Music student’s essay hits the right note in national competition

Teachers in Ontario’s elementary schools are required to teach music, but don’t necessarily have much knowledge of the subject. A UWindsor music student is hoping her research can help them to do a better job.

Jacqueline Kraay’s paper “Examining the Construction of Music Teacher Identity in Generalist Classroom Teachers: An Ethnographic Case Study” took top honours in the Canadian Music Educators’ Association’s 2012 undergraduate essay competition.

“People know the benefits of music instruction in fostering creative thinking, but elementary teachers get as little as six weeks’ training in the subject,” says Kraay, currently in the fourth year of her BMus degree. “As much as we advocate for specialist teachers, the system will not change any time soon.

“Given the current state of affairs, we have to ask: how can we help generalist teachers to feel confident so they can give their students these skills?”

Her paper involved interviews with a local teacher who leads music classes for students in grade six to eight, as well as with a professor providing music instruction to teacher candidates. She wrote it for a fourth-year level course, “Philosophical Foundations of Music Education,” taught by professor Janice Waldron.

Dr. Waldron calls Kraay an extraordinary student.

“Jackie writes at a level above a lot of graduate students,” she says. “I learned something reading her paper. For it to win first place against everyone else in Canada really speaks to her inquisitiveness, her passion and her scholarly drive.”

Kraay hopes that support from colleagues with more experience with music can help generalist teachers to provide students with a well-rounded, diversified, music education. Along with a $250 cash prize, her victory carries an opportunity to publish her paper in the Canadian Music Educator journal.

“I would be so proud,” she says. “Dr. Waldron has been such a help, and she is advising me on my work to make the changes suggested by the reviewers.”

Kraay is making another change, modifying her career aspiration from teaching music in high schools to teaching at the elementary level: “There is a great need for younger students to receive instruction from qualified music educators.”

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