Reconceiving music and music education as ethical practices

Wayne Bowman


Conventional accounts of music as a source of “aesthetic experience” and of music educa-tion as “aesthetic education” have led the music education profession to seriously neglect the import-ant links between music-making, the creation of community, and the development of character. In this talk I will argue that music education’s understandings of music and of education are urgently in need of repair, and that a crucial part of that project involves recovery of their nature as funda-mentally ethical and ethically-guided practices. Drawing on neo-Aristotelean accounts of the nature of practices, I will show how such understandings offer to enrich and vivify both our understandings of music-making and music teaching. I will argue that music-making should be regarded as a rich resource through which students explore the fundamental question What kind of person is it good to be? I will also argue that this question lies at the heart of professional practice for music educators. These ethical orientations alter profoundly what we conceive musicking and educating to be, the reasons they are important, and how we should go about engaging in them. They offer to shift our attention from teaching and learning about or in music to learning through music.

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