequencies they never heard. You know, like when you first hear John Cage, when you’re young? It’s such a fantastic thing to realize how deaf you were. It’s like being blind to [Herman] Melville, you know, that deafness that teachers don’t understand. So they can’t deal with it. It’s the same thing with dance. It seems to me so important for people to understand the relation between movement and time and space, you know, and they don’t see that either. It can only be done through dialogue between the artist and the scientist, you know, and I’m not too sure about the art educators, that’s what worries me.
POLLY KAHN: Right, but artists… The view of an artist as someone separate – I don’t think is essentially a healthy attitude towards the survival of the art form and I think people just have to realize that they are part of a community of people if they want people to value what they care about. They have to be willing to engage with people who are not yet convinced. And it is about finding multiple entry points, so I think frankly that we’re often our own worst enemy, by setting up this notion of different-ness and special-ness which is not the way in. Let people discover what is different and special about a musical experience – that’s where the special-ness lies. It is not in an individual who has chosen a different profession.
FRANK J. OTERI: It’s so funny that you say this, because this is a quote that’s been buzzing in my head all week and I then passed this on to Richard, who’s read the book it’s from years before I have, but I was reading it last week to bone up on this thing. I just want to read it to everybody and maybe we can talk about it. It is from John Dewey’s Art As Experience which was written in1932. So, quite it’s from a while back, but it is still very relevant to this discussion.
“Industry has been mechanized and an artist cannot work mechanically for mass production. He is less integrated than formerly in the normal flow of social services. A peculiar aesthetic individualism results. Artists find it incumbent upon them to take themselves to their work as an isolated means of self-expression. In order not to cater to the trend of economic forces, they often feel obliged to exaggerate their separateness to the point of eccentricity. Consequently, artistic products take on, to a still greater degree, the air of something independent and esoteric.”
HOLLIS HEADRICK: I think there have been a number of things that contribute to that. One of them is Western society, the sense that “this is art” and “this is life,” you know what I mean? So that this is the stage, this is music and we are the audience. Now if you go anywhere else in the world, or you look at different art forms, that doesn’t exist.
FRANK J. OTERI: It’s an integral part of life.
POLLY KAHN: It is the culture.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: So, there’s that dichotomy, which is a societal one. And then if you look at, as Polly was saying, if you look at a school as the ultimate, or as one manifestation of a community-based organization, you have the same individuals and the same spectrum of interest in the arts: no interest in the arts and mild interest in the arts, across a group of teachers and administrators and parents, as you do in the outside world. So if you look at how much time is devoted to the arts and how many arts teachers there are, as compared to all the subjects, and then you draw from the micro to the macro, you see, well, here are the arts in our society, which is small, but then the rest of society is engaged in a much broader kinds of activity. They don’t define that work as the arts or being involved, and you have the same situation as long as the arts professionals want to segregate themselves and talk about how special and separate we are, and how you can’t understand what we do unless you’re one of us. And this is what the arts teachers get to, whether they’re music teachers, dance teachers or visual artists. Broadly speaking now, you can’t teach anything about the arts, you can’t understand it unless you’ve gone through these steps, then you build in this separateness which then perpetuates the whole problem.
MAXINE GREENE: This thing is soaked up into the celebrity culture. You know more than I do about the repertoire that has to stay the same because of the people who come to concerts. So you’ve got a bourgeois group that hides behind the fences and doesn’t want things to change, and you have kids who hear sounds which that group can’t even conceive. It’s like the Stockhausen thing. How do you breach all that? ‘Cause the money is in the bourgeoisie, you know, that supports that. And then you wonder, how do they feel, how do parents… if parents are involved, they’re very excited, aren’t they, about your program?
HOLLIS HEADRICK: Very much so.
MAXINE GREENE: It opens them up.
POLLY KAHN: And very often it’s the children that bring the parents to an investment.
RICHARD KESSLER: I’ll tell you an interesting story. I worked at a program with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. And it was one of these programs where, a curriculum of music, or a program curriculum was developed that was helping to supplement the regular curriculum about music, about aural vocabulary, about history, about learning about the musicians, musicians’ visits, teacher training. But one of the most, one of the best parts of the program was that Bobby McFerrin from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra was going into the classrooms and Hugh Wolff was going into the classrooms, that the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra was playing in the gymnasiums of these elementary schools, and a funder friend of mine who was funding this program at the Dayton-Hudson Corporation told me this story. He said he went to have his teeth cleaned. Dental hygienists always talk to you while they clean your teeth, while they work on your mouth.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: …And you try to reply.
