HomeAsk Deke: How can I incorporate contemporary a cappella into my curriculum?

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Q: As a preservice music educator, I often think about ways to incorporate contemporary a cappella into my future curricula. I know you've done work with ACDA on incorporating a cappella into the education standards. Can you elaborate more on what that could look like? Thanks!
~ Steven

A: Hi Steven,

Jazz was created somewhere around 1900 yet it wasn’t until 1947 that the first degree program was established, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that you saw it really gain mainstream acceptance educationally. I am hoping we’ll have a much faster timeframe, as a cappella isn’t a style (it spans every style) but rather embraces all styles.

My joining the board of the California branch of the ACDA as the first Contemporary A Cappella Repertoire and Resources chair was only the first step in gaining legitimacy in educational circles. There are others doing the same in other ACDA regions, and we have the fantastic A Cappella Education Association which is working to open doors and create standards that can be embraced by schools and universities everywhere. The AEA is developing a set of standards and rubric that can be used in many different settings, from adjudications to competitions.

As for a more immediate solution, I offer the following: the purpose of music is communication, and by its definition popular music is the most widespread, immediate way to communicate with the most people. It’s not necessary to wait for codification (or, worse, calcification) to make great music that singers will love singing and audiences will love hearing. It’s all around us. Not every pop song is great, but some will stand the test of time, and why should we wait fifty years for educational circles to catch up with us? I recommend you use everything you learned in your music education degree and pair it with all your experience as a performer to inspire, motivate and teach your students to make great music. Don’t worry too much about about standards, because you know what? The greatest musicians of all time colored outside of the lines. That’s what made them great. The listened to the roar of the crowd, not waiting for the approval of pedants. That lesson - how to touch people’s hearts, win over an audience, and inspire a room full of students - will prove to be the most valuable lesson they learn in your classroom, regardless of style.

And then one day, when the paperwork finally gets figured out, we’ll make sure your administration gets a copy to use to properly evaluate your latest viral video.

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