is the premier oldest organization in the field of music education, under auspices of UNESCO, ISME believes that lived experiences of music, in all their many aspects, are a vital part of the life of all people
28th World Conference of ISME, Bologna, Italy, 2008
Ms. Gutman was very grateful for the special opportunity to share her innovative teaching approach with colleagues from various countries that was presented to her at ISME'2008, in Bologna.While stepping upon ancient street stones and walking through narrow centuries-old streets, Bologna reveals to its vistors not only as renown center for its long-lasting tradition in superior food industry,but as the home of 1st ever established formal university that also provided great "food for thought" and served as a local center for music education.
Ms. Gutman was invited to give presentation on her method of integrating composition basics into beginning piano training, the concept that is self-motivating for the child (good bye to nagging), due to being holistic, child-centered, rewarding for both student and teacher, logical and fairly simple to implement. Ms. Gutman brought up the comparison with teaching other subjects such as visual and literary arts and foriegn language, where learning never centers only on the process of aqcuiring the expression means (reproducing someone's expressions), without enabling the student to apply every newly learned element in pro-actively created authentic content (for example, learning to read in foreign language, but not learning to write basic sentences with the same newly learned words, etc.).
In other words, she stressed that the tradition of teaching a beginning musician both to create authentic content while learn the tools for it is not a new concept, but rather forgotten tradition of teaching music for centuries. This approach is reflected in her Hands-on Composition Projectbook "Let's Compose Variations", based on the Theme "Scherzo" by Kabalevsky. (Ms. Gutman studied at the Music Dept. that was the experimental base for the launch of the visionary music education nation-wide reform, initiated by Kabalevsky.) Photo: Sara Mostacci, student of Libero Conservatorio Municipale “J.Du Pré” Spilamberto (Mo), at the Master Class with Rozalina Gutman, Bologna Conservatory, Italy, part of 28th World Conference of ISME, 2008
The beginning of the Opening Ceremony was marked with special musical event - the performance of the special "ISME Fanfare" by ISME Honorary President Dmitry Borisovich Kabalevsky, whose dedication to the cause of music education is examplary for all musicians, since it reminds us that the only way for the music to be valued fully for all its properties is to provide the tools of music literacy, and particularly to growing minds. (Italian visit brought up the historical perspectives about musical ties between Italian and Russian courts. During XVII-XVIII centuries Italian musicians were invited by the Russian monarchs, as well as Russian musicians were sent to Italy to study, thus tremendously influencing what has become a distinct "Russian Musical Culture" later on.
Ms. Gutman strongly believes that one of the most effective ways to "advocate" for the art of teaching music is to use the most effective teaching tools that produce self-evident results. Nothing can be more revealing and sad than meeting an adult who regrets quitting music lessons during childhood, believing that he/she did not have the abilities that are required for successful learning of music, instead of realizing that the teaching methods (currently common) were simply self-defeating and inappropriate. That is why, although changing the mindset for the teacher may take quite a bit of mental effort, it pays off with rewarding and fun results for both a student and a teacher. (In fact, fairly recent discoveries of neuroplasticity prove that challenging tasks promote growth and are good for keeping adult brain alive and vibrant.)
Of course, the conference presented numerous learning opportunities that are simply too many to name. One of greately illustrated events by live music-making on African traditional folk instrument, was organized by Huib Shippers symposium 'Embracing diversity: A new ISME policy on world music in education'. Please,view additional coverage of events by Australian collegue from Brisbane University Prof. Paul Draper, including photoalbum with multitude of posted photos.
Alongside with the authentic autograph of teenage Mozart's examination, the Museum of Music of Bologna has less-advertised, yet still incredible treasure: quarter-tone harpsichord with specially dedicated keys for the strings that are tuned to produce different sounds for currently enharmonics like c-shrp and d-flat. Unfortunately, the instrument appears to be only on display and not in any active use.
Another remarkable musical surprise that projected so well the communal spirit and highly refined taste in music-making among the residents of the City of Bologna was open-air FREE concert (that provided many chairs, yet many more people attended while standing) at one of the ancient plazzas (what perfect backdrop!) by the world-revered Chamber Orchestra of incomparable violist and conductor Uri Bashmet. It was more than special for Ms. Gutman to hear so expressively performed Tchaikovsky's "Souvenir de Florence" after having to rush back from "Ufizzi Gallery" in nearby Florence. On the photo: Ms. R. Gutman with the Family of dedicated music educators Antonio Mostacci/Miriam Garagnani, the founders of the local music schoolLibero Conservatorio Municipale “J.Du Pré” Spilamberto (Mo) after Master Class with their daughter Sara at Bologna Conservatory.
It was incredibly heart-warming to see such outstanding musical happening, made accessible to the public by the municipality, particularly in contrast with current great deficit of government funding for public music education in Italy, that simply does not fit the long history of world-renown Italian tradition for being the Europe's musical center, where the modern notation and the genre of "Opera" were once born... Music education may not be soncidered as an extra, but shoulod return to the core curriculum, available to all. Going back to the long-lasting tradition of supporting music education with communal/government funding is of critical importance to all music educators in the World. That is why, we all are looking forward to hearing the news about positive changes from Italy.
Musical literacy is the vital step in being able to understand music in its full complexity and to experience fully its potential to positively impact our mind. Researchers provide significant evidence that music education provides incomparable cognitive(brain) development for people in all ages, but particularly for children. Among multiple research data available about this subject, a noteworthy resource for the public policy creators in Italy should be the publications by the Chair of 28th World Conference in Bologna, Johannella Tafuri "Infant Studies in Musicality".
Indeed, in our fast-paced information age, the aqcuisition of such vital for evolutionary survival human capacities like metacognition, empathy and emotional intelligence, and other advanced cognitive skills are being dismissed by vastly dominating primitive thumb-powered culture of violence-based computer games. In her prolific books "Female Brain" and "Male Brain", UCSF neuroscientist Dr. Brizendine reports the data that shed the light on the reasons why that is so easily possible. She underlines the evident significance of positive cognitive/cultural influence on the development of the brain, pointing out specifically that the only way to regain important neural networks that are wiped out in male brain by the male-specific hormones prior to birth - is through the use of brain plasticity presented by the educational experiences. (She brings up the comparative female-/male-brain data that, showing that male brain is born significantly challenged by the dominance of neural centers, dedicated to sex and violence. In comparison, the female brain retains its capacities for higher awareness and communication functioning, including the capacity to use both sides of the brain.) Thus, Music and Arts education can serve as indispensible tool to fulfill the gap in those evolutionary brain changes that serve as distinct characteristics to the brain and to the mind of our fairly new and still evolving Homo Sapiens species (that are in fact, one of the key distinction between the previously living more primitive species). It was interesting to find our from her Commonwealth Club presentation's Q&A, that Dr. Brizendine revealed that her personal choice for keeping her mind sharp is ...PLAYING PIANO.
Coincidentally, one of Ms. Gutman's corner-stone unique strategies "the Musical Storytelling" is actually based on the inspiring method of (verbal) storytelling by famous children writer/educator Gianni Rodari, who lived and taught in this province of Northern Italy. That is why, it was particularly inspiring to bring her music composition method back to share with her colleagues in the area where it was originated to engage children in similarly pro-active verbal composition. She was very glad to find a new addition to her story-telling tools collection - a locally created puppet.