RICHARD KESSLER: They start off in a conversation about “well, what do you do,” they asked this guy Mike, and he said: “Well, one of the things I do is fund these various programs, and one of the things we fund is the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra working in the schools.” And the dental hygienist said, “Well, I want to tell you a story. It’s very interesting because my husband and I had just bought tickets for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. We were going to hear Bobby conduct, and we were very excited about it. And lo and behold, my daughter came home from school the other day and she said to me: ‘You know, I just met Bobby McFerrin in the classroom.'” And Mike was telling this story to me and it became evident through the story that the perception that this woman had of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, just by her daughter coming in and saying “I met Bobby McFerrin in the classroom,” the entire perception she had of that organization changed right then and there. They cared and there was a connection. She saw them in a completely different light, before she went to the concert, before she heard Bobby, it was just simply learning that they were working with her child. No tickets, no fee, nothing, they were just there.
RICHARD KESSLER: It’s a very interesting thing that the new music field, to a great degree, feels beleaguered, and that they feel a tremendous degree of misunderstanding, and in fact, I’ve heard Milton Babbitt say: “People think we’re a subculture but, in fact, we’re a superculture.” Milton has many very clever lines like that. But the great irony here is, while the new music field may have questions about how it’s embraced within the classical genres, I think when you talk about entry points, when you talk about possibilities, worlds to go in, that the schools represent a remarkably fertile environment, that no one has mined. No one’s turned off to what this composer’s music is or will be that particular day; there’s not even a question of it. And that I do find it to be somewhat unfortunate that the greater part of the new music field has not really entered into education.
MAXINE GREENE: What about music of different cultures? I was thinking about Philip Glass learning to play an African instrument, you know, is that really important now in what goes into the schools? The different cultures, you know, like Dominican music, somebody was telling me, is entirely different than salsa, or Puerto Rican music…
POLLY KAHN: I think that it’s important that we approach music in the larger rather than the smaller way. There are skills we can develop as listeners that can enhance our pleasure in music no matter what the particular medium may be. That educational objective may serve the narrow purpose of new music but it also serves the purpose of every other kind of music.
MAXINE GREENE: I went to the Brooklyn Museum to hear Arab music. When you listen to Arab, Lebanese music for the first time, it’s almost impossible. Terribly difficult; it’s like Japanese music. I had a student, fortunately, who had tapes and came in my office for about 3 hours and got me at least listening…
FRANK J. OTERI: …Did he bring in tapes of Fairuz?
RICHARD KESSLER: To a great degree, I think it’s about connections, making connections.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: Right. And that to me, the making connections, and the context of the work, whatever it may be, and how that context is then linked with the experiences of that audience, and whether that audience is a group of students, whether those are adults, whether that’s an audience that comes for a performance, it’s the context that provides the linkage that then helps people make meaning. And, unfortunately, arts in certain instances, in certain ways, have tried to take that meaning out and have put the context in the realm of the individual. That it’s because Picasso was a certain kind of artist, or because Coltrane was an artist, or because Mozart was a child genius, whatever that is, that it resides in the individual, that we somehow have to deal with this individual. What you were saying, Frank, is that people are told that there are masterpieces, there are people that we have to aspire to. And I think trying to create a context that provides that entryway for whatever the audience is, is the most important thing. And you can do that in a variety of ways, as long as it has integrity.
POLLY KAHN: At the Philharmonic in November we have a week which has on it 5 new commissions – “Messages for the Millennium” – and we saw that as a wonderful educational opportunity. What I’m going to describe is just a self-contained unit, if you will, it doesn’t describe a long-term relationship. We created a teacher’s guide around this, which has to do with musical messages, which has to do with kids asking their parents what music had special meaning for them in their lives, what kind of message there was in that music…
MAXINE GREENE: Oh, that’s good.
POLLY KAHN: And then gave the kids the same commission that [Kurt] Masur gave to these 5 composers.
