My vision for popular music in schools

Music education is in a precarious position in American schools. As administrators and politicians push for our students to be college and career ready, music educators are left struggling to maintain their performance standards and curriculum amid shrinking time frames and support.

When music was added to the school day in the 1800s, it was designed to support the music programs available outside the school. Lowell Mason wanted his children’s choirs to sing better so he spearheaded a campaign to add choir and music curriculum to the Boston School System. Bands were added to support outside performance groups and eventually orchestras were, too. But that model is severely out of touch with the music in today’s society.

Fewer and fewer of our students are participating in these types of performance ensembles outside of school. Instead, rock bands and individual music-making have replaced these large ensembles for many kids. Have schools reflected that change? Most school music programs have not.

If music wants to continue to be relevant in a “college and career ready” environment, we need to prepare students for the music they will be experiencing after they leave school and for the vast majority of them that means popular music. Teaching kids to express what they like and what they don’t like as they listen is key to the next generation of music education. Being able to use the tools at their disposal to create, perform, and respond to the music around them.

That’s not to suggest that classical music and large group performance ensembles don’t have a place. Both certainly belongs in the school music program just like popular music, movie music, non-traditional performing ensembles, jamming, and a whole host of other opportunities.

Preparing our kids to be lifelong learners and musicians is key. Keep that in mind when you’re designing your curriculum.

images (1) @MattWarrenMusic

My vision for popular music in schools

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