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Hi Steve:

And it's also contextual. The people I was referring to--some of the people I'd get in the cab--didn't have a chance to go beyond high school (if they even had a chance to finish), so the context I was referring to was structured, classroom education. When one is studying or working to learn a skill, trade or an art, the master teachers don't let the students get away with anything, if only because it's not in the student's best interest. And if it's performance, it's certainly unacceptable.

Yeah, the university educational system can sometimes cause people to dismiss what occurs outside of the context of so-called higher ed.  Years ago a music prof wrote in the UW alumni mag something to the effect that since music was now reproduced digitally,  all sounds that musical instruments make can now be generated by computer--and that this will eventually render instruments obsolete. You can imagine what this ex-NJ cab driver thought of that statement. I just hope he was putting us on.

I think of formal education as, well, being taught within a form or structure, with a given vocabulary, and a trajectory that hopefully covers as much of the material as the course demands. This form is meant to create a more efficient transfer of knowledge, and I think that, as far as that goes, it is a viable means of education, and I have found it to be applicable to art as well as science or history. Of course, any system of education put forth by a culture or society, will mirror the positive and negative aspects of that society. Kind of a chicken and egg thing, one informs the other. In the US we can see the struggle to change society by changing education, from both sides of the coin, so to speak.

But I certainly don't think you will ever find a university mission statement that indicates the goal of education at this university is to blind students to the world outside the walls of the university. At least, when I was in uni in the '70s, the vast majority of teachers taught much more of an expansive view, encouraging the students to question the knowledge, and themselves. I began college as a science major and ended as an art major, and found this to be true in both realms. But, every student has the opportunity not to hear this invocation to accept change. Many individuals prefer to have a static, controllable existence and for us to judge the education system on the predilections of the individual student, and how they utilize the education they received, is a mistake. Two students could work through the same classes, with the same professors, and still have an entirely different response, based more on their own stance going into the class. Am I here to learn all the right notes to hit, or am I here to learn how to make music? One outlook increases your knowledge, the other develops you're musical intelligence.

An informal education generally requires a lot more work and investigation on the part of the student. You learn things when you bump into them by chance, then you have questions and you go looking for answers. Some answers may be easy to find, some maybe you have to let go, until the right situation comes along for you to learn that "lesson". I think you have to admire that the informally trained artist has had to create their own framework of understanding, often making critical choices based on little more than audience feedback or the encouragement of a fellow musician. It takes a lot of motivation to keep learning and progressing when the material comes in sporadic moments as opposed to always having the next class to learn another step.

"Am I here to learn all the right notes to hit, or am I here to learn how to make music?" I think the personal response to this question has more to do with the growth of a musician whether they have a more formal or informal education in music and their instrument.


Nothing to do with racism, in most cases. I once watched a film where Ginger Baker was being interviewed about drumming. A large part of the presentation was Ginger's insistence on "the rudiments". Of course there are rudiments, no matter what you play. You can chose to ignore them from the outset but good luck keeping up with your peers who work with them. At a certain point you can branch off into abstract musical expression. Or not!  :)


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