Instrumental Music Education of the Future

In considering what instrumental music education may look like in the future to the music education profession, there are a number of themes, ideas, and philosophies that must be carefully examined.  Issues related to the relevancy of music education in today’s education system come to the forefront of the discussion in the light of teaching in age where “high-stakes” testing results influence curriculum decisions and dictate policy to local administrators.  Instrumental music educators as a profession have a unique opportunity and responsibility to examine their role, their philosophy and teaching, the heritage of instrumental music, and the manner in which students are connected to music to better demonstrate the need for band, orchestra, and other ensembles to be a part of a 21st century education.  With that in mind, I have set forth nine tenets for consideration from my personal philosophy of music education including issues related to diversity, balance of process and product, technology, teachers as musical role models, and the connection between music in education and society.

1) Music educators must understands issues and challenges related to teaching music in an ever-changing school population composed of students with diverse ethnic, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds. Though these personal qualities among students may be rapidly changing with the school setting, there is a communal sense of accomplishment and enrichment realized through appreciation, participation, and understanding in instrumental music that must be made available to all students.  If instrumental educators make understanding their students’ abilities, background, and context in which they are growing and learning a priority, they may better be able to make connection for their students to a unique subject matter that offers enriching and rewarding opportunities.

2) Music educators must demonstrate effective teaching as a careful balance of process and product, with an emphasis on quality in the aspects of the student experience, the materials and medium utilized within the experience, and encourage the development of aesthetic and artistic intelligence through the learning experience in the arts.  Through this careful balance, students may recognize and demonstrate aspects and elements of quality education and performance skills, attend to expressive relationships among the parts of music that contribute to the whole, and learn to frame the world from an aesthetic perspective (Eisner, 2002).

3) Music educators must examine current trends, musical examples, and ideologies in contemporary music and music education for possible connections, revision or extension of existing methods and pedagogical approaches.  There must be a consistent evaluation process of music and philosophies so that educators may guide students to recognize that there is a healthy relationship between music in society and music in the school.

4) Music educators must embrace the use of appropriate, enriching and engaging technologies that provide a more authentic connection to subject material for students.  As technology becomes more imbedded into the entire process of education, music educators must seek out ways in which these emerging technologies will best preserve the heritage of instrumental music, and provide new opportunities for students so they might be directed to discoveries in music not previously available.

5) Music educators must utilize music education as a shaping force in culture and society, and utilize the different performance aspects that are outgrowths of effective teaching as a means to contribute positively to the community in which the learning is situated and to connect with others in music education who endeavor along a similar path but may use different means.  Music educators and their students must share the responsibility of preserving musical styles, ensembles, and traditions that continue to positively contribute to the profession while evaluating emerging possibilities for inclusion that will better connect music in the school to the community in which the learning is situated.

6) Music educators should take the responsibility of being a musical role model to their students as they may be the only professional musical role model students will interact with in their educational careers. Every music educator must take on this mantle of musical responsibility in a specific domain outside of that of their role as educator and conductor so they might provide their students with visible and aural proof of their personal musicianship.  Within in music, there are multiple ways to demonstrate musicianship, and these opportunities must be shared with the students on a regular basis.

7) An effective music educator formulates their philosophy and teaching style to consider a wider vision for the future of all students in music education. They strive to help students construct an authentic connection with music based on understanding, appreciation, and participation, capture emerging moments in their teaching to maximize student engagement and interest, and develop intrinsic satisfaction in students allowing each one of them to savor the experience of the enriching power of the arts (Eisner, 2002).

8) Music educators seek to create diverse learning experiences for students allowing them to demonstrate a learned set of skills in music (i.e. performing, composing, improvising, listening, and theoretical concepts) and delineate their own meanings from the music studied.  Through study of music across these multiple domains, music teachers can gauge the success their success and that of their students by the construction of personal understanding in music by making aesthetic decisions and developing a sense of musical independence (Weller, 2008).

9) Music educators must also recognize that students have specific music preferences and tastes that are developed outside the classroom and rehearsal hall, and part of the professions’ responsibility is to provide exposure to different types of music so students can develop skills that will allow them to think critically about the music to which they are exposed, make informed analytical decisions, and evaluate music from multiple perspectives including aesthetic, authenticity, entertainment, imagination and quality (Reimer, 1991).

These are subtle shifts in the philosophy, teaching, and learning within instrumental music education in the public schools, and will require an examination of how pre-service teachers are developed and trained in higher education.  With increased demands in areas outside of music thrust upon schools of music entrusted with training and developing new music teachers, these tenets that I propose should not be construed as a complete upheaval of the current system of preparation.  While these challenges to the profession of music education might seem ominous, they are issues and ideas that must be examined by those currently teaching and training teachers so that music education will maintain its relevancy in the eyes of school administrators, policy-makers, and most importantly, the students for whom are profession seeks to instill in a life-long relationship with music that is authentic, dynamic, and satisfying.  I believe these tenets to be flexible enough to be adapted into the process of training teachers that will be in line with current trends related to practice, policy, and scholarly educational research that is to inform our profession.  While I acknowledge this list of ideas and responsibilities is not exhaustive, it is a departure point from which our profession can engage in healthy reflective dialogue, examine our teaching strategies, best practices and philosophy, and continue our commitment to teaching a relevant, multi-faceted academic subject to all students.


Eisner, E. W. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. London: Yale University Press.

Reimer, B. (1991) Criteria for quality in music.  In R.A. Smith & A. Simpson (Eds.), Aesthetics and arts education (pp. 330-338). Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Weller, T. J. (2008). A Philosophy of Music Education. Unpublished paper, Kent State University.

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  1. Not sure what happened here, but the article above was not by Joe Pisano. Hope you all enjoy reading it!


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