The Impact of Mile of Music: Music Education Team

momworkshopblog.pngWritten by Philomena Dorobek, Brand Storyteller
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center
Thursday, August 4 to Sunday, August 7 saw Appleton’s 2022 Mile of Music. Started in 2013, this music festival is a free, community shared experience. Various artists from all over the country perform in downtown Appleton in bars, parks, restaurants and more. With over 200 artists giving more than 700 performances in folk-rock, indie, bluegrass, soul and more, there is plenty to enjoy. Last year, more than 80,000 people took part in Mile of Music. 
This year, there were 32 workshops offered on Friday, August 5 to Sunday, August 7 as part of the Mile of Music Music Education Workshops. While the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center has been the headquarters for the last few years, this year was the first time that workshops were hosted at the Center. There were three workshops held on Friday and Saturday, as well as an added workshop about self-care through music. The workshops educated and invited community members to dance and feel the rhythms of Ghanaian, South Indian and Mexican cultures. All ages learned and danced on stage together, celebrating cultures around the world.
To gain a better understanding of what the Music Education Workshops are and why they are so important to the community, I spoke with Leila Ramagopal Pertl, Mile of Music’s Music Education Curator. Leila also is a career public school music teacher and a music education professor at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI.
She shared that the mission for the Music Education Team is based on her personal teaching philosophy: “To help all people unleash their inner musician in order to build a community of active music explorers, music makers, and music lovers.” This is achieved through various music-making opportunities where individuals discover their musical selves.
From its beginning, Mile of Music sought to include musical education. It started with a team of six educators passionate about self-discovery through music who organized 13 interactive events during Mile of Music. Later, it would grow into a team of 22 educators (and a handful of guest teaching artists) who organize about 40 diverse and intergenerational events during Mile of Music. They are music education professors, professional K-12 teachers, pre-service teachers, and others who have a passion for music’s power to unite and heal. By asking big dream questions, like “What if?” to help plan the workshops,  people transcend part of the musical festival experience from simply listening and enjoying the music to BECOMING the music.
“I felt it was important that all people on the Mile had an opportunity to be an active music maker in community with others, and not just passively watch others perform,” Leila shared. “The way to promote a musical town is to BE a musical town; that means reigniting the inner musical fire in all people.”
Leila explained that unfortunately, music education is not given the same priority as many other subjects in schools like math, science or sports. This can lead to the common misconception that music isn’t as vital as these subjects when the opposite is actually true. A mindset can be created that consciously or unconsciously tells people that they are either born with the talent or they’re not. The fear of not being good enough can override the natural human behavior of expressing oneself and the human experience through music. Through Mile of Music-Music Education Team, Leila sees the team as a way to activate people’s “musical birthright” and allow the community to connect year-round with other music learning opportunities.
In order to spark that particular birthright, Leila explained that the topics and partners for the workshops are carefully selected by the team. Throughout the year, Leila nurtures and forms relationships with phenomenal community partners who share the vision of music education for all like , Heid Music, Fox Cities P.A.C., NAMI, AASDMET (Music Education Team) members and guest teaching artists. Representation is crucial within the team as well as the talent.
“When you listen deeply, you hear the music of many global cultures made by culture bearers right here in the Fox Cities.” Some of these cultural experiences include: Native American flute, Mariachi, Ghanaian Ewe, Balinese Gamelan, Hmong, both Kathak and Bharatnatyam dance forms, respectively from North and South India, and much more. During Mile of Music alone, around 7,000 individuals take part in the Music Education Workshops. However, the community is reached through events part of the yearly series. These events also involve diverse people of all ages who don’t need any prior experience to engage. Other community members may also wish to take part in other music education opportunities through other organizations such as Lawrence Community Music School, Appleton Music Academy, Appleton Rock School and of course, Heid Music.
Leila shared an example of how a community member grew into their musical talents after
taking part in songwriting workshops in 2015 and 2016. This 60-year-old woman had said, “It was light a light bulb turning on in my head. I can do this! I need to write my songs!” And write those songs she did. This woman discovered how much she needed to write about her life through music after writing and producing nine original songs, creating her own CD. It does not matter what age we accomplish goals; it is never too late to learn or be a beginner.
Once people remember they are musical beings, they take intentional steps to embrace that part of themselves by learning more. Sometimes this results in attending music education workshops at the Mile of Music.
When asked about how the Music Education Team plans to expand in the future, Leila responded how much she loved the collaboration between Mile of Music and the Fox Cities P.A.C. , calling it “incredibly successful” and “soul-stirringly exciting.” With a hope to develop this connection even further, Leila was moved by watching hundreds of people come alive on stage through music, many of whom may not have ever dreamed of occupy that stage. “I wanted people to occupy that space with a sense of ownership of their musical being and right to be there, making music within community.” These community members were given the rare gift to learn diverse art forms with which may be unfamiliar to them while exploring what community music and personal musicianship sounds like.
To Leila, the community experience of a “deep dive into global traditions that exist right here in the Fox Valley” was amazing example of good partnership with the Center. Her final thoughts turned to the future of what the Music Education Team can do and be.“We are excited to work with existing music education organizations in our community to help expand the music learning opportunities for all kinds of music traditions.”
Visit Mile of Music: Music Education Team on their social media platforms or their website to learn more.
Facebook: Mile of Music: Music Education Team
Instagram: Mile of Music: Music Education Team
Mile of Music Website: under the music education tab.
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