Glee and Music Education

I read one of those stupidly gossipy “news” articles today that said the creator of Glee was upset and went on this angry rant about the Kings of Leon refusing to sign off rights for their song “Use Somebody” to be used on an episode of Glee. I knew that Kings of Leon had refused a long time ago, and thought that should be that. So this little rant comes a little out of nowhere to us lowly, normal folk. Anyway, Ryan Murphy (the creator of Glee), gave a huge “F– you!” to the band and said, “They’re self-centered a–holes, and they missed the big picture. They missed that a 7-year-old kid can see someone close to their age singing a Kings of Leon song, which will maybe make them want to join a glee club or pick up a musical instrument. It’s like, OK, hate on arts education. You can make fun of Glee all you want, but at its heart, what we really do is turn kids on to music.”

Kings of Leon, meanwhile, apparently didn’t mean to snub Glee so much. They said, “This whole Glee thing is a shock to us. It’s gotten out of hand. At the time of the request, we hadn’t even seen the show. It came at the end of that record cycle, and we were over promoting [“Use Somebody”]. This was never meant as a slap in the face to Glee or to music education or to fans of the show. We’re not sure where the anger is coming from. We just said no to a license for a TV show, which we do a lot.”

Now, I’m not trying to become a gossip site myself. Just want to give you some background as I go on to my main point.

Is Glee really about promoting music education?

For me, Glee is a guilty pleasure. I loved the first episode. So did Ches. He hasn’t loved it since then, so he doesn’t watch it anymore. I love love love the musical numbers, and yeah, I even get into some of the outlandish story lines. I adore the interaction between Kurt and his his father. Those are often my favorite scenes. I don’t want to like Glee, but I do. It’s that musical geek in me.

I don’t know that it is a show that should be saying it’s promoting musical education. Of all the “agendas” of the show, that seems to be the bottom of their list. Their story lines are full of teenage angst, pregnancies (fake ones, teenage ones…), falling in love (seriously, is there anyone on the show not in love with someone?), and this crazy rivalry between Mr. Shue and Sue Sylvester. Their musical numbers all further the story lines. They have nothing to do with actual musical education.

There were a few things about the actual music education idea that always bothered me. First of all, they aren’t a glee club. They are a show choir. But I guess the title sounds better as “Glee” than “Show” or something. Anyway, there is a huge difference between glee clubs and show choirs. Quit calling yourselves a glee club already!! Second of all, not choosing your set list until the week of whatever competition you are in? Ummm, no. I know it’s not realistic for the show and would be boring if they show us what it’s really like. You work on the same few pieces of music for 6 to 8 weeks, then go to competition or festival. Because I don’t care how good you are, no one is going to be able to pick up a piece of music and suddenly the entire group can harmonize and know their choreography on the first shot. I just hate what a big deal they make of it, making it all “Oh no! We have regionals in two days and we still don’t know what to sing!” Whatever. Third, give the instrumentalists some due, please! These are supposedly also high school students. They can just come in at the beck and call of Rachel Berry and do a quick little number for Finn? Yeah, right. Personally, having been in band and knowing all the soap opera-ish drama that goes on there, I’d like to see the band members getting some lines and screen time. There’s a whole show on their own!

Anyway, if you want to push music education, then do so. But don’t try to pretend that the point of your show is give young kids something to look up to when it’s not so much about the music. If you want to send an anti-bullying message… yes! You are doing your job! If you want to send the message that being different is good… yes! You are doing your job! If you want to send the message that arts education is great and extremely important and everyone should try it… Sorry. I’m just not getting that message from the show.

Then again, maybe it’s working. A show choir has been started up at the high school where my husband teaches. Why? Because these kids all watch Glee and they asked for it. So maybe I’m just a stodgy, boring adult who doesn’t “get” it.

13 responses to “Glee and Music Education

  1. I don’t watch the show. The first episode was just a little to much for me. However, I totally get what you are saying. And if the Glee people are going to say that a 7-year old is going to watch it and want to get into the arts…. First off, from what I saw, there is no way that young children should be watching the show! Adults, sure, you’re choice, but not young kids! I hate it when shows try to make themselves appear all noble when really it’s all about what they want and how much money they are going to make from it.

  2. Hahaha, as you know my son goes to a school that specializes in the Arts, and they have some wonderful choirs and music programs that he participates in. The educators (and, I suspect, serious students) at that school are so anti-Glee it’s not even funny. Except it is. To me.

    I also class Glee as a guilty pleasure. My son, of course, refuses to watch it on principle.

  3. Oh I have so much to say I don’t even know where to start!

    Okay, I’ve unsuccessfully watched two episodes of Glee. It was all I could handle. There’s nothing on at that time except Glee? Good, I need to do the dishes anyway. It’s just not my thing.

