Rita Young Allen, MA, MS

Music as Core Curriculum

Rita Young Allen
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Music as Core Curriculum

Rita Y. Allen


Although today, music education is not a part of the core curriculum in every school, it is in many schools. Michael L. Mark (2002) states that advocates who are executing information to government, school administration and the community have gained recognition of great value.

Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan explains how music education needs to be its own advocate. The resulting effects of music education speak loudly. Because important laws and developments are derived from public policy, it is vital that those making laws do so from informed judgment, based on knowledge.

In 1838, Lowell Mason convinced the Boston School Committee to include music as part of the core curriculum. Because of Mason’s success, boards of education began to accept that music was intellectually, morally and physically good for children.

Around the middle of the twentieth century, more effective teaching means were sought to better prepare young people for the rapidly evolving society. Technological advances, a growing economy, and the civil rights movements were creating rapid cultural change in America. Our school systems are still in a state of reform. Music Education has been an active force in this change and will continue to be only if our policy makers gain insight for the advantages of music in school.

In 1966, Music Educators National Conference (MENC) advertisements covered the country creating the foundations for formal advocacy. This was a critical time as the 70’s recession forced major cuts in the education system. As the crisis began to hit, MENC had already been effective in bringing their stories to the forefront, especially to those individuals and institutions allocating funds. By the 1980’s, MENC had developed great expertise in the area of advocacy which rendered them success in keeping many music programs afloat.

The Philadelphia Resolution is the product of a meeting including thirty-one leaders of arts organizations in 1986. This resolution stated, “A broad cross section of national arts organizations agree…that we pursue development of local, state, and national policies that result in more effective support for arts education and the professional teachers and artists who provide it.” This was a tremendous success! This was a unified effort declaring the necessity of arts in education and effective advocacy in this area.

In 1990, the National Commission on Music Education was formed. In that same year, MENC published a report created by the commission entitled, Growing Up Complete: The Imperative for Music Education. This report was sent to every vital entity from the White House to individuals. It also became the key element for the much publicized, Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Congress passed the Goals 2000 act in 1994.

The National Standards and Assessment is the product of the Goals 2000 act. In the original bill, the arts were not included. It was only after extensive advocacy that the arts were added to the bill. This achievement is, by far, the most important and far-reaching impact of MENC advocacy.

The professional arts organizations are not the only advocates for art and music in schools. In 1979 a book was published entitled, Coming to our Senses: The Significance of the Arts for American Education: A Panel Report. This book was the brain child of a panel chaired by David Rockefeller, Jr. It warned of impending doom if the arts were left out of our schools. Rockefeller wrote: “If we want our world to be still, gray and silent, then we should take the arts out of school, shut down the neighborhood theatre, and barricade the museum doors. When we let the arts into the arena of learning, we run the risk that color and motion and music will enter our lives.”


Statement of Problem

            Should constructive music be required as a core course of school curriculum in K-12? (Constructive Music: Promoting development and improvement, in musical skills and enjoyment). As a result of budget cuts, many times the arts are the first to be cut in the school curriculum. The remedy to the situation is for parents or local community fund raisers to finance arts education. There is much new information about the relationship of music to brainpower, health, social and educational benefits. The researcher’s concern is the lack of government support for music as a part of the core curriculum in view of the overwhelming results of new data. The researcher’s preliminary hypothesis is that music should absolutely be required as a part of the core curriculum.


Related Literature

There is much new data on the subject of music in schools. The following related literature articles elaborate on the categories of: budgeting, purpose of the arts curriculum, restructuring the music curriculum, National Standards, reconceiving musicality and rubrics. The categories are presented in the above order and are arranged to provide direction for the researcher.

Maurice Berube (1999) states that there are “two distinct American societies: one that is culture conscious and one that is not.” After WWII and the GI Bill of Rights, a mass rise in education occurred along with a cultural maturation. This period experienced a cultural renaissance which went into high gear in 1975. The economic aspect of art was quickly realized by politicians. In a study done by New York City including the decade of 1982 to 1993, cultural tourism brought in 9.2 billion dollars into their metropolitan area.

