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Music, Informal Learning and the School: A New

Classroom Pedagogy
Interview1 with Professor Lucy Green (London University, Institute of Education)
Interviewed by Elizabeth Carrascosa Martinez
and Marcos Caldeira, Associao Amigos do Projeto Guri (AAPG)
Professor Dr. Lucy Green did a lecture on Informal Music Learning. What Can
Music Educators Learn from Popular Musicians? At SIMPOM -1st Brazilian
Symposium of Post graduate students in Music- organized by UNIRIO.
Rio de Janeiro, 10 de November of 2010
AAPG -What do you think are the qualities of a good music teacher?
LG- First of all, I think a good music teacher needs to respect his or her students
and to realize that school children come to school with a rich musical culture and a
great deal of listening experience in musics which the teachers themselves might
be unfamiliar with; and a danger is for a teacher to assume that they know about
music and that the students know nothing. So the first thing would be to respect
the students, to acknowledge their knowledge, and actually to be interested in
finding out what music they like, what they listen to and what possible music
making activities they take part in outside the school in their home, in the street,
etc. and to build on those areas. This is as well as taking the role of the person
who is in authority and who has knowledge that the student does not have.
So its about both listening to and recognizing the knowledge and skills that
students bring; as well as being able to give new knowledge and skills to the
children.
AAPG- In your conference you talked about what formal music educators
can use in their practices from the way popular musicians learn. Could you
explain more about it?

Esta entrevista ser publicada na prxima edio da revista Espao Intermedirio da


AAPG em ingls e portugus. http://www.projetoguri.org.br/revista

LG -I think it is possible to identify some main differences between formal music


education and informal music learning. These lie at the heart of the Musical
Futures2 informal learning project.
So the first one is that in informal learning, the learners choose the music for
themselves. This means it is music which they enjoy, they know and they like;
whereas in formal music education its normally the teacher or somebody else who
chooses the music.
Secondly, in the informal context the main learning practice is listening.
Specifically in relation to commercial, global popular music, it is listening to
recordings. Of course in many traditional musics learning also takes place through
listening to live music, as well, but in the world of the music which most teenagers
prefer, it tends to be through recordings. This is of course very different to the
formal education system, where the learning tends to be focused on notation or on
responding to certain instructions.
Thirdly, informal learning takes place through group learning and peer directed
learning; and again particularly in the context of popular music, this takes place in
the almost complete absence of adults or any teacher or more experienced
musician who can guide the young learners.
Fourthly, the learning is chaotic, haphazard and holistic. The learner starts with a
whole piece of music and each learner finds their own way through the learning
route; whereas in formal education we tend to start with simple, short pieces of
music and we try to build up the skills in a logical, sequential progression.
And fifthly, in informal learning the activities of listening, playing, singing,
composition and improvisation are very integrated all the way through the learning
processes. Whereas in formal education we tend to separate those things off, so we
say: this is your violin lesson here, this is your composition lesson here, this
is your history of music lesson here, and so on.
AAPG- In which ways those strategies you are presenting are
complementary? Are you proposing to replace the formal approach? Where
is the balance between those pedagogies?
LG- I am certainly not trying to replace the formal approach, not at all. I myself I
am a formally educated musician and I deeply value the huge benefits that we all
2

Musical Futures is a musical Project founded in 2003 in UK by the Paul Hamlyn


Foundation . MF is a new approach to teaching and learning. It brings non-formal
teaching and informal learning approaches into the more formal context of schools.
http://www.musicalfutures.org.uk/

