Musical Chair Redefining Music Curriculums

Beauty shot of the Blair Music Center

When it comes to music education, Dr. David Myers ’70 has been anything but a one-hit wonder. A musician since age 6, Dr. Myers has dedicated his life to the craft, leaving Lebanon Valley College as a music educator and only evolving from there. From public schools to universities, he has seen the impact—and the problems—of music education across all levels of schooling. More recently, Dr. Myers has become more focused on administration and policy work, leveraging knowledge learned from decades in the classroom.

“I didn’t necessarily choose music, music chose me,” said Dr. Myers.

Recently, Dr. Myers was chosen by the president of the College Music Society (CMS) to chair a task force that would reevaluate undergraduate music curriculums. Since its inception, music education has revolved around teaching the classics and technique; much of the emphasis is placed on playing pieces perfectly. Dr. Myers believes in a more progressive program, one that focuses on making music students “citizens of the world.”

“We come at it from the perspective of what students say in retrospect about their programs,” said Dr. Myers, noting that many students has expressed concerns about how well their respective music programs had prepared them for life after college.

With the CMS at his back, Dr. Myers wants to place more importance on fostering creativity through the music education system and encourage students to find their own way of making a difference through music. This approach was inspired by his own experiences, both at LVC and in the field.

Dr. Myers reflects fondly on the lessons taught to him by Dr. James Furman, former LVC professor of music. “He was the kind of professor that would cut you down to size and you would say, ‘thank you very much,’” he said. “No matter how hard he was on you, you always knew that he had your best interests at heart.”

The lessons that Professor Furman imparted about leadership and pursuing goals served Dr. Myers well in his career, particularly when founding a music therapy program through a Mennonite Health Center. This experience turned out to be inspirational for him, and showed him that music could truly make a difference in the lives of others. He realized that this was sort of career he wanted to see students pursue: beneficial, unconventional, and unique.

Having worked on music education policy both nationally and internationally, Dr. Myers also sees the huge potential in a more global approach to music education. With a world of music to explore, Dr. Myers pointed out that, often, music taught in schools is almost exclusively European and American. As part of his work with the task force, he wishes to see a more integrated approach to teaching music that accounts for the myriad of disciplines across the world.

Though Dr. Myers and the CMS produced their report over a year ago, there’s still a lot more work to be done. With revisions still going on and plans for a book based on the project in place, Dr. Myers is excited that he is doing his part to make music programs everywhere more comprehensive and relevant.

“Music can really be an avenue for cross cultural understanding,” said Dr. Myers.