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Kyle Przybylski

Philosophy of Music Education

To begin, a path must be tread to understand philosophically and psychologically what


music means to the human race, how it affects the minds of individuals and groups, what it offers
the earth in tangible terms, and why it should be now and always valued as a true and unique
expression of thoughts, ideas, and feelings. This understanding will ultimately result in the
appreciation of music as an art form, a language, a science, a history, and a necessary part of
everyday human life.
The path starts by exploring the simpler contributions of music to humans on a global
scale. Forty-thousand years ago, at least, musical instruments were being crafted in order that
one person communicate, without spoken or written language, to another. This primal, simple
means of conveying an idea was the beginning of what the famous poet and author, Oscar Wilde,
described as the art which is most night to tears and memories. Slowly, the language of music
developed, broadening its vocabulary, and reaching a wider, more varied audience. Yet, even
with its simplicity, there was still meaning to be found for anyone who chose to listen. The
Egyptians, and other cultures after them, attributed the invention of music to highly exalted gods,
using music in sacred rituals, and developing dances and ceremonies through it. The Indus
Valley civilizations have a deeply rich, and vast history of traditional music, using it for
everything from ritualistic dances to celebrations and feasts. The Ancient Greeks revered music
for its value in education, believing that music was connected to all other subjects, including
maths, the sciences, and language. Many, including Ptolemy and Plato, believed that music in

Kyle Przybylski
fact was a union with the heavens, referred to as the music of the spheres. More specifically,
Plato held that musical conventions and education aided in the stability of a just and healthy
society (Plato, Republic).
Why these cultures and great people all held music to such a high degree is to be found in
the direct and indirect benefits of the knowledge it bestows, and the understanding it develops.
Research has shown that test scores, literacy, and comprehension of foreign languages are all
improved when the study of music supplements the curriculum (John E. Stecklein; James
Aliferis). Generally, music has the ability to increase cognitive performance, relieve stress, and
improve both visual and verbal skills. To the Greek philosophers however, there were further
benefits of the study of music. In order to understand aesthetics, it was widely believed, one must
understand the concept of beauty and sensory perception in all matters, especially in the arts.
Additionally, Plato and others insisted that music directly affected the soul, leading Plato to write
that in an ideal society, music would be regulated by the state. There is indeed a question of
whether music affects the deepest levels of the human psyche, whether it shapes who we are as
people and how we behave. In other words, music may play a major role in shaping human
character. For this reason, music educators and advocates strongly believe that music in the
curriculum contributes to a well-balanced student, and a well-balanced society.
Unlike other disciplines, music maintains the ability to affect people within the core of
their being, appealing primarily to the sense of aesthetics and beauty while communicating
powerful and lasting messages to the audience. Like language, music is often judged by its
beauty and function- the simpler it is, while also being beautiful and clearly articulating its
message, the better. The sciences, history, and maths have difficulty in making a deep, emotional

Kyle Przybylski
connection with humans. This is not by any fault of their own; music was designed, and has an
infinite capacity to invade the senses and create a very unique experience both mentally and
physically. Quite as would be expected, energetic, exciting music can motivate the pulse of the
heart to quicken, the brain to release endorphins which are perceived pleasurably, and the mind
to dream of pleasant things. Calm music, it is known, has a tendency to produce a slower heartbeat, release dopamine which relaxes the body, and can cause the brain to reminisce upon fond
memories. It is certain that to gaze upon a mathematical formula or the luminosity chart for a
local star generally does not inspire such a reaction, or at the very least, it does not inspire the
same feelings.
Applying these thoughts to the operation of a band program, one would be compelled to
assume that the most important part of the program might be affecting students in a way that
allows them to become successful members of society, and that teaches them how to
communicate effectively using music as a medium to do so. Indeed, these things are to be
considered when taking up the role of music educator, but equally as important is the ability of
the director to teach her or his students to discover truth and find purpose while learning the
depths and power of music as a tool for universal conversation.
As a humanist, music is of great significance in my life, and serves as the core of my
personal philosophy. It is my belief that music is one of the most effective and powerful tools for
human-kind to make use of in order to communicate with one another, and represents a curiosity
surviving deep within our selves, to explore, to understand, and to imagine. In addition to this, I
subscribe to Kant's brand of ethical philosophy in that I am strongly of the thought that the
means justify the ends rather than the opposite. In ethical matters, it is not the consequences or

Kyle Przybylski
results that are of primary concern, but how it is that those results or consequences are made to
occur. As an avid reader, it is no surprise that many of my personal beliefs stem from books or
authors that have made a profound impact upon me, whether in the past, or currently. Wilde,
Vonnegut, Goethe, Voltaire, and others have influenced me to lean toward a non-violent
(pacifist), intellectual perspective of the universe and man-kind's placement within it.
In the educational sense, it is likely that I would favor focusing on the steps taken to
arrive at a solution rather than focusing on getting to the solution, never-mind the process. I am
highly interested in pursuing answers through the use of established scientific method, posing
new questions, and testing them repeatedly in order to produce precise and accurate results.
Applied to music, this means that I would strive to teach students the process of how to learn
something, like an instrument, but not emphasize any specific musical techniques or repertoire.
In this way, I am most like the Pragmatist. To me, group work is highly valued, and all
information that is presented must be useful to the student. I am also less concerned with
evaluating students each time concepts are taught than a true realist or idealist would be, rather, it
is the way which those concepts are learned that is paramount. The results of education must not
be a score or certificate stating completion of that category of knowledge, since learning is a
process which is perpetual and will never be completed. It is important finally, to instruct
students not only how to be successful in the classroom, but also how to be successful outside the
walls of the school, and on into their futures. Despite these leanings, there are also areas which I
identify with in both the Idealist and Realist schools of thought. I value the idea of teaching
students through exposure to works of great worth, allowing them to breathe in the emotional
impact and understand on a deep, personal level what each piece of music means to them and

Kyle Przybylski
others. The discussion method of teaching is also important, as it creates an atmopshere where
learning from one another is encouraged, working together is beneficial, and stimulating interest
in music as a whole. I also identify with the Idealist's approach to student discipline, in that, it is
a part of teaching, and good discipline will serve the student now and later in life. Misconduct is
not something which is limited to the student who misbehaves, but affects all students around
them in a negative manner, and demonstrates selfishness on the part of that student.
With the combination of these two philosophies of education- idealism and the more
dominant pragmatism, I hope to develop a strong personal philosophy for music in education, in
order to defend its value and promote its growth. It is my ultimate goal to instill in young
students the insatiable curiosity that is human nature, the unending exploration of truth, and the
permanent love of music as an art, language, and passion.