Music Education

views updated May 29 2018


richard colwell

preparation of teachers
carlos xavier rodriguez


An observation of music classes in the public schools reveals that little changed in the last half of the twentieth century, including the education of music teachers. The value and role of music education in American schools has been affected, however, by the education reform movement and changes in the organization and delivery of instruction. One major change is that music often is not regarded as a standalone subject but is incorporated into an arts education.

Almost all K6 schools offer some type of required instruction in music. At the middle school level, changes in the instructional format and the addition of electives in other arts courses have reduced the importance of music. The secondary school music program consists largely of performance ensembles, which comprise bands (wind ensembles), choirs, and string or full orchestras. These ensembles are elective although an increasing number of states (about half in 2001) mandate a unit of fine arts at the secondary level. To enable the nonperformer to meet this graduation requirement, courses are offered that may include advanced placement (AP) music theory (usually taken by students who are already enrolled in a music class), beginning guitar and keyboard classes, or an extension of the general music class similar to that offered in the elementary school. The prevalence of the new requirement for an arts course at the secondary level is somewhat misleading as some states define grades seven through twelve as secondary education. There is also a broad interpretation of what constitutes an arts course; some states include literature, foreign language, and photography, as well as music, visual arts, theatre, and dance, while others include the arts as a choice among required electives. The most identifiable change in the music curriculum, found primarily in general music, is a greater emphasis on composition, the instruction of which has been facilitated by computers and the use of multicultural music.

It is difficult to generalize the percentage of students participating in music at the secondary level. Percentage of participation varies greatly depending upon the size of the school, ranging from 5 percent in large schools to as much as half the student body in small or magnet schools. About 35 percent of the student body are enrolled in music for one semester, a percentage that would be about 20 percent at any one time. Well over 90 percent of the secondary schools offer band and nearly 85 percent offer choral music. String programs are found in approximately 20 percent of high schools, although this dearth is compensated by the all-city/region youth orchestras that provide stunning musical experiences, often rivaling the quality of the local symphony orchestra. String students commonly study music privately outside of school and often began instruction at an early age through a Suzuki-type program.

An important variable in secondary music is the establishment of numerous magnet arts high schools. Students enrolled in these programs do very well academically, as shown through past experience with arts magnet schools like the Interlochen Arts Academy and the North Carolina School for the Arts. James Catterall's research on students enrolled in music for four years reveals that they score appreciably better than average on SAT and ACT tests. This relationship between academic success and the arts is frequently used to promote the concept of "learning through the arts." In 2001 the U.S. Department of Education provided a $2.5 million grant to the Berkeley County School District in South Carolina to initiate an integrated arts/academic magnet school curriculum.

Elementary School Music

The required general music program in grades K6 is less vibrant than it was at the midpoint of the twentieth century. The reduction in curriculum time occurred gradually during the 1970s and 1980s, making it difficult to pinpoint any single cause. Budget reductions are most often cited as the cause, perhaps due to the publicity given to budget caps passed by the legislatures in California and Massachusetts. Whether the caps were causal is a matter of debate but the reduction in curriculum time for music was more likely the result of changes in priorities and not fiscal change. During the 1970s and 1980s fewer discretionary funds were available to school districts due to steep increases in shared costs for special education. Second, greater emphasis was placed on test scores in language arts and mathematics. In addition, elementary classroom teachers were relieved of responsibility for teaching or helping to teach music, due to an extensive campaign by the Music Educators National Conference in behalf of certified music teachers. Fourth, colleges of education reduced the coursework in music required of classroom teachers, making music the area in which these teachers felt least competent to model and to teach. Also during this period instructional time was reduced from daily classes of 2030 minutes to a weekly offering of the same length. However, expectations of student competency in music were not lowered and in fact new objectives were added. No public reaction to this change occurred, as school administrators and the public never had a clear idea of the important competencies in music that all students should possess upon completion of a K6 curriculum. Thus, inadequate time became the norm. Instructional time in the secondary schools was not reduced; thus there was no change in the more visible components of the secondary school's music program.

