Analysis of weblog commentary concerning popular music in American music education
Little Kids Rock (LKR) is a non-profit teacher-training program for K-12 general and music education teachers focused on the study of popular music as an alternative to traditional music education programs focused on western classical music. It has garnered considerable attention from parents, teachers, and the media. In 2011, the New York Times published two online articles about the LKR program. The first expounded on the virtues of the LKR program and the second was a reaction to the readers' comments to the first article. The purpose of this study was to examine the opinions, perspectives, issues, and ideas expressed by New York Times readers to "Beyond Baby Mozart: Little Kids Rock" the first article. Readers' comments were compiled and themes and general trends were identified and related to broader philosophical questions about the role of popular music in contemporary music education. Seventy-eight comments representing 68 respondents were coded using qualitative analysis methods, revealing 22 primitive and 19 secondary themes (i.e., categories). Findings indicated that (52%) of respondents identified themselves as having a direct relationship with music. These included general music educators, LKR teachers, performing musicians, college music education students, classically (formally) trained musicians, former grade school music students, parents of music students, and music advocates. Respondents with knowledge of in depth musical concepts, not directly identifying a music relationship, were represented as Knowledgeable Consumers. Thematic analysis revealed that factors motivating respondents to post commentary were personal beliefs, article content relationships, music content relationships, and education system relationships. Debate centered on issues surrounding formal and informal methods of music instruction in music classrooms and the spectrum of issues relating to arguments surrounding the general purpose of music education (product vs. process). While broad generalizations to the larger music community are not necessarily implicit through findings in the current study, the debate does provide an opportunity for the parsing of particular ideas and attitudes towards both popular music and concepts surrounding formal and informal methods of instruction.