get from formal technical training and from the ability to read notation. What I am
trying to do is simply switch the balance a little bit so that other types of learning
are also catered for, so it would be a combination of both. You can actually do
these informal learning practices for 5 or 6 lessons and then formal music
education, then some informal music education and then some formal music
education. To me one of the important things that we can do with informal music
education is to give children the knowledge that it is possible to learn music in
these ways; and if we dont incorporate these informal learning methods into
education we give children the impression that other ways of learning are not
valuable. Also, in many cases children dont even realize that its possible to learn
this way, just as many classical musicians remain mystified by these learning
methods.
So its about giving a balanced view in terms of learning, balanced opportunities,
and also reaching out to those many, many children who dont respond well to
formal education, who find it difficult to read music, and cant relate to the
activities, and who are yet extremely musical themselves. Until recently those
children have simply been lost from the education system, and what I am saying is
that we need to include everybody by expanding the learning styles that we cater
for.
Teachers can use sequential, more formal pedagogic methods as well in other parts
of the curriculum, but the point of this part of the curriculum, the informal part, is
that instead of differentiating by giving different tasks to children of different
abilities, the informal learning project is differentiated by outcome: so we give the
same task to all children and each child finds his or her own route through the
learning. So they differentiate the learning for themselves.

AAPG- In the new pedagogy you are proposing, is there a way to approach
children to other kinds of music, for instance classical music?
LG- Yes, in "Musical Futures" we used the informal, aural learning methods
firstly with the childrens own choice of music, then with some more structured
materials using a funk track. Then they repeated their own choice of music again.
This was very interesting because at that point their choice was much more
informed by a wider range of music, including their parents music, and by
consideration of what music would be most suitable for them to use; whereas
before, they only chose the music that they liked and that was in the charts at the
moment. Then they composed in bands and community musicians came in to work
with them. Then we used classical music, where the children learned to play some
pieces of classical music in parts by ear, with a little bit of help. And the reason I
choose classical music for that was because we already knew - and also having

interviewed the children first we knew that in England the music which
teenagers hate most of all is classical music! They were very, very vocal in the
kinds of extremely rude words that were sometimes used to describe classical
music, as well as saying things like it is boring, repetitive, endless, it just goes on
and on, and on, it makes my ears ache, its all in Latin or some other
language that you cant even understand whats the point of that?; and so on.
So I choose classical music to do this task from a research point of view, because I
thought if the children are able to do this task with music, which they hate then
that means that they could do it with any kind of music. So the point was not to
feed them classical music, and not to replace a way of teaching classical music,
but it was an experiment; and in fact it did open their ears and after they had
learned the classical music many of them said their attitudes towards it had
changed. Some said they still hated it but they could see the point of it more now,
and some of them actually said they had come to like classical music a little bit
more, and many of them said their respect for classical music had increased.

AAPG- Could you explain more about Musical Futures? Is there any teachertraining program? How do you do the assessment of the students?
LG- Musical Futures itself was founded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation which is
a charity organization in London. They run a large program of events with
teachers, and the project that I led inside Musical Futures was one out of two main
pedagogic projects. That one is referred to as the Informal learning project, and
the other is called non-formal teaching project. The non-formal teaching one
originated in the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, amongst other
places, and their method is a little bit different; they are more teacher-directed and
community music orientated, and they get the kids to learn popular music in
whole-class sessions and also in small groups. So Musical Futures contains both of
these aspects, as well as many resources which teachers themselves have since
contributed. It also contains a website where pupils can upload and share their own
music, called NuMu.
The Musical Futures organization offers free training courses to teachers. Any
teacher can go on the course and learn how to use either one of other type of
program, but some courses consider both programs. They are usually a one-day
course. So one teacher might go on one one-day course, later she might go to
another one-day course. And Musical Futures have organized schools which help
to do the training in their own district, so many of the courses are now lead by
teachers themselves. These are called champion schools, and they are schools,
which have been using Musical Futures pedagogy for a while.

When it comes to assessment, the aim of the work that I did was to teach by
allowing children to learn. I was not interested in producing assessment methods
myself. However in England we have a National Curriculum, which specifies a
range of learning objectives, and the teachers, found that the children could meet
all the learning objectives in the National Curriculum by doing the project. One
learning objective concerns reading notation, and that was the one that was least
well met by the project, but in stage 2 of the project we do introduce a little bit of
different types of notations, so to some extent that was also fulfilled. On the
website of Musical Futures, my colleague Abigail DAmore, has put up a lot of
materials concerning how the informal learning project fulfils the assessment
objectives of the National Curriculum.

