Canadian Music Curriculum

Reference for this Publication:

Bartel, Lee R. & Shand, Patricia. "Canadian Music in the School Curriculum: Illusion or Reality." in T. J. McGee (Ed.) Taking a Stand: Essays in Honour of John Beckwith. University of Toronto Press, 1995.

Canadian Music in the School Curriculum: Illusion or Reality?
Lee R Bartel and Patricia Martin Shand


In recent years there have been systematic attempts to measure and enforce Canadian content in cultural areas under federal control in Canada. For example, the CRTC has regulated Canadian content in broadcasting, and the Canada Council has made grants to performers dependent on meeting Canadian content quotas. However, in the field of education, which is under provincial jurisdiction, there have been no comparable national efforts to control Canadian content. The national organizations which have promoted Canadian content in music education have been non-governmental agencies with no power or authority to force educators to teach Canadian music. These organizations have sought to influence teachers and music education administrators concerning the value of teaching Canadian compositions, and have developed projects to guide educators --hors in their efforts and to provide opportunities for students to hear and perform Canadian music. It is encouraging to note the various promotional efforts which have been made on behalf of Canadian content in music education, and in Part One of this paper we describe some of these efforts. But the question remains: Is Canadian music in the school curriculum an illusion or reality? In Part Two we address this question as we report the results of an objective analysis of the Canadian content of music curriculum documents published by provincial ministries and departments of education, since these are the bodies with the ultimate responsibility for music education in Canada.

Part One: Historical Review of Efforts to Promote the Use of Canadian Music in Education

During the past thirty years, there have been a variety of efforts made to promote the use of Canadian music in education, efforts designed to make students aware of their national musical heritage and to develop future audiences for Canadian music. Promotional work has been undertaken to acquaint educators with published Canadian music suitable for student performers, to promote publication of additional Canadian music for student use, to encourage Canadian composers to add to the repertoire of music for student performers, to provide teachers with resource materials to assist them in teaching Canadian music, and to provide opportunities for students to perform and listen to Canadian music.

Among those involved in these promotional efforts have been the Canadian Music Centre, the Canadian Music Educators' Association, the Canadian League of Composers, the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers' Associations, the composers' performing rights societies, the Alliance for Canadian New Music Projects, provincial music educators' associations, boards of education, individual educational institutions and teachers, and performing organizations.

The first systematic efforts to promote Canadian music in education were made by the Canadian Music Centre (CMC), which in 1961 began to develop the Graded Educational Music Plan. This plan, initially conceived and developed by John Adaskin, CMC executive secretary, sought to achieve 25 per cent Canadian content in music education: In 1965 the plan was renamed the John Adaskin Project, and in 1973 the Canadian Music Educators' Association (CMEA) joined CMC to co-sponsor the project. Throughout its thirty-year history, the John Adaskin Project has focused on Canadian music for student performers. In 1962, A Graded Educational Music Plan committee began grading and evaluating published and unpublished Canadian repertoire in terms of its suitability for student performers, and the selection and evaluation of repertoire continued through the 1970s and 1980s as the central activity of the Adaskin Project. By 1992, a total of eleven resource guides had been published by the Adaskin Project to assist educators in locating and teaching Canadian music suitable for student performers.

The Adaskin Project has also sought to increase the student repertoire of Canadian music through a variety of commissioning ventures. The first such venture was the 1963 Seminar for Graded Educational Music, during which fifteen Canadian composers visited schools in the Toronto area to observe student performers for the purpose of preparing to write music for their use. 'Seminar II' in 1965 featured concert demonstrations of music written by ten of the composers who had been involved with the 1963 'Seminar I.' By 1992, fourteen works commissioned directly by the Adaskin Project had been published, while a number of others remained unpublished. The Adaskin Project has also assisted teachers and educational organizations interested in undertaking commissioning projects, and has produced guidelines to assist composers writing for student performers. In addition to the commissioning ventures and the publication of resource materials for teachers, the Adaskin Project has sought to promote Canadian music in education through articles and through policy conferences, seminars, workshops, demonstrations, displays of materials, and lectures for teachers. The project has been funded by CMC, CMEA, the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario Ministry of Education, private foundations, and individual donors.

Although CMC and CMEA have no other ongoing national projects to promote Canadian music in education, CMC regional offices and provincial music educators' associations affiliated with CMEA have been involved in educational projects designed to influence teachers in particular areas of the country. For example, the Ontario regional office's Creating Music in the Classroom project has, since the 1983-4 academic year, sent composers into Ontario elementary and secondary schools to work with students on creative projects. This project grew out of the Composers-in-Schools project developed during the late 1970s and early 198os by the Canadian League of Composers to introduce students to Canadian composers and their music. During the period from 1983-4 to 1990-1, 22 composers were involved in 73 residencies in 67 Ontario schools through the Creating Music in the Classroom project. In some cases, students created pieces which were performed by visiting professional performers, while in other cases composers collaborated with students to create pieces which the pupils could perform. In still other cases, the composers themselves wrote pieces for the students to perform, or the composers guided the students in exploring sound through listening activities.

