All genres matter

Saatchi Gallery in London is one of the best in the world. They always manage to put together the most eye-opening exhibits. At the moment, they are running an exhibition on the Rolling Stones.

Like most Millennials, I never appreciated this great rock and roll band for all of their incredible art and music. They have been together for over half a century, 55 years! ┬áThat’s insane. The bond they developed and the 30+ tours they completed together are unreal. Aside from their endurance, the Stones are arguably some of the greatest musicians to ever live – they forever changed music.

The Stones brought their fashion, art, stage design, poetry and music together, delivering it through tours. They created “surprising” experiences as Mick Jagger said in an interview in the exhibit. Seeing everything from their instruments to their personal items like their jackets and sketchbooks, the exhibit gave incredible insight to their perspectives along their journeys.

The Stones are easily as talented as a classical composer like Beethoven, but will they be cemented into history and performed forever? This is the question that led me to rethink the role of music education.

It’s through music education that preservation begins to happen. The classical music idiom is being preserved through the education pipeline. I believe other genius music should be taught in music education (The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, etc.). Even though some is not designed for kids, there is so much value for them to pull from these artists: passion, depth of thought, and improvising.

What would be great is a way to take the music of these legends and bring it into the classical world. The closest thing to this at the moment is an awesome pianist named Christopher O’Riley. I met him once about ten years ago when he performed a mix of classical music and his own arrangements of the band Radiohead. Check out some of his music on Apple Music or Spotify.

The problem is that because of the difficulty, maybe only the top high school students would be able to learn these arrangements. This is the challenge in arranging complicated music like the greats of rock and roll – they fit excellently into the piano, but they have a million notes.

Going back to the exhibit and what I found valuable, I think the reminder lesson for me is that there is greatness in all idioms or dialects of music. As educators, we should never dismiss any genre of music without first learning deeply about its story and purpose. It could be valuable to students if framed correctly. It’s when we are flexible and open that we learn and grow the most. The Rolling Stones exhibit reminded me that greatness in music comes in all genres.


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