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A Personal Philosophy of Music Education

Alexandra Finnie

Ithaca College

Since music has been a ubiquitous part of virtually every civilization throughout history,

there can be no doubt regarding its significance to humans. According to Judith Jellison, the

purpose of education is to improve the quality of life (Jellison, p. 113). Therefore, because

music enriches life and it is important to humans, it is a critical component of the school

curriculum. Music is vitamin M...Music educators have something to give to the youth of

America that no one else can give them; and its something that, once given, can never be

taken away. It is the beauty and joy of music (Lehman, p. 71). To this end, music education

must be available to everyone because its aesthetic, creative, intrinsic, expressive, and social

qualities have the power to transform individuals and communities, to enrich life, and to

encourage lifelong learning.

Musics artistic and aesthetic qualities provide the foundation for its value. An aesthetic

experience is an end in itself that involves feelings and intellect, that requires focus, that is

experienced firsthand, and that results in a fuller life (Abeles, p. 74-76). While music has many

important nonmusical or non-artistic functions, its musical or artistic nature is its unique and

precious gift to all humans. Music education exists first and foremost to develop every persons

natural responsiveness to the power of the art of music (Reimer, 1989, p. xii). It is a highly

valued art form with aesthetic qualities that demonstrates human creativity and beauty. Music

should be included in schools for the sake of music itself.

The creative potential of music provides opportunities for individuals to experience the

artistic and aesthetic qualities of music in unique ways. It is necessary for music educators to

encourage creativity because imagination, originality, and inventiveness are important to

childrens development. Also, Bloom, through his taxonomy, considers creativity as the highest

cognitive process (Mcdaniel). Creative musical experiences such as composing and improvising

give individuals the opportunity to explore new ideas, to evolve a unique sense of self, and to

become high-level thinkers and musicians. The 2014 National Core Arts Standards emphasize

musical creativity with the following three anchor standards: (1) Generate and conceptualize

artistic ideas and work, (2) organize and develop artistic ideas and work, and (3) refine and

complete artistic work. (NAfME). Based on these standards, music teachers should encourage

students to create, refine, and present original artistic ideas and works. These creative

processes will provide meaningful connections to music and will foster motivation for lifelong

musical involvement.

Making meaningful connections to music offers an avenue for personal growth and self-

actualization (Maslow, p. 382). Individuals can develop growth mindsets through experiencing

the process of learning to perform music because it involves a continuous journey of facing and

overcoming challenges and of improving through hard-work and effort (Dweck, p. 7). Listening

to and making music presents intimate opportunities for the self-reflection that is needed to

cultivate a deepened sense of self-knowledge and understanding. For this reason, music

education can improve the quality of life and promote lifelong learning.

Furthermore, music reaches and fulfills the soul. It can be therapeutic because it offers a

safe outlet for individuals to process and express their emotions. An important function of

music, then, is the opportunity it gives for a variety of emotional expressions- the release of

otherwise inexpressible thoughts and ideas, the correlation of a wide variety of emotions and

music, the opportunity to let off steam and perhaps to resolve social conflicts, the explosion of

creativity itself, and the group expression of hostilities (Merriam, p. 222-223). When viewed in

this way, music has the power to heal.

Experiencing the emotive aspects of music through listening, analyzing, and active

music making, allows students to learn about the human condition. As such, music elevates

human emotions by serving as a symbolic representation that expresses the ups and downs of

life - music is a tonal analogue of emotive life (Langer, 1953, p. 27). Additionally, Langer says

that the real power of music lies in the fact that it can be true to the life of feeling in a way that

language cannot (Langer, 1969, p. 243). Music is a necessary component to fully

understanding feelings because words alone cannot encompass emotions in their entirety.

Since humans are naturally emotive, students must learn to understand and empathize with

human emotions in order to fully understand themselves and others. Furthermore, to be

prepared for living enriched lives, students must learn how to work with others.

Participating in musical ensembles involves collaboration, communication and

teamwork. Sharing in musical activities requires a certain amount of vulnerability, which allows

people to get to know each other in unique ways. When people experience encouraging and

positive reactions to their vulnerability, the result is often a building of trust and a strengthening

of relationships; this helps create a more interconnected community of learners and is especially

important in todays technologically advanced society: As people spend more and more time

isolated at their computers and alone in office cubicles, the need to come together with other

people for a significant reason becomes greater than ever (Ernst, p. 52). Therefore, social

learning is highly regarded as effective and meaningful, and is especially relevant to community

relations. For this reason, music aids in the establishment of a positive and accepting school

and community environment.