The Quebec regional office of CMC, working in cooperation with the Quebec Ministry of Education, has put considerable effort into producing resource materials to guide teachers and students in analysing music written by Quebec composers. The Prairie regional office has since the mid-198os worked to provide additional repertoire for student performers through its McCurdy commissioning program, supported financially by Alberta Culture and the Alberta Music Festival Association. Commissioning projects have also been undertaken by provincial music educators' associations, with the resulting pieces being premiered at teachers' workshops and conferences.'

While CMEA and the provincial MEAs are associations of school and university music educators, the private music teachers of Canada have their own national association — the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers' Associations, with affiliated provincial associations. CFMTA began Canada Music Week in 196o to promote Canadian music and performers. Since 1960, there have been Canada Music Week programs in centres across the country annually, often involving other organizations and individuals in addition to the registered music teachers and their students.

Composers obviously have a vested interest in developing audiences for their music, so it is not surprising that composers' performing rights organizations have undertaken promotional efforts. The free biographical brochures about Canadian composers and the sample recordings of Canadian musical excerpts produced by PROCAN and CAPAC while not aimed solely at the educational market, have proved valuable to teachers and students.

One of the most ambitious and interesting of the projects to promote Canadian music in education has been Contemporary Showcase, a noncompetitive festival which has provided opportunities for student soloists and ensembles to perform for one another and to receive guidance from knowledgeable adjudicators in a workshop environment. From its inception in 1970, the Showcase festival has been held in Toronto, with an extension of its operation in later years to other Ontario centres (London, Kitchener, Ottawa). In 1990, the first Contemporary Showcase festival outside Ontario was held in Calgary. Although Toronto-based, the Contemporary Music Showcase Association (changed in name to the Alliance for Canadian New Music Projects in 1978) has been influential across the country because of its ongoing program of commissioning Canadian composers to write for student performers, and because of its graded syllabus of Canadian music, which is a valuable reference guide for teachers seeking suitable repertoire.

It is beyond the scope of this survey to describe the many other promotional projects which have been local in nature — commissioning projects and residencies of composers organized by local boards of education or individual schools or teachers, or educational programs presented by provincial composers' associations or local performing organizations to introduce teachers and students to Canadian compositions. Suffice it to say that much time and energy have gone into the promotion of Canadian music in education. But to what extent have such promotional efforts been successful? The seeds have been planted, but has there been a harvest? Has John Adaskin's aim of 25 per cent Canadian content been achieved? Is Canadian music in the school curriculum an illusion or reality? In seeking answers to these questions, we undertook to analyse music curriculum documents published by provincial ministries of education in Canada from 198o to 1990.

Part Two: Content Analysis of Provincial Music Curriculum Documents

Our study focused on the following research question: What priority is given to Canadian music in the published music curriculum documents for Canadian schools?

More specifically, the study addressed the following subquestions: (1) What proportion of music and musical materials recommended for study and performance by published curriculum documents in Canada is of Canadian origin? (2) Are there differences in the priority given to Canadian music in Canadian school curricula related to region? (3) Are there differences in priority related to music of Canadian origin with French texts vs. music with English texts? (4) Are there curricular differences in priority related to traditional folk music vs. composed music of Canadian origin? (5) What proportion of music curricula in Canada identifies a specific priority for Canadian music with a policy statement, and what effect does this appear to have on references?

Research Procedures

Music curriculum documents published during the period from 1980 to 1990 were obtained from all provincial ministries of education. Forty-one publications met the criteria for inclusion in the study, but since one document was not available for analysis, forty publications were included. One document was designated as an 'omnibus' publication and was therefore analysed as three separate curricula, resulting in a total of 42 curricula in our final content analysis.4

Before the content analysis began, research questions and the classification system were formulated and circulated to all research associates of the Canadian Music Education Research Centre (CMERC for comment and criticism. The initial classification system was employed in a pilot analysis of three documents by the two principal researchers and a graduate student. On the basis of the response from the CMERC research associates and the pilot study; the classification system employed in the study was established. Details of this system are described below. Initial analysis of all documents was done by selected graduate and undergraduate students at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto.' As the principal researchers, we checked the analyses of all documents to achieve reliable classification according to the established criteria.

Two types of classification were necessary. First, each curriculum document was classified in terms of aspects such as grade level and policy concerning Canadian content. Following this, all the recommended pieces of music and the related resource materials in each document were itemized and classified.

(1) Classification of Documents

Grade Level: The complexity and nonuniformity of Canadian educational organization are reflected in curriculum documents. For that reason, classification of curricula by grade level is less than neat and tidy. We established four general categories: grades K-6, 7-9, 10-13, and combined 7-13. Documents that did not coincide precisely with the established categories were classified in the nearest category.

