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Professor William Bauer on Teaching Music Remotely and Why Music Education Is More Important Than Ever

June 7, 2021

From humble beginnings as a fifth grade trombonist taking lessons in an elementary school instrumental music class taught in a boiler room to his current role as Professor, Area Head for Music Education, and Director of the online Master of Music in Music Education program at the University of Florida, William Bauer, Ph.D. has made his mark in music education.

“I’ve always loved to learn, and I’ve always loved to be a student,” Bauer says. “Being a college professor is the best job I can think of in that part of my job is to continue to learn through conducting research.”

In his 25 years as a collegiate educator, Bauer has put research-based learning models into practice and gained a breadth of knowledge on teaching music in a variety of contexts, including the remote settings that many music teachers have found themselves in during the pandemic.

“I think one of the challenges that some teachers have had in moving to remote teaching is that we want to replicate exactly what we had when interacting with our students face-to-face,” Bauer says. “For example, teachers would love to hold ensemble rehearsals online. But given current commonly available technologies, that isn’t possible at present.”

As more music teachers move to hybrid and online learning, their need for additional resources on music education has grown. In this article, Bauer provides insights into why teaching music education online is so relevant, and the role that music education now plays in society.


What pedagogical principles do you live by in teaching music?

My pedagogy has evolved over the years. When I was a high school band director, I approached most instruction in a teacher-centered manner. As a conductor, you’re up there on the podium, you’re listening to the group, and you’re giving students directives on how to improve their performance, which they then carry out. As I’ve gotten older and learned more about how people learn, my philosophy has become more student-centered. I believe in trying to help students exercise their own agency.


What role do you feel music education has today?

Music education is more important than ever in our current environment. I’m hearing from students in our online Master’s program and other teachers around the country that music is the one thing that their students really look forward to during their online school day. When it’s time for music class the students have the opportunity to express themselves and just enjoy the process of creating and making music independently and with other people. There’s currently a lot of interest among many in education in Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and music can play a huge role in that because it is social, connecting people, and it’s a wonderful way to express and make sense of emotions, contributing to our overall well-being.


How can music teachers make sure they are effectively meeting their curricular objectives as they shift toward teaching online more often?

Whether instruction is online, face-to-face, or some combination of the two, those of us teaching music need to begin with the end in mind, considering what we want students to ultimately know and be able to do. All of our teaching and learning strategies should lead to those learning outcomes. In addition, the teaching context must be considered. In terms of online learning that context includes things such as the quality of internet connectivity our students have, their access to hardware and software, and whether learning is synchronous or asynchronous. As I mentioned earlier, live ensemble performance is nearly impossible online, at present. However, there are aspects of music performance that can be taught online, and I’ve seen many innovative approaches to pedagogy developed by teachers during the pandemic. We can also engage our students in creative musical experiences such as composing using digital audio workstations like Soundtrap or BandLab, and online notation programs like Noteflight. There are a growing number of resources available to assist music educators in facilitating music composition activities with their students. The development of students’ analytic and creative music listening skills can also be done online, with nearly unlimited sources of music available without charge through services such as Spotify and YouTube.


What tips do you have for music educators in terms of using technology more effectively?

Music learning outcomes must be prioritized at all times. There’s a research-based model of technology called TPACK, which stands for technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge. All three forms of knowledge are important, and teachers should develop their understanding of each area. However, technology and pedagogy should serve the music learning outcomes; these need to always be at the forefront. Technology should never be used just for technology’s sake.


What are some examples of professional development opportunities that music teachers can explore?

Informally, there are a number of very good groups on social networks where teachers can learn from each other. Listening to podcasts is another informal way to develop professionally, as is reading articles in professional journals such as those published by NAfME. Some organizations are also offering webinars on specific topics. More formally, there are lots of good workshops offered at different places in the summer, where teachers can focus on a particular area of music education. I also believe that a Master’s degree is an important form of professional development that teachers should consider. While Master’s degrees come in a variety of forms, I believe it is important to choose a program that will meet your personal needs and help you achieve your professional goals. I recommend closely examining the curriculum, faculty, accreditation, and reputation of the institution, among other factors, when making this choice.


About William Bauer

Dr. William I. Bauer

Dr. William I. Bauer is Professor and Area Head for Music Education at the University of Florida, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate classes, guides graduate research, and directs the Master of Music in Music Education Distance Learning Program. His current research interests include technology for music learning, creative thinking in music, and lifelong musicking. Previously he taught at universities in Ohio, Indiana, and Virginia, and was an instrumental (band and orchestra) and general music teacher for eight years in the Ohio public schools.

Dr. Bauer’s book, Music Learning Today: Digital Pedagogy for Creating, Performing, and Responding to Music (2nd edition, 2020), is published by Oxford University Press. His numerous research and pedagogical writings appear in prominent journals and chapters of edited books. He has been a frequent presenter at conferences and other events throughout the world. Learn more about Dr. Bauer.


About the University of Florida’s Online Master of Music in Music Education

The University of Florida’s online Master of Music in Music Education program is designed to help music educators enhance their abilities as musicians, teachers, and passionate students of one of humanity’s most dynamic modes of creative expression. Exhaustively exploring both practical and theoretical perspectives, the program, designed and taught by talented leading experts in the field, is perfect for current music educators looking to enhance their ability to encourage student engagement with music.

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