Lifelong Learning ~ Beyond the Buzz

Lifelong learning is the thing that makes this all worth it right? I mean, if we aren’t fostering skills that will serve our students beyond high school, then we aren’t really doing our job are we? But what does lifelong learning look like?

A few years ago I was invited back to my high school for a chorale reunion to honor our beloved chorus teacher. Of the 150 alumni that came, there was only a small fraction of people actively engaged in music making. Five, maybe six of us kept making music a part of our lives in one way or another. Five or six! That’s it! While I’m sure all of them are active music consumers, is this the type of engagement that we expect when we hear the term “lifelong learning?” I started to get curious.

I asked around and it seemed that one of the main reasons why people were not engaging in music was because of the limited (or perceived) limited opportunities to make music after high school. Now this was interesting. Limitations on making music? Hmmm….

Schools provide the opportunity to serve as an incubator for the greater community. This is super cool! But, we need to know how (and if) the community serves our graduates in providing them with adequate opportunities after they leave high school. Are there community ensembles? Are there other musical activities for people to actively participate after high school? Are they accessible? 

On one hand, we need to be mindful of creating opportunities in school that prepares them for music making outside of school. We must teach them skills that are accessible and relevant. Yes, we teach them expression, creativity, time management, perseverance and team work. These are lifelong skills without a doubt. But, don’t we also want them to keep making music? What about focusing on independent musicianship, accessible repertoire, improvisation and the skill set to sing or play with a friend at an informal venue (like a living room perhaps…)

On the other hand, if there aren’t adequate opportunities for people to make music after high school in your community, then you may need to create one (or better yet, get lots of folks involved in creating this!) A school district that values music is one thing, but a community that values music is quite another. When the community has a very concrete need for musicians, the school music program will always have a place to thrive.  

Take a close look at the musical opportunities that exist in your area. Reach out the directors and patrons of the arts and look for ways to collaborate with your school program. Discover ways in which your program will benefit the community music scene. Can your students perform in tandem in community events? Is there an opportunity for students to work with regional bands or performers who play at the local venues? Is there a possibility for a master class? 

Get creative and talk with lots of people in your community. Lifelong learning is not just a buzz word if you can create relevant learning in the classroom with accessible musical opportunities in the community. 

**Do your graduates continue to make music? In what capacity? Share your stories with me!

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