Music appreciation as an objective in the elementary curriculum lost any cachet it once had (the AP course in music listening was dropped at the secondary level for lack of interest) despite a warning by the National School Board Association in 1988 that performance had replaced appreciation. Singing as an objective became a lower priority. Texts for general music for K6, consisting of songs with related listening materials for all students, were replaced by specialized programs based on the method and materials of the founder. These programs, primarily Orff, Kodaly, and Dalcroze, became ascendant, along with teacher-constructed offerings consisting of popular and ethnic music, music games, videos, and activities tangentially related to music. When the specialist teacher came in contact with students only once per week and met as many as 500 students during that week, the idea of a sequential curriculum became infeasible, as did the possibility of assisting the student who fell behind. In all states except Louisiana specialists are the primary deliverers of instruction.

The reform movement promotion of basic or core subjects mobilized those interested in elementary music education to demand that music be included as a core subject, returning it to its century-long importance. Music was joined by visual arts, theatre, and dance to create a requirement in arts education. Arts Content Standards were quickly formulated in each of the four arts and in 1994 these standards were the first core addition to be accepted (after the long-standing mathematics standards) by the Secretary of Education. Performance and Opportunity to Learn Standards were also constructed and distributed to members of the four arts professions but these two standards have received scant attention, especially the Opportunity to Learn Standards that are necessary for students to attain at least a proficient performance level in nine content areas. The Music Educators National Conference (now named MENC: The National Association for Music Education) has vigorously promoted the content standards since their adoption. (The suggestion has been made that if the standards in all of the subjects were adopted that it would add five years to the K12 curriculum). Two of the content standards in each art form emphasized the importance of relating the four art forms to one another and relating the arts to other subjects in the curriculum. Although it is difficult to imagine how social studies or most other subjects could be taught without consideration of the arts, this content standard shifted the perception of responsibility so that the arts teacher is seen as an aide to the subject matter teacher when the reverse should be true, logically and educationally. The arts standards will not be taken seriously where the classroom teacher is given the responsibility but not the competency to teach in the arts area.

Middle School

With the recommendations of the Carnegie Foundation for the middle school, new curriculum emphasis was placed on student development of a positive outlook toward educational success that would contribute to improved self-confidence and self-esteem. To accomplish this, the middle school curriculum was to be taught by teacher teams in the more basic subjects that, in turn, were to be supplemented by a rich offering of exploratory courses. The arts became part of these elective exploratory courses, frequently competing with chess club and Tae Kwon-Do for available curricular time. (The arts are often a required exploratory for six to nine weeks at one or more of the grade levels of middle school, an arrangement that interferes with any sequential music curriculum during middle school and lacks any connection to elementary school music objectives or to the offerings in the secondary school.)

The involvement of the arts community in supporting the inclusion of the arts as a basic school subject has raised many substantive issues. First, could a national or community artist supplement or replace the certified teacher at a lower cost and provide more authentic instruction? The massive Annenberg grant to the public schools established partnerships between the schools and cultural organizations, a provision that brought performers and composers who had no teacher training into the schools much like the Ford Foundation's Young Composers Project did in the late 1950s and 1960s and programs of the National Endowment of the Arts, state arts councils, and Young Audiences do in the early twenty-first century. Second, arts organizations raise or find money to support their own curricular vision of a music program or music experience. These organizations provide musical instruments, music scores, and instruction, as well as field experiences such as attendance at concerts and operas. Third, arts organizations have found it easier to work with classroom teachers and their objectives rather than with the heavily scheduled music teacher. The Lincoln Center Institute has operated such a program for twenty-five years, bringing classroom teachers and professional musicians together to facilitate the classroom teacher's objective of an enriched classroom and to aid teachers in attaining goals in their extant curriculums. Fourth, other arts and nonarts organizations have taken a broad approach to education (as opposed to schooling) and initiated after-school programs in music to accomplish several purposes: to provide a balance to remedial programs in the more basic subjects that are offered after school; to provide a safe environment for that time period between the end of the school day and when parents are at home; and to free up the basic curriculum by avoiding the interruption for music class. Fifth, community music centers have a presence in many cities, offering not only private lessons but often ensemble experiences and short-term educational instructional units in the public schools (with their own staff); these offerings consist of content that fits a particular school's monthly or yearly focus. Sixth, all major and community orchestras have initiated educational programs that include youth concerts and preparation for attendance at these concerts. These multiple offers of assistance from the local community are difficult to reject; they cost the schools nothing, are designed for all students in K6, and administratively count as part, or all, of the music program.

