The MayDay Group holds regular colloquia, which serves to explore and interrogate a given MDG Action Ideal. Dates and locations vary at the discretion of the host. Click on any of the Colloquia below for more information, abstracts, and/or complete papers from past events.

MDG 35: The 35th MayDay Group Colloquium “Theory and Philosophy” will be held  June 9–12, 2024, and it will be hosted by the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, in collaboration with the School of Music, at the University of Victoria in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Come join the fun! Proposals are due by January 7, 2024.

Visit the colloquium website for more information, click here.

MDG 34: The 34th MayDay Group Colloquium “Collaborations Across Cultures” is being held 25-28 June 2023 and hosted by the Facultad de Música de la Universidad Veracruzana in Xalapa Mexico. We are proud to be collaborating with the International Society for the Sociology of Music Education. Come join the fun! Proposals are due before 6 February.

Visit the colloquium website for more information, click here.

MDG 33 will take place June 8-11, 2022 ( MDG 33 will be hosted by the University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The colloqium will center on the “Technology & Digital Media” Action Ideal with a focus of “Social Media for Good or Evil in Music Learning & Teaching.” Click here for the Call for Proposals.

MDG 32 took place June 29th through July 1 ( MDG 32 was hosted by the University of Oregon virtually. The focus of the colloquium is “Creating and Sustaining Equitable, Diverse, and Inclusive Music Learning Practices.” Click here for the Colloquium website. Click here for the Call for Proposals.

As a continuation of our engagement with the vital and challenging questions that make up our revised Action Ideals, The MayDay Group invites scholars, music makers, educators, and innovators from around the globe to consider and problematize music not just as meaningful sound, but as socially, culturally, and politically embedded action. This year’s Colloquium centers on ACTION IDEAL III: As agents of social change who are locally and globally bound, we create, sustain, and contribute to reshaping musics, ways of knowing music, and spaces where musicing takes place. Thus, music educators must always strive to provide equitable, diverse, and inclusive music learning practices. Musical cultures are human-driven, living processes, not merely sets of works or established practices. Musical activity develops out of an emergent synergy of change and tradition within human contexts and communities of practice. Thus, we need to foster the capacity for change in our musical and educational traditions. Questions that presenters might consider:

* How can music educators decolonize spaces, practices, and epistemologies for music learning and teaching?

* How can we work towards increased accessibility and equity in music curricula for all learners?

* How can we address issues of discrimination, bias, and oppression in spaces for music learning?

* How can we create continuously developing, socially responsive, and sustainable partnerships for musical activity within our local communities?

* How can engagement with local partnerships develop increased sensitivity and awareness in ourselves as globally bound musicians?

* Does the “production” of activist music teachers represent the potential for new forms of colonization? How might we avoid such an imposition while striving to educate teachers to be socially aware and who teach for social justice through music?

MDG 31 was held June 19-22, 2019 at the Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland. The focus of the colloquium was “Music Education as Social, Cultural, and Political Action.” Click here for the Colloquium website. Click here for the Call for Proposals.

MDG 30 was held June 6-9, 2018 at the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University, London, Ontario, Canada. The focus of the colloquium was “Understanding the Role of Curriculum in Contemporary Learning Communities.” It features Dr. Henry A. Giroux as the keynote speaker.

Visit the MDG 30 website for additional information.

MDG 29 was held June 21-24, 2017 at the Suderman Conservatory of Music, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The focus of the colloquium is Thinking Critically About Institutions and Individuals. Visit the MGD 29 website for additional information.

MDG 28 was held June 15-18, 2016 at Arizona State University, in Tempe, AZ. Visit the MDG 28 website or contact

MDG 27 was held in New Orleans, June 16-19, 2015, in conjunction with the 9th International Symposium on the Sociology of Music Education (ISSME). Click here to read ACT 15 (3), which features papers presented at ISSME 9.

MDG 26 was held at the Suderman Conservatory of Music, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The focus of the colloquium was “Co-Constructing Our Music Education.”Visit the MDG 26 website.

MDG 25 

MDG 24 was held at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. The focus of the colloquium was “The Aims of Music Education.” Visit the MDG 24 website. 

MDG 1 – MayDay Group 1 was held at SUNY Buffalo, NY, May 1-2 1993 and was titled, “Symposium on the Foundations of Music Education.” As the first MDG symposium, the focus was on the asking a priori questions key to music teaching and learning in schools in order to help teachers think critically about practice. Questions included: How do you define education? How do you measure success in the arts? What is music good for? How should music be taught? What model should we use?  What is music?

