• David Unger, PhD

The History of Music



Last year I went to the Skirball museum and saw an exhibit about Bill Graham. I asked my twenty-something daughter if she knew anything about him. She didn’t and I have done a fairly good job of exposing her to the history of rock and roll. But, Bill Graham was a producer, not a musician, and thus not as well known. Perhaps he was the first big time rock producer, but still not in the front line of rock music singers/groups/songs/stories you ought to know.


At the exhibit I was looking at a picture of the Who performing the rock musical Tommy. A mother was there with her teenage daughter and the mother was listening to Pinball Wizard on display headphones. She looked at me with dismay and said, “She doesn’t even know who the Who are!” Then she put the headphones on her daughter. I hoped my daughter did.


I got to thinking about music education and schools. I couldn’t recall ever taking a class that covered the ABC’of Music History. I imagine something about music must have gotten woven into my history classes, but it is not coming back to me now. Of course, much of my schooling is not much coming back to me now.


Overall very little time is spent in schools addressing the role and place of music in our lives. If you actually think about the time and money that people spend listening to music it is a significant percentage of our lives yet it gets very little playing time in schools. Music in most schools is an elective. In the course descriptions I have looked at I have not seen much about the history of various forms of music and how they related to what was happening at the time.


I would love to convene a group of music teachers, musicians and fans to develop a curriculum of the History of Music. I would bet that could pretty much put together a course you could take every year of your schooling. It could be right up there with Math, Science, English, Language, History and PE. I don’t know what grade they would study the music of the 60’s and 70’s, but I bet it would include Bill Graham and the Who and the mother at the museum wouldn’t have to lament about her teen’s musical education.

#Music #HistoryofMusic #teachingmusic #musicinschools #BillGraham

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