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The importance of music education in schools

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 2686 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Many people underestimate music education in the schools today, as well as the teachers are trained in music. However, music education is extremely important, and so are the teachers. In college, music education is one of the largest, most dense programs. Teachers have to learn general education materials, psychology, and technique. They must learn to play every instrument, they must learn music history, music theory, composition, teaching methodologies, conducting and learn the entire repertoire that’s out there, and so much more.

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Music is important in that it helps with math and science. Students learn to count, keep a steady rhythm, and how to multiply and divide. Students also use science to help them discover what sounds good together and what doesn’t. As they learn, they use prior knowledge to figure out what else might sound good together, which can lead to composing. However, today, the trend towards cutting funds for music programs is an alarming one. While athletics are rarely touched, music is often the first to go. Elementary students no longer have the opportunity to learn an instrument or sing in a chorus. Less and less professional music teachers are available and many students are losing their internets in music. Because of that, programs in middle and high schools are affected and soon eliminated as well.  On top of that, many issues that occurred within the music education system have been neglected for centuries. Issues such as physiology of music education, creativity, problems of western teaching method, instrumental teacher and formal verses informal learning have all posed problems in the western music education society. The following essay is going to discuss the basis of music education-the main issues in terms of education, music learning and teaching.

What is music education intended to prepare

Music education brings higher thinking to our children. It allows them to think about complex patterns .It almost leads to a philosophical environment. Students have to be absolutely aware of what every other musician does at every time. In that way, it fosters cooperation, as well. No musician is independent of the whole, and yet each musician is a part of that whole, with a unique part and sound (Guth, 2006).

Students tend to foster close relationships with other musicians and with their music teachers. They tend to have a higher aptitude and sometimes capability for learning. Music teachers, because they don’t worry so much about “state standards” or tests, can focus on what’s really important: learning about music. Students frequently appear to be having fun while they are making music because music is fun music can portray any mood, and it takes a special, interested person in order to make it good.

On top of that, music develops self-discipline and responsibility. The child who allots time for practicing each day is known to develop similar habits in conjunction with other subjects as well. Organizational skills increase and the child learns what it takes to be “good” at something. 

Ensemble experience also builds teamwork. Band members or choristers learn the importance of being a reliable member of a group and are educated as to the importance of being a team player and not necessarily always “the star.” 

The psychology of music

Music is certainly important part of students’ lives but how to keep the student interested and how to stimulate their music abilities is an important aspect of music education. Research by McPherson and Renwick (2001) reviewing video recording of children’s home practice suggested more than 90% of the time spent on early instrumental learning practice was spent playing pieces through without any visible strategy to improve performance. Pace (1997) suggested daily practice routines were indicative of effectiveness of instrumental teaching and he termed “process-orientated” teaching which focus on how an individual learns, and develops overall musical skills, using this mode, students would approach sight reading through an understanding of patterns and harmony and make their own music by using the frameworks and features of newly learned repertoire and techniques. There is evidence that suggests pupil-teacher interactions are largely dominated by teacher statements about how problems should be solved while very few question are asked of student (Hepler, 1986; Wsrts, 1992). Indeed, teachers not only need to encourage students to be reflective but also should interact more with the child’s parents. In this way, parents can keep on track with what their child’s doing and giving them motivations and advices.

Stimulating musical abilities is also very important. Some people believe that musicality cannot be taught, and is in fact the most innate and natural of all musical aptitudes and skills. Most of the responsibility is on the teacher, it is important for teacher to give student a wide range of repertoire to listen and ask them to tap while listening, this could help them to focus, increase their memory, and have cohesive thought and creative expression.

When we repeatedly perform the same tasks over and over, there’s a natural tendency to find ourselves giving little awareness to what we are doing and there are many things that we do without much thought or enthusiasm. To stimulate the student’s musical expression, teachers should ask student to try different method and be creative. Find a way to make the music more fun and more interesting and find ways to stimulate their creativity in every little task they do.

Traditional vs western music teaching method

Most of schools in western society employ western teaching method. Some teacher even goes to the extent of rejecting other cultural method. However, it is important to learn other culture and it could become more effective if teachers developed an understanding of universal patterns of music teaching and learning behaviours and applied these to their teaching.

I will demonstrate the point through Balinese teaching method.

Firstly, In Western music teaching, verbal communication is very important. The music is still transferred from teacher to student in an intuitive manner, but in the West you are told what to do: you are told when you are playing flat, and you are told how to produce a better articulation where as Balinese focus more on aural skills , however, have seen a video where many students of Balinese music make the mistakes over and over and never improve. In my experience of studying and teaching, I’ve noticed that these students need more than the traditional Balinese teaching method, which consists exclusively of listening and playing. They need to be told what needs work in their playing, and they need to be given exercises to guide them through the process of improving.

For Westerners, the danger of the Balinese method is that a student who is not mindful can go from lesson to lesson making the same mistakes. The teacher recognizes the mistakes but does not tell the student. This is not done from spite, but rather, from the Balinese philosophy that it is the student’s responsibility to learn. Because they are used to this philosophy, Japanese students learn early on to listen and play mindfully. However, for a Western student, it may be preferable to learn from a teacher who simply tells you what to do and what not to do. Eventually, through practicing, learning, and loving the music, the Western student may also develop the mindfulness required to listen and play by ear.

The main danger in the Western teaching method is that the student may focus too heavily on technique and theory, becoming distracted by the science of the music. His music may become drained of feeling and soul and may become dry and mechanical sounding. Therefore, advanced students might work better with a teacher who uses the Balinese method.