The MayDay Group

Symposium on the Foundations of Music Education, May 1-2, 1993; SUNY at Buffalo.

Reported by Patricia Chiodo

Participants- Harold Abeles (Columbia University), Richard Bunting (Crane School of Music), Richard Colwell (Boston University), Robert Cutietta (Kent State University), David Elliott (University of Toronto), Roy Ernst (Eastman School Of Music), J. Terry Gates (SUNY Buffalo), Estelle Jorgensen (Indiana University), John Kratus (Case Western Reserve), Patrick McMullen (SUNY Fredonia), Thomas Regelski (SUNY Fredonia), Keith Swanwick (University of London).

Setting-Board Room, Center For Tomorrow, Amherst Campus, SUNY at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

The participants were seated around a large rectangular seminar-style table.  Also present: one graduate student from SUNY Buffalo (Patricia Chiodo) acting as recorder, four graduate students from SUNY Fredonia as observers.  The sessions were recorded on audiotape for archival purposes.

Morning Session 5/1/93

10:00 AM-  Terry Gates called the meeting to order.  Introductions were made around the table, and the discussion began with an attempt to share views of “What is the problem?”  The morning session revolved around four questions related to answering this question.

How do you define education? (asked by Richard Colwell)

Regelski urged the group to use critical theory to take a critical view of schooling, to re-examine existing paradigms.  Schools exist to meet social needs.  What is that need, and are we meeting that need?  Gates suggested (with a smile) that education should be defined in a way that would enable us to fit music into it.

The discussion first centered around culture.  The following points were made: Education supports a culture; therefore, multi-cultural education is really a contradiction.  Whose culture should be included?  Should we be criticizing our own culture?  Should we include everyone’s culture willy-nilly, just to make them feel good?

Schools aren’t set up for education.  Our major obstacle is schools.  How broadly are we going to define education?  Education is a cultural function.  Education will go on whether there are schools or not.  The question about whether schools help or hinder education is a good question.  Teaching is a function of culture rather than an occupation.  Teaching should be regarded as the vehicle, education is the purpose, and passing along the culture is the function.  Schools are not just transmitters of culture, they are interpreters of culture, but are the schools helping student to be interpretive?

Elliott said that many schools never get to this point and outlined the three major functions of schools: 1) to act as benign asylums, serving a custodial function, 2) to sort kids for employment, 3) to develop the necessary academic and vocational skills.   Ninety percent of the schools never get beyond that.  These three functions of schools are barriers to education.  Music offers so much more that schools aren’t set up to provide.  Maybe we need to work toward changing schools into educational institutions.  Kratus agreed that schools are set up for vocational training for the future work force, and the goals are coming from industry.

Several more criticisms of education were offered:  Even if an educational institution only fulfills those three functions, it creates a culture.  We have to deal with that culture.  We have to bridge the gap.  One of the things schools do not do is investigate their own culture.  There is a difference between school and education.  Most schools never get to life goals.  We should start with reality, whether we like it or not.  No matter how good our philosophy is, we have to change schooling before it matters, but where do we begin?  We’ve been talking to each other too much in sessions like this.  How do we get out to the administrators and the public?  We need some Howard Gardners of music education, people who can communicate with ordinary folk and engender public support.  We break the circle by producing researchers who can write in a way that communicates with ordinary folk.

Gates reminded the group of the need to come up with a strategy.  The music educator’s interest in the musical health of the community extends to the whole community of the school.  A major mechanism is to make each teacher a “Howard Gardner” in that community, and empower them to carry this message, and to care about the whole community in a productive, politically successful way.

Abeles presented a more optimistic view of schools:  The arts programs are ‘islands of hope’ in the schools.  Schools may be the one place where children have a shot at understanding culture.  The arts can offer the one opportunity in schools to do something different than the students do all day long.  Regelski added that the arts could have a critical function in schools.  The arts could be the “oasis,” where kids “question answers rather than answer questions.”  Ernst agreed that the situation is not so bleak.  The arts often rise above the other aspects of schooling, and many people are doing good work, but Elliott pointed out that the arts in general are not as successful as we would like them to be.  This led to consideration of the next main question.

