Music education and the Snuggie

As I write this e-zine, I am at the NAfME National In-service Conference… a virtual cornucopia of all things music education related. Through it’s many incredible offerings by a host of wonderful presenters there is an underlying current of concern, dare I say panic over the future of music education. Through casual conversations and presentations alike I have repeatedly heard the following statement:

Music education is in trouble.
Music education is in danger of extinction.
Music education is going the way of the dinosaurs and the Snuggie.
Okay, I made up the part about the Snuggie!

The problem is that these statements are rooted in paranoia more than they are fact. Here are some facts:

  • The number of music programs in this country is growing.
  • 94% of all public elementary schools currently offer music.
  • A similar number exists for secondary schools.
  • Instrument sales are increasing annually.
  • Recently 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.  (Not you… YOU are an awesome bucket of wonderfulness that is akin to a towel just out of the dryer on a cold autumn day!)  It all the “other” YOU’s that I am talking about.
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 declaring 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 instead of mourning.  Consider this...

  • 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.
  • The number of hours in a week kids are playing their instrument or receiving instruction is increasing.
  • Twenty-five years ago there were no national competitions.
  • The level of demand and achievement for most ensembles is increasing annually.
  • Five months ago music was named a Core Subject as a part of the Every Child Achieves Act.

Look, I am not saying it’s all rose petals and sunshine. There are obstacles.  There are issues to be addressed and I do believe teaching music is getting harder but not because it is diminishing, BECAUSE IT’S GROWING. It is growing in quality and quantity.  It’s getting harder because you are doing, teaching, and achieving more than ever before. It’s growing because YOU are incredibly good at your job.  Yes, I am talking to YOU!

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.

Have a great week!