In remembrance of Elliot Eisner

My mentor and friend Elliot Eisner has passed away. I received a call from his wife today and she asked that I let others know. Many will be sharing their experiences, and there is talk of a memorial at Stanford in a few months. For today, here are some of the memories with which I celebrate his place in my life. [Update: here’s Stanford’s obituary]

Although we spoke regularly by phone, we had not seen the Eisners since March of 2012, when my wife and I planned a three-hour layover during a long flight so that they could meet my son for the first time. Here’s a moment from that special visit that captures Elliot’s indomitable spirit, playfulness, and humanity:



IMG_2456When Elliot retired, he entrusted me with some of his books. Today’s news sent me to my office to look through them. In his heavily worn copy of E.E. Cummings poems, I found a passage he had marked:



I will forever remain grateful to have had Elliot in my life, and to be part of his large family of students. Together, we learned to sing. Here’s a picture of us taken at the 2006 AERA meeting.


Elliot and Matt

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Profile in Illinois Alumni magazine

My work is profiled in the winter 2013 edition of Illinois Alumni magazine. The writer captures the essence of my approach and some notable alumni achievements. I’m also grateful for the photo. Click the image below to see a larger, legible, version. The class they discuss has a blog where you can see, hear, and read more:

String Theorist

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(Many) thoughts on the future of music education

vaep20.v115.i01.coverI’m delighted to be part of a special issue of Arts Education Policy Review (v. 115, no. 1). The focus of the issue is the future of music education, with articles that revisit a 2001 article by Scott Shuler from the same publication and then go on to make new predictions.

The respondents include Barbara Payne McLain, Scott Shuler, and Evan Tobias. My response, “Algorithms and the Future of Music Education: A Response to Shuler,” discusses the rising importance of algorithms in music and education. I make the case that the pervasive nature of algorithms make them consequential for all students and teachers, and I present five implications for music educators. The authors all shared drafts along the way, making the process a pleasant collaboration, and I do recommend writing for AEPR, in part due to the opportunity to work with Editor-in-Chief Colleen Conway (and this issue also has a short piece on writing for AEPR).

For those without institutional access, view the article for free through the post-print version on the UF online repository.

As a follow-up, here’s a post on The New Yorker, with an info graphic depicting what categories of information that services use to create a model of each user.

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Algorithms and Music Education [CMS/ATMI talk]


[Edit: Here’s the AEPR paper on algorithms and here’s a free post-print version of the paper]
I presented at the 2013 College Music Society/Association for Technology in Music Instruction National Conference in Cambridge, MA. My talk was “Algorithms as Arbiters of Musical Culture: Exploring Implications for All Music Educators.”

I am not posting the paper I  presented, but an article on algorithms in music education I have written will appear in Arts Education Policy Review (out early next year, and which I will link to once it is out).

Recommended Reading:
I first got interested in algorithms through Ted Striphas’ posts on algorithmic culture, like this one:

Tarleton Gillespie’s “The Relevance of Algorithms” connects far-reaching ideas with detailed descriptions of algorithms in use:

A comprehensive reading list was prepared for the Governing Algorithms conference:

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The participatory field as an alternative to musical specialization [CIC Nebraska talk]

SONY DSCI presented a talk on Tom Turino’s participatory music field and its potential for music education at the University of Nebraska’s CIC Music Education Conference on November 17, 2013. The paper explores the example of the Homebrew Ukulele Union to illustrate how the participatory field allows simultaneous participation across the age and ability spectrum, with each participant’s contributions equally valued.

I have uploaded the paper, with additional notes and references, to IDEALS:

The Homebrew has a WordPress:

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Strumming and hacking music education

A moment of gratitude to celebrate the recent accomplishments of two wonderful former students:
FourStrings1. Polly Yukevich (MME 2012) has been named Director of the Four Strings Foundation, Jake Shimabukuro’s educational outreach program (there’s a nice short piece at Guitar Player Magazine). Polly originally connected with Jake through an amazing project she undertook with her middle school students, and I expect great things to come from the foundation’s efforts. Catch Polly’s blog or Twitter (@PollyYuke).

2. SpotifyNick Jaworski (MME 2012, BME 2010) was awarded first place at the Spotify Music Education Hackathon, held this summer in New York. There were over 200 attendees, and Nick’s innovative approaches to technology and music education are a continued inspiration to me. Nick has many great posts for teachers on his blog, and, yes, he tweets (@JaworskiMusic).

