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Stephen Russell

Ithaca College
Seminar in Music Education
Dr. Keith Kaiser
A Twenty-First Century Philosophy of Music Education
Through music education, students are given the opportunity to engage in positive and

unique aesthetic experiences. These experiences are a means by which human emotion can be

evoked in a manner that transcends language and that, as emotional discovery, brings unique

meaning to each individual. Significantly, regardless of individual interpretation, humans have

found meaning in music for as far back as can be physically-documented (Reimer, 2000).

Through listening to, performing, and analyzing music, people are able to find a sense of

transformative beauty. People who share similar appreciations are able to sympathize with one

another, creating bonds and a strengthened sense of community. “The deepest value of music

education is the same as the deepest value of all the arts in education: the enrichment of the

quality of people’s lives through enriching their experiences of human feeling” (Reimer, 1989, p.


For this to happen, music education functions in a multitude of manners. First, it

functions primarily as an outlet for emotional expression and aesthetic enjoyment (Merriam,

1964, pp. 209-227). Children are able to use music to communicate with one another without

having to use written and spoken word. Music also draws physical response from people,

whether it be in the form of dancing or other means of physical activity (Merriam). It serves as

symbolic representation for both individual and group values, and it can be used to instill these

values in young children. These values create a “central beliefs” system, in which members of a

community are invited to participate in group music-making activities (Merriam).

To foster the deepest value and enrichment mentioned by Reimer, children must be given

quality music that represents cultures from around the world. “Music of many ethnic and cultural

groups in American society, music of the past and much more music of the present…all should

be considered proper sources for finding expressive music” (Reimer, p. 54). Music performances

must include music that celebrates all ethnicities. Through cultural inclusion, each individual is

being told that their way of living is being valued by others.

While many people see performing as “the most familiar and gratifying mode of musical

engagement,” this is a misconception that assumes other forms of music participation are seen as

less significant to the positive aesthetic experiences associated with music. (Elliott, 2005, P.

145). Creating/composing and even simple listening to music are also significant means of

experience music, so much so that some researchers consider listening to and creating music as

an example of “performance.” “Not only does performing involve living through a vivid,

embodied present, but this vivid presence is also and always something musical performers

experience together, as ‘we’” (Elliott, p. 147). Rather than seeing participation in music as a

hierarchy, it should instead be seen as a melting pot, combining the experiences associated with

“performing, creating, and responding to the arts” (NAfME, 2014). The current national

standards for music education allow for such a melding of experiences to occur, and it is critical

that administrators and music educators to ensure they are properly and fully implemented.

In order to properly and fully implement a quality music program, socioeconomic

challenges must be considered. Often programs are not provided sufficient monetary funding,

resulting in not enough instruments being supplied for the students, poorer quality of

instruments, and limited repertoire amongst other issues. This does not mean that the students are

unable to participate in a beneficial aesthetic experience because of these shortcomings. Because

music education is uniquely transformative, all students must have the opportunity to participate.

Therefore, regardless of social or economic background, all students deserve to be given access

to quality music education. “The social contexts for music change depending on the individuals,

groups, musical genres, and all the many characteristics or factors creating and modifying

[them]” (Abeles & Custodero, 2010, p. 23).

In addition, music teachers must make accommodations in order to differentiate

instruction for students with disabilities. These accommodations must be made so that they are

able to fully share in the experience of making meaningful music. In the music classroom,

students with disabilities should be able to express themselves, develop social skills, and succeed

through participation in musical activities (Darrow, 2012). Using a student’s IEP or 504 is

essential for developing accommodations that best fit the individual needs of the student. Doing

so will help create an inclusive classroom that is welcoming to all students and that encourages

them to participate in making and enjoying music.