To describe the music education of Americans one must take into account the value of private music lessons (especially piano and guitar); the impact of radio, television, and compact discs and the listening experiences they provide; and the many informal performing experiences such as garage bands. Should a student's competency in music be the issue, many students could test out of classroom music. However, the opportunity to learn to play an instrument is provided in most schools around fourth gradethe decision of when to offer instrumental music instruction is based more upon the budget than the student's likelihood of success. Also, music educators in K6 general music have adopted a role in supporting multicultural education. It is interesting to identify music from other cultures and to compare and contrast these types of music. Learning to perform on ethnic instruments is fun and listening exercises are more concrete as much ethnic music has a practical value in its relationship to social studies and other core courses. Western music, written for the concert hall, often does not contain many cultural or historical references; its meaning and importance are based on its formal and aesthetic qualities. Thus, it is no longer possible to definitively describe the K6 music program in American schools, as the content is not only diverse but also affected greatly by the political currents of the educational reform movement.

Early Childhood Music

Early childhood education frequently includes rich music experiences whether in the private early childhood programs such as Waldorf and Montessori (which extend beyond early childhood) or in public school programs for disadvantaged children. Research, including the Perry Early Childhood Program (High Scope) that has impressive longitudinal data on a sample of students for some twenty years, indicates that music competencies achieved from birth to age five assist students in later school experience. Other research, whose findings are often mislabeled the "Mozart effect," indicates that music listening experiences with very young children play a role in how the brain is wired. This research is focused on temporal-spatial ability and how it relates to the abstract thinking required in mathematics and science. Keyboard experience also may provide a spatial-temporal advantage. These research results also support programs labeled "learning through music" where music is taught not for its musical benefits but for other reasons. The interest in justifying music instruction on the basis of what is learned about other subjects is a contemporary worry, although the powerful instrumental music programs in the secondary schools have long been valued for their role in accomplishing general, nonarts objectives. Students do learn character, responsibility, cooperative learning, how to budget their time, and much more as part of being a contributing member to an ensemble that has high standards. Students participate because their peers participate and they are attracted by the chance to do things well with their friends. The power of these side objectives does not necessitate the sacrifice of unique musical objectives; however, the perception of school administrators and board members is important for long-term goals.

Music continues to play an important role in special education programs, in music therapy, and with English as a Second Language students. The nonverbal nature of music allows students with special needs to participate in many music experiences and to obtain educational benefits as well as enjoyment.

Secondary Schools

The instrumental performance program (grades 912) is edging toward becoming a semi-independent part of the school day in that it is not fully supported by school funds. Participating students do receive academic credit but that credit is not always computed in a student's overall grade average and many colleges exclude such grades and credit in making admission decisions. The Instrumentalist magazine reported in 2001 that more than half of the budget required to support secondary instrumental music programs was raised by students, businesses, and parents through fund-raising or assessments. This percentage likely represents the more advanced band programs. The quality of band programs is steadily increasing with graduates often able to matriculate into college applied music curricula. A study completed by Educational Research Service indicates that slightly more than 20 percent of the funds required to support secondary music programs, including general music, music theory, choral performance, and other academic classes, is raised from outside sources. No longer automatically providing instruments for students, schools have gradually come to expect students to own or rent their own instruments and to pay for expenses associated with contests, festivals, and travel. There are also expenses involved with choral music but these are more limited, restricted to appropriate concert dress and travel funds. Secondary music is, therefore, not affordable for everyone unless support exists for special students.

In other aspects, music education in the secondary schools has not changed significantly. Secondary music teachers have not been affected by the educational reform movement (except for block scheduling and the addition of more required courses) and are generally unconcerned about the voluntary national standards as some do not relate to ensembles and others are too rudimentary to cause much trouble.


A single philosophy of music education for K12 is inappropriate except when speaking of music in the broadest of terms. The need for more than one philosophy is not surprising with a subject as broad and diverse as music, one that provides so many beneficial outcomes. Two distinct philosophies exist in K12 education, one based on the importance of music education for all students and one based upon the benefits of performance, including aesthetics and opportunities for excellence, for those with interest and talent. Teachers usually adhere to one philosophy or the other based on whether they have interests in elective music or in providing music to all students, regardless of ability. There are somewhat more than 45,000 public secondary school music teachers involved with performance; this represents slightly less than half the music teaching force. MENC reports an estimated 105,000 public school music teachers with an additional 15,000 teaching in private schools (2000a). The complexity of music (Western music has been increasing in complexity for centuries) means that not everyone can adequately perform the music that is important to them. Those who have the ability and time to develop high level performance skills can derive enormous satisfaction, enjoyment, and understanding from performing alone and with others.

External financial support is also important in supporting national arts (music) programs. The Getty Center has taken a special interest in visual arts education, supporting activities and publications to promote Discipline-Based Arts Education, a movement that has had some influence in music as well. Without Getty support, adoption of the voluntary national standards would have been delayed or lost, as would have been the arts assessment in 1997 of the National Association of Educational Progress and the development of the arts teacher component of the National Board of Professional Teaching Students.

See also: Curriculum, School; Elementary Education, subentry on Current Trends; Montessori,, Maria; Secondary Education, subentry on Current Trends.


Bickell, Henry M., and Paul, Regina H. 1988. Time for Curriculum. Alexandria, VA: National School Boards Association.

Brown, J. D. 1994. "Opportunities and Solutions for U.S. Instrumental Music Programs." The Gemeinhardt Report 4:11.

Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. 1989. Turning Points: Preparing American Youth for the 21st Century. New York: Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development.

Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. 1995. Great Transitions: Preparing Adolescents for a New Century. New York: Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development.

Catterall, James; Chapleau, Richard; and Iwanga, John. 1999. "Involvement in the Arts and Human Development." In Champions of Change, ed. Ed Fiske. Washington, DC: Arts Education Partnership.

Educational Research Service. 2000. The National Survey of Music Education in Public Secondary Schools. Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service.

Eisner, Elliot. 2001. "Music Education Six Months After the Turn of the Century." Arts Education Policy Review 102 (3):2024.

Instrumentalist. 2001. "2001 Survey of School Music Budgets." Instrumentalist (August):3438.

Leonhard, Charles. 1991. The Status of Arts Education in American Public Schools. Urbana, IL: Council for Research in Music Education.

Music Educators National Conference. 1994a. National Standards for Arts Education. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference.

Music Educators National Conference. 1994b. Opportunity to Learn Standards, PreK12. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference.

Music Educators National Conference. 1996. Performance Standards for Music. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference.

Music Educators National Conference. 2000a. "FYI: How Many Teachers Are There?" Teaching Music (October):69.

Music Educators National Conference. 2000b. "FYI: How Many Teachers Are There?" Teaching Music (December):6667.

Strong, Richard W.; Silver, Harvey F.; and Perini, Matthew J. 2001. Teaching What Matters Most: Standards and Strategies for Raising Student Achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics. 1999. Digest of Educational Statistics 1998. Washington, DC:U.S. Department of Education.

Richard Colwell


Prior to the 1960s the preparation of music teachers in the United States included study in music history, theory, and literature, performance experience in vocal and/or instrumental music, and initial teaching experience in a music classroom. The social and educational upheavals of the 1960s brought about significant changes in this curriculum to include new emphases on contemporary music, world music, contributions of related fields such as psychology and philosophy, and competency-based teacher preparation programs. By the 1970s, the aesthetic education movement, first introduced in widely read texts by Charles Leonhard and Robert W. House, dominated music education. Perhaps the most influential writing on this topic was Bennett Reimer's 1971 explication of the relationship between aesthetic principles and music education. His subsequent monograph (1972, revised in 1989) broadly influenced music teachers to legitimatize music instruction that was based on more deeply felt beliefs regarding the nature and importance of musical experience. During the 1990s music teacher education was influenced by the publication of national standards for music instruction formulated by the Music Educators National Conference (1994), which also sparked renewed interest in competency-based programs.