How do you measure success in the arts? (asked by Swanwick)

Elliott:  What do successful teachers know that other teachers need to know?  We should probe the common knowledge that successful teachers have, instead of this top-down approach.  We have ignored praxis to our own disadvantage.  I would love to know what those teachers know.  Put these “islands” together so we produce a “mainland.”

Start with action research in the classroom.  However, those successful teachers are do-ers.  Many are reluctant to sit down and talk about what they do.  Somebody else is going to have to have the framework to study them.  Also, we should invite someone from the outside to look at us, to give us another perspective on ourselves.

Ernst hoped the group wouldn’t just come up with another philosophical statement.  He said it is unrealistic to think people will be persuaded by reading research.  They are persuaded by models.  We should think about producing some good models that represent good practice.  A useful thing would be to think about “Why do they do the things they do?”

Swanwick noted differences in cultural perspectives and asked two questions of the group: 1) What are the indicators that you are using to measure success and failure in the arts in education? and 2) What criteria do you have of good practice and good models?

We lack professionalism because we don’t have uniform criteria.  When our patients die, when kids drop out of our program or end up hating music by the end of six years of general music, we blame it on culture or television, parental upbringing, school culture or a host of other things.  We don’t have the clarity of purpose that a physician or a dentist has.  Therefore, we cannot evaluate success.  You want to have models, but you haven’t decided models to achieve what?  That’s one of the things we can talk about.

Success cannot be measured within the context of an individual teacher or school.  It must be measured in terms of the entire country, over the long term.  Because what we are interested in is of such long term duration, it is hard for us to say that this particular teacher in this particular setting is successful.  We must ask, “What does the musically literate individual look like?”  What kind of students are we interested in producing.

Cutietta noted that when you look at a musically literate person in our society, that person often doesn’t fit in with what we have been doing in the schools.  That person just doesn’t fit into school music anywhere.  He was usually the outcast by sixth grade.  For him, it’s the active musician, actively involved with folk traditions, a quality musician; but that’s often the one who doesn’t fit in.

Ernst: We should make an effort to have more common ground with contemporary American musical culture, and to be less devoted to perpetuating European musical culture.

A question was made to Gates about his comment regarding the how the elementary school teacher speaks for the whole musical community.  Gates clarified his comment by saying that the elementary teacher comes in contact with the whole community through the children, and should be empowered to connect the children she has with musical culture.

Regelski addressed the need for teachers to become critical of things that they are doing, not in the negative sense, but of critiquing, questioning and seeking to improve.  We need to start the kindergarten teacher thinking about what that final product might be, and to get the teachers in one school to agree on that in their own island before they start making bridges to different school systems, or states.

Criticisms of critical thinking were offered:

Ernst:  I’m bothered by the assumption that this is new, that people haven’t been productive in a critical way previously.

Jorgensen:  Critical theory only addresses one half of the equation.  Philosophical enterprise is both analytical and synthetic.  Critical theory fits within the analytic mode.  What happens to the synthetic, or the positive, anti-critical mode, which is the generative mode that provides new insights and new developments?  Critical theory doesn’t come up with the kinds of fresh alternatives we need.  I’m not comfortable with the theory as a direction I would like to see music education founded on.  Part of my problem is that I’m wrestling with the questions, “What should I preserve from the past?” and “What should I change for the future?”  Do you really want a radical change?

The conversation returned to the question of “Is it successful?”  Swanwick commented that the conversation seemed to imply that there was a worry about whether music will continue to be supported, but it seemed to him that music is well-embedded.  He asked if the concern was whether people were participating in musical cultures beyond school age.

Jorgensen enumerated the following list of indicators of distress reported by MENC: high rates of music teacher burnout, decline in the number of music supervisors, studies that show little relation of school teaching to music participation, lower attendance at MENC national conferences, an aging teaching force, reports criticizing the Arts over the last 10 years.  Abeles added a lack of direction and a lack of clarity about what we should be doing to the list.

Bunting told an anecdote about a successful experience teaching banjo in the school classroom, which resulted after he addressed the following questions: What kind of music to teach, what to teach about that music, what was appropriate to teach about music, and what outcome was hoped for?  He found that the programs are not in trouble in districts which have answered these questions.  In each successful district, the model fit with what the parent felt was good for their kids.  There was positive music making and there were positive outcomes.  We have to use critical thinking to look at the models, affirm our intention to look at what is and isn’t working in the profession, and apply critical thinking skills.

