Almost every day, I read or hear one of the following statements:
Music education is in trouble.
Music education is in danger of extinction.
Music education is going the way of the dinosaurs and the Flobie.
Okay, I made up the part about the Flobie.
The problem is, none of the statements above is rooted in fact. Here are some facts:
- The number of music programs in this country growing.
- 94% of all public elementary schools currently offer music.
- A similar number exists for secondary schools.
- Instrument sales are increasing annually
- Eleven months ago, USA Today ranked “Music Director” as the #3 fastest growing job in the United States.
A conspiracy theorist might suspect that there has been a calculated and systemic campaign designed to trick people into believing that music education was in trouble, and I would agree.
Who would do such a thing? Who would plot against music and America’s children?
Music teachers, that’s who.
It seems like every time I speak to a teacher, they lament the current state of music education in America. They often speak with a sense of despondence that would make Eeyore seem like a motivational speaker! Yes, music teachers, the very people in charge of spreading the good news are the ones most often deaclaring doom and gloom.
When did we decide that music education was in trouble? When did we get so down on music education? If you look at the long-term growth of music education, you might scratch your head and wonder why we aren’t all celebrating our gains instead of predicting our deaths.
- One hundred years ago music education did not exist.
- Seventy-five years ago it was an after school activity.
- Fifty years ago there were few options for festivals and performances.
- Twenty-five years ago, there were no national competitions.
- The level of demand and achievement for most ensembles is increasing annually.
I do believe teaching music is getting harder, but not because it is diminishing, because it is growing. It is growing in quality and quantity. It’s getting harder because you are doing, teaching, and achieving more than ever before.
If easy were what you were looking for, you would not have survived ear training and class piano, so I figure you're up to the challenge. When it comes to music education, I don’t think the sky is falling, I think the ground is rising.