AAPG: Do the students have individual instrumental lessons in Musical


Futures? Do the teachers know how to play all the instruments: keyboard,
drum kit, guitar, etc.?
LG- No, the teachers very often dont know how to play any of these instruments
themselves. The teachers are classically trained so they have basic facility
obviously, but the teachers themselves may never have played a drum kit or a bass
guitar for example. Most of the kids have not had instrumental lessons either and
in the case of the ones who have, most of them have learned orchestral instruments
- violin, flute, piano and so on. So the teacher is very much a learner alongside the
children. But what happens on the training courses is like this: if a teacher goes on
a Musical Futures training course, they have to do the same tasks that the children
do in the schools, so for many of them that would be the first time that they play
an electric guitar or a drum kit; and they have to go of into small groups and get a
piece of music and learn to play it by ear in their groups. Very often that is their
only experience they have of playing those instruments or of playing by ear in this
way. Of course, there are some teachers - an increasing number of teachers in
schools in England - who do play these instruments and who are both classically
trained and have rock, pop or jazz experience; so those teachers are in a
particularly good position to do this, but it is certainly not the case that the
teachers need to be able to play already; because the whole point is that the
children discover it for themselves, and the teachers need to know what that feels
like.
AAPG- As you probably know, here in Brazil music has been out of the
schools for a long time and because a new law (Lei n 11. 769/08) next year is
the deadline for all the schools to have music back as a compulsory content.
What would you recommend to young music educators in Brazil?
LG- Well, I would not presume to come from a different country and recommend

what you do in your country. But what I think could be very exciting would be to
implement Musical Futures or some other version of informal and nonformal
pedagogies. I think the advantages of this would be that it would enable teachers
to come back to the very first question you asked me it would enable teachers to
become familiar with what musical skills and knowledge the children already
have. One of the things we found in Musical Futures in England was that the
teachers were constantly saying: I did not realize my students had so much
musical ability, I did not realize my students had so much autonomy, and
things like that. And those were experienced teachers who had been teaching in
classrooms for many years. So it would be very exciting if you wanted to
introduce Musical Futures or some similar approaches into your schools, and I am
of course aware that there are already a number of exciting projects of that kind
going on in different parts of Brazil. I would say you might want to do informal
and nonformal pedagogies some of the time, and other times you will need to do
more formal pedagogies. But I also do think that once the children have done this
kind of activity, because it increases their motivation enormously, then they will
be more interested in learning how to read notation and appreciate a wider range
of music. This is because they will see the point of it. So for myself, if I was in a
country such as Brazil which is just about to introduce music education into the
schools I would say try various informal and nonformal approaches first, get the
motivation and the trust of the kids, help the teachers see what the kids can do, and
then build on that.

Lucy Green is Professor of Music Education at the London


University - Institute of Education, UK. Her research interests are in the sociology
of music education, specializing in issues of meaning, ideology, gender, popular
music, informal learning, and new pedagogies. She is the author of Music on Deaf
Ears: Musical Meaning, Ideology and Education (1988/2008), Music, Gender,
Education (1997), How Popular Musicians Learn: A Way Ahead For Music
Education (2001/02), and Music, Informal Learning and the School: A New
Classroom Pedagogy (2008) as well as numerous articles and book chapters. She
has lectured in many countries around the world, and serves on the Editorial
Boards of a number of journals, including Music Education Research, Radical
Musicology, Popular Music, the British Journal of Music Education, and Research
Studies in Music Education. Lucy led the research and development project
"Informal Learning in the Music Classroom" within the British venture "Musical
Futures". Her current research is taking this work forward into instrumental
tuition.