            The Clinton administration attempted to place the arts in the core curriculum of the National Standards Core Curricula along with History, English, Math, Science and Foreign Languages. In 1994 voluntary standards were added to the core. Voluntary still means that music will be the last consideration under fiscal restraints. In budgeting 700 million dollars to the national standards program, the Clinton administration hoped that the message would be received that the arts are indispensable to education reform. The arts have been deemed nonessential by many schools. The result is that half of all American schools have no full-time arts teachers.

            Another problem with the inclusion of music in schools is the poor school districts. So many demands are made on these schools where test scores are lower that many times administration decides to emphasize the “basics” and leave out the arts entirely. Unfortunately, they do not realize that music could the catalyst for higher learning and higher scores in those basics.

            Berube asks the following questions: “What is the purpose of an arts curriculum? Does art have a moral/spiritual component for those exposed to it? Does art make one a better person? Can it change a person?” In 1996, the International Association of Educating Cities sponsored an international conference in Chicago, The Arts and Humanities as Agents for Social Change, to discuss these heavy philosophical questions.” One hundred arts initiatives were examined. These initiatives were aimed toward individuals from juveniles in jail to internet programs for the poor. Some did not agree that art was an agent of change. But, were many who certainly did agree that the answers to the above questions are “yes!”

It is very doubtful that a non-musical person can look in from the outside and see all the qualities of “yes” answers to the above questions. Berube shares comments from Jackson Pollock about a painting belonging to his life-long friend that says it all: “One of the most important things about Pollock’s work, actually, is that it isn’t so much what you are looking at but it’s what’s happening to you looking at his particular work….It had a power and it changed your character and your personality.” So it is with music.  The experiencing of music does create change!

Todd Fallis (1994) states that great strides have been made over the last few years to keep music in our schools, and when music programs are cut, there arises great finger-pointing at the groups of individuals who appear to be at the head of the chop-block. However, these groups of people may not want to do away with music in schools; they simply are calling out for a restructure of our old ways of thinking about music. Fallis believes that new standards will likely be adopted into law soon, and, at least on paper, music education will have its rightful place in the schools.

New levels of understanding must also be implemented in this restructuring. Administrators ultimately view the success of a program by the numbers. Music Teachers do not. Performance quality is the criteria by which a music teacher views the success of the class. When teaching assignments are made, a band class of 90 students should count equally for three classes of 30 students as is measured in other academic disciplines. It is not. We simply pretend band is just another class. We do not address the student-teacher ratio. The distortion goes further. Some might believe that football is the center of many physical education programs. Football is only a part of the larger program of physical education that serves the entire student body. If poetry were a program all its own, it could very well be in danger of being cut from the curriculum, but, because it is sandwiched inside the English department, it has little threat of being cut. The core music program of band, orchestra, and chorus account for only 15 to 30 percent of the student

body. If any core is going to survive, unthreatened, it must include 80 to 100 percent of the student body. Most music programs in America today do not come close to these percentages.

            Fallis states, “Music education programs need to consist of a core of musical offerings in which any or all of the students can participate, such as music appreciation, class piano, songwriting with music technology, music fundamentals through synthesizers and MIDI, multicultural music studies, and class guitar.” With these classes added to the three core courses, music education could then serve the entire student population.

According to Betty Haney (2005) a paradigm shift has been rocking North America since the l980’s. Music Education has been slow to engage in this shift called postmodernism. This shift has created a blur of boundaries between issues, perspectives, ambiguity and authority. This influence is evident in our films, books, art and music. This era has greatly contributed to the shifting core of the music curriculum.  In increasing numbers, the old “methodolatry” ideas about teaching music are being discarded. It has been realized that when students reach the fifth grade, they start disliking music and when they are given music as an elective, only a small percentage elect to take music. Students are bored with school music.

