EDUCATION AND MUSIC
Why is music education so important?
Should any of the arts be an integral part of the curriculum?
Music education is a field of study associated with the teaching and learning of music. It touches on all learning domains, including the psychomotor domain (the development of skills), the cognitive domain (the acquisition of knowledge), and, in particular and significant ways, the affective domain (the learner’s willingness to receive, internalize, and share what is learned), including music appreciation and sensitivity. Music training from preschool through post-secondary education is common in most nations because involvement with music is considered a fundamental component of human culture and behavior. Music, like language, is an accomplishment that distinguishes humans as a species.
Music is an important part of education in the United States, and is a part of most or all school systems in the country. Music education is generally mandatory in public elementary schools, and is an elective in later years. High schools generally offer classes in singing, mostly choral, and instrumentation in the form of a large school band. Music may also be a part of theatrical productions put on by a school’s drama department. Many public and private schools have sponsored music clubs and groups, most commonly including the marching band that performs at high school sports games, a trend that began with the wide popularity of Sousa’s bands in the 1880s and 1890s.
Higher education in the field of music in the United States is mostly based around large universities, though there are important small music academies and conservatories. University music departments may sponsor bands ranging from marching bands that are an important part of collegiate sporting events, prominently featuring fight songs, to barbershop groups, glee clubs, jazz ensembles and symphonies, and may additionally sponsor musical outreach programs, such as by bringing foreign performers to the area for concerts. Universities may also have a musicology department, and do research on many styles of music.
In elementary schools in European countries, children often learn to play instruments such as keyboards or recorders, sing in small choirs, and learn about the elements of music and history of music. In countries such as India, the harmonium is used in schools, but instruments like keyboards and violin are also common. Students are normally taught basics of Indian Raga music. In primary and secondary schools, students may often have the opportunity to perform in some type of musical ensemble, such as a choir, orchestra or school bank, concert band, marching band or jazz band. In some secondary schools, additional music classes may also be available. In junior high school or its equivalent, music usually continues to be a required part of the curriculum.
At the university level, students in most arts and humanities programs receive academic credit for music courses such as music history, typically of Western art music, or music appreciation, which focuses on listening and learning about different musical styles. In addition, most North American and European universities offer music ensembles – such as choir, concert band, marching band, or orchestra – that are open to students from various fields of study. Most universities also offer degree programs in music education, certifying students as primary and secondary music educators. Advanced degrees such as the D.M.A. or the Ph.D. can lead to university employment. These degrees are awarded upon completion of music theory, music history, technique classes, private instruction with a specific instrument, ensemble participation, and in depth observations of experienced educators. Music education departments in North American and European universities also support interdisciplinary research in such areas as music psychology, music education historiography, educational ethnomusicology, socio-musicology, and philosophy of education.
The study of western art music is increasingly common in music education outside of North America and Europe, including Asian nations such as South Korea, Japan, and China. At the same time, Western universities and colleges are widening their curriculum to include music of outside the Western art music canon, including music of West Africa, of Indonesia (e.g. Gamelan music), Mexico (e.g., mariachi music, Zimbabwe (marimba music), as well as popular music.
Music education also takes place in individualized, lifelong learning, and in community contexts. Both amateur and professional musicians typically take music lessons, short private sessions with an individual teacher
The scholarly study of music in the United States includes work relating music to social class, racial, ethnic and religious identity, gender and sexuality, as well as studies of music history, musicology and other topics. The academic study of American music can be traced back to the late 19th century, when researchers like Alice Fletcher and Francis La Flesche studied the music of the Omaha peoples, working for the Bureau of American Ethnology and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. In the 1890s and into the early 20th century, musicological recordings were made among indigenous, Hispanic, African-American and Anglo-American peoples of the United States. Many worked for the Library of Congress, first under the leadership of Oscar Sonneck, chief of the Library’s Music Divisions. Alan Lomax was the most prominent of several folk song collectors who helped to inspire the 20th century roots revival of American folk culture.
Success in society, of course, is predicated on success in school. Any music teacher or parent of a music student can call to mind anecdotes about effectiveness of music study in helping children become better students. Skills learned through the discipline of music, these stories commonly point out, transfer to study skills, communication skills, and cognitive skills useful in every part of the curriculum.
Success in school and in society depends on an array of abilities. Without joining the intense ongoing debate about the nature of intelligence as a basic ability, we can demonstrate that some measures of a child’s intelligence are indeed increased with music instruction. Once again, this burgeoning range of data supports a long-established base of anecdotal knowledge to the effect that music education makes kids smarter. What is new and especially compelling, however, is a combination of tightly-controlled behavioral studies and groundbreaking neurological research that show how music study can actively contribute to brain development.
Early 20th scholarly analysis of American music tended to interpret European-derived classical traditions as the most worthy of study, with the folk, religious and traditional music of the common people denigrated as low-class and of little artistic or social worth. American music history was compared to the much longer historical record of European nations, and was found wanting, leading writers like the composer Arthur Farwell to ponder what sorts of musical traditions might arise from American culture, in his 1915 Music in America. In 1930, John Tasker Howard’s Our American Music became a standard analysis, focusing on largely on concert music composed in the United States. Since the analysis of musicologist Charles Seeger in the mid-20th century, American music history has often been described as intimately related to perceptions of race and ancestry. Under this view, the diverse racial and ethnic background of the United States has both promoted a sense of musical separation between the races, while still fostering constant acculturation, as elements of European, African and indigenous music has shifted between fields. Gilbert Chase’s America’s Music, from the Pilgrims to the Present, was the first major work to examine the music of the entire United States, and recognize folk traditions as more culturally significant than music for the concert hall. Chase’s analysis of a diverse American musical identity has remained the dominant view among the academic establishment. Until the 1960s and 1970s, however, most musical scholars in the United States continued to study European music, limiting themselves only to certain fields of American music, especially European-derived classical and operatic styles, and sometimes African American jazz. More modern musicologists and ethnomusicologists have studied subjects ranging from the national musical identity to the individual styles and techniques of specific communities in a particular time of American history.
Prominent recent studies of American music include Charles Hamm’s Music in the New World from 1983, and Richard Crawford’s America’s Musical Life from 2001. Music is an important part of several American holidays, especially playing a major part in the wintertime celebration of Christmas. Music of the Holiday includes both religious songs like “O Holy Night” and secular songs like “Jingle Bells”. Patriotic songs like the national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”, are a major part of Independence Day celebrations. Music also plays a role at many regional holidays that are not celebrated nationwide, most famously Mardi Gras, a music and dance parade and festival in New Orleans, Louisiana (plus other cities around the country).