The inclusive element of music education should also extend beyond the school and

reach into the surrounding community. This can be made possible through numerous

performances of music both in the school districts and throughout their surrounding

communities. Allowing individuals other than music teachers to participate in the child’s

learning process holds multiple benefits. Through family participation in the child’s music

education, parents and siblings are able to share in the aesthetic joy that it brings people. The

positive effects of musical experiences (i.e.: concerts, marching band shows, Broadway

performances) on the family members would entice them to support the child on their venture in

music education. The ability to share the joy of making music with others helps foster

sympathetic, good-natured human beings.

In order to foster these aesthetic-expressive, transformative, experiences, educators need

to emphasize certain components of music instruction. Often, many educators place emphasis on

skill development and technical proficiency. While this should continually be emphasized in

instrumental and vocal music education, it conversely must not be the only essential topic being

taught. Children must be taught to appreciate the beauty of the music they are making and

sympathize with other people’s reactions to hearing music. Other areas of skill development that

must be included are the ability to cooperate with other individuals and to appreciate their

contribution to a final musical product. Working with other individuals helps build interpersonal

skills and allows a child to better understand their personal responsibility to self and community.

When developing twenty-first century skills, music instruction should also be adaptable

to the changing times. In order to accomplish this, education should be increasingly inclusive to

technology. With rapidly revolutionizing technology, music students are able to read, compose,

and perform music through devices such as Finale, SmartMusic, and other digital interfaces. “…

[The] majority of all American teenagers are comfortable using a range of technological devices,

including computers…and cell phones” (Rudolph, 2004, p. 3). So long as the devices are

implemented in a way that recognize and foster the aesthetic benefits of music making,

technology inclusion must be a component of the current music curriculum.

Each of the aforementioned elements, albeit in different manners, are critical to realizing

how quality music education is transformative for individuals and communities. It functions in

an inclusive manner that connects students and community via aesthetic-expressive experiences.

It allows children to explore their emotions and appreciate the splendor of the art they create with

one another. Music paints an auditory image, transcends language, shapes an individual’s values,

and connects them with communities of people who share similar sentiments. For these reasons,
it is imperative that music should be taught with great passion, inclusivity, and love. At one

point, the current generation of teachers will pass, and today’s students will become future world

leaders and significant figures, not knowing what lies ahead of them in their lives. An

understanding of these three values (passion, inclusivity, and love) can allow them to face a

future of uncertainty with the confidence that, through their education, they can make the world a

better place to live in.

Works Cited

Abeles, H. F., & Custodero, L. A. (2010). Critical issues in music education. New York: Oxford
University Press.

Darrow, A. (2012). Students with learning disabilities in the music classroom. General Music
Today, 26 (1), 41-43.

Elliot, D. J. (2005). Praxial music education: Reflections and dialogues. New York, N.Y.:
Oxford University Press.

Merriam, A. P. (1964). The anthropology of music. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University

Press (pp. 209-227).

NAfME. 2014 music standards – National Association for Music Education (NAfME). (2014).
Retrieved December 3, 2017, from http://www.nafme.org/my-classroom/standards/

Reimer, B. (1989). A philosophy of music education (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice

Reimer, B. (2000). Why Do Humans Value Music. In C. K. Madsen (Ed.), Vision 2020: The
Housewright Symposium on the Future of Music Education (pp. 25-48). Reston, VA:
Music Educators National Conference.

Rudolph, T. E. (2004). Teaching music with technology. Chicago, I.L.: GIA Publications.
Art – 3.5 (I made sure to tie in Music as an Art Form at the end, though I think I could have elaborated
more on it somehow)

Functions – 3.5 (Adding the Merriam functions helped me to understand this segment clearer, though I
wish I could have found a way to discuss it more in-depth)

Components – 3.5

Participation – 3.5 (It is difficult for me to assess whether or not I have fully accomplished this)

Skill and Knowledge – 3.5 (I feel that I could have been more concise when describing the different skills
associated with music education)


Word-processed – 4

Spelling – 4

Grammar – 4 (I believe I have fixed all of the grammatical errors that were found…though I probably
created new ones without realizing it…)

Idea Development – 3.5

Paragraph Structure – 4

Style-citations – 4