Dominant Themes in Music Teacher Education

During the last two decades of the twentieth century, much of the research concerning undergraduate music education programs focused on the student, the instructor, and the program content. Studies emphasizing student roles included the essential characteristics of the effective teacher; teaching styles; musical, intellectual, and personal development; teaching time management skills; formation of classroom and rehearsal strategies; behavior management skills; leadership skills; and attrition variables. Studies involving faculty included supervisory roles, use of modeling techniques, motivational skills, and professional responsibilities. Studies involving program content included the following:

  • descriptive research by regions or type (instrumental/choral)
  • use of innovations
  • course sequencing
  • feedback systems
  • use of computers and technology
  • use of simulation techniques
  • evaluation
  • observation
  • the content and structure of methods courses
  • multicultural components
  • interdisciplinary studies
  • field-based experiences and student teaching
  • the importance of developing a philosophy of music education

Additional studies included historical accounts of music education programs, suggestions for improving evaluation systems, and reports of various educational task forces, which recommend guidelines for curriculum reform.

Problems in Music Teacher Education

Two competing perspectives have dominated writings and discussions in music teacher education. On the one hand, there is a search for new ways to teach more effectively what has long been regarded as standard curriculum content. On the other hand, there have been attempts to study the role of higher institutions in preparing educators, the systems through which a program's effectiveness is measured, and new emphases in educational psychology that require amendments to program philosophy and procedures. Some writers have expressed continuing concern for the conflict between the conservatory, liberal arts, and educational/professional imperatives present in the modern music education undergraduate program. Adequate coverage of these diverse components is typically not manageable within the context of a four-year program, so many institutions have added a fifth year of study.

Advocates of improved evaluation procedures in undergraduate music education programs cite the need for evaluation of learning as well as teaching. It has also been recommended that evaluation be presented as a distinct subject within the curriculum as well as used by faculty members to assess student learning. The term assessment as instruction is used to describe evaluative measures that are built into the learning process, and pre-service teachers in music performance and general music are encountering more course activities that include such measures.

The role of student teaching in the curriculum continues to be problematic. College faculty are hard-pressed to intensify their roles as supervisors and provide more time within the curriculum for field experiences. Provisions, however, have been identified by in-service teachers as the most important critical to an effective and relevant pre-service education.

Perhaps the most critical problem facing music teacher educators is the need for an increased effort to bridge the gap between educational theory and instructional practice. Few, if any, critics attribute this problem to insufficient study of either. Rather, it is traced to the segregation of these subjects in course-work and a lack of modeling by music education faculty in their own teaching. The success of such an effort requires increased focus and ingenuity on the part of faculty and increased emphasis on the development of problem-solving and independent thinking skills.

Future Issues

The results of research in musical preference need greater prominence in the undergraduate teaching program. There continues to be a cultural dividing line between "school music" and the world of music beyond the classroom, namely, popular music. The Housewright Declaration, a statement on the future of music education drafted by a subcommittee of the Music Educators National Conference (2000), espouses the increased presence of popular music in American music classrooms, and warns that music teacher training must proceed accordingly by becoming more flexible in its purview of teaching competencies. The implication for pre-service music educators is that they should begin preparing now by learning to teach composition and improvisation, broadening their music vocabularies to encompass pop genres and all types of progressive music, exploring alternative notational systems, designing interdisciplinary projects, and otherwise developing their creative reasoning skills.

There appears to be increasing emphasis on the development of interpersonal skills. As mentioned above, the personal characteristics of effective teachers are well known, but those most highly valued are the ability to detect and accommodate individual learning styles in the classroom, to demonstrate superior communication skills, and to balance efficiently the use of criticism and praise. Although it has not been established how undergraduate programs might best meet this challenge, college faculty will need to utilize measures that increase the individualization of degree programs through assessment of students' interpersonal strengths and weaknesses.