FRANK J. OTERI: Oh, wow.
POLLY KAHN: Write a piece of music that contains your hopes and dreams for the millennium. Now connected to that, first of all, are all sorts of other extra-musical things which involves kids in thinking about the future and thinking about what might the world a better place, and a great invention that might help, and then moves into having them create musical messages. It also hearkens back to Beethoven’s 9, another musical message that still has meaning. What could you create for the future? And here’s a little snapshot. We only know a little bit about these 5 new works, and we have each composer with a one-line sentence: “What I was trying to do in my piece was x,” and setting up a listening assignment for the kids and their parents. This went out to every music teacher in the country, people in all 50 states. The kids have written messages. So who knows what this music is like? Nobody’s heard it! But what we were trying to do, as we’ve been talking about all evening, is create a receptivity. What we tried to break down is “It’s new, I never heard of any of these people, I’m not listening.” “I made music, I made my own musical message, I did exactly the same thing that these 5 people were supposed to do, I have the same job; the same person even gave me the same job. Let’s see what they did.”
MAXINE GREENE: See, that’s imagination.
POLLY KAHN: And so there, you know, as I say, it’s a very contained kind of thing. But we set for ourselves exactly the goals that we’re saying: how do we break down the barriers, make it engaging, use kids, if you will, to create more receptivity in the adult world than they might otherwise bring to it. And develop the habit of listening. How often do we sit down and listen to the radio, and certainly as families. It’s part of an ongoing effort.
MAXINE GREENE: How will you know?
POLLY KAHN: Well, we have little research groups in all 50 states that are going to get back to us on this thing.
MAXINE GREENE: You do? Oh boy.
FRANK J. OTERI: Wow. This is really interesting to me because it’s topic-based rather than structure-based.
FRANK J. OTERI: When I was a high school teacher in the city for four years, I was teaching students how to write sonnets, and the chairman of my department said: “But, you can’t teach them how to write sonnets; they can’t write sentences!” So I marched into the class, I said: “My chairman says you can’t write sonnets.” So they wrote sonnets. And it was his challenge; it was coming at them with this challenge of something someone thought that they couldn’t do. We expect high school students to read sonnets, but to be able to write their own is so much more valuable. So what can you teach? You can teach structures, but can you teach creativity? Can you teach the ability to come up with something original?
POLLY KAHN: Oh, I absolutely think so. Part of it is giving kids the license to think freely, and the rudimentary tools that allow them to play with something that’s in their own minds. Part of the challenge for our work in the schools is that we operate in a domain which is not limited by right or wrong answers. We operate in a world of limitless possibility, but schools are often the antithesis of it. So part of it is developing the relationship with the school and with the teacher – you talked about trust before – that will allow, at least in the area of the arts, that moment to happen, which doesn’t have that clean closure to it. And that often takes years to achieve, because it is so at odds with the experience of teachers and kids in a school. But once there is room for that, and once you have given them some of the tools, and not only the tools of doodling at the keyboard, or making an invented instrument, but the tools of thinking analytically about what they want. What am I interested in saying? I might not have that right away. How can I begin to get the kernel of that idea, and polish it, and think about it, and get it right in some way, you know, can I, do I create some kind of invented notation that makes a map of what I feel… Can I teach it to somebody? Can I share it? You know, all of those things become, I think, a journey to creativity that is almost unstoppable. But it’s a slow trajectory, and I think it’s not achieved quickly. You can’t go in for a two-session visit and have all that happen. It has to do with a lot of time spent together developing a common language.
FRANK J. OTERI: To extend on what you were just saying, I think it’s interesting, getting to this idea of notation and experimental music. Here’s a real wonderful proof that people learn how to do things better when they’re able to teach someone else. It really shows that they’ve mastered something. If students are taught to pay attention to the sounds around them and to notate sounds… Maybe they don’t know music notation. Maybe they don’t know conventional Western classical music notation. Then they come up with a language. Are they able then, with that language, with that system they create, to share it with the other students in the class? Can they learn to play it? And if they’ve done that, if they’ve followed that step through, then you’ve made a successful connection, and they can understand the process of composer and performer.
POLLY KAHN: Absolutely.
