Guest Blog by CAROL COSTANTINO (visit her website MinorMusicLLC.com)
Whenever you go to a new doctor one of the first things they do, before ever laying a hand on you, is to take a complete medical history. They want to know about any current problems you are having. They will ask about your overall health; any previous health concerns; and most importantly, how they can help you today.
Well, the same kind of things can be said about your child’s music education whenever they go to a new school. Only this time, YOU are the doctor asking all the right questions, and wracking your brain for an accurate diagnosis. If you are the least bit concerned over the quality of instruction your child will receive in a new music program, take an informed glance back at the school’s feeder system. Granted, every school district (like every person) is unique. However, there are general guidelines that can be applied to diagnose overall health.
The National Association for Music Education (formerly known as MENC) is the world’s largest arts education organization. Its membership consists of more than 75,000 active, retired, and pre-service music teachers. They have developed a national set of music instruction curriculum standards for grades prek-12. These comprehensive standards speak specifically to the areas of Curriculum & Scheduling; Staffing; Materials & Equipment; and Facilities.
Maybe your child is moving up from elementary to middle school, or moving up from middle to high school. Maybe you are moving to an entirely new school system. Whatever the case, before you can appropriately critique/diagnose the effectiveness of a program in a particular school, you need to take a look back at its feeder school(s). As NAfME points out, each music program builds sequentially on the previous music program and provides the foundation for the music program that follows. In other words, each program builds on the current skills of its students. The quality of the elementary level programs have a direct effect on the effectiveness/overall health of the music programs at the middle school and high school those students feed into.
But, like people who struggle with common health concerns such as diabetes, hypertension and weight-gain, school districts have their share of common ailments too. So keep an open mind when comparing a particular school to our sampling of the NAfME standards.
- General music is provided to all students through grade 8.
- Music instruction in every prekindergarten and kindergarten class is provided by teachers who have received formal training in early-childhood music.
- Music is taught by music specialists in collaboration with classroom teachers.
- The curriculum comprises a balanced and sequential program of singing, playing instruments, listening to music, improvising and composing music, and moving to music.
- Every student receives general music instruction each week for at least ninety minutes, excluding time devoted to elective instrumental or choral instruction.
- Instruction on string instruments begins not later than grade 4.
Middle School & Junior High
- Every music course meets at least every other day in periods of at least forty-five minutes.
- Special experiences are designed for musically gifted and talented students according to their abilities and interests.
- Beginning and intermediate instruction is available on woodwind, string, brass, and percussion instruments.
- Musicians and music institutions of the community are utilized, when available, to enhance and strengthen the school music curriculum.
- A suitable room (large enough to accommodate the largest group taught) is available. It has appropriate acoustical properties, a quiet environment, good ventilation, and adequate lighting.
- It contains sufficient secured storage spaces for instruments, equipment, and instructional materials. Running water is available for instrument maintenance.
- Every music course, including performance courses, provides experiences in creating, performing, listening to, and analyzing music, in addition to focusing on its specific subject matter. Also included are learning experiences designed to develop the ability to read music, use the notation and terminology of music, describe music, make informed evaluations concerning music, and understand music and music practices in relation to history and culture and to other disciplines in the curriculum.
- The repertoire taught includes music representing diverse genres and styles from various periods and cultures.
- Every school with both instrumental and choral music educators contains a rehearsal room for instrumental groups and a rehearsal room for choral groups. Curtains are available to adjust the acoustics.
- Sufficient secured storage space is available in every school to store instruments, equipment, and instructional materials. Cabinets and shelving are provided, as well as lockers for the storage of instruments in daily use. This space is located in or immediately adjacent to the rehearsal facilities. Space is available for the repair and maintenance of instruments.
So remember: To ensure a complete education, watch what you eat, drink plenty of water, and make sure that music education starts early and remains a viable part of your child’s school.
Carol Constantino is a high school band wife and the mom of two young musicians. She is also the creator and managing editor of minormusicllc.com, a blogsite for the parents and teachers of young musicians. Minor Music, LLC also publishes classroom materials that infuse music content across the K-5 curriculum.