Technological advancements have given rise to more affordable, portable, powerful, and userfriendly systems whose educational worth is difficult to ignore. A required course in computer proficiency for music teaching is common across the nation. Many areas of music learning have been revolutionized by the computermost profoundly, music composition. Although it is common for instructional curricula to be designed in accordance with available software, the inverse is decidedly optimal for teachers and teaching. Computers should serve to enhance a broad understanding of music and the related arts. The issue of humanism versus technology must be mediated by music education faculty, who can demonstrate proper computer applications to the teaching and learning of music.

A view of musicianship as a world phenomenon has been recommended since the Tanglewood Symposium of 1967. Its importance in a program appears to be largely a matter of faculty expertise and/or interest, as there are no federal, state, or task force mandates for a multicultural component. It should be noted here that the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) has requirements in this area (and others) to qualify for accreditation, but such accreditation is voluntary. Multicultural music advocates cite the abundance of accessible information, the need for exposure to the many sources of influence in popular music, and the increasingly pluralistic profile of the average American classroom as reasons for a global perspective on music-making. Critics are primarily concerned with the more practical issues of additional time allotments in an already overflowing course load, the selection of certain musics over others for study, the extent of such studies, and issues of authenticity.

Many of the reforms prescribed for undergraduate music education programs continue to involve a rethinking of balances between the musical, professional and academic components. These translate into decisions regarding classwork versus field experience, musicianship versus teacher training, and whether to emphasize educational theory over instructional practice. A common theme that appears to underlie virtually all teacher education programs is the need for pre-service teachers to develop the cognitive skills necessary to analyze and evaluate effective teaching.

Finally, contemporary conceptions of intelligence have significantly extended the forms of understanding believed to be necessary for teaching. David Elliott posits four types of knowledgeformal, informal, impressionistic, and supervisoryeach distinct in its origin and usage in the teaching process. Postmodern philosophy and thinking, regarded by academic professionals as a confounding yet indispensable guiding principle, reminds those entering the teaching profession they must address the difficult questions of what constitutes quality, integrity, and relevancy in instruction as they enter a new millennium of music teacher education.

See also: Art Education.


Elliott, David. 1995. Music Matters: A New Philosophy of Music Education. New York: Oxford University Press.

Labuta, Joseph A., and Smith, Deborah A. 1997. Music Education: Historical Contexts and Perspectives. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Leonhard, Charles, and House, Robert W. 1972. Foundations and Principles of Music Education (1959). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Madsen, Clifford K., ed. 2000. Vision 2020: The Housewright Symposium on the Future of Music Education. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference.

Mark, Michael L. 1996. Contemporary Music Education, 3rd edition. New York: Schirmer.

Reimer, Bennett. 1971. "Aesthetic Behaviors in Music." In Toward an Aesthetic Education, ed. Bennett Reimer. Washington, DC: Music Educators National Conference.

Reimer, Bennett. 1989. A Philosophy of Music Education, 2nd edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Carlos Xavier Rodriguez

Music Education

views updated May 11 2018

Music Education

In nineteenth-century Europe and North America, school music lessons were mostly designed to foster musical literacy by teaching children to sing at sight using different versions of "sol-fa" (based upon syllables) as an introduction to staff notation. Two key pioneers were Lowell Mason (17921872) under whose influence music was introduced into the schools of Boston as an integral subject in the curriculum in 1838, and John Hullah (18121884) who conducted a Singing School for Schoolmasters in London for the first time in 1841.

With the development of recording and broadcasting in the early years of the twentieth century, the notion of attentive listening gained a higher profile with the rise of the Music Appreciation movement and the work of Stewart MacPherson (18651941) and Francis Elliott Clarke (18601958). At about the same time the percussion or rhythm band became a regular feature of music in schools, characterized by a rather formal and prescriptive approach. In contrast was the work of Satis Coleman who experimented with creative music for children at the Lincoln School of Teachers College, Columbia University. Simple instruments made by the children themselves were utilized alongside singing, movement, and spontaneous creative improvisation.