FRANK J. OTERI: And it becomes real for them in ways that I think that just passively listening, you know, to the masterpieces, doesn’t.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: Right. I think the idea of bringing creativity out and providing the context, the opportunities, the kind of habits of mind, and the environment that’s conducive to creativity, is the most important thing first. I don’t think that you can teach the kind of artistic expression that we think of, and that our society thinks about when you think of what creativity is. Usually, your mind goes to those group of artists, depending on who you’re interested in, who to you epitomizes some kind of artistic expression, whether that’s a modern painter, whether that’s a dancer, whether that’s a musician or whoever, and then usually you associate with that both the personality, the cult of personality, and that this person is somehow blessed in the same way that Michael Jordan is incredible. He’s an anomaly in the same way that a Picasso is, or a Bernstein is, or a Charlie Parker is, or a Mozart or a Beethoven or a whoever. You may not like my choices, but the point is that what exists in their personalities is as strong as the actual product, you know, what the actual manifestation of that creativity is. I think it’s important to provide an environment, and then to provide as many tools as possible, in whatever ways, whether those are simple ways, whether those are organic ways, or whether they’re traditional ways. Richard, addressing your question about the new music community… If we assume that most composers have gone through some traditional training, then you have to ask them or they should ask themselves: “Where does the creativity that I believe I have reside? Where does it come from? If I’ve just been taught typical kinds of rote learning about relationships of harmony and melody, of studying music history, of looking at the way instrumentation works, the overtone series, all of the kinds of things you learn in music.” Well, those people have to look at themselves and say, well: “Well, I’m creative, and how was that taught to me? How does that manifest itself?” But, you know, Charlie Parker always said you have to learn everything about your art form. And then as soon as you walk on the bandstand, you have to forget it. Because then it becomes your expression, however that happens. That is what you cannot teach. But you can teach everything that prepares that person to reach that point, and then it’s up to she or he to try to do that.
MAXINE GREENE: And part of it is an awareness of, not just the cultural, but the aural context, you know, that you’re enmeshed in a world, and I think a lot of the great composers drew from what they heard, or what they saw, and what they made their own. It’s the same with Charlie Parker. He’s emerged from a tradition, from his parents. I always think it’s so important for kids to learn that, that nobody is an individual unless he’s a part of something.
RICHARD KESSLER: But Maxine, the question had been, interestingly enough, can you teach creativity, I think, in its basic form. I’d love to hear what you think about that. Can you teach creativity?
MAXINE GREENE: You can make it possible but you can’t teach it. It’s just like you can’t teach learning. You can only create situations. Creativity is putting things together in novel ways, having your own stamp and your own voice, finding your own voice. And it’s not making something ex nihilo, you know, it’s not something that never was before in this world. I don’t think we really appreciate the dimensions of creativity and how people are creative in such fascinating ways. And that’s what’s so scary about media. It stifles people. I was thinking about Pokemon. Your child is too old for Pokemon. My grandchild isn’t. Tonight they had a whole long discussion of it on Public Radio, all about Pokemon. But it stops people in their tracks, that’s what worries me. It, you know, gives you a false, stops you from paying attention to what’s really around you. How about Harry Potter? Is your son old enough?
HOLLIS HEADRICK: Yes. Yeah, he loves the Harry Potter books.
MAXINE GREENE: Him, too. Isn’t that funny?
RICHARD KESSLER: And there are many people, of course, who are afraid of the Harry Potter books.
MAXINE GREENE: I know. But it’s imagination. It’s about witches and demons. I’ve been speaking lately, partly because of Giuliani, I’ve been saying, you know, that Giuliani is making us live in a Dickens novel. So on the one level there’s the Dickens novel and on the other level there’s Harry Potter. The children know better. Have you read them?
POLLY KAHN: I haven’t read any of them.
MAXINE GREENE: You don’t have to.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: I’m taking a trip to San Francisco on Saturday evening for a few days and I’m going to take one with me. They’re really wonderful books.
MAXINE GREENE: I know. That’s what I’m told. Yeah, and my little grandson said “and you have to read the first one first.” Don’t make a mistake.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: Sorcerer’s Stone.
FRANK J. OTERI: Wow.
POLLY KAHN: Trilogies are very important!
