This post is part of a series from IU Press Journals that takes a closer look at the scholarship in the articles and issues of IU Press journals. Posts may respond to articles, provide background, document the development process, or explain why scholars are excited about the journal, theme, or article and will primarily be written by journal editors and contributors.
Estelle Jorgensen and Iris Yob, with the assistance of Linda Bucklin, deserve the profession’s respect for continuing to focus the profession on its philosophical foundations. Their work is key in my continuing interest in the scholarly contributions of individuals like Bennett Reimer. My own work has been in instrumental music education and in assessment. I realized, however, in my first program assessment the need for a valid philosophy supportive of learning theories for that program and comparable programs. It came as a surprise to me that there was not an array of philosophies upon which one could base an investigation of instructional practices. Practice in music education was aligned with psychology and absent was any journal comparable to The Philosophy of Music Education Review. As an amateur with philosophical ideas, I still have trouble distinguishing between philosophy of music and a philosophy of music education as the distinction does not seem to be rigorously debated. I am also influenced by the prominent British music educator, Keith Swanwick, who has argued that music educators badly lack any kind of conceptual framework: we have no rationale that bears examination and stands up well against the views of different pressure groups.
In seeking an institution for continuing education I identified only one individual, Charles Leonhard at the University of Illinois, with an interest in a study of the social, psychological, and musical foundations that substituted for philosophy. Leonhard knew, I think, the importance of a philosophy of music education. He was very bright, with an education in theory and group piano, and was fascinated by the writings of Susanne Langer. Leonhard taught a course entitled “Foundations and Principles of Music Education,” and to “shore-up” the philosophy component, he required students to read Philosophy in a New Key and developed a short multiple-choice test on Langer that he believed discriminated among the students who truly understood her writings.
Illinois was also fortunate in having two members of the education faculty, Harry Broudy and Foster McMurray, with an interest in aesthetics. Personal correspondence with Paul Lehman suggested that there was no other U.S. institution with education faculty so committed to the values of aesthetics in a philosophy of education. This was the context at Illinois when I first met Leonhard and Reimer, Reimer as a student in Leonhard’s music education doctoral program. In that large program, Leonhard realized the weakness in his popular text written with Robert House. He contacted Prentice-Hall to ascertain their interest in having several small publications that would complement the Leonhard and House Foundations and Principles. The publisher was interested and Leonhard, having been impressed with Reimer’s doctoral dissertation on commonalities with the religious experience, asked Bennett to write a text on a philosophy of music education. On reflection, this selection was fortunate. Of the more than 200 doctoral students, few were considered competent by Leonhard to conduct research in philosophy: James Johnson wrote on Langer, Douglas Lemon on Reimer, and Wayne Bowman, Ruth Crockett, and Eleanor Stubley on topics requiring a foray into philosophy.
My interest in writing about Reimer for The Philosophy of Music Education Review was to investigate Reimer’s thought in developing a philosophy that broke unplowed content in music education. Yes, Leonhard was influenced by James Mursell, a psychologist who had broken with the behaviorists in adopting a gestalt approach to education that suggested that all of the little pieces did not add up to a whole, especially in fields such as the arts. Reimer began with Mursell as a model and developed his original thinking from that. I traced Bennett’s original thinking in publications where he had freedom to develop ideas and avoided his writing for the general music educator in such publications as the Music Educators Journal. It might be difficult to focus on the importance of feeling as an outcome of the musical (aesthetic experience) in a popular journal. Reimer was able to probe the resources available to him at Illinois and to recognize the scholarly writing of individuals like Leonard B. Meyer in developing his original thinking. His small publication for Prentice-Hall became foundational for individuals interested in grounding their practices in a sound theory. Others began to write about philosophy, stimulated by agreeing or not agreeing with Bennett. What I found of practical value was the lack of many music educators to change practices that might conform to a philosophy or to theories of learning. The Silver Burdett music textbooks reflected much of his thinking with materials arranged to facilitate teaching and learning. Presently philosophy can only take one so far: holiday songs take precedence over Reimer logic. Satisfying work on the article documented how a bright student can, as a result of classroom experiences, become inspired to take ideas from the field of music and portray their meaning for all of us involved in teaching and learning.