Tell Me WhySep 17, 2023
I can't read those three words without thinking of I want it that way by the Backstreet Boys. At songwriting for M.E. this month, we've been focusing our energies on this simple phrase: "Tell. Me. Why."
In a world full of "whats," "hows," and "whens," it can be easy to forget our "whys." We get so caught up in our schedules, routines, processes, and preferences mandated TO us that we lose our sense of purpose in music, teaching, and life.
In this blog post, I want to discuss the "why" behind songwriting education and how discovering your own purpose can help fuel your artistic and educational goals.
If you're reading this blog post, you most likely care about songwriting (or are songwriting curious). Perhaps you're a teacher who regularly invites students to write songs in your classroom, or you're a songwriter yourself. While there has been some great research on the importance and power of songwriting, we've also heard so many personal positive responses from our SFME community members about why they teach songwriting, including:
"It helps me better understand my students."
"It helps students learn important musical skills."
"Students use songwriting to process important experiences and emotions."
The list goes on and on. I can personally say that I have learned more about my students through the songs they write than any other type of creative output. I am constantly astonished at the power of song.
What is interesting to me is that all of these statements point to an end goal that the educator has prioritized. For example, it's only important that songwriting helps you understand students if you value creating meaningful connections in the classroom. It's the ultimate goals that fuel the "why."
Do you know what you want students to be able to do and understand as a result of their time in your classroom? Can you articulate those things? And how does songwriting fit within those goals? Can songwriting be the activity that answers the "why"?
Why not songwriting?
More often than not, when Kat and I present about songwriting, we have more folks in the room who have yet to write songs than those who have! There are many reasons for this, and we recognize that most music educators were not given a chance to engage with songwriting in their early experiences in music OR their teacher training.
What are some of the reasons that teachers cite not wanting to (or have resistance to) introduce songwriting into the curriculum?
"I don't have enough time in my course/class/rehearsal."
"I'm uncomfortable writing songs, so how can I expect my students to be comfortable?"
"I don't know where to begin with songwriting."
All of these answers point towards limitations in experience and time, and yet, we rarely hear a teacher say, "I don't think songwriting matters." Or, "Songwriting can't help my students develop as musicians and humans." If that is true, we need to ask ourselves: Are my limitations in songwriting education due to my needs or my students' needs?
Aligning the why with the what, when, and how
Most teachers, at their core, want to serve students best, and music educators are no exception. Part of why we started Songwriting for Music Educators is to honor those who have found their "why" in wanting to teach songwriting by providing resources to help them do it!
No, you don't have to be an expert in songwriting to facilitate creativity with your students. No, you don't have to have hours of time each week to make songwriting happen.
You just need to start. Check out our free download, "Getting Started with Songwriting," to know more about how we approach songwriting education in our classrooms.
What about you? What's your why? What is bringing you to the space of songwriting education?