FRANK J. OTERI: The canon!
RICHARD KESSLER: Maxine, one of the places that Frank was very interested in moving us towards (and this was not at my urging… not that I have any problem with it…) was about art and democracy, art and citizenship, the relationship between the two, and I think that that’s something a lot of people don’t think of often. Again it’s about the isolation of art, of an artist, an artistic experience, going to a movie, listening to music. But what it means in a larger sense, in terms of being afraid, the human experience, being part of the larger community.
MAXINE GREENE: Yeah. Dewey says that democracy is a community in the making. And always like that, because it means you never really achieve it, but it’s in the making through community… That’s why he uses Whitman as the poet of democracy. And if we could say that schools should be communities in the making, you know, or, like he talks about an articulate public, giving a public its voice… I think they’re all very similar. It’s such a funny place to say it. Art reaches a deeper level of awareness and that ordinary conversation is so trivial and so superficial, but if it touches the level of the arts, desire and purpose come to the surface, you know. And I think it, you know, you get fewer sound bytes, if you can somehow be in touch. And a lot of people are talking, oddly enough, about Eros now, in connection with schools. Desire, passion, they’re trying to spoon it back, you know.
POLLY KAHN: Dangerous as it is.
FRANK J. OTERI: You said something in one of your books that I found so intriguing, as sort of a jumping-off point. If you’re just a passive receptacle of information, if you’re just watching the TV, receiving the news, hearing the opinions on the news, or I’ll stretch this, I’ll take it further, I’ll take it into the concert hall, if you’re just going to the concert and hearing the music that people are telling you is the great music, if you’re not making it, if you’re not engaged in that community, how can you be a participating member of a democracy where you’re forced to make choices, where you’re forced to choose the person who should be President. You’re not saying, “Tell me who the President should be.” You’re the one who has to go in there and pull the lever.
MAXINE GREENE: I think that’s a great loss, now. People don’t, don’t engage with it, they just take it in. I mean, imagine taking in, even having that goddamn fool Trump on television and people listening to that. It’s just, it’s appalling. Or any of them. They’re all… and, you know, I’m almost… Have you ever met Clinton?
HOLLIS HEADRICK: No. Mrs. Clinton I’ve met.
MAXINE GREENE: They say he has this amazing charisma that grabs you. I would be terrified of that.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: When it’s put to good use, it’s wonderful. But, I think this society, because it’s gotten so large, and because people seek community, and when they can’t seek community then they let others dictate to them what their ideas are and what the issues are, and I think that’s what the media does, and it’s very powerful. And it tells us what is O.K. to listen to, what’s O.K. to wear, what’s O.K. to look at, where to live, what kind of car to drive. All of these things come at you. And that’s where the participative part comes… Even though there are more choices than ever, it still becomes more difficult sometimes to exercise those choices
MAXINE GREENE: We don’t do enough in the schools about that. We don’t do enough to make people realize that television is made by human beings; they think it’s a window on the world.
FRANK J. OTERI: The polls tell us what to believe. The polls tell us this is what we’re believing, therefore, this is what we should believe.
RICHARD KESSLER: That’s right. I hate that when I hear that.
FRANK J. OTERI: Before an election, we already know who the next President’s going to be, according to the polls, so what’s the point of voting?
MAXINE GREENE: Did you see American Beauty?
FRANK J. OTERI: Yes.
MAXINE GREENE: I got my class very upset about it, because I saw it twice and I hated it twice. But I think aesthetically it’s a remarkable movie. You know, it’s wonderfully done. But if the world is that world, I’d like to cut my throat right now. You know, what did they used to say, onanistic? Totally, totally self-involved. Totally, you know, drugs and masturbation. No poor people.
FRANK J. OTERI: Right.
MAXINE GREENE: Just incredible.
FRANK J. OTERI: And no real care beyond self, of any the characters.
MAXINE GREENE: No, no awareness.
FRANK J. OTERI: Everyone’s completely self-motivated.
MAXINE GREENE: I meant I hated it if that’s the world.
FRANK J. OTERI: Right.
MAXINE GREENE: And I worry it is.
