Summer 2009 Retreat

Summer 2009 Retreat

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Democratic (Music) Education

When I stepped into the Ed 190 classroom for the first time my senior year, I was reluctant. It had taken me six years to get to my fourth year of college. Along the way I had experienced a great deal of change: I dropped out, and feeling indifferent about my education I worked instead of going to school. Being in school at Berkeley wore me out; I simply was not mentally nor physically able to continue. As turbulent and trying as that time was, that was also when I began to question and drastically change my thoughts on what I wanted to do.

I had previously been undeclared intending to major in Political Science or Economics, but as soon as I left Berkeley I began thinking about what truly mattered. During that time off, I began to take a few junior college classes in music and I began to coach swimming, working with kids again—two things that I had always been passionately involved in, but which had long since fallen by the wayside.

Upon returning to Berkeley the second time around, I had so many questions about what education had done to me, what education should mean to me, and what education could do for me. Stepping into Ed 190 for the first time, I was apprehensive because I had all these questions, but I did not feel like anyone would be able to relate or understand where I was coming from.

Now, having been an Ed 190 student in Fall 2008 and then returning to help facilitate in Spring 2009, I can say that Ed 190 only served to reinforce the importance of my previous educational experiences. I learned to value the unique educational experiences that I had—including dropping out—while simultaneously valuing the wealth of experiences that were shared through the many members of our Ed 190 community. I was able to experience democratic education firsthand, and learned what it means to be empowered through education; what it means to truly seek after what we want to learn; taking ownership of our education.

This understanding and newfound responsibility, led me down a two-year path (after returning to Berkeley) to graduate this last Summer 2009 with a major in Music. I plan on returning to school within the year to pursue a graduate degree in Music Education. However, in the meantime I have started to work in several local schools. I teach afterschool 4th and 5th grade band at Stewart Elementary School in Pinole, I teach a music theory course in Pinole Valley High School’s afterschool Conservatory of the Arts, and I help direct the marching bands/drumlines at Hercules Middle High School and Salesian High School (in Richmond).

The ideas that I learned and gained through Education 190 have begun to manifest themselves in the classrooms I work in, particularly at Salesian High School. This year, the school made a push to start a marching band. I have begun working with the students that are essentially the “founders” of this new organization on campus. Because of the current economic climate however, the school is not able to provide us with any funding at all. That being the case, I made sure to be transparent with the students, letting them know the enormity and challenge of the task at hand. In the last few months that we have met, we have begun to create plans of action to raise money for marching drum equipment (which the school does not have), while simultaneously establishing ourselves as a spirit and musical organization on campus.

I am tremendously proud to report that the students’ efforts have helped us raise a surprisingly unexpected sum of money. With this money that the students were able to raise, we are now in the process of purchasing all the drum equipment we need. I firmly believe that this was made possible because of the ownership the students took of what was at first a seemingly enormous challenge. Not only will we now be able to start performing and helping build school spirit, but because of their responsibility in this undertaking, I know that this group has a firm foundation with which to sustain itself.

I hope that these opportunities will continue to present themselves as I explore democratic music education throughout my career. They have created a great sense of fulfillment in my life, and I truly believed that Education 190 helped create these possibilities.

-Ian Heung
Project C.H.A.O.S. (Choosing to Have An Original System)
Class of 2009

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