This page is part of Activate Good’s Triangle Cause Wiki, a collaborative online knowledge base about Triangle area issues that can be tackled by locals through volunteer action.
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About Music Education in Our Community
Overview of Issue Impacts
Music education has long been considered an important part of primary and secondary education in America. In the colonial era, music education was likely centered around the performance of psalms that were a part of religious services. Indeed, one of the first “singing schools” in America was focused on “curing” music illiteracy specifically within the context of music performance in church; it was founded by Reverend John Tufts, who also wrote a book titled An Introduction to the Singing of Psalm-Tunes in 1721. Soon, secular music education began to receive more emphasis. Tunebooks, which were instructional texts containing choral music, began to be used in school settings; later, as enrollment increased across the country, many schools began to develop band programs, which became increasingly popular. Today, music education in schools is widespread; in 2012, a report found that 91% of secondary schools offered instruction specifically focused on music (1).
In many ways, this importance and emphasis on music education is well justified; indeed, music education has been documented to have diverse and far-reaching positive impacts on overall learning outcomes for students of all ages. For example, participation in music programs has been shown to improve work ethic and creative thinking skills in students; it has also been correlated with increased interest in learning and improved performance on standardized tests (2).
Populations Affected by Issue
Given the importance of music education in the overall schooling of students at all ages, many organizations work around the country and within the Triangle region in order to advocate for music programs and increase public awareness. Indeed, even though many schools do offer music programs, many students report a lack of engagement with these opportunities; for example, a 1998 assessment by the NAEP found that only one in four 8th graders reported being asked to play an instrument or sing at least once a week (3). The work of these organizations is needed to increase student engagement with music education opportunities.
Additionally, many of these organizations work to provide music education opportunities to those students who might otherwise not have access. When schools do not have music education resources available for their students, it falls on individual families to provide access to music programs; however, the cost of this can be prohibitive at times. Therefore, the work of many organizations that provide free or subsidized music education services is incredibly important, ensuring all students have access to these important opportunities.
A 2017 survey of 392 American public schools found that 90.91% of schools offering any form of music education employed at least one full-time music staff member (4).
At the elementary level, 98% of schools offered some form of general music course; 43% of schools offered band, 39% offered choir, and 25% offered string ensemble (4).
In high schools with music education classes, 93% had a band program and 89% had a choir; only 36% of these schools had an orchestra program (4).
Connected Community Issues
- History of Music Education in the United States, Campbellsville University. (2016).
- 20 Important Benefits of Music in Our Schools, National Association for Music Education. (2014).
- Quick Facts and Stats, Music For All. (2010).
- The Status of Music Education in United States Public Schools, Give A Note Foundation. (2017).
Interested in learning more about this issue? Check out some of these books, articles, documentaries, podcasts, and more. We’re also a Bookshop affiliate! Explore even more suggested Triangle Cause Wiki Reads. If you find something you like and make a purchase through our shop, Activate Good will receive a portion of the sale.
Thank you to the following contributors:
- Summer 2020:
- Andy Q.
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Last updated April 2021
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