The discussion centered around the issue of the standard of continuing participation beyond school age.  On the one hand, we care about whether people are still playing 10 years later, but on the other hand, it’s not the playing that is important but the fact that the person has been enriched and understands the place of music in his life.  Other disciplines, like chemistry , do not use continuance as a standard of excellence.  How do you measure the success of the teacher?  Is it numbers?  Is it sight-reading?  Is it 10 years later if they are still playing?  Is performance for the music making, or is it for some other purpose?

What is music good for? (asked by Regelski)

More effective than saying that we want people to participate in community bands and orchestras is to say, we expose people to different ways of thinking, so that when they are faced with a problem, they have some other ways of thinking about it.

The problem with teaching about the aesthetic mode is, what do people do with it?  What is important is that people work music into their lives.

The compositional approach in general music answers the question.  It is not taught for producing composers, but because students become interested in music.

How should music be taught?

Problems teachers face: They are constrained by their schedule.  They have a sense of being irrelevant in the school.  Teaching is a political activity.  Teachers have to fit the model that the schools are looking for.  There is not as much time to devote to music in the schedule as there used to be.  Students have many demands on their time now.

Problems with what is being taught now:  Teachers rely on method and call it teaching.  Aesthetic education was a bogus philosophy that is responsible for much that has happened in the last twenty years.  Theory teachers do not relate theory to practice.  Composing and artistic listening are not taught in the high schools.  Most American music making in the schools is a social activity, and there is little residue from the student’s participation in band in terms of continued participation or concert attendance.  The problem is in the way performing is taught.  Performing means interpreting, not just simple sound producing, and teachers have not been taught to teach that way.  We have failed in music teacher education.

Most music ed majors really are good musicians.  The graduates of our programs are more competent that other disciplines.  We should start the artistry of teaching early.  We celebrate performance, but we don’t celebrate pedagogy.  The average person who teaches at my institution does not know very much about pedagogy.

Elliott:  The center of music instruction should be performance.  Performing is not a skill.  It is quintessential music making.  Music is a performing art, not an aesthetic art.  If you want kids to listen, you have to induct them into the action of music making.  The center of general music should be music making, not listening.

Jorgensen:  The center should be compositional, not instrumental.  At what point do you most make music?  With synthesizers, it’s no longer necessary to perform.  In today’s world, a better way of making music is to compose music.

Elliott:  You can’t be a composer unless you are a performer.

Gates:  Composing and performing are not a dichotomy.  We should not confine ourselves to one thing or another.  We should build a structure that admits a lot of activity.

At this point, Gates suggested that the group get back to the core, to develop a rationale, but Bunting protested that the process itself was enjoyable, and to be forced to have to come up with something by a deadline was constricting.  Because the end of the session was approaching, the discussion turned to a critique of critical theory.  Regelski felt that the group had been using critical theory in its discussion, and quoted Habermas:  “In communicative action, participants pursue their plans cooperatively on the basis of a shared definition of the situation.”  He felt the group had been communicative, and needed to continue to work on social action to bring about change.

Ernst stated that he felt they were not being guided by that theory.  There were some good times in the morning, when things were hit on that were important to us, where the valuing was high.

Swanwick summarized the place of the theory in guiding the group by saying that we are already there in our intellectual ambiance, whether it is attributed to the theory as the source or not.  Critical theory has much to say about individual identity.  There is the idea of emancipation rather than correct knowledge, the idea of self-reflection, the idea of becoming involved rather than being detached.  One of the functions of skills is not simply to pass on knowledge, but to look at the knowledge as it is passed on.  The way we are empowered is when we have the opportunity to make decisions.  Go back to the listening, performing, and composing discussion.  There is a hierarchy of decision making in music.  When you’re listening, you can’t make very many decisions.  You can turn it off, or you can turn it on.  You make decisions about how to analyze it.  When you’re performing, it depends.  In a large group, you can’t make many decisions.  If you do, you’re thrown out.  You have to conform to the notation, the director, the people around.  Your decision making is somewhat limited.  If you’re improvising in a smaller group, you can make many more decisions, and you draw on your repertoire that you have been accumulating in the past in the performance mode.  When you’re composing, you have another set of decisions to make about the ordering of time and what will happen.  It requires performance in order to be articulate, and requires listening, of course.  The situation can be negatively or positively defined by the range and scope in which students are able to make decisions, either by how they’re listening, or how they’re performing, or how they’re composing, and that’s where you would start to find how you can be critical of what’s happening.

