The study of music history is part of our Examination systems. The formal exams start at the Grade 9 Practical level, although obviously students need to be educated in this area, if only in bits and pieces, much earlier.
The recommended textbook for RCM exams is Explorations by Janet Lopinski, Joe Ringhofer and Peter Zarins, available in 3 editions for the 3 levels of history exams. Unfortunately, the newest edition of these books do not contain guided questions for the students to work through; also, the font is very small and the amount of information crammed onto each page is intimidating. Still, this is the book that has all the nit-picky details that you need to know for the exam. If you want to teach to the test, this is all you need.
An excellent supplement or alternative to the RCM Explorations books is published by Longbow Publishing. The books include a free subscription to Naxos, a streaming service, where there is a playlist for easy access to recordings of all the pieces that are to be studied. Also included with each book is a CD that includes all the printed scores and review tests. Sold separately are supporting materials such as definition flashcards, score excerpt flashcards, and a valuable Teacher’s Resource CD which is full of worksheets and answers and many more review materials. This book itself is much more user-friendly and also works well for Conservatory Canada’s History exams. I always have students buy both books. (Disclosure: I proof-read these books, so my name appears at the front of the book, but I do not profit from any sales.)
It is not enough for a teacher to merely know the curriculum; a good teacher must know more than what he or she is teaching. The odd student will ask questions beyond what she/he is reading, and this is a great opportunity to teach the importance of using more than one source.
Reading other textbooks is not most people’s idea of a fun afternoon, but reading good biographies can be. There are a number of biographies and other books on my Reading List that I have found interesting and informative, some of which I’ve already reviewed on this blog. There are gems to be found in public libraries by browsing in the music section. Even thrift stores can turn up valuable finds.
As with anything, the more you learn about a subject, the more you realize how much more there is to learn. Reading and attending workshops become more and more pleasurable as your own knowledge deepens. The history of music is anything but a dry recitation of dates and places. It is full of fascinating individuals who dared to be creative and revolutionary and who have thereby enriched the rest of the world.