Secondly, Western applied music teachers teach pieces that are notate where Balinese teacher relies exclusively on performance demonstrations to present musical material to the student and emphasis on aural skills and creative musical expression. The Balinese teaching method emphasizing on imitating rather than analysing and the music teacher function as a modeller who convey music to the student the entire learning process, his consistent aim is to present the musical whole without drawing undue attention to the parts of which it is composed (Bakan, 1993). In a Balinese learning context, the student closely follows the mallet of the teacher, follows the motion and immediately joins the music and after a few practice they could play the entire passage from memory like an actual performance.

However the western teacher often teach pieces in small sections and emphasis a lot more on analytical and intervention oriented pedagogical approaches.

So the key area of musicianship that western students tend to find highly problematic is memory retention, comprehension of appropriate musical style and expression, musical continuity and flow, and ensemble playing sensitivity.

Thirdly, to improve, western teacher should definitely learn other culture’s teaching method in order to grow more and extend their knowledge. Western teacher should increase the amount of tie spent on direct model and imitation teaching methods relative to that spent on methods of learning which involve music reading. They should provide the student with opportunity to play long passages of material all at once rather than breaking passages down into single measure. Also, when demonstrating musical material for the student, do not hesitate to play passages as you would in actual concert performance. A more holistic manner of presentation will result in the student’s development of a more holistic musical conception.

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Last and most importantly, teacher should create an ensemble environment for student learning whenever possible. In these ways, teacher will help the student to develop better ensemble playing skills, to conceive of what she or he plays in context rather than in isolation, and to experience the joys of creating music as social and interactive experience (Bakan, 1993). From the above points, I believe a combination of Balinese and western teaching method will produce the best result.

Instrumental teaching

Instrumental teaching poses problems as the teachers give very little attention to why and how and what they teach. Instead, all too many of us, especially those teaching on a one to one basis, are mere “page flippers”. No time is spent considering the important “whys” of teaching and little or no time is spent using imagination, creativity or communication (Schenke, 1989).

Firstly, the best instrumental teachers permit their goals constantly to influence their basic attitudes, planning and teaching methods without their pupils becoming directly aware of them. As the pupil mature from childhood to adulthood. An open discussion about a certain problem can sometimes be the decisive motivating factors leading to marked improvement.

Secondly, Ensemble activities are an essential part of instrumental learning and pupils will be expected to take part in them when a certain standard has been achieved. 

So teachers should provide more ensemble environment for the student. There is nothing more difficult than trying to motivate the young pupil who lacks the opportunity of playing together with his peers. A good amount of ensemble playing is ensure by good group teaching, but by no means is it an integral part of individual lessons. Providing ensemble environment also introduces the pupils to new categories of instruments, new friends and new difficulties (musicians union, 2008).

Thirdly, it is important for music teachers to acknowledge the importance of expanding the repertoire of their young pupils to include various kinds of music. If the teacher shows an open attitude towards different genres, then these attitudes will also be adopted by the pupils and stay with them as they grow older. However, it is impossible fort the teacher to be “expert” in all areas, but we should continually try to improve our ability to include new types of music in our teaching.

Formal and informal learning

Informal leaning accounts for over 50% of the learning taking place in school tody. Often, the most valuable learning takes place serendipitously, by random chance. There were many augment that school do not provide enough informal music learning and this is true. Firstly, there are both advantages and disadvantages of formal musical leaning. Formal leaning is learning that takes place within a teacher student relationship, such as in a school system ( Marcia L, C onner,2002).

In a formal musical learning context the purpose, the tactics and the outcomes are well specified. Fundamental musical knowledge and skills are effectively and efficiently transferred and learned. There will be a qualified teacher who will help the student in guiding his learning process and mistakes are prevented immediately.

However, problems can occur as well. In the classroom learning context, teachers usually give many hand outs and home works, asking the student to do lots of paper works and revisions for the purpose of tests and exams or simply fulfil the curriculums requirement. Little attention is paid to individual’s musical interest and potential. The problem occurs here are what is actually learnt in the classroom and the purpose of leaning music.

Secondly, there is informal learning. Informal leaning describes a lifelong process whereby individual acquire attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experience and the educational influence and resource in his or her environment, from family and neighbours, form work and play ( Thomas, A.2002). There are countless benefits from informal learning. In such context the student is totally responsible for his learning and leaning results. Learning here is strongly connected to personal needs and desires. Students learn to take responsibility, and take the lead in their professional development. On top of that, in an informal setting, student with different musical backgrounds can come together and they will experience a full musical and social atmosphere, they meet friends who play different instrument or from an upper grade. In Jorgenson (2001)’s study of three young rock bands, published in English found that the learning processes within this informal music learning practice include more than musical aspects; for example, administrational and other practical skills, such as management, as well as linguistic training and the formation of personal identity. Accordingly, informal learning typically involves more than just the core subject of learning, in his this case the music; it features an integrated learning on a more holistic level.

Overall, both formal and informal music education is important, teacher should try to create more informal environment in school. Only the combination of the two will produce the best teaching result.


Music education is no doubt an important part of our lives. Music improves students’ team skills and self esteem and helps their progress in other important leaning. On the other hand, it is the teacher’s responsibility to delivery the best knowledge to the student. Teachers need to know how to stimulate their student’s motivations and their best interest in music and learn other cultural teaching method as part of their study and lastly, teachers need to create more informal