Ernst:  I think ensemble directors would be able to grab onto a philosophy that’s based on performance.

Elliott: Performance can be abused, just as listening and any other thing can be abused.  The teacher must not be a director.  He must be a coach.  It can be taught so that decision making is non-existent.

Bunting:  It is a matter of teaching.  One of the biggest problems we have in our music education programs is we continue to celebrate musical performance but we do not celebrate pedagogy.

Jorgensen:  In defense of the listener to the compact disc: We have lost sight of Percy Scholes’ notion of active listening.  We could argue that it’s a potentially very active experience, but have we as teachers known how to teach it as an active process?

The session ended with a break for lunch.

Afternoon Session 5/1/93

The session reconvened at 12:40 PM.  Terry Gates suggested that the discussion begin with attempts to define a rationale, and presented a handout called Music State-Space to begin the discussion.  His proposed rationale was developed by taking pairs of terms from each succeeding pair of terms starting with music as a cultural phenomenon, and then by looking at adult roles in music and asking, “What are the basic skills that we expect of all adults in Western society,” and “What skill clusters and knowledge clusters would be necessary?”.

Colwell: Does this relate to schools or education in any way? Gates: Not directly.  I view the school as one strategy of preservation, and not the only strategy.  Colwell: Did you deliberately omit political?  Gates:  There are political implications in talking about hierarchies of roles.  For example, role preservation.  The public school teacher has a vested economic interest in role preservation.  There are different hierarchies among music teachers.  At the top of the hierarchy is the public school tenured teacher or the college teacher.  General music teachers have more respect now than they had 20 years ago, as evidenced by the time allotted in conventions to general music.

Ernst asked how the music administrator fit into the scheme.  Gates replied that they typically act as the interface with the community.  It was noted that there has been a significant decline in the number of music supervisors.

Kratus asked: This says that music is a thing with content that exists within an environment, context.  The implication for that is that as music teachers, we should teach something about the thing and something about the environment.  Isn’t music also a process?  I think of music as music making rather than the thing that is made.  This leaves out the educational implications for improving the making of music. and shifts the focus on the product.  Discussion of music as a process included the following comments:  That is not intended.  No one can access the content without the process.  Is music more of a process than other subjects?  A subject is a unique way of doing or thinking about something, and all subjects have their process and their product.  In music, the process would be emphasized.  One could start from the “doing” and make a diagram fairly easily, too.

Gates pointed out how small a part of the whole diagram is the box labeled Preservation Strategies, which is where teaching is located.  In clarifying the term preservation strategies, Gates said culture is a dynamic process.  One of the things that keeps it dynamic is its preservation strategy.  Culture, defined as dynamic, includes processes and the skills to carry them on.  Preservation is the dynamic aspect of culture.

The conversation then turned from a discussion of Gates’ diagram to a more general discussion of a rationale for music education.  Are we looking for a rationale that satisfies what we as musicians think or one that satisfies the public schools?  Are we trying to persuade administrators or us as musicians of what we should do?  We have a rationale, but it’s not explicit.  We have difficulty verbalizing its importance for the rest of the world.  Question number 2 of “Some Questions For The MayDay Group” points out what a rationale should do.  The aesthetic rationale is good for some things, but it doesn’t include everything that teachers do.  The extent to which the rationale includes what teachers do is the extent of its importance.

What is our goal?  A philosophy that is well thought out?  Not a philosophy as a product, but a process that’s philosophical.  It’s a huge task.  What’s the difference between a rationale and a theory?  We need an underlying theoretical structure to which we can relate.  Maybe we need a better definition of what music is.  We will be successful if we come away from this meeting doing our own critical thinking.  We will be successful if we come up with some defining questions.  We don’t have to pin down the philosophy of music once and for all.  Maybe we should just come up with some models connected with some theories.

Where do we start?  Kratus: Skill is a good starting place.  I am a skill teacher.  I can teach skills.  Maybe anything beyond that is beyond what we should be trying to do.  I’m not using a narrow definition of skill, but a broad one.  Skill is not limiting.  Teaching and learning as skilled behavior would include everything.  Maybe we should come up with a hierarchy of skills.

What do we do about the affective side of teaching?  Some schools want objectives in terms of affective objectives?  Kratus:  Although I can indoctrinate if I want to, I’m excluding attitudes.  I think I can teach them the skill of having an affective experience, but I can’t teach them affect.