The trend towards hands-on, participatory approaches to the teaching of music is exemplified in the work of three key figures: Emile Jaques-Dalcroze (18651950), Carl Orff (18951982) and Zoltán Kodály (18821967). Jaques-Dalcroze devised his system of eurhythmics in Switzerland, and presented his first training course for teachers in 1909. He integrated movement, improvisation, and solfège (the "fixed-doh" system) into music education. Dalcroze's ideas influenced Orff who co-founded a school with Dorothee Günther in Munich in 1924 where music teaching went hand in hand with movement teaching. Musically, students were encouraged to improvise and compose their own music, and to invent a number of unsophisticated musical instruments. The first edition of Orff-Schulwerk was published in 1935 and demonstrated Orff's conviction that through speech-rhythms and chants, songs and movements, children were able to discover and demonstrate musical concepts. Meanwhile in Hungary, it was Kodály's aim to build a music culture in schools using national and folk songs. There were three basic elements to his concept of initial musical training: sung folk tunes; movable sol-fa ; and simultaneous clapping and singing, or singing in parts.

In practice, the ideas and methods outlined are adapted, combined, and synthesized by present-day music teachers, whether they are working, for example, within the National Standards for Music Education in the USA (1994), or the National Curriculum in the UK (1992). But the adoption of these ideas should not be regarded as somehow natural or immutable, but rather the result of dialogue, and sometimes conflict, between those who hold widely differing conceptions concerning music and its meaning in children's lives, and how the musical experiences offered to children in schools can reinforce the fundamental aimsthe fostering of musical literacy, performance skills, and musical values, along with the cultivation of attentive listening and creative expressionof a general music education.

See also: Education, Europe; Education, United States.


Campbell, Patricia S. 1991. Lessons from the World: A CrossCultural Guide to Music Teaching. New York: Schirmer.

Coleman, Satis N. 1922. Creative Music for Children: A Plan of Training based on the Natural Evolution of Music including the Making and Playing of Instruments Dancing-Singing-Poetry. New York: G.B. Putnam's Sons, The Knickerbocker Press.

Jaques-Dalcroze, Emile. 1967, 1921. Rhythm Music and Education. Woking: The Dalcroze Society.

Orff, Carl. 1978. The Schulwerk. New York: Schott Music Corp.

Rainbow, Bernard. 1989. Music in Educational Thought and Practice: A Survey from 800 BC. Aberystwyth, UK: Boethius Press.

Szönyi, Erzsébet. 1974. Kodály's Principles in Practice: An Approach to Music Education through the Kodály Method. Hungary: Corvina Press.

Gordon Cox

Music Education

views updated Jun 27 2018

Music Education

Methods of Training.

Formal music education is known in Athens from the beginning of the fifth century b.c.e. Before this, people interested in learning to sing or play an instrument could study informally under someone else, or even teach themselves. A professional bard would train a talented pupil in return for lodging, food, and clothes. Repertoire and technique were passed down orally and by rote; it is unlikely that there was any tradition of teaching pupils how to read music. The large choral groups, which performed at public festivals, did require organized training by a chorus-leader (khoregos), who may also have taught participants to read the poetry. From the seventh to sixth centuries b.c.e., there were active music centers at Sparta, where Alcman composed his partheneia (girls' choral dances), and on the island of Lesbos, where Sappho set up choruses for girls. In Sparta, part of a young boy's military training included learning how to dance and sing paeans while wearing armor.


