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Sunday, November 8, 2015

On the School Orchestra

The school orchestra has become fashionable lately in Dutch primary education. A thorough genealogy of the resurrection has still to be written, but elements that would figure in such a genealogy would be: the impetus of the 'Jedem kind ein Instrument'-initiative in Germany (which would require a genealogy of its own, of course); the dwindling municipal music schools in the Netherlands who see a new market here, a market in which their instrumental teachers may earn a living teaching groups of children a classical music instrument; the also dwindling amateur brass orchestras in the Netherlands, who have trouble surviving and see new possibilities of recruiting members; policy makers in music education who seek for new justifications of music education and in school orchestras find a means to combine arguments about the benefits of the beautiful, the ad nauseam reported beneficial effects of playing an instrument on school achievements and that 21st-century fetish 'the brain', and the supposed sociability of playing in an orchestra as an antidote to our so individualized times; and also the tendency of primary school teachers to think about themselves as 'unmusical' and that therefor the best thing to do is to give music education away to external 'specialists' such as instrumental teachers and conductors.