Music students have more engagement with materials when they experience authenticity and empowerment in their learning. Essentially, their learning must be relevant to their life experiences and they must have a voice in planning their learning.
Two Caveats: This is not to say that students should always study their favourite music and do whatever they want. In fact, in the IB, there is a strong focus on music that comes from personal contexts (music that the students know very well), local contexts (music that is somewhat familiar to the students), and global contexts (music very unfamiliar to the students.) Also, it’s based on the students’ needs (maturity, experiences, etc.) Grade sixes who are completely new to middle school and the MYP experience cannot simply make up their own unit… and rarely have the self-management ATL skills needed to complete it anyways! These students need scaffolding (hand-holding) as they navigate through the MYP for the first time. Grade 10s, however, are pros. They’ve been in the MYP for five years and have already completed their Personal Projects. They know how to pick topics, discuss their own contexts, choose their MYP Global Context, build their inquiry statement, etc.
Rather, teachers act as facilitators to empower students as they create their own learning.
Some ways that students can be empower is through offering choice in lesson activities, building their own units, and taking complete ownership over student After School Activities. All three are used in my classrooms and all three have demonstrated great successes.