Xenomusic for kids

So it looks like I might be giving a Xenomusic workshop for kids at ConGlomeration in Louisville next April.

“What is ‘Xenomusic’?” you might ask?

Well, basically, it would be the music of Alien races.  Sometimes referred to as “Exomusic” or more plainly “Alien music” or “Extra-Terrestrial music”–it’s all the same, really.

Ultimately, the idea, which was suggested to me by an online friend and frequent Con-goer, is something that just appeals to me.  One of the things I’ve missed (though at the time, I probably didn’t quite feel the same–heh) is working with kids.  While I as at Gymboree Play and Music that was my primary role–a music teacher that is.  But unlike most government sponsored music teachers (in the school systems) or private instructors (which function like tutors) I was actively involved in teaching groups of children between the ages of one to five.

Yeah, that’s right–between the ages of one to five!  Just think about that for a second or two.

The idea, well, at least my conception of the idea (since I did sign a form stating I wouldn’t publicly discuss the actual methods or philosophy behind Gymboree’s programs–trade secrets, after all) is that children don’t have to be a certain age to start learning something about, well, any subject.

Given what I know about the research on infant and child neurology and psychology, in a way, it would be better to start teaching music (if fluency in music is the goal) at a younger age rather than waiting till it gets taught in, say, kindergarten.

I won’t bog this blog down with copious links and references to the body of research dealing with early phonemic acquisition and the ties between language and music developmental neurology (you can find some links to research about that at my comparative neurocognition blog here for that!) because, there are far more interesting issues that don’t require a more technical knowledge of basic human neurobiology.

See, one of the things I love about teaching children (and young adults, for that matter–since that is my, um, “day-job”) is seeing the learning processes firsthand, but more importantly, given some kind of structured direction to what are already natural tendencies (along with language and art, music is one of the few universals that all human populations share as an activity).

And while, being a classical musician, I’ve had the opportunity to have tons of interactions with children through music as a result of outreach programs and in-school presentations, what I’ve been most dissatisfied with during the period when I was most active playing clubs and bars, and well, for the most part, the places that rock and pop music groups often perform is that there is this sharp divide between the all-ages scene and the 18+ (or 21+) scene.

Despite the fact that, in a sense, Western Art music is slowly declining, what I am going to miss most about this scene is the fact that [at least] in America, blind auditions for spots in, say, Symphony Orchestras actually happened as opposed to the fact that, say, in the pop and rock music scene you find what is mostly a boys world.

I’m still remembering a particular online forum thread discussion I had started at a local (to Indianapolis) music forum that got deleted (it was titled “Gender and Rock”–or rather, that’s what I had titled it).  And while the powers that be at that forum assured me that it wasn’t because of the touchy topic (I won’t go into some of the details of how “local band musicians” view women musicians here) but because of the forum pruning feature that lops off old threads.  Which would ring true some of the other very long discussion threads that I’ve started, which have been longer dead, weren’t still available to be viewed.

And wow–as much as I didn’t want this to be a rant about sexism in music, here we are–or rather, here I am.

*Steps back a bit*

Ok, so the best aspects of the American Western Classical music scene are on the decline just because it is on the decline.  This is arguable, of course, and that’s not the issue I’m concerned with.  Rather, the issue is, if it is on the decline AND if how it seems to be a bit more egalitarian than, say, other genres of music–then basically all the good things about the American Western Classical music scene are also slowly dwindling away.

And one of those many things just happens to be how actively involved with children this particular musical culture is.

That’s not to say that pop and rock musicians haven’t stepped up to the plate regarding engaging children–and that’s a good thing.  I’ve been seeing more and more programs and educators and entrepreneurs really making a stab at getting past the commercial or “rock star image” aspects of pop music (and I’ll make it clear that I mean “Western pop music” here–which includes rock and heavy metal and rap and country, etc).

That’s probably the subject for another blog.

Anyway, I want to give back more–and at an earlier level than the one I am currently engaged in (mainly k-12 right now) because, well, to restate the tired old adage:

“Children are our future”

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