Instruction in music and letters generally took place in the teacher's home, but professional music schools were established in the late eighth to seventh centuries b.c.e. by Terpander and Thaletas at Sparta. After the fourth century b.c.e., professional training was offered by a Guild or Academy school, where students from all over the Greek world would study choral and instrumental composition. Girls and boys both received an education, and some girls became professional musicians. Many vase-paintings from Athens depict a typical day in school, which included music, letters, mathematics, and physical education. A famous cup, painted by Douris in the early fifth century, illustrates this in particularly fine detail: a kitharistes("lyre-teacher") is facing his student; both hold the chelys (tortoise-shell lyre). Other lyres hang on the wall above their heads. To their right, a seated grammatistes ("grammar-teacher") holds a scroll with verse written on it, which his pupil recites while standing stiffly at attention. A bearded paidagogos, a slave in charge of the boys, watches the lessons. On the other side of the cup, one student prepares to sing while his teacher plays the aulos (double-reed pipe); nearby, another teacher writes on a wax tablet for his pupil.

The Effect of Music.

Greek philosophers, theorists, and even the poets themselves generally agreed that music had a profound effect on a person's character, and for that reason the types of music taught in school should be carefully chosen. As a rule, simple traditional styles were preferred by educators—complex, foreign (not Greek), styles were not. The lyre, associated with Apollo and Orpheus, was favored over the pipe, which accompanied wild ecstatic worship of Dionysus. Homeric poetry or selections of tragic choral odes were preferable to other genres of songs. Pythagoras, a mathematician of the late sixth–early fifth centuries b.c.e., believed that sounds and rhythms, which are ordered by numbers, exemplified and corresponded to the harmony of the cosmos. This is further explained through the Greek word for music theory, harmonics, which contains the Indo-European root -ar, meaning "to join, fit together, be in synchrony." According to Pythagoras, the consonances of a fourth, fifth, and octave were models of harmony. His inquiries into the science of sound and relative numbers began what would later be known as "acoustic theory."


The music teacher Damon, building on the ideas of Pythagoras a generation later, taught that each musical genre had its own character, or ethos, which affects human thought and behavior. For boys, rhythms and melodic forms should be chosen for their masculine qualities; girls should learn music that taught modesty and restraint. The chromatic genera of scales were considered effeminate, while the enharmonic promoted courage and manliness. Damon's focus on the ethical qualities of music in turn influenced those who followed, including Plato, Aristotle, and the Roman writer Varo. All of these writers exhibit a conservative desire to label, categorize, select, and even censor certain types of melodic forms. In the Laws and Republic, Plato considered only two harmoniai (modal scales) acceptable for the purposes of education: the Dorian and Phrygian. Aristotle was a bit more lenient, admitting that all types of music have their place, even the baser sorts. Not all philosophers adhered to the doctrine of ethos; the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers of the third–second centuries b.c.e., for example, attacked the notion that music had any permanent effect on the soul. Philodemus, an Epicurean, wrote a treatise entitled On Music in which he argued that poetry had power, but music itself was simply pleasurable. Despite those who would contradict the Pythagorean notion that music was linked to cosmic harmony and therefore had the ability to influence the soul, the idea would not go away. After the first century c.e. the doctrine of ethos was adopted and adapted by Ptolemy and Aristides Quintilianus (third–fourth century c.e.), who supported earlier arguments that traditional, rational, masculine melodic forms must be used for education, but others could be used for different purposes.


Professional guilds of artists and musicians, known as the Dionysou Technitai (Artisans of Dionysus), were created in Athens and in Teos (north-west Asia Minor, now Turkey) by the beginning of the third century b.c.e. In his Deipnosophistae, the lexicographer Athenaeus included solo instrumentalists such as kitharists and auletes, as well as poets, actors, singers, and composers as members of guilds operating under a group of officers headed by a priest of Dionysus. They provided performers, directors, and composers for any occasion, and handled payment contracts. In this way, the Dionysou Technitai was comparable to a musician's union. Such guilds also functioned as schools offering training in singing, musical instrument instruction, and lessons in the writing of rhythm and melody. The guild schools may have kept a library of written compositions, but none have survived.


Giovanni Comotti, Music in Greek and Roman Culture. Trans. Rosaria V. Munson (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989, originally published in Italian, 1979).

John G. Landels, Music in Ancient Greece and Rome (London: Routlege, 1999).

Thomas J. Mathiesen, Apollo's Lyre: Greek Music and Music Theory in Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999).

Martin West, Ancient Greek Music (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).

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