Below are the nine standards listed in the National Standards for Music Education established in 1994. Bennett Reimer (2004) examines how limited the vision of school music curriculum has been. The offerings of electives in the classroom do not begin to encompass all the possible music courses delineated by these nine standards.


The National Standards for Music Education


1.      Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.

2.      Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.

3.      Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments.

4.      Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.

5.      Reading and notating music.

6.      Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.

7.      Evaluating music and music performance.

8.      Understanding relationship between music, and other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.

9.      Understanding music in relation to history and culture.

Reimer says that we have succeeded beautifully with the first two of the nine standards, but very minimally with the remaining seven. We must begin to look to the future with diversity and openness. Music in America is thriving. Music education in schools, however, is not. In our efforts to gain the so desired place of music in the schools we advocate, advocate, advocate. But, we are advocating for the time-worn music standards we have traditionally chosen to offer. We must advocate so furiously because so few people are willing to accept what we have had to offer. The music programs of yesterday just simply will not meet the needs of young people of today. We must find a way to present the breadth and depth of a solid music program within the musicality of today.

            In a journey of reconceiving musicality, we must first broaden our perspective of musicality. In the past, we have attributed “being musical” to those performers who can exhibit solo musical ability on stage. This is not the intention of the nine standards. There is a host of ways to be musical including roles from cultures all around the world. It is important that we appreciate and understand the similarities and differences of all music. This will give each individual the opportunity to discover roles of solid music structure within their own interests and creativity.

            In many school music programs of today, we constrain all students to be musically the same. A good music program will do just the opposite; it will encourage great diversity in musical involvement. It will cause us to explore each music role for its challenges, satisfactions, and advantages. To make this possible, we must construct a sequential music program where each music role compliments all the other roles.

            In addition to the diversity of the curriculum, we must also examine the diversity of the teachers. We must move away from the ideal that the one magnificent road to being a great teacher is being a great performer. This is simply not the case.  In fact, many great performers do not have the ability to teach, and vice versa.

            Below are Reimer’s Proposed Reconstructed National Standards for Music Education:

A.    Musicianship Roles (Intelligences/Creativities)

1.      Singing, Playing (Performer)

2.      Improvising (Improviser)

3.      Composing (Composer)

4.      Arranging (Arranger)

B.     Listenership Roles (Intelligences/Creativities)

5.      Listening (Listener)

6.      Analyzing, Describing (Theorist)

7.      Evaluating (Critic)

8.      Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.  (Psychologist, Philosopher, Neuroscientist, Education Theorist, etc.)

9.      Understanding music in relation to history and culture (Historian, Sociologist, Ethnomusicologist, Anthropologist, Cultural Critic, etc.)

            In Kenneth McGuire’s (2002) article, Doing it All: Linking the elements of Music and the Standards, he suggests a rubric as an assessment guide for more than one level of musical achievement. Rubrics can be very useful tools for determining what students have learned. Although rubrics are difficult to construct, they can be extremely valid and reliable measures. Many activities may take place during the course of a lesson with learning achieved on several levels. The rubric can measure these integrated levels of learning. A valuable resource for teachers desiring to use rubrics is The School Music Program: A New Vision published by MENC in 1994. This book details the content of each of the nine standards of music. The possibilities are limitless for the construction of viable rubrics. The greatest limitation will be the time the teacher has to devote to the development of these rubrics, which becomes easier as the process becomes more familiar. Those teachers who have wondered how they can address all the elements of music will find, with the help of the rubric, they can do it all!

