By Merryl Goldberg, Ed.D., Professor of Visual and Performing Arts, California State University San Marcos
The selfish or shallow person might be a great musician technically, but he’ll be so involved with himself that his playing will lack warmth, intensity, beauty and he won’t be deeply felt by the listener. He’ll arbitrarily play the first solo every time. If he’s backing a singer he’ll play anything he wants or he’ll be practicing scales. A person that lets the other guy take the first solo, and when he plays behind a soloist plays only to enhance him, that’s the guy that will care about his wife and children and will be courteous in his everyday contact with people.
- Art Pepper, from Straight Life excerpted in Gottlieb (1996), p. 278.
The arts may have lost their way with regard to a purposefulness in today’s education, perhaps even in society, but it is not too late to revolutionize the wheel. I started this piece with a quote from Art Pepper, a great jazz saxophonist. Arts education is often framed as if it is outside the realm of life, as if it is simply a subject to be studied (or not studied). Pepper, in musing about musicians and their attitudes, stumbles upon key parallels to the role that arts can, and over the years have played, in education. Namely, what one learns in order to play music well, or for that matter, what one learns in practicing any art form, can transfer to what one does in everyday life.