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Spirituality and Music Education

Perspectives from Three Continents


Edited By June Boyce-Tillman

This book is the product of a long journey by a company of academics and practitioners sharing a common interest, titled the Spirituality and Music Education Group (SAME). It started at the International Society for Music Education Conference in Bologna in 2008, with its first gathering in Birmingham in 2010. This book is a product of the various meetings of this group. Since the group formed, the notion of spirituality has been struggling to find a way through the dominant ideology of secularisation in the West to a place in a post-secularising world.

This book concentrates on examining this issue from the position of music educators on three continents. This process can be defined as both separate from as well as part of the dominant Christian and humanist traditions, whatever is appropriate in a particular culture. The book represents a fascinating array of lenses through which to examine the many and complex strands within the concept of spirituality.

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6 Music Education and Spirituality: Ethical Concerns and Responsibilities from a US Perspective (Frank Heuser)


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6 Music Education and Spirituality: Ethical Concerns and Responsibilities from a US Perspective


The ineffable feelings of awe, wonder, joy and happiness that often accompany musical experiences (Yob 2011) might provide opportunities for learners to participate in the kinds of ‘transcendent ecstasies’ that Maslow (1968, 1972) suggests must be at the core of a meaningful education. Yob links such ‘feelingful moments’ to spirituality and challenges music educators to embrace the non-discursive nature of music to help students build awareness of and participate in peak experiences, which are personally meaningful even though their significance cannot be described through words. Because it expresses meanings that are impossible to convey through language, openings for nurturing spiritual transcendence can be cultivated in music-learning settings. Many of the activities central to music education, ranging from solitary practice to performing in large ensembles, offer the possibility of deeply moving experiences that might help learners understand and nurture their identities as spiritual beings. Creating settings in which learners experience the ineffable by moving beyond the mundane pursuit of perfect performances is a responsibility requiring sensitivity on the part of the teacher.

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