I sat, one June morning, on a Michigan State University classroom floor in a circle of teachers, ages 20 to 70. At 45 years old, I had not been asked to sit criss-cross-apple-sauce since… well… since it was called Indian style. And my body knew it. Always an athlete growing up, and still able to play a mean second base and smack my fair share of balls over the fence, I was NOT going to let these girls (practically everyone else in the class), know how much this was hurting my sacroiliac (almost as much as my pride). So I sat, and swayed, and sang, and did everything all the girls did – just a lot clunkier. (More clunkily?...)
It was 1996 and Cindy Taggart, the new music education chair at MSU, had encouraged me to attend a 2-week-long summer workshop in early childhood music. But I did not know that it was going to be early childhood music. I had just accepted a college teaching position in the neighboring state of Wisconsin, a state that, as far as I knew at the time, might not even have electricity. (They did.) Knowing that I would be teaching my first elementary general music class for college undergraduates that coming fall, I had asked Cindy, the new chair of the MSU music education program, if she might know of a summer class that I could take to renew my familiarity with Orff, Kodaly, Dalcroze, Suzuki, et. al. She assured me that she did. Sort of…
So on this Monday morning in June, across the circle to my right, sat Edwin E. Gordon singing, moving, chanting, and explaining his pre-audiation theories – before I had even heard of the word audiation, and five years before the word would show up in any dictionary.
… BEFORE THEORY
On this morning I would learn several new concepts and names – Music Learning Theory, Audiation, Early Childhood Music and Movement, Phyllis Weikert – and especially, the mantra Sound Before Sight Before Theory. I would later come to realize that many of early childhood music’s most prominent names look to Dr. Gordon and his pre-audiation theories for major portions of their theoretical framework. And at the root of it all is the mantra that I learned that Monday morning at MSU, Sound Before Sight Before Theory.
I wonder how many realize that, embedded in the first three words of that phrase (Sound, Before Sight, ...), resides the entire musical rationale for early childhood music and movement – the entire musical basis for the existence of a group like ECMMA and all the groups and movements that embody the collaborative ECMMA mission.
In the 16 years since that June morning I have probably repeated the phrase 1000 times or more, while teaching scores of college classes and professional workshops. More importantly, MLT concepts have slowly infiltrated the way I teach all my classes – infants, aural skills classes, my capstone Music Program Administration course – and even my performing groups.
I would like to say that Dr. Gordon could not imagine the huge impact that his expansive Music Learning Theory has made on the teaching of thousands of educators of all ages, and of nearly every civilized nationality, but that would not be true. He knows. He knows that music education has been turned on its respective ear, and that publishers and teachers will spend the next 50-odd years figuring out how to translate his ideas, his research, and his influence into lesson plans, positively affecting the lives of tens of thousands of young musicians.
And this August, when Dr. Gordon presents his Keynote Address at the 2012 ECMMA Convention in Green Lake, Wisconsin (yes, they have electricity), those of us fortunate enough to attend will have yet one more opportunity to rub shoulders with a legend who has already positioned himself among the great names in music education history.
I hope you can join us. 2012 ECMMA Convention. One for the ages.