FRANK J. OTERI: Well, to take the conversation back to education with this idea of democracy, I think, this more than anything, is the argument for the arts in education. It’s the argument for teaching creativity. For years we’ve had a utilitarian-based education, a job-based education. What am I learning and how is this going to get me a job? As opposed to an experiential education: how is this going to be an exciting thing that reveals how wonderful the world is. Well, without seeing the world as a wonderful place, with only thinking of education as being how you’re going to advance self, there’s no way to have a community. There’s no way, and without learning creativity, without learning about being creative, there’s no way to learn critical thinking and to be part of a democracy.
MAXINE GREENE: The sad part is it’s only the liberal middle class that has time for that. The poor immigrant, the, he wants his kid to…
FRANK J. OTERI: …have a job.
MAXINE GREENE: That’s the hard thing.
FRANK J. OTERI: So there’s got to be a balance between the two.
POLLY KAHN: I’m not sure I entirely agree with you. I think, it’s dangerous to load up the arts with responsibilities that it may or may not be able to carry. You know, and it can lead us down the path just as we’ve all been in the vulnerable position of, you know, this poetry program is only worthwhile if the math scores go up.
FRANK J. OTERI: Right.
POLLY KAHN: There’s a danger if we take a global attitude that the purpose of the arts is to teach us to be citizens. I think it can contribute to an environment of thinking individuals, you know, and to that degree, yes. But as a goal, I’m not sure… We’ve been saddled with everything, but that’s a big one. The other thing is, you know, one of the things that we have seen is what happens for children in their educational experience when the arts aren’t present. That’s a time that this pendulum shift that we’re now in is taking us out of, at least in New York. People might argue that arts education in the ’50’s or ’60’s wasn’t great, but it was there. We went through this 20-year period where nothing was there, and we saw the school system just implode. And we also saw, school by school, that the schools that had held on to the arts seemed to be doing better by many measures. And therefore, it’s part of what contributed to this appetite that we’re now seeing filled again, that they seemed to produce better communities of learners. But, you know, to create citizens, to have the role of the arts be to create citizens, you know, good citizens, I don’t know… To support your point of view, I’m thinking of a particular school that we work with. Virtually all of kids arrived within the last year. And… From Mexico or Santo Domingo. And it’s an incredibly lovely group of kids. And I was taking a funder to visit the school and meet with the principal, and the funder said: “What is the goal of you with these children?” And she said, “I need to help them become Americans.” And so, this person said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “Well, these are incredibly lovely kids who are totally used to deferring to the adult. The notion of their right to their own point of view doesn’t exist.” She said, “This school is orderly and the kids are wonderful, but my job is to help them raise a little Cain!” And the arts programs help do that. They help give kids their voice. So, you know, in that sense, I would say that it does help to do that.
MAXINE GREENE: I think you have to be careful not to idealize the arts. Not all the arts are redemptive. We have to keep talking about the process, you know, of how you do get kids to engage, you know, how you share your own engagement, and how you allow people to say that they don’t like something, like Harry Potter or Carter. I don’t like his music. It’s possible.
FRANK J. OTERI: We need to be able to teach critical thinking skills and that it’s O.K. to have different opinions. There are no absolutes.
RICHARD KESSLER: People in the education field now question everything.
FRANK J. OTERI: Even phys ed?
RICHARD KESSLER: It’s in much worse shape than the arts.
FRANK J. OTERI: I questioned it when I was a student but it didn’t get me anywhere…
POLLY KAHN: The only thing that is not questioned is language arts and math. And everything else is up for grabs. I mean, people might not literally say it, but when it comes to the dollars, everything else is up for grabs. Phys ed went away the same day in 1977 that art, music, foreign languages and the library went away. Phys ed teachers also lost their jobs that day.
RICHARD KESSLER: And they’re now creating a new model…
POLLY KAHN: They have a Presidential commission.
RICHARD KESSLER: It’s not unlike the Annenberg Project.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: That’s what it’s based on, the Center for Sports Education, they’re trying to get it going…
MAXINE GREENE: You know, I’m very paranoid about it. I mean, I think a lot of it is deliberately to create what Aldous Huxley called deltas. To keep the lower class lower class, not to open too many doors. I really think that. Because they wouldn’t know what to do with…
RICHARD KESSLER: …Too many opinions.
MAXINE GREENE: …Too many middle class people.