Regelski: Is skill sufficient?  My answer is no because we see skills being taught without music making.  Kratus:  I’m not suggesting we teach skills for themselves.

Elliott:  We should avoid the word skill which connotes mechanical abilities.  The real starting place is what it takes to make music.  What is the knowledge that a person needs to make music?  We are teaching a way of thinking and knowing that includes both skills and attitudes, and whatever is involved in making music well.  Music perception defines mind as cognition, but it should be consciousness.  There is no thinking without feeling.  This is a reasonable place to start.

Jorgensen:  Our responsibility is to education and to the culture.  That should be our starting point, not music.  Education or enculturation.  Which comes first, the music or the education?  That’s what’s so complex.  If we broaden education, we could see it working not just in school, but in the home, church, industry.  Each of those institutions mediates music.  I worry about what is missing from this (indicates Gates’ Music State-Space).

The discussion turned to the whole language program in the elementary schools.  It was noted that this method is based on a philosophy about language which empowers the teachers and the students.  The students see themselves as authors, and make many choices about writing.  Whole language teachers receive training in the method.  It was pointed out that music teaching, by contrast, is often just a process of emulating one’s own teacher, without thinking about the process.  It was also pointed out that it is OK to emulate a brilliant teacher, and  that we should start to value brilliant action.

The rest of the session was devoted to an energetic discussion of teaching models, and considerations of what to teach and attempts to answer the question, “What is music?”

What model should we use?

We need a model to begin with if only so we can go beyond it.  Consider action research as the model.  Teachers are unclear about what they are empowered to do.  By using the “becoming-critical model” students are able to become critical without being negative.  If all our faculty could define the model to their students and identify it as their model, we could get into being critical.  There should be master classes in teaching.  Imagine a whole battery of music teaching case situations.  “What would you do if…”

Teachers attribute all their failures to everything but their own teaching.  This is the “conservatory model,” where teachers only want to work with talented students.  If a lesson doesn’t work, teachers need to ask, “Why didn’t it work.”

What is music?

We’re bereft of critical discussions of what is music.  Music is what any people says it is.  If we can define a people, we can ask them what music is.  All music works with sound in time.  There is music all around and people are saying that it is very important to them.  We have to ask them.  It bothers me that we have this powerful popular music culture going on all around us and we don’t have anyone who is interested in it.

What should we teach?

What is it we want our students to get?  That seems like the first thing we have to know.  Of all that could be taught, what is most worth teaching?  Elliott: The foundation of what we should teach is musicianship, rooted in several different practices.  One of our great failures is that we haven’t probed the nature of musicianship.  That’s the key to enjoyment.  I don’t think that the musical enjoyment we experience is aesthetic.  It’s artistic.  Ernst:  Students should be able to make discriminating choices, and they have to have opportunities to practice that.

Jorgensen expressed concern with the pressure to include world musics, saying that there isn’t enough time to master one tradition, i.e. Western, and that her role is to preserve and transmit our heritage and culture.  Others felt that it wasn’t necessary to master any one practice first, and that there are many changes in course offerings to include world musics.  Cutietta mentioned Kent State’s Center for World Music, and pointed out that there is a danger of dabbling with so many different ones to choose from.  To study two or three cultures enhances your understanding, but too many is only dabbling.

In summary of the question “What is music?” Kratus listed the following outcomes of music education that had been discussed at the session: understanding of a variety of musical practices, the ability to make decisions, skills, enculturation, knowledge, concepts, and literacy, defined the way the language people do.

The session ended at 5:00 PM.

Morning Session 5/2/93

Gates began the session with a list of four ways to keep the dialog going:

  1. Estelle’s new journal, Philosophy of Music Education Review. The first issue, available in June, is a celebration of Suzanne K. Langer’s birth.  Up-coming issues will focus on Culture- what it is and how do we interpret it, and an issue will be devoted to highlight papers from this group.  The journal will include a Book Review, A Forum, critiques of papers.  Group members are encouraged to submit topics around which to build an issue.
  2. The Philosophy SRIG, new in 1990, to be chaired by Mary Reichling. There will be a session at MENC.
  3. Elliott’s 1994 conference in Toronto. The purpose of the conference is to encourage younger researchers, graduate students to present shorter papers during the week where senior scholars could give feedback.
  4. Paper exchange. Group members are encouraged to send papers to each other.  There should be an agreement to respond to each other’s papers, and to make elaborate comments on them before sending them back.  Dialog will firm up what seems amorphous here.