            In 1997, Dr. Arthur Harvey, University of Hawaii, compiled a report entitled, An Intelligence View of Music Education. In his report he elaborates on other research projects, both completed and in process, which provide astounding results linking music aspects of intelligence. One astounding study showed that students who began keyboard training before the age of seven had 12% thicker nerve fibers in the corpus callosum, which is the part of the brain that carries signals between the two hemispheres! Dr. Harvey elaborates on an article by Howard Gardner, a cognitive psychologist from Harvard University. Gardner wrote in his article, The Musical Mind, that music may be a special intelligence that helps people organize the way they think and work. While there are many reports which confirm that music education has an important impact on musical intelligence, there are now also reports which confirm that music education also has important impact on the seven intelligences: Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal and Music.  The Mozart Effect is a commonly known research. The October 1993 issue of Nature originally included this report indicating that listening to ten minutes of Mozart’s piano Sonata K.448 over a period of time had increased the spatial IQ scores of college students. After this study, further study was done with preschool children with the same astounding results. It has been determined that music enhances higher brain functions, similar to those required for abstract and spatial reasoning.

Several years ago Charles R. Bugg Elementary in Raleigh, N.C. was a school in trouble. There was very little parental involvement and the school’s test scores were below the county average. Things are different today. The school is literally singing! In their article, Readin’, Writin’, Rhythm, Kantrowitz and Leslie (1997) depict a very musical atmosphere. “In a science class, students grasp the vastness of space by listening to Gustav Holst’s symphonic suite The Planets. Third graders studying language arts create original poems with a writer-in-residence and learn how to choreograph a danced to go with their verses. In music class, pupils learn about fractions as they study whole, half and quarter notes.” This school is one of 27 other schools in North Carolina who are experimenting with ways to use the arts to improve basic skills. School principal, Jim Fatata brags that attendance is up and behavior problems are down. Other schools around the country are also looking at ways to incorporate music into the everyday life of the school.

            A great inspiration for the arts is Howard Gardner’s book, Frames of Mind. His book assigned musical ability as one of the seven distinct forms of intelligence. Those educators who have been influenced by Gardner have set up their schools to use music and other arts to improve overall learning. At PS 314 in Brooklyn, N.Y, the students attend the dress rehearsals of the Metropolitan Opera. Afterward, they use these great works to help learn history and literature. The students not only attend the opera, but they have become involved in writing their own operas building the accompanying sets and composing their own music. Since this began in 1989, the test scores of PS 314 have improved enough to remove them from the state’s list of worst-performing schools.

            There are many more success stories, but establishing music education among the core curriculum in schools will not be easy. A music industry trade journal, The Instrumentalist, reported that half the money used for music education funding came from outside fund raising, usually from parents. Many times, this is not possible in the poorer communities. The great concern is that we will end up with a cultural caste system where the poor will not have access to music education. That would be a very sad note.



            The American Music Conference has published some very informative facts on their website www.amc-music.com/research_briefs.htm regarding new data about the relationship between music and brainpower. This data comes from a variety of places and research applications. These studies greatly substantiate the researcher’s hypothesis concerning the value of music as a part of the school’s core curriculum.

            From a University of Sarasota Study and an East Texas State University Study, it was found that middle school and high school students who participated in an instrumental music program scored significantly higher than others on standardized tests. There was also a correlation found between the years of music instruction and the academic achievement in math, science and language arts.

            In 1999, Neurological Research found that students scored a full 100 percent higher on fraction tests if they had learned them via music-based lessons rather than traditional fraction instruction.

            The most likely group of college students to be admitted to medical school is music majors! These findings come from The Comparative Academic Abilities of Students in Education and in other Areas of a Multi-focus University by Peter H. Wood. Physician and biologist Lewis Thomas found the 66 percent of music majors who applied to med school were admitted. This was the highest percentage of any group. Also a study done of 7,500 university students showed that music majors scored the highest reading scores among all majors including English, biology, chemistry and math.

From the U.S. Department of Education comes the National Longitudinal Study of 1988: First Follow-up. This study showed that music majors receive more academic honors and awards than non-music majors. It also showed that that greater percentage of those making As and Bs are music majors.