    From what I’ve gleaned (gleened? haha) from the previews it’s much more a show about the morality (or lack) of high schoolers than about music, and I agree with you, it doesn’t show how HARD musicians have to WORK to even qualify for an event. Music is hard work. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.

    This fall, as part of our “instrument families” unit we had a guest musician who played riffs on his electric violin (yes, it was a cool lesson) and the children tried to guess what he was playing. When the children went crazy of Journey, even saying, “I love this song, it’s my favourite song. I love Journey!” I almost died. If someone had told me twenty years ago that a classroom of six year olds in 2010 would tell me that they loved Journey, I’d not have believed them. As it is I don’t really believe it.

    And yet yesterday when we played the opening bars of “We Will Rock You” to introduce our percussion lesson only one child recognized the song and no one could tell us that it was from “Queen.” Sad, sad days.

    Where am I going with this? Well, I’m disgusted that first graders are watching Glee. And I’m disappointed that they love Journey. And I’m shocked that the show’s producers consider themselves to be promoting music education. And I don’t really like Glee.

    the end

  4. Sariah, I hear you. I love the Sue Sylvester bits, that’s what I watch for. I was in an ethics for music teachers class last year and we were always talking about it-love love, but not because it was tied to the reality of music education. We all just love a good dish.
    I think the frustrating thing about the show is that they never talk about copyrights. That mash up episode? Man alive, it would cost the entire operating of the high school to have gotten the rights to mash up a Beyonce song. I think it would be hard to tell a bunch of students who joined a show choir after Glee that they can’t sing anything popular-ever. I think it’s poetic that the creator is complaining about not getting the song he wanted when real music directors would never get those popular songs. What kind of school has Beatles money? Only networks and productions studios can carry the weight of that type of copyright coverage. Also I’m betting the King’s of Leon don’t have a whole lot of pull over their copyrights, they were recorded by a major label, that’s a record company decision.
    Anyway, carry on.

  5. hehehe, you geeks. It’s just a TV show.
    No one would have survived an airplane crash on Lost.
    Community colleges aren’t as lame as they appear on Community.
    Steve Carrell would have definitely been shot by an angry Office employee by now.
    I’m pretty sure CPS would have ended Raising Hope.
    The list goes on and on…
    It’s not promoting music education any more than Scrubs promoted the proper running of a hospital. 🙂

    • The point is, though, that Ryan Murphy, the creator of the show, thinks he is promoting music education. No one from Community or Lost ever came out to say they were promoting anything. But, when Ryan Murphy opens his mouth and says his show is promoting arts education, then he opens himself up to criticism. Yes, it is a tv show, but he thinks it’s more.

  6. Love Timber’s comment 😀 As for the show, I, like others, tried watching it, but couldn’t handle more than two or three episodes for most of the reasons listed above. 🙂

  7. It started up a glee club at my school, but that was during the first season. I have only seen 2.5 episodes this year and have moved on to No Ordinary Family. Its way better. Super Heros, Science, what more could anyone ask for?

  8. I thought I commented on this post, but I guess I just thought about it and then convinced myself that I wrote down what I was thinking It’s a little late in the game, so I’ll just say that I’m with you: Glee is totally a guilty pleasure. I’m not sure I buy that the whole purpose is to turn kids onto music. If it works, great, but really? It’s just a TV show. A really, really entertaining one, yes, but still just a show.

    Now, excuse me, I need to head over to Hulu and watch Sunday’s episode.

  9. I defended that show up and down when it first started, but it has become a joke. Being a music teacher myself, I know how much time and energy goes into preparing for competitions. I also know that the kind of bullying that goes on between the faculty in that show could never happen. Glee wants to be about arts and education, but it also wants to blur the lines of what is real and what is not. I feel like you can’t have it both ways.
    Also, I loved the show in the early days because the cast was real. Lea Michelle seemed like a real person, but now with her fake teeth and dramatic weight loss, I just can’t stomach it.
    I just wish Glee would make up it’s mind of what it wants to be and stick with it.
    Anyway, I totally agree with your post. Keep writing about arts and music and it’s place in pop culture. It’s important!

    • SO true, Pamela. I feel like this show takes itself too seriously now. It used to be a comedy/parody and knew it was giving us ridiculous story lines but spectacular musical numbers. Now it is trying to teach us a lesson in each episode (although the majority of the lessons have to do with homophobic bullying) and is failing in giving us spectacular musical numbers. I loved the Thriller/Heads Will Roll Mash Up, but I was so distracted by thinking, “really? For a half time show?” It’s hard enough to get permission for schools to let their marching bands perform at halftime during championship games (speaking from experience here). They’re going to allow THAT? Anyway, I could talk about it for hours, and I’m pretty much just repeating myself.
      Welcom, Pamela. Come back anytime! 🙂

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