The first topic addressed in the session was research, and the need to involve teachers and undergraduates in critical thinking and research.  Discussion included the difficulties of getting into print, and the conservative, non-controversial nature of MENC.  Bunting expanded the problem beyond just getting into print, to the problem of bringing the findings of research to the practicing music educators, who, on the average, do not know how research relates to them.  As SRIG coordinator, Gates responded.  The Instructional Strategies SRIG was asked to consider the problem.  A promising practice comes from Pennsylvania where research cells consist of collections of public school and college people sharing results of trials in schools.  The research cells and dialog would have to continue.  The emphasis in the SRIGs should be communicating with the profession.  The typical method of communicating has been to publish a book and then transfer it into a method published by a company.

Kratus said the problem of why we don’t have a profession is because we don’t feel our practice is important enough to be guided by research.  We don’t get the response to research because we don’t believe we are engaging in systematic inquiry.  Also, the reviews are so dense and difficult to read.

Regelski proposed that research should be broadened to validate the kind of teaching that questions and tries to improve as a legitimate type of research.  What a teacher does in action research is a form of research.  Praxis is research.

It was agreed that there is a need for ways in which to connect research to the practitioners.  There is consensus and concern that this connection does not occur or occurs in limited ways.

The gatekeepers who control what is published have a bias toward empiricism.  Suggestions included a paper clearing the air on the various types of research, including action and applied, a journal devoted to action research because it is difficult to get it published (a new magazine from MENC called General Music Today, will include an article for teachers on how to do research in the classroom), an emphasis at the undergraduate level on why things are rather than merely how to do things, and more qualitative studies rather than empirical studies, because it is the kind of thing teachers can do.  Gates suggested that Bunting put together a workshop on the subject.

The difficulties of teaching critical thinking and philosophy were discussed.  It was mentioned that we need more models of research.  A workshop is needed for college teachers of how to teach critical thinking to undergraduates.  Critical thinking should be taught in all the classes.  It should not be a separate course.  We need to share ideas of what works to get to the problem of bringing the practitioner to this kind of thinking.

There has been too much reliance on journals.  MEJ doesn’t want controversy.  Other models could be used, such as a debate like Nightline where both sides of an issue are presented, or problem-based education, where you identify significant problems for people to approach that will lead them to critical thinking.

The socialization of researchers was the next topic of discussion.  It was mentioned that very few Ph.D. programs turn out ongoing researchers.  Researchers in our field who have published more than one study is fewer than 100.  There is almost no funding for people to do research.  Because of the pressure to publish, people have to write things that can get published.  British, Canadian, and Australians do a better job of socializing new researchers.  Having your dissertation picked apart by JRME might not be the best way.  Some schools are considering replacing the dissertation with five published, refereed articles.  We need to encourage the continuing research of new PhDs.

There was a feeling that the MayDay group represented a reaction to MENC and its connection to the curriculum merchants who publish advertisements in the MEJ.  (The first May Day was an uprising in 1512 by apprentices in London).  By developing a rationale, it will be possible to help teachers criticize, and to think critically about these things– who is telling us this, what bias is involved, what products are they selling.


  • Do we need a conference of our own, a journal, or a SRIG devoted to critical thinking
  • We need a forum open to all, not an exclusive club of researchers.
  • Hold a conference where industry is not allowed
  • Have a group discussion like this at MENC, with a core group doing the discussing, and others observing
  • Have an author at a convention discuss his book, with the audience expected to have read the book beforehand, so they can ask questions about what’s in the book
  • Have conference sessions that are participatory, where we focus on one topic, such as the problem of cultism in music education
  • Set up the Philosophy SRIG like a seminar, with chairs in a circle with concentric rings of observers
  • Have a counter conference, alongside MENC

The future of the MayDay group was discussed.  There must be preparation for a session like this.  A paper needs to be circulated to help focus the discussion.

It was agreed that a rapport had been established among the group members after so many hours, and that the membership of the group should be maintained.  Although the size of the group was already at a maximum conversational size, more female members might be desirable to counteract the white male domination.  It was suggested that Mary Reichling be invited.  The group accepted the name, the MayDay group, and agreed to meet again next year around the middle to late May in Toronto or Cleveland.