Brazilian professor keys in on music education

Paul Mayne // Western NewsEmerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP) scholarship student Iuri Soares will be at the Don Wright Faculty of Music through June, where he is researching the sociology of music education. ELAP provides students and researchers from Latin America and the Caribbean with short-term exchange opportunities for study or research in Canada.

Even in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, more than 8,600 kilometres from Western’s campus, Iuri Soares senses the public’s perception of music education as an option, a luxury.

“Traditionally, music education is a low-status discipline, so I want to understand a little more about this kind of value in the curriculum ­– that is the sociology view – to understand the relationship between disciplines and points of view of teachers and principals,” said Soares, a PhD student at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul.

Soares is at Western for the next six months as part of the Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP) scholarships. The program provides students and researchers from Latin America and the Caribbean with short-term exchange opportunities for study or research in Canada.

“I was looking for a place to go abroad to complete and fulfil my PhD studies in Brazil, and I found (Music professor) Ruth Wright, because I’m working in the field of the sociology of music education. At the same time, I found the ELAP program and it was a perfect match,” added Soares, who is also a professor of music at Instituto Federal do Rio Grande do Sul.

Supervised by professors Wright and Patrick Schmidt, Soares will focus on music education in school curricula, from Grade 1-9. He would like more prominence given to music in the classroom, but isn’t sure it should garner the same attention as math and science.

“What interests me is why this happens the way it does. What would be the solution if we magically had music all day in school? Would that be a solution? Would music suddenly achieve a higher level of status among other disciplines? I’m not sure,” said Soares. “There are different reasons I need to map to discover what counts, and what doesn’t, in terms of its status in school curricula.”

There is a longstanding social view that careers in music and art are less valuable, he added, “but I think there is another view in schools, built by the teachers and those who work in these schools who somehow can contribute to make a new vison of music. There are different kinds of status in schools, but the relationship between music education and its role in society as a discipline, I feel, can make you think in broader ways.”

In Brazil, schools struggle to include music education their curriculum. In Porto Alegre, a city of 1.5 million in southern Brazil, fewer than half the 46 municipal schools have music education programs.

“My goal is to go deeper in my theoretical approach around the sociology of music,” he said. “I’m trying to bring the theoretical framework of the sociology of education to music education. I want to also discuss the more practical things of my research with Ruth. I have some data from Brazil that I want to take further and hopefully be able to discuss the more practical things of my research.”