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connecting music to other arts and other disciplines. It is easy to become lost in the trees of standards, blinding the view of the “aesthetic forest”.

The standards are useful but surely meant to be the means to an aesthetic end. Through increasingly complex encoun- ters with pitch, rhythm, duration and intensity our students (and we as their mentors) can have increasingly intense aes- thetic experiences with music. Such experiences allow what Reimer (1989) called the “education of feeling”. The ever- deepening musical experience enhances our daily human existence; therefore, any walk in life can be better because of music education. This notion should be the cornerstone in the practice of our musical standards, primarily serving to give in education what no other discipline can afford us. At the heart of music education, our students can be guided to discern the way each of the elements affect aesthetic re- sponse in performing, responding to, creating and making connections with music.

I remember well an exemplary instance of education of feel- ing in the final days of my thirteen-year public school teach- ing tenure in a small Illinois school system. As graduation approached my high school choir worked hard to prepare an a capella choral composition entitled, “Jenny Rebecca” (Carol Hall, arr. Clair McElfresh, 2001). The piece is full of subtle suspensions and borrowed harmonies from the paral- lel minor; in other words, evident is a great deal of tension and resolution that is mirrored in everyday human experi- ence. The final measures climax with a beautiful I—IV— bVI—bVII—I chord progression. The students, who at the time held varying degrees of basic theoretical understand- ing, reveled in the harmonic make-up of the piece, although most were initially unaware that it was the harmonic lan- guage that moved them so much. Most commented on the “cool” way it sounded in those places where the aforemen- tioned suspensions and harmonies occurred. In that moment I thought to “water down” the harmonic make-up of those phrases to a basic I—IV—V—I to demonstrate the “feeling- ful” effects that each progression (the borrowed or chromatic harmonies versus the simpler harmonies) created. Suspen- sions were also eliminated to further reduce tension and dra- matic quality. In those moments, my students were aurally grasping the influence of harmonic structure and nuance on their individual and collective aesthetic experiences. Very basic theoretical information was shared, but the primary fo- cus was the raw experience of the heightening and diminish- ing effects the two different harmonic structures made on the overall musical entity.

This “accidental” career moment has become a treasured teaching memory. I was fortunate, as were my students, to have been able to intuitively know what really matter on that day. I frequently wonder how much more I could have


given those young people had I organized and approached more general music and ensemble rehearsals in this way. The students were not only singing the piece well, but also in varying degrees, analyzing, evaluating and experiencing music and its aesthetic properties—one of the chief aims, I contend, of music education.

Having taught at the college level for nearly twenty years now, I more than ever seek out those critical and salient musical qualities of each piece I introduce and teach to the GVSU Varsity Men’s Glee Club. Yes, we have big perfor- mances ahead in the next couple of weeks, but I remain com- mitted to the importance of what I do—opening the window of musical understanding wherever and whenever I can so that they, the singers under my charge, are part of this won- derful “education of feeling” that is a vital part of what I do each and every day of my life.


Brahms, J. (1868). How lovely is thy dwelling place (from A German Requiem). New York: E.C. Schirmer.

Hall, C. (Composer), & McElfresh, C. (Arranger). (2001). Jenny Rebecca. Indianapolis, IN: Colla Voce Music, Inc.

Langer, S. (1957). Philosophy in a new key (3rd ed.), Cam- bridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Leonhard, C., & House, R. (1972). Foundations and prin- ciples of music education (2nd ed.). New York: Mc- Graw-Hill Book Company.

National Association for Music Education (2014). Music Standards. Reston, VA: Author.


Reimer, B. (2003). A philosophy of music education: Ad- vancing the vision. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Pr e n t i c e Hall.

Charles Norris, Professor of Music Edu- cation at Grand Valley State University, holds masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. His undergraduate work was completed at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. A thirteen-year veteran of K-12 music teaching, he brings practical experience into a variety of music edu- cation methods courses at Grand Valley State University. Dr. Norris also teaches aural perception and sight singing, cho-

ral conducting, conducts GVSU Varsity Men and directs gradu- ate research. Dr. Norris can be reached at

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