“Glee” and its Portrayal of Music Education

| April 4, 2011

As a fan of the show “Glee”, I often think about how the show portrays Music Education. I enjoy the show and think that the idea of showing music as something fun to be a part of sparks a curiosity in students about what it would be like to participate in a similar activity.

Although “Glee” may generate an interest in music, I do not think its portrayal is accurate. The performing group that the show revolves around is described as a glee club; when in reality the group depicted is a show choir. A show choir is a group that combines singing and choreography, while a glee club is a choir in a more traditional sense that performs choral music with no choreography. A student who has seen the show “Glee” might decided to join a glee club and be surprised to discover that there is no dancing involved. It would also be surprising to attend your school’s glee club concert expecting to hear music by Journey, and hearing Handel and Bach instead.

Each week in the show “Glee” the students learn and perform a new song. The song is usually ready to perform in a short period of time, yet the students do not appear to spend much time rehearsing. We don’t see the students working on choreography or rehearsing more difficult passages of music in isolation. The students receive their music and seem to magically learn the music and choreography. If a student was basing their expectations on what occurs in a rehearsal on “Glee,” they might not expect the amount of effort required to learn a piece of music and choreography.

“Glee” also fails to portray the students learning any type of music literacy. There is no mention of reading music nor of musical terms such as dynamics, rhythm, or tempo. In a high school ensemble I would expect the students to be reading music and working on musicality. This is what the music teacher is supposed to teach. In “Glee,” the teacher, Will Schuster, helps choose the music, sings for his students and gives advice on life. He is rarely shown working on strictly musical aspects of the performances.

“Glee” does a good job entertaining audiences with talented performers, but in order for “Glee,” to be truly beneficial for the field of Music Education it needs to accurately portray what occurs in a music classroom.