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Music Education and Beck’s Song Reader

For those interested, my column on Nathaniel Braddock’s great Beck Song Reader class at the Old Town School of Folk Music is now out. Here’s a link to a free version (draft, pre-press), and there’s a version behind a Sage paywall here (free for NAfME members and people at most universities).

trumpetsMy summer music education technology class took on collaboratively recording, arranging, and mixing “Why Did You Make Me Care?” from Beck’s Song Reader.

A brief explanation: Beck’s latest release is not a recording, but sheet music designed for amateurs and professionals to realize in any way they choose, without any canonic recording by Beck getting in the way. The Reader is beautiful, and getting involved in the project is a wonderful way to enjoy and appreciate Beck’s invitation for musicians to work playfully within his compositions. We took the piano + vocals sheet music and arranged it for the instruments we had, and we had more fun than we imagined and are pleased with the result.

Here’s our contribution:

Our group chose the name #fourfortyseven:beck-fullcover
Vocals: Brandon Washington and Leigh Wiedelman
Trumpets: Allissa Carter, Nicholas Loafman, Daniel Morrion
Saxophones: Cody Halberstadt, Elizabeth Schurman
Guitars: Philip Meyer and Brandon Washington
Viola: Erica Charous
Clarinet: Jaime Faulhaber
Bass: Matthew Thibeault

Here are two other versions that get at the diversity of interpretations to be found diving into YouTube/Soundclound/etc.

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John Dewey’s 1902 Fight for Music Education

Dewey in 1902, the year he fought for music in the Laboratory School.

Dewey in 1902, the year he argued for music in the Laboratory School.

[Update: here’s a link to my full article on Dewey and music education in the Journal of Research in Music Education (published in 2020).]

That the history of fighting for music education programs goes back over one hundred years is disheartening, but it is a comfort to realize that educators often had amazing allies. During a research visit to the Center for Dewey Studies I came across 1902 correspondence in which John Dewey argued to keep music education at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. Below, I share an abbreviated version as a contribution to Music in Our Schools Month, particularly for those currently working to keep quality programs in place during difficult economic times.
Continue reading

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2013 Outstanding Emerging Researcher Award presented by the Center for Music Education Research

I was extremely honored to receive the Clint Randles presents the award to Matthew ThibeaultOutstanding Emerging Researcher Award, presented by the Center for Music Education Research at the Suncoast Music Education Research Symposium at the University of South Florida. I was particularly moved after hearing the exemplary papers of the conference, many of which will find an audience through a book Clint Randles is editing.

Image of the plaque on Thibeault's bookshelf

The plaque resides on my shelf at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, where I am a Faculty Fellow at work on a related book.

[Edit: My paper, The Shifting Locus of Musical Experience from Performance to Recording to New Media: Some Implications for Music Education has been published. For the conference, I prepared brief remarks, drawing on my paper to set up a discussion, and for those interested in the basics of my paper I have posted those remarks on IDEALS.

For those considering attending the next SMERS Conference (2015), may I leave you with Continue reading

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A draft manifesto on virtual ensembles in music education

How might music educators expand their consideration of virtual ensembles? From Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir to the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, to the PS 22’s chorus, there are an increasing array of ensembles with a substantial Internet presence. The term “virtual ensemble” is itself ambiguous (some would say these are virtually a real ensemble), but it seems to be sticking. I find that students and faculty are interested in VEs, but there is not yet much out there.

For those curious to start thinking critically about VEs, here’s a collaborative manifesto from my undergraduate music education technology course. They tried to assess the good, bad and problematic, and comments are welcome! (Thanks to the students in MUS 243, and Chris Cayari, the TA for the course.) I helped a bit with the discussion, but the end product is truly the work of the students. Here’s a PDF version of this content.

Draft Manifesto for Virtual Ensembles in Music Education 

We perceive the following strengths for Virtual Ensembles (VEs):

  • VEs allow musical performances to be accessed by limitless audiences
  • VEs allow a diverse community from different places to be a part of something together
  • VEs allow a social and musical connection across space and time
  • VEs allow for a varied palette of interpretations, supporting diversity of expressions Continue reading
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