RICHARD KESSLER: To some degree, I think there’s a fear that people have about the imagination. You mentioned it very early on about controlling students at the very beginning of this discussion. There’s something to this idea: you asked if you can teach creativity. Well, it’s a specious question because everyone has imagination, so therefore creativity resides within each person. You can’t quash the imagination because it exists. It’s one of the few things you own. You’re brought into the world with it and you will leave with it. But, many teachers, many places where control and order have to exist, where certain kinds of directed learning has to exist, the imagination is a sort of chaotic, almost guerilla-like event.
MAXINE GREENE: We’ve got to do something about teacher education, though.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: Yes.
MAXINE GREENE: We really do. Because teacher educators don’t care enough, and therefore teachers aren’t acquainted with this world. You know, and that’s very important if they’re going to create those situations. I think the English teachers are, and on the whole, language people are. You know, but the technology people, only maybe, and the historians and the social studies people I’m not sure at all.
RICHARD KESSLER: And of course, there’s been a tremendous backlash with whole language.
MAXINE GREENE: Yeah.
RICHARD KESSLER: Tremendous.
MAXINE GREENE: Oh, yeah, it’s political backlash.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: In this kind of cycle, or if you look at it as a circle of the arts, of arts organizations and teachers and institutions and schools and how it all works together, the part on the circle that’s not closed is the teacher education piece. Because when you go into the schools, most of the time, unless you’re working with arts specialists, and even some of them, you have to get through layers and layers of somebody teaching their class, what they know, what they don’t know about the arts, and so you have to spend a good amount of time creating relationships, or not even so much relationships, but really trying to get people to understand what you’re doing, to really begin to make headway.
MAXINE GREENE: That’s what Lincoln Center‘s contribution should have been and sometimes has been. But that’s what we hope for.
POLLY KAHN: Yeah, I think because of bad conditions when no arts specialists were there, I think we gained a value-added benefit, which is that we learned to work with people who had no previous experience in the arts. And I think that we can’t say enough about how that has contributed to this climate of interest for the arts, because we really created a constituency from the bottom up, if you will, the bottom of no experience up. Had we not hit that crisis, we never would have created that constituency. Most of us would be doing 2% of what we do now, because we would still be in that mode that wouldn’t realize any urgency about investing in the public school system. And to the degree that we were working, we would be working just with the specialist in that isolated to isolated connection. Here we’ve created a much more broad-based constituency, though it takes a lot of time and patience to do that.
HOLLIS HEADRICK: I heard a statistic today, I think, from New England Conservatory, that 90% of the students don’t take any kind of education courses. But about 2 or, you know, 5 years later, when they’re in their professional lives, 80% of them are involved in education in some way. I think that the conservatories are going to have to pay more attention to what it means to get a music degree and to go out in the real world and earn a living when there are only so many places in academia as a composer or as a performer or a professor of some kind in the music world. So I think that’s going to be changing. And I think that if the trend stays, and more and more research comes out on the value of arts education, I think it will give more currency to having arts specialists of all kinds in the public schools. And hopefully the cultural organizations in New York as well as across the country will more and more see their role and value that role and want to express that role by really devoting their resources, both the human resources and the time and the funds necessary to make sure that the programs that are in schools really respond to the needs of schools and have the kind of integrity that’s necessary so that it’s really something that’s meaningful for kids.
MAXINE GREENE has been at the forefront of educational philosophy for well over half a century as a teacher, a lecturer and author.
She is the Founder and Director of the Center for Social Imagination, the Arts and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University where she has been on the faculty since 1965 serving as Professor of Philosophy and Education since 1973 and the William F. Russell Professor in the Foundations of Education from 1975 to 1998, and is now Professor Emeritus. Since 1976, she has served as the Director of Teachers College-Lincoln Center Project in the Arts and Humanities: “Philosopher in Residence,” Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education. From 1966 to 1973, she served at the Editor of the Teachers College Record. From 1962 to 1965, she was an Associate Professor of Education at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. Between 1949 and 1962, she taught at New York University serving as an Instructor of Philosophy and History of Education and Associate Professor of English Education; and was an Assistant Professor of English at Montclair State College in 1956-1957.
