Tag Archives: Education and workplace skills

Music & Technology, Upgrading Your Skills & a Lifetime of Learning

When I started my career in sales, I listened to a set of audio tapes by Brian Tracy called “The Psychology of Selling.” A statistic that he cited really startled me. In the audio tape (cassette actually, this was 1995) he claimed that 90% of the sales tapes, books, CDs, etc. were purchased by 10% of the salespeople. Just the fact that salespeople are looking to upgrade their skills tells me a lot about their attitude. Perhaps they will find a gem of information in those materials that will actually lead to a sale. Regardless, I like a person who is always looking to improve and get an edge on the competition.

When I advanced in my career to a position where I had the opportunity to interview prospective employees, I always asked the question, “What books, CDs, or seminars had you read or attended that you found helpful in your career or self-development efforts?” The answers weren’t particularly important. Sometimes I got an idea for something to add to my own library, but the important thing is that they had an answer. ANY answer.

That brings us to the story of Mrs. Abby Nyhof of Mission, SD. Yesterday, she posted this message on Twitter:  

“RT @mrsnyhof: Referenced #MusEdChat in a job interview today! The admins seemed impressed 🙂 <- PS I got the job!”

First of all, congratulations to Mrs. Nyhof. #MusEdChat, for those who might not be aware is what as known as a “hashtag” on Twitter that allows like-minded people (in this case, music educators and those with an interest in music education) to search for content of interest. There’s also a dedicated time in which a live Music Education Chat takes place where those interested in Music Education tweet for one hour a week.

I suspect that those who interviewed her were intrigued by the fact that she might have insights on music education from her twitter activity. I suspect that what impressed them the most is just the fact that she chose to seek out information that would keep her teaching skills sharp and give her an edge.

A university music professor once told me that the average music conservatory could run by candlelight and that most hadn’t changed much in the last 150 years. With the integration of technology and the decline of major record labels in the era of the “self-sufficient” artist, the game is changing.

I’m often stunned by people who haven’t done anything in 20 years to diversify or upgrade their skills and complain when their company has a layoff and they are lost in the job market. Everyone should consider themselves self-employed these days, and you’re simply renting your services to a company or directly to the customer.

Kudos to Mrs. Nyhof. Dedicate yourself to a lifetime of continuous learning as she did, and you will become recession-proof.

The Role of Education and of Music Ed.: Life Skills vs. Work Skills

I came across this music education advocacy article from the International Society of Music Education (ISME) website by New York University Professor David Elliott that articulates the importance of providing children with an education that establishes a foundation for life skills and happiness beyond the narrow-minded objective of career preparation. Elliott states:

“…our schools should aim to develop students as people, not just job-fillers for today’s marketplace mindset. As many scholars have insisted in different words, education is for life: education ought to be conceived for life as a whole, not just for one aspect of life, such as work…In summary, music education is a unique and major source of many fundamental life goals. By actively supporting the aims of music education, school systems increase the likelihood that students will learn to make a life as well as a living both inside and outside school.

“…public school systems in most countries are becoming more and more focused on “testing” students in a narrow range of “academic” subjects using mechanistic measurement devices. Why? Many scholars suggest that this movement (sometimes called “Educational Reform”) is part of a global effort by corporations and “marketplace educators” to shape and “manage” schools according to the needs and values of “marketplace capitalism.” (This is an old story tracing back to the industrial model of the “school-as-factory” that exists to produce future factory workers). Educators have always been under pressure from the business world to devote more time and resources to the production of students-as-job-fillers by means of academic-vocational studies alone. This pressure has become more intense in the last fifteen years with the advance of globalization, which requires “standardization” in all realms of life, including schooling. Clearly, however, corporate leaders and marketplace educators are not concerned (at all) with enabling our students to make a life as well as a living.

“…Broadly speaking, then, we need to advocate on behalf of music education and arts education because what we do professionally is deeply connected with the need to protect and sustain the right of children to receive a balanced and comprehensive education, which means a school curriculum that makes a central place for the life values we can provide through systematic music teaching and learning.”

I applaud these noble objectives. I also believe that the generalization that corporate leaders and marketplace educators are not concerned (at all) with enabling our students to make a life as well as a living is overstated. There is a school of thought gaining acceptance that the successful corporations of the future will be those that attract the brightest minds by creating an environment dedicated to employee values.

But I also believe that we’ll never change all of the minds of those that pull the strings on educational resource allocation, and therefore we must sell to them on their own terms. In other words, by arguing that music education provides a foundation for both a life of fulfillment and for success in 21st century careers, we are equipped to make the case for music education that will compel those of either mindset. In a conversation that I had with Richard Baker, Fine Arts Program Coordinator at the Louisiana Department of Education he wholeheartedly concurred. “We must argue it both ways,” he stated.

As I’ve articualated here previously, “We should be able to justify arts on their own merits – in an ideal world. Here on the planet earth, it’s not working. Essentially, legislators and administrators believe that when forced to choose between worthwhile priorities, the most essential function of education is to prepare students for their careers. Art for art’s sake is an argument that essentially frames the music education funding discussion in this way for legislators and administrators – Do I fund programs that are necessary or those that are a luxury in the context of preparing students for the “real world?” Math and reading are seen as essential in any vocation, music only for the aspiring musician.

We need to reframe the terms of the debate.”

“Until we start articulating that music and the arts are essential these days in preparing students for all vocations, current trends will continue.”

For more info on articulating the benefits of music education that apply to success in the business world, see 9 common lessons of music education that translated into success in business. For testimonials from CEOs and business leaders, see the previous posts “More CEOs and Executives on Music Education Advocacy,” and “High-Tech CEOs Say the Value of Liberal Arts Education is Increasing.” To hear audio excerpts from CEOs and business leaders discussing how their musical experience prepared them for business success, see Music Education & Success: The Audio Interviews

To read the entire text of David Elliott’s article at the ISME website, click here.