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neonatal health and learning — apropos for us, with a new arrival due soon. On the show were two researchers, both interviewed by an extraordinarily knowledgeable and well-read host. Together with the rapt studio audience, we learned fact after thoughtful fact, seamlessly presented in the unedited but undoubtedly well-scripted show — about how pre-born babies respond to the mother’s diet, and to the mother’s stress level, and to the ambient sounds outside the womb. Infants whose mothers ate chocolate during pregnancy were measurably happier than those whose mothers abstained. Wow! I thought. And how did anyone even imagine to research this stuff in the first place? The researchers were exploring topics I didn’t even know existed, let alone ones that could be investigated.


These were true-to-life researchers (quite unlike those in Star Trek), sharing real research. Still, my encounter with their work was mediated by the radio production. I was mesmerized, I was illuminated, perhaps I was inspired, too… but still, I was no more than an interested citizen, and a member of a radio audience. As a researcher myself, I knew that I was only hearing the “greatest hits” of these scientists’ work. Rarely are research findings ever groundbreaking — more often, an individual research study reveals only small insights. Broader and deeper understanding of any given phenomenon is usually found only after several often-arduous and sometimes- mundane studies are completed.


I thoroughly enjoyed the radio show. But reflecting upon this experience and extrapolating upon it as it might relate to music teaching, I found myself thinking once again: Our profession isn’t well-served by having teachers who are only “fascinated” by research.


Encounter No. 3. A commercial break interrupts yet another favorite television show. The product being advertised is a vitamin supplement of some kind, intended for “silver”-aged adults. Happy, healthy 50-somethings are shown enjoying all sorts of outdoor pursuits in picturesque settings and perfect climates.


ala breve


Still a few years away from this commercial’s target demographic, I wait impatiently for my show to resume, until the voiceover catches my attention: “…and research shows that a diet rich in Vitamin X can help strengthen bone health.”


For better or worse, commercial-like appropriations of research seem rather common in and around our field. My Facebook feed is replete with various news reports (often shared by teacher friends of mine) about music study being good for the brain, good for learning, good for school test scores, good for college readiness, good for just about everything. Of course, I’m pleased to see my friends sharing news items, particularly if it involves research, and most especially if it supports a cause about which we all are quite passionate (namely, music!).


And what about educational research beyond our particular subject matter — couldn’t that inform their work as well? In short, I’m concerned that our profession isn’t well-served by having teachers who are only “consumers” of research, as if research findings and even truth itself are commodities that can be purchased and used at the buyer’s discretion.


But — and pardon me, please — I am a bit skeptical, too. I worry when my friends only read and share research that is friendly to a predetermined point-of-view. I wonder if they would be as enthusiastic about sharing research that might challenge their teaching practice or their beliefs about music in the schools.iii


to learn the results. Uncle Jack was in good health, all things considered, but his physician wanted him to consider taking a statin medication to help keep his cholesterol under control. I asked her if a lower-cholesterol, higher-fiber diet might be a viable alternative. “Well, maybe,” she said, explaining that the relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol isn’t always very clear. “Besides, we think that there’s something about the statins that strengthens the arterial walls, independent of the level of cholesterol in the blood. I just read a research study about that in the New England Journal of Medicine. Very interesting stuff. Anyway, Jack, please think about it. Let’s check your cholesterol again at your next visit, and then we’ll go from there.”


Now that was impressive, I thought. Here’s a practitioner in the field, a busy family practice physician who’s probably not a researcher herself but who knows the research in her field well enough to succinctly and knowledgeably respond to my question. And I was struck by her choice of pronouns: We think that there’s something there. She was identifying herself as part of a community of professionals that included both physicians in clinics and hospitals and medical researchers alike. She saw the researchers’ work as having something vitally in common with her own day-to-day practice.


It’s not enough, I argue: Not enough for music teachers to be impressed, or to be fascinated, or to be a consumer of research. Admirable as those perspectives might be, it still leaves research and practice in two separate camps. Is there another model somewhere, whether in fiction or in real life — one with a more dynamic and intimate relationship between those who discover new knowledge and those who use that knowledge in service of their profession?


Encounter No. 4. By request, my wife and I accompany her recently-widowed uncle Jack to his annual medical checkup. He had his blood drawn a few weeks earlier, and was now at the doctor’s office


Could this be a model for our field? Could music teachers and music education researchers enjoy a similarly-symbiotic relationship… each interested in the work of the other, each personally vested in the success of the other, but with neither group necessarily trying to duplicate the other?


I would hope that this is more than a simple exhortation on my part for teachers to read more research and try to apply it to their classrooms. Instead, such a model would place new obligations on all parties, teachers and researchers alike, as well as on principals, college deans, state music education association officers, and others. It would also necessitate some structural changes in teacher education programs, teacher induction programs, and maybe even in state and


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