Ms. Greene has lectured widely at universities and educational associations throughout the United States, and is a past President of the Philosophy of Education Society and the American Educational Studies Association, and the American Educational Research Association. She has also served on the Executive Council of the John Dewey Society, the Evaluation Committee for the Department of Curriculum at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Modern English Language Association and the American Philosophical Association. In 1984, she was elected to the National Academy of Education and has received Educator of the Year Awards from Columbia University and Ohio State University.
She is the author of six books: Releasing the Imagination – Essays on Education, the Arts and Social Change (Jossey Bass Publishers, 1995); The Dialectics of Freedom (Teachers College Press, 1988); Landscapes of Learning (Teachers College Press, 1978); Teacher as Stranger: Educational Philosophy in the Modern Age (Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1973), which was awarded the 1974 Delta Gamma Kappa Award for Educational Book of the Year; Existential Encounters for Teachers (Random House, 1967); and The Public School and the Private Vision (Random House, 1963). Her monographs include Active Learning and Aesthetic Encounters (Talks at the Lincoln Center Institute, NCREST, 1994); A Teacher Talks to Teachers: Perspectives on the Lincoln Center Institute (Lincoln Center, 1980); and Education, Freedom and Possibility (Russell Lecture, 1975).
Maxine Greene holds a PhD (1955) and M.A. (1949) from New York University and a B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University (1938) in addition to nine honorary degrees from universities across the country.
HOLLIS HEADRICK was appointed Executive Director of The Center for Arts Education in September 1996. The Center for Arts Education administers the New York City Annenberg Challenge for Arts Education, a $36 million dollar public-private partnership, in collaboration with the New York City Board of Education, the United Federation of Teachers and the Department of Cultural Affairs. This major initiative draws on the resources of New York City’s cultural organizations, colleges and universities, the arts-related industries, corporations, and foundations. The primary goal of The Center for Arts Education is to serve as a catalyst for school improvement in and through the arts, and to play a major role in the restoration and maintenance of arts education in the City’s public schools.
Before he assumed the leadership of The Center for Arts Education, he was the Director of the Arts in Education Program of the New York State Council on the Arts for seven years. He has served on numerous state arts council advisory panels and has been a panelist and advisor for the National Endowment for the Arts. He also served on the New York State Education Department Curriculum and Assessment Committee for the Arts. He currently is a member of the Advisory Committee for Project Zero, at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Hollis is also a jazz percussionist and has performed and recorded in the US and Europe. He was an artist in residence in the Boston Public Schools and has taught privately at Greenwich House Music School and elsewhere. He also was a music presenter and producer for the Jazz Coalition, Boston; Composer’s Forum, New York City; and Jacob’s Pillow, Beckett, Massachusetts. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri, and studied music at the Berklee School of Music and New England Conservatory, Music Recording Technology at the New School, and administration at New York University.
POLLY KAHN joined the New York Philharmonic in 1994 as Director of Education, after having served previously as Director of Education for the Tisch Center for the Arts of the 92nd Street Y, Assistant Director of the Lincoln Center Institute, and as a national arts-in-education consultant.
Over the past six seasons, Ms. Kahn has worked to revise and expand the New York Philharmonic education programs. During this period, these programs have quadrupled with offerings ranging from pre-school to continuing education, from programs for schools with limited music resources to programs serving the next generation of musicians in conservatories. Almost 500 schools and 83,000 individuals participated in these programs last season from the New York Metropolitan area, and an additional 70,000 music teachers (and their students) benefited from the New York Philharmonic’s programs through their nationally distributed teacher’s guides. This season, the education department is further widening its reach with Web site resources for teachers, children and their families. The New York Philharmonic is the only orchestra to have an interactive Web site for children. In total, the eighteen education programs of the New York Philharmonic serve as a model for the orchestra education field, and have been featured in local and national media. The Philharmonic programs are included in the new publication, Gaining the Arts Advantage, recently released by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the Arts Education Partnership.
Ms. Kahn plays a local and national leadership role in the arts-in-education community as Vice-Chair of the Board of the New York City Arts-in-Education Roundtable, a member of the Board of the Center for Arts Education (the Annenberg III Initiative), and with the national constituency of orchestra education directors through the American Symphony Orchestra League.