Policy Statement: Some curriculum documents contain statements of policy or priority regarding certain kinds of music. For
example, a curriculum could include a statement that each ensemble preparing music for public performance should perform a piece composed by a Canadian. Such a statement would be classified as a policy on Canadian music. If a document listed an objective that indicated official encouragement for the inclusion of Canadian or multicultural music, that document was classified as having a policy regarding that music.

(2) Classification of Recommended Music and other Materials

This research study undertook to identify and categorize each piece of music and each book, recording, film/video, kit, or computer software package listed in each curriculum guide. Two broad categories structured the analysis: (i) individual pieces of music; (ii) larger collections: books, recordings with multiple pieces, films/videos, kits, software packages. Each item to be classified was given an item number. All individual pieces were then classified, whether excerpts (e.g., Bach's Fugue in G Minor, exposition only) or whole works, and whether recommended to be performed or to be heard. When an individual piece was recommended for study but was identified as part of a particular collection, the individual piece and not the collection was listed. Similarly, if an excerpt from a larger work was listed, it was classified as the excerpt and not as the larger work (e.g., a movement from a sonata). The collection or complete work was listed only if it was recommended in its entirety or if at least a substantial portion of it was recommended.
individual piece was whether or not it was Canadian in origin. This classification was made according to the music itself and not the performance. (For example, Bach's Fugue in G Minor performed by the Canadian Brass would be classified as 'other' rather than as Canadian.) If the piece was of Canadian origin, it was classified next as traditional folk (no known composer or ,specific date of origin) or as composed (composer known). In the case of a substantial arrangement of a folk-song (e.g., 'She's Like the Swallow' arranged for SATB by Harry Somers), it was classified as composed. Composed pieces were next judged to be either 'long' or 'short.' The guideline employed was that a work with a duration of ten or more minutes was considered 'long,' while a work less than ten minutes in duration was 'short' Canadian choral and vocal works with text were classified by language: English, French, Native, and 'Different' for any other language. All non-Canadian works were classified as 'other,' and further as 'traditional folk' or 'composed long' or 'composed short.' If the origin of a piece could not be determined after exhausting the resources of the University of Toronto, it was classified as 'Unknown.'

Individual pieces were classified into the following categories:
Instrumental Canadian Folk
Instrumental Canadian Composed Long/Short
English-Canadian Folk
English-Canadian Composed Long/Short
French-Canadian Folk
French-Canadian Composed Long/Short
Native-Canadian Folk Native-Canadian Composed Short
Different Canadian Folk (non-English, French, or Native)
Different Canadian Composed Long/Short
Other Folk
Other Composed Long/Short

(ii) Analysis of Books, Recordings, Films, Etc.: Any item other than an individual piece of music was listed in this general category. A book of songs with commentary was classified as a music book (e.g., Canada's Story in Song by Edith Fowke and Alan Mills, which contains songs and historical commentary). Instruction books were classified as music books. Books containing historical, pedagogical, or psychological information pertinent to music teaching or the music taught, and not consisting primarily of performance music, were classified as reference books. Such books could also, for example, include descriptions of musical activities or instrument-making instructions. All sound recordings on disc or tape were classified together. Kits were taken to be combinations of books, recordings, videos, charts, cards, etc. (Music books with accompanying recordings were classified as kits.) The 'miscellaneous' category included items such as computer software, wall .charts, activity cards and transparencies. General types of materials recommended without specific titles (e.g., 'Books on Pop Stars, Rock Music, and Careers in Music') were not listed.

After appropriate categorization, an item was further classified as Canadian, other than Canadian, or of unknown origin. In the case of music books, reference books, kits, and most miscellaneous items, the classification was made on the basis of the origin of the material (where the author lives rather than whether the publisher has a branch in Canada) and not the music content. In the case of sound recordings and films/videos, the origin and the content were considered. Of primary importance was the music, and therefore Canadian music performed by non-Canadians would be classified as Canadian. (Thus The Mennonite Piano Concerto, featuring music by Victor Davies, recorded by a British orchestra, would be considered Canadian, while a record featuring the Canadian Brass performing works by Bach and Gabrieli would not be considered Canadian.) However, if the intent of the recording was a pedagogical project, the origin determined classification despite content. (For example, tapes of accompaniments created by Canadian school board personnel to be used in conjunction with curricular material were considered Canadian even if some song material was non-Canadian.) The following categories were used for classification of books, films, videos, recordings, and kits:

Canadian/Other Music Book
Canadian/Other Film or Video
Canadian/Other Recording
Canadian/Other Kit
Canadian/Other Reference Book
Unknown Book, Film, Record, Kit
Canadian Miscellaneous
Other Miscellaneous