The social aspects of music also promote attitudes of acceptance and help broaden

students cultural knowledge. Similar to Plato and Aristotles idea of the Doctrine of Ethos, music

has the power to affect changes of character by fostering a sensitivity and understanding of

others (Burkholder, p. 6). Studying music of various cultures and styles allows students to learn

about the world beyond their individual environments and to become aware that their personal

views may not be universal. Studying, listening to, and creating cultural music can inspire

people to become empathetic toward others, to be more open and accepting of other peoples

opinions, and to be understanding of diverse functions and meanings of music. In short, cultural

music experiences prepare students for life.

In order to stimulate cultural understanding, music curricula need to be well-rounded.

Music instruction in the United States should involve a variety of types of music including

classical music, world music, American music (folk tunes, jazz, rock...etc.), and popular music.

The music curriculum should also be contextually appropriate and revolve around the concept of

musicing (Elliott, 2015, p. 16). Music making of all kinds- and, of course, the rich kind of music

listening required to make music well- should be at the center of the music curriculum (Elliott,

2005, p. 7). Active participation in making music of many styles and cultures deepens students

understanding of the human condition.

Because of these unique benefits and characteristics of music, music education should

be available for all people. Music has been an integral part of communities since the beginning

of human existence (Reimer, 2000, p. 25). It is a part of families, communities, cultures,

religions, and nations. Because it is such an important part of life, music needs to be taught in

schools, to all children, no matter their socio-economic status, gender, religious beliefs,

age...etc. Music education should also be available to adults and others outside of school

programs (Ernst, p. 51). Music does not discriminate- it relates to all individuals in unique ways.

Therefore, school music teachers should create opportunities to develop lifelong musicianship,

and foster connections between schools and communities.

Furthermore, school music programs should be inclusive. Educators need to eradicate

the practices that result in only encouraging music participation from students who believe they

have innate musical talent. All children are capable of making music. Therefore, all students

should participate in music classes and ensembles. Schools should provide more options for

musical involvement by offering a variety of music classes geared towards the different musical

interests of the student body. These classes should include, but not be limited to: band,

orchestra, chorus, jazz band, theory, modern band, general music, and music technology.

Offering these types of classes will ensure that all students have opportunities to learn and

study music, regardless of their previous knowledge and musical interests.

Additionally, teachers should ensure that students are equipped with the basic musical

skills and knowledge that are needed for transfer into life situations, so that they are prepared to

continue learning and participating in music for the remainder of their lives (Jellison). Some of

these basic skills include the knowledge of how to select music, the ability to find opportunities

to make music outside of school, and the fundamental skills and knowledge for creating,

performing, responding, and connecting to music (NAfME). In order to help students develop

these skills and knowledge, teachers need to ensure that music programs are based on

standards, that they do not unduly emphasize entertainment, that they include meaningful

assessment, and that they are designed for all students rather than for just the talented few

(Lehman, p. 68). Quality music education should be a basic and required part of every childs

educational experience.

In order to provide students with a quality music education, teachers must create

learning environments that are student-centered and relevant to students lives. Additionally,

teachers should select repertoire that represents a variety of cultures and styles to broaden their

social and musical horizons. Including music from students cultures provides culturally affirming

experiences, and helps make learning relevant and more meaningful.

Music teachers should also interweave authentic assessments and activities throughout

the learning process. Rather than simply assessing students in a traditional manner at the end

of a unit, teachers should frequently check for understanding throughout, using various

assessment methods such as student-projects, self-assessments, performance opportunities,

and composition assignments. Including a variety of assessments within the fabric of the

curriculum allows students to continue learning even when being assessed. Assessment is not

just an afterthought at the end of the term. It is an ongoing process that must be intertwined with

your instruction (Hale, p. 31). Experiencing different types of assessments and learning

activities also gives students the opportunity to relate and respond to music in different ways,

which prepares them to make music in various settings and styles outside of the school

environment. These experiences also help students understand the importance and functions of

music within many different contexts.

Music is an essential element of life, therefore it is necessary to provide all students with

opportunities to learn and experience music. Music prepares students to live rich, satisfying,

and rewarding lives (Lehman, p. 68). The creative, expressive, intrinsic, social, and aesthetic

qualities of music create powerful lifelong effects: Young people can use their musical skills

and knowledge to improve the quality of their lives as long as they live, regardless of their

occupations and their economic or social status (Lehman, p. 68). Therefore, music educators

must have a primary focus of fostering lifelong music participation for all because it results in a

fulfilling life.


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