Faculty of Education students landed three of five prizes awarded earlier this month in the 2017 Canadian Music Educators’ Association (CMEA) National Undergraduate and Graduate Student Essay Competitions.
The CMEA sponsors two student essay competitions annually, the Kenneth Bray Undergraduate Essay Competition and the Dr. Franklin Churchley Graduate Essay Competition.
Emily Wright (right photo), a music education undergraduate student, was awarded first prize in the Kenneth Bray contest for her essay entitled Boys Play the Tuba and Other Myths: Exploring Gender Stereotypes in Secondary Concert Band.
McKenzie Squires (left photo), also a music education undergraduate, received second prize for an essay entitled Motivation in Secondary Music Education.
Adam Staple, a graduate education student, won first prize in the Dr. Franklin Churchley competition for his essay, Technology and Composition.
Boys play tuba …
Ms. Wright’s essay examined gender stereotypes, including one that she had started out with when she first arrived at Memorial.
“I had this idea that girls played the flute and boys played the tuba.”
Instead, she found the opposite was true in her band class and it got her thinking about gender stereotypes.
“I figured if I had these ideas then other people will have them too, so I started exploring some studies about how stereotypes are perpetuated.
“I concluded with some strategies that other people have suggested, as well as some strategies that I have come up with, to help reduce the gender stereotypes in a school band.”
Ms. Wright says one strategy is to use all genders to model instruments to other students and to demonstrate how they are played.
“It’s important to understand the school that you’re in, the students and how they think about themselves, their peers and music in general, so the students can help teachers get rid of stereotypes.”
In her essay, Ms. Squires explored theories to motivate secondary music students in the classroom.
“A lack of student motivation is a common problem that educators are faced with on a regular basis. I wanted to come with strategies that I could use as a future educator in my own classroom.”
She examined student motivation theories developed by a pair of leading U.S. researchers, Carol Dweck and Daniel Pink.
Ms. Squires says both point to the importance of “praising effort rather than praising intelligence or talent as a healthier way to develop students.
“They suggest saying ‘I like that strategy or I like that you put that much efforts into achieving this.’ It encourages students to work harder.”
Ms. Squires is testing her theories at HMCS Acadia, a cadet training and music camp centre near Sydney, NS, where she’s teaching the senior brass and reed band.
“I feel that the cadets are responding well to it … they acknowledge that they are having some success every single week, and that they are improving and learning at a much faster pace.”
Technology and creativity
Mr. Staple investigated the question of whether or not the use of technology-based composition software impacts the creativity, motivation and engagement of music students in their composition tasks.
His own experiences suggests technology does have an influence.
“I chose to investigate this topic based on my own anecdotal experiences using technology in my junior high music program,” he said.
Mr. Staple says students take “very enthusiastically” to composition tasks when using technology like GarageBand on iPads to create 12-bar blues songs.
“Students also seemed to be legitimately proud of their work, often wanting to show it off to classmates, get a copy of their own, or going beyond the demands of the assignment to do additional compositions just for fun,” he said.
“It seemed to me that using technology for composition removed potential barriers to achievement, including a lack of notation and theory knowledge or instrumental training, and put all students on equal footing regardless of their musical background.”
Annual CMEA awards
The essays were part of the students’ course work during the winter semester. Dr. Andrea Rose, professor in the Faculty of Education, submitted the essays to the CMEA contests for those interested in participating in the competition.
Each student received a cash prize and an opportunity to have their essay published in the CMEA journal, Canadian Music Educator.
Memorial Faculty of Education students have landed 31 CMEA awards since the national essay contest began in 1994.
CMEA is a professional association that nurtures a vital music learning community throughout Canada.
The CMEA essay competitions are offered to all Canadian undergraduate and graduate students studying worldwide. Essays can be submitted in either French or English and are judged in a blind review process by nationally recognized scholars in the field of music education.