Philosophy of Music Education

	Music is a highly accessible and unique form of art.  Because it is an entity without sole definition; it has no universal meaning.  Different people and different cultures each have their own musical values and expectations, no one definition or explanation of affect can fit all music.  Its meaningfulness is one that leans towards the objective – everyone experiences this art, yet each in his or her own way.  To understand music through any other means than personal experience might be impossible. “It seems peculiarly hard for our literal minds to grasp the idea that anything can be known which cannot be named” (Langer p. 232).  Attempts to explain music are further complicated when you realize that music is not just one thing.  Music can be a doing thing, a focused listening thing, a non-focused listening thing, or even a cultural identifier.  No matter what its role in life, music is a diverse human practice (Elliot).
    Music and mankind have always coexisted.  Even the logical nature of its continued existence implies that it serves a role in our lives that is essential to survival.  If music were not essential to humans, it would have certainly ceased to exist.  In that it not only functions as a human stimulant, but also as a response in its own right, music is even difficult to analyze from a psychological viewpoint.  Music has the potential to cultivate intrinsic feelings. These feelings can be considered unique benefits, or can serve as means to better other human conditions.

	“The ability to enjoy music aesthetically – that is, for its intrinsic power to cause feelingful responses – is ubiquitous. … [Aesthetic experiences] are conceived as robust, natural, primal to the human condition, and not limited to ‘art and music of the elite.’” (Reimer, 1989)

Perhaps the importance of these aesthetic experiences is the reason behind music’s steadfast presence throughout man’s existence.  As far back as 450 B.C., Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all believed that music developed personality, individual character and was important towards the cultivation of upstanding citizenship.  It is without question that the “pursuit of musical learnings seems to enhance a variety of positive complimentary values…” (Reimer, 2000).
    Music education programs are the social vehicles in which we transport students towards meaningful understanding of music as art.  The content of music classes are unique from all other school subjects.  Music in the schools encourages all children to have shared experiences in the unique pleasures of creating and sharing musical sounds. (Reimer 2000, p. 21)  Students that participate in music gain access to an artistic medium that lends itself to self-expression and creativity.  Because music affects each of us in a unique and personal way, we likewise have the ability to individualistically shape our musicing (Elliot).  Like many school subjects, Music can rouse student creativity that runs the gamut from minute and conservative to bold and enlightening.  Its uniqueness however absolutely provides children with a means to be creative in a way that no other subject can do.  Because music is personal to each of us, musical experiences frequently scaffold themselves between thoughts, feelings, and self-expressive tendencies. 

	While it is agreed that the benefits of music education are real, they are often times unique to each student. Teaching music can accomplish many different things.

	“Musical training not only yields knowledge of a certain sort but, providing it is accompanied by the development of understanding, imagination and taste, and students undertake it voluntarily and cooperatively, the knowledge acquired also directly relates to the rest of life experience.”   (Jorgensen)

We know that music is more than a simple thing, therefore, within music education we know that there can be no single arrival point for its process and outcomes.  Like life itself, music should always exist in ways that positively impacts other lives.  

	Considering both contemporary viewpoints towards the purpose of teaching music in the schools and the National Standards of Music Education, there seem to be two overarching experiences that quantify all components of outstanding music education: doing music and experiencing music.  While it could be argued that doing music is after all an experience, it must be known that experiencing music does not necessarily imply that one is personally doing it.  Furthermore, talking about music and learning through discussion of its various components is also a way to experience it.

	School music programs must be devised in ways that encourage all students to take advantage of ongoing musical opportunities.  In the years leading up to and including ninth grade, music education should remain a part of the core curriculum.  These fundamental years provide invaluable opportunities for students to both do and experience music.  The ultimate goal of these general music classes should be that students come to understand music through carefully designed lessons that foster meaningful learning opportunities.  Students who are taught to “analyze, criticize, and choose from many styles and pieces of music [are] more aware and therefore [have] the capacity for more happiness through music than the person who does not know, yet ‘chooses’ only one type of music” (Madsen, 1978).

	Students who experience music education should learn to appreciate different types of music.  In the schools, teaching music should not be product specific, as there is no single destination.  In the spirit of Pestalozzi, we should consider teaching music in a way that does not impart abilities specific to one music, however leaves the learner with the ability to apply their knowledge to all music.

	As students progress throughout school music education, an increasing degree of specialization must inevitably take place. Those who continue their music education throughout high school typically do so through ensemble participation.  So that performance ability can pace with cognitive potential, the refinement of technique is essential.  This marriage of skill and intellect should inevitably play out in an appreciation for music that transcends the high school experience.  Because of music these educational experiences, students should feel inclined to become lifelong patrons of the arts through means of appreciation, participation, and advocacy.

	In summary, music effects everyone on earth, and it is a highly accessible shared experience that is both worthy of study in its own right and for the other meaningful benefits that it offers.  Children should be offered a music education that provides them with both doing and experiencing opportunities.  These should range from the purest qualities of musical enjoyment, to the honed nature of fine performance.  This education will allow all students to experience music in an affective way that is both meaningful and unavoidably personal.  

Works Cited
Elliot, D. J. (1995). Music matters. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (pp. 43)

Jorgensen, E. R. (1997). In search of music education. Champaign, IL: University of 	Illinois Press. 

Langer, S. K. (1957). Philosophy in a new key. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University 	Press. 

Madsen, C., & Kuhn, T. (1978). Contemporary music education. Arlington Heights, 	IL: AHM Publishing Corp.

Reimer, B. (1989). A philosophy of music education. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice 

Reimer, B. (2000). Why do humans value music?  In Madsen, C., Vision 2020: the 	housewright symposium on the future of music education.  Reston, VA: Music 	Educators National Conference. (pp. 21-22)