            In 2001 the Profile of SAT and Achievement Test Takers found that music students scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the SAT and 41 points higher on the math portion.

            Dr. James Catterall of the University of California, Los Angeles did a ten-year study on 25,000 students. He found that regardless of socioeconomic background, music students score higher, not only on standardized tests, but also on reading proficiency exams.

            The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IAEEA) reports that countries such as Japan, Hungary and the Netherlands require music education, both instrumental and vocal, at the elementary and middle school levels. The three countries also stand atop worldwide science achievement.

            The evidence is clear that music in schools does make a marked difference, but the implementation is still ongoing.


            A sample questionnaire is provided as Appendix A. The questions are Likert style with two demographic questions at the end.  The Likert style questions were designed to determine the attitudes of individuals about the benefits of music and the benefits of music in the school setting. The sample population (n) of 31 is a random sample. Thirty-one questionnaires were given out and thirty-one were filled out and returned. Approximately half of the sample was from a music setting and the other half were from a non-musical setting.

Appendix B provides percentage results of the combined sample population which indicate 100% agreement that music should be a part of the core curriculum in schools. In addition, 74% of those strongly agreed.  Seventy four percent indicates they believe that music teaches improved listening and concentration skills. Another high support category with over two-thirds in concurrence indicates a constructive music program creates greater health and stability among those with mental and physical disabilities.

            The respondents indicate an overall supportive view toward constructive music programs in the schools.



The researcher expected to find supporting data that Music Education should be a part of the core curriculum of the school system. The survey analyzes the beliefs and attitudes about the quality and benefit of music education. The conclusions of the survey do support the researcher’s preliminary hypothesis.


Berube, M. R. (1999). Arts and education. Clearing House, 72(3), 150-152.

Fallis, T. L. (1994). National standards what’s next? Music Educators Journal,

            81(3), 26-28.

Hanley, B. (2005). Challenges to music education: curriculum reconceptualized.

            Music Educators Journal, 91(4), 17-20.

Harvey, A. (1997). An Intelligence View of Music Education. Hawaiian Music Educators

            Association, (February).

Kantrowitz, B., & Leslie, C. (1997). Readin’, writin’, rhythm. Newsweek,

129(15), 71.

Mark, Michael L. (2002). A history of music education advocacy. Music Educators

            Journal, 89(1), 44-48.

McGuire, K. (2002). Doing It All: Linking the 3 Elements of Music and the Standards.

            Music Educators Journal, 89(1), 49-52.

Reimer, B. (2004). Reconceiving the standards and the school music program. Music

            Educators Journal, 91(1), 33-37.

Research briefs: did you know. (Retrieved 06/05). American Music Conference.

Music as Core Curriculum

Rita Young Allen Teaching Credentials.....

Master of Science in Management Leadership (Healthcare Administration) from Troy University, Troy, Alabama
Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (Counseling, Emergency Management, Public Administration) from Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama
Executive Director & Marketing Director for two National Healthcare Corporations
Bachelor of Science in Sociology, Minor in Music Education from Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama
Associate of Arts in Vocal Performance, Wallace State College, Hanceville, Alabama
Music School Owner for 24 years
Performed at Carnegie Hall with Private Choirs, 6 years
Church Music Minister, 30+ years
Published Author, "The Sheaf Dreamer"
Columnist, 20+ years
President of Alabama National Speakers Association, 3 years
Public & Private School Teacher, 10 years (Choral & Drama)
Pageantry, Top Ten, National Competition of Ms. Senior America & Alabama State Director

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Rita Young Allen, Keynote Speaking Professional / Concert Soloist / Published Author / Bible Teacher / Emcee

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (Concentration in Counseling) from Jacksonville State University.

Master of Science in Management Leadership (Healthcare Administration) from Troy University.

Bachelor of Science in Sociology, Minor in Music, from Jacksonville State University.
Associate of Science in Music Education, Vocal Performance
Snead State College, Gadsden State College, and Wallace State College.


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