To say I have been buried and been behind – including postings on the blog – this fall is like saying “Sales for Chrysler have been a little down lately”.  There have been a lot of busy things happening, a lot of demanding things happening, and some good things happening in there too.  Parts of my studies at Kent State this fall have included a Seminar in Music Education Class that has given me plenty to think of.  It has been interesting getting to some of the writings of Randall Allsup, and revisiting a few entrenched beliefs I have thanks to Bennett Reimer.  Though he is new to me,  the following is inspired by the writing of Steven Kelly and his book “Teaching Music in an American Society”.  First of all, it is a great read – I would recommend it to any teacher educator in music programs.  Kelly really brings a great lens to examine our profession from the standpoint of political, socioeconomic, and cultural perspectives that is very revealing.  This post has been brewing for a few weeks after reading some thoughts by good friend and colleague Dr. Joseph M. Pisano over at  Some food for thought for those of you on your lunch break…

Where do the effective educators come from? When we think of effective music educators do we confine it to intuitive conductors whose work on a podium with ensembles gives inspiring performances? Is it a classroom of students engaged in “musicking”?  Is it a studio teacher or small ensemble “coach” who is able to extract high levels of musicianship from individuals? Is it simply an educator in music who brings their students to a higher degree of appreciation for this art, and allows them opportunities to make a connection with music on a personal level?  While the first three bring about wonderful opportunities for students, my hope is that our profession begins to recognize the fourth educator as the prototype for effective teachers.  It goes beyond, as the author shares, just technical competence (i.e. planning, creating lessons, solving problems, selecting appropriate music).  Personal technique is also part of the equation.   It is our duty to create a positive environment that develops a sense of synergy, a social atmosphere that supports developing the core of our student’s character alongside the musician waiting to be, and a musical experience that is guided by educators who practice and model their craft passionately to the benefit of their students.

Effective Music Educators are musical role models: Reviewing research by Abeles (2004) presented in the text, music educators should take the responsibility of being a musical role model to their students very seriously.  Taking into account the community and the context of where the learning is taking place, the music educator may be the only professional musical role model students will interact with in their educational careers.

Effective Music Educators reach all their students in meaningful ways: In consideration of educating all students equally, there has been significant research that would indicate racial and ethnic minority students are not encouraged to participate in primarily white schools.  Differences in cultural expectations, including musical values, are cited as a reason for lack of participation.  As every culture has music and uses it for specific purposes, it is incumbent upon music educators to recognize and understand ethnic groups that are represented within the community in which they teach.  By identifying those groups and researching the value placed and how music is traditionally practiced within that culture, they can seek to provide meaningful and authentic musical experiences that will make a connection for that student within the curriculum and extend beyond the classroom or rehearsal room walls.  Research by Ballantine (2001) indicates isolation, a feeling that no one cares, and low expectations as being primary reasons students drop out of school.  Teachers can help students in school by setting high expectations, connecting with students inside and outside of class, and learning to recognize early warning signs of potential dropouts.  Research by Shields (2001) demonstrated that the presence of at-risk students caused non-musical problems to dominate the tone group rehearsals and class sessions.  This is a concern for teachers when potential at-risk students are enrolled in their classroom.  Although there was a downside to the enrollment of these students, the musical and non-musical skills growth provided a sense of intrinsic reward for the teacher, and the teacher as a mentor to students was a positive experience.  This is a reminder of the socializing power of the ensemble in that it does more for the individual student than the student contributes to the ensemble.

Effective Music Educators are able to motivate their students: Bandura (1993) suggested that teachers have three goals in developing motivation in students: a) create a state of motivation, b) develop the trait of being motivated to learn so that it is present throughout their lives, and c) encourage students to be thoughtful about what they study or participate in.  Probably one of the best things teachers can do is to model life-long learning through their enrollment in graduate programs and further studies.  I have found some of my students to become very inquisitive about my studies at Kent over the past two year, and it has become easier to share interesting research and points relevant to them from our class discussions.  If groups truly take on a reflection of their leader, I have found my students to be more open to self-reflection in their musical experiences when asked to do so.  We must find ways to create musical experiences that fuel intrinsic motivation in our students.

Effective Music Educators open pathways to new music for their students: Preference is an immediate, short-term choice of specific objects or events that can change at any time.  Taste is a more long-term or permanent commitment to a broader group of objectives or events (Abeles, 1980; Radocy & Boyle, 2003).  Preference and taste can be altered – repetition and familiarity are two influential techniques to broaden student preferences.  Research has shown many different musical elements can influence student musical preference (Demorest & Schultz, 2004), as well as various student characteristics (Radocy & Boyle, 2003).  With the amount of high quality recordings available and the multitude of ways in which they can legally be shared with students (via websites), increased exposure, as suggested by the research above, should be effective with students. Additionally, by addressing National Standards 6,7, & 8, students should be able to develop skills that will allow them to think critically about music to which they are exposed, make informed analytical decisions, and evaluate music from multiple perspectives including aesthetic, authenticity, entertainment, imagination and quality.

Effective Music Educators plan for success and capture emerging teachable moments: Effective teachers focus the success of their students, and are able to change behaviors and strategies in mid-lesson or rehearsal to acclimate themselves to the classroom conditions.  The most successful music teachers are student-centered, maintain a well-organized and creative classrooms and rehearsal hall, encourage student creativity and musical independence, encourage intrinsic motivation, and carefully plan and organize each rehearsal based on constant evaluation of students’ abilities and progress (Madsen & Madsen, 1981).  Madsen showed that effective teachers demonstrate the ability to change their social behavior dramatically at precisely the right time to affect student behavior, motivation, and performance.  Research by Goolsby (1997), Kelly (1997a), and Hendel (1995) indicate effective ensemble teachers talk less in class because students are capable of understanding and responding to many basic nonverbal gestures.  At times, I think of a rehearsal like a basketball coach thinks of a game – and for that reason I place a premium on planning for known variables for which I can control.  As the rehearsal (game) unfolds, I must be aware of ebb and flow of communication (both verbal and non-verbal) along musical pathways and make good on capturing an emerging teachable moment that may fall outside my initial rehearsal plan.  “Time-outs” are occasionally burnt to prevent a moment from slipping away, and I must be aware that everyone understands their role and responsibility as members of our “team”.

Effective Music Educators persevere: Many pre-service teachers express aspirations to teach but do not necessarily understand the daily demands of the profession.  Research has shown beginning teachers are more concerned about management and discipline, motivating students, accommodating differences among students, evaluating and assessing student achievement and dealing with parents (Woolfork, 1998).  DeLorenzo (1992) reported many first year music teachers are overwhelmed with the barrage of responsibilities.  Kelly (2002a) reported the student teaching experience is frequently very different from the initial full-time in-service position.  New teachers who receive guidance from mentor teachers allows for them to cope with their new classroom reality, including class management, administrators, and other nonteaching duties (Conway, 2003).  I can remember talking with Patrick Jones at our Honors Band in December 2005.  At that time, he was not yet Dr. Jones, and I was only 4 months into my position at Mercer.  His advice to me at the time was to survive!  Much of what he shared with me over dinner in December of 1995 was borne out in the research above.  I inherited a program that lacked some focus and positive synergy.  Had it not been for my college director, my co-op (both of whom were 10 miles away), and the choir director at Mercer I am not sure what I would have done.  Now in year 15, I am able to recognize patterns of how my professional views have changed and in turn, have altered my classroom approach and allowed me to be more effective. Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University Basketball Coach) would call Madsen’s research (1989) as “Being the face your group needs to see”.

This list is by no means complete as our role in the music education of young people continues to evolve.  But we are the agents of change.  We can no longer wait for a national organization to tell us when will the time be to transform our profession and the musical lives of our students.  Our time is now.  Now is the day of the effective music educator.


Abeles, H. (1980). Responses to music. In D. Hodges, & D. Hodges (Ed.), Handbook of music psychology (pp. 105-140). Lawrence, KS: National Association for Music Therapy.

Abeles, H. (2004). The effect of three orchestra/school partnerships on student interest in instrumental music instruction. Journal of Research in Music Education , 53 (3), 248-263.

Ballantine, J. (2001). The sociology of education (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist (28), 117-148.

Conway, C. (2003). An examination of district-sponsored beginning music teacher mentor practices. Journal of Research in Music Education , 51 (1), 6-23.

DeLorenzo, L. (1992). The perceived problems of beginning music teachers. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education , 113, 9-26.

Demorest, S. &. (2004). Children’s preference for authentic versus arranged versions of world music recordings. Journal of Research in Music Education , 52 (4), 300-313.

Goolsby, T. (1996). Time use in instrumental rehearsals: A comparison of experienced, novice, and student teachers. Journal of Research in Music Education , 44, 286-303.

Goolsby, T. W. (1997). Verbal instruction in instrumental rehearsals: A comparison of three career levels and preservice teachers. Journal of Research in Music Education , 45 (1), 21-40.

Hendel, C. (1995). Behavioral characteristics and instructional patterns of selected music teachers. Journal of Research in Music Education , 43, 182-203.

Kelly, S. (2002). A sociological basis for music education. International Journal of Music Education , 37, 40-49.

Kelly, S. (1997a). Effects of conducting instruction on the musical performance of beginning band students. Journal of Research in Music Education , 45 (2), 295-307.

Madsen, C. &. (1981). Teaching/discipline: A positive approach for educational development (4th ed.). Raleigh, NC: Contemporary.

Radocy, R. &. (2003). Psychological foundations of musical behavior (4th ed.). Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas.

Shields, C. (2001). Music Education and Mentoring as Intervention for At-Risk Urban Adolescents:Their Self-Perceptions, Opinions, and Attitudes. Journal of Research in Music Education , 273-286.

Woolfork, A. (1998). Educational psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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