Browse Exhibits (13 total)

Identity through Illinois Music Education

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     In America c. 1800, music making was beginning to be recognised as an ability which nearly all humans had the ability to partake in. Some American religious scholars even saw it as a duty, essential to the worship of God. In 1838, Lowell Mason, a leading composer in American hymnal tunes, persuaded the Boston School Committee to include music education as a curricular subject. This was one of the key steps toward wide-spread music education as is common in America today.

     Post WWI, music education shifted its focus to American patriotism. In this new era, teaching methods began to be standardized. Educators came up with various number or solfege systems to teach their students melody.

     An increase in music literacy and general literacy encouraged the rise of independent schools and businesses to create mail-order music education catalogs, which allowed interested parties to self-teach, or use in standardized classes similar to what we are familiar with now. 

     Now, in the 21st c. era of music making, many people still bond through music. American culture has changed, but music education still often reflects the values of patriotism, and group identity building. Social connections flourish through the simple love of music, and often, adolescent identification with musical artists or groups serves the desire to fit in and be accepted.

     Ensembles provide a place where young students are able to find and develop their individuality while being a part of a community. According to Elizabeth Cassidy Parker, a music education researcher who has been teaching and writing in the field for 25 years, “Related studies in school music and community choral ensembles have focused on belonging, meaning, motivation, and ensemble singing as providing therapeutic benefit.”

     Further studies have shown that identity development often starts with the decision to get involved in music whether that is choir, band, or musicals. William Dabback, music ed. Ph.D. says that, “Music allows for the structure, expectations, and an avenue for members to express identity.” Through those experiences with music, adolescents grow and find identities which follow them into adulthood.

     Through the collection of these items, we can see the effects of music education on students in Illinois. These artifacts are what remain of the happy memories, and community building which went on in the Illinois education system. Our featured items span from 1942-2018, and are from several different institutions, but they carry similar meanings as part of their owners identities. We have mainly compiled artifacts from students' high school experiences, as that is when many adolescents begin to develop autonomy, and choose the groups they wish to identify with.

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Education Outside the Classroom: Silenced History

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The way history has been taught over time has changed, different stories have recieved more time in the spottlight while others are overlooked.  A smany individuals see personal history discarded highlighting what is learned outside the classroom is importanty as it can oftentimes be more impactful than what is traditionally taught.  Featuring a few of these items, the stories they tell, and impact they made will show the importance of silenced education.

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Apparel in American Education

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These items tell a story. It is that of the elite status symbol becoming a memento of childhood and bonds. It is that of a celebration of self within a larger educational community. Unlike tokens that signify merely a group experience, these items, be it by number, jewel, or size, are crafted to the individual experience of a student. These pieces are present at some of life’s greatest achievements, they become a part of the person who wears them. The decor is meant to signify the identity and how the individual wishes to be viewed. Some of these important items, not too unlike wedding gowns, family pocket watches, and wedding rings, have significance in being passed down. They hold a part of the person with them. Education represents, for some, a simpler time in our history. For others, it is a time of progression and personal growth. These items are more than metal and cloth; they are memories, and they are tapestries of our lives that we carry on ourselves.

In this exhibit, we preserve something stronger than an artifact; we preserve a memory. Here, within databases and code, lies something warmer: a human experience. Now immortalized, these stories will continue to reach students who will continue to dance, to share, and to lead their own victories. This exhibit also speaks to the memories of those lucky enough to already possess them.

Subconscious disposition is embodied in our way of dress and the items that we choose to express ourselves. As we have grown in methods of thought and practice, ornamentation has changed to adhere to new traditions. Certain items do not carry, as they are formed and then realized as a kind of hindrance. We do not wear family crests, but the name of our family and of ourselves can fit on a hand. We cannot wear all sports gear at all times to display our belonging and communal spirit; we have condensed it to jackets and jerseys on our backs. We cannot drape ourselves elaborately in all things that have meaning. That is why these condensed items mean so much; they bear the weight of all the memories we cannot hold on our persons. We long for ways to evolve ourselves physically, and with the items in education, we are allowed to form the identity of our own choosing within a time of decision. We celebrate that time, that connectedness, and the ability to paint oneself with the effects of education. It exists beyond the classroom and halls to dance studios and football fields. It’s on our fingers, our feet, and our shoulders: education has truly left its mark on us.


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