Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

What is the most important issue in music education today?

Fall is upon us. The temperature is falling, the leaves are turning, and students are making their way back at school. To get a glimpse into the new school year, we asked some key music educators share their thoughts on the most important issues in music education today.

  *    *    *    *    *

“The history of music education in the United States is integrally linked to general educational policies and initiatives, as well as American culture and society. Rationales for why music is an important component of students’ education have utilized utilitarian, aesthetic, and praxial arguments, often attempting to connect the goals of music learning with the educational priorities of the day. In the “data driven,” high stakes testing milieu of today’s educational reform movement, music educators find themselves having to defend not only music programs, but also the teaching profession in general. Political rhetoric and shrinking budgets have too often resulted in the false choice of ‘basic subjects’ over other areas of study, such as music and art, that can provide meaningful ways of understanding the world and equipping individuals to live a ‘good life.’ In this environment it is important that music teachers remain strong, articulate advocates for the value of music in the complete education of children, and to not resort to superficial reasons for music’s inclusion in school curricula. All persons deserve the opportunity to experience a life enriched through active musical participation that includes creating, performing, and listening to music. Robust school music programs help to provide the foundational understandings to make that possible. As Karl Gehrkens, former president of the Music Supervisors National Conference, stated in 1923, ‘Music for every child; every child for music.’”

Dr. William I. Bauer, Associate Professor and Director of the Online Master of Music in Music Education program at the University of Florida, and author of Music Learning Today: Digital Pedagogy for Creating, Performing, and Responding to Music

  *    *    *    *    *

“Access to quality music instruction is the most important issue in music education today. Some American children have a daily opportunity to make music during school with a certified music teacher who assists them in creating music, performing music, and responding to music. However, many children do not have this opportunity. In some cases, children may have daily access to a music teacher, but that music teacher may not organize instruction in a way that offers the opportunity to create, perform, and respond to music. Many children have access to a music teacher only a few times per week and oftentimes the lack of resources for that music program leads to a subpar experience for students. Due to a lack of state level policy regarding music education, many children have no music teacher in their school building. Although there are rich opportunities for outside of school community music in the United States, many children cannot afford to pay for music instruction outside of the school setting. Citizens interested in making a difference in music education must advocate for a well-prepared, certified music teacher in every school building. Music needs to be mandated at least twice a week in a dedicated space at the elementary level and every secondary student should have the opportunity to participate in choral, instrumental, and general music.”

Colleen M. Conway, Professor of Music Education, School of Music, Theatre & Dance, University of Michigan, Editor-in-Chief of Arts Education Policy Review, and the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research in American Music Education

*    *    *    *    *

“The most important issue in music education today is one that has existed for as long as has formal music education: assessment. The term raises many eyebrows, and I believe in viewing assessment for both its positive attributes and for the dangers it can present. Assessment of student work is vital for accountability, curriculum development, and instructional planning, but assessment can be dangerous when it accounts only for standardized measures, when it is used punitively, and when it does not properly inform educational decision-making. Good assessment of student work in music should help students to understand their own progress, and allow them to explore music creatively. Assessment of music teachers’ work is just as crucial because music teachers must be outstanding musicians, pedagogical thinkers, and instructors. Similar to assessment of student work, assessment of teachers should help to inform teachers of their strengths and areas for growth. Good assessment of teachers should provide feedback for improvement of planning and instruction, and should encourage teachers to incorporate new ideas, technologies, and types of interaction with their students. Assessments of teachers should be based on their actual performance rather than on that of their students, as is the unfortunate case in many high-stakes testing scenarios. Thoughtful, positively focused assessment can be a powerful motivator for educational progress and change, and can help students and teachers alike to participate creatively in music.”

Jay Dorfman, Assistant Professor in Music Education at Boston University, and author of Theory and Practice of Technology-Based Music Instruction

*   *   *   *   *

“With the current trend towards turning student evaluations into teacher accountability measures, we risk narrowly focusing music education to those skills based elements that can be easily measured.  As music teacher educators we need to resist the urge to succumb to the standardized testing movement and broaden our students’ notions of what it means to be musical. We need to ensure a learner centered music education for all students that fosters creative thinking and divergent outcomes, such as composing, improvising and other forms of sonic exploration and expression through traditional and non-traditional approaches to music making.”

Gena R. Greher, Professor of Music Education at University of Massachusetts Lowell, and co-author of Computational Thinking in Sound: Teaching the Art and Science of Music and Technology

*    *    *    *    *

“The most important issue in music education today is the lack of understanding shown by policy makers, school leaders, local politicians, and governments of the value of systematic and successful music learning across the lifespan, especially for our children and young people. Engaging in active music learning over a sustained period generates measurable physical, psychological and social benefits (as well as cultural benefit) that are long-term for the individuals and groups involved. The scientific evidence of music’s value (from clinical science, neuroscience, and social science) is increasing every day. Although we don’t yet understand clearly all the mechanisms of how music learning can promote long-term benefit, there can be no doubt that music can make a powerful and positive difference to health (physical, emotional, cognitive), whilst supporting different aspects of intellectual functioning (such as literacy) and fostering social inclusion and cohesion amongst and across diverse groups. Investing in high quality music education should be a priority for all, not just the lucky few, because music can transform lives for the better, across the lifespan.”

Graham Welch, Professor, Institute of Education, University of London, and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Music Education, Volume 1 and Volume 2

Headline Image: music-classical-sheet-music-piano. Creative Commons License via Pixabay

Recent Comments

  1. […] What is the most important issue in music education today? […]

  2. Jacob

    Parents are always first teacher for their children, they learn from parents how to live, eat and how do behave in society. For every parent it’s important to educate their kids and make them understand the value of education.
    As a parent I always make it point to encourage my child in an activity that interests him the most. For example Nathan, my 8 year old boy like to play piano so I have arranged a piano teacher for him so that he can improve on his skill/interest. It’s always good to prepare to your children for better life. A good read, you might like this: http://bit.ly/1AH6Spz

  3. Rosalind Hayes

    The biggest concern I believe to be for music educators is that because of the lack of funding for public school music education, especially in inner city settings we are facing a great economic divide when it comes to musical literacy. Formal musical instruction has been associated with many positive effects for a child’s development, socially, cognitively and neurologically (known as transfer effects). Children who do not have access to such enriching musical experiences are missing the opportunity to benefit from these transfer effects. As a private music teacher many of my students come from wealthy backgrounds and have parents who can afford outside musical instruction. But what about those who cannot and do not have opportunities in school? We have to worry that this will create an even greater chasm between the rich and the poor.

  4. […] New From Oxford University Press       Oxford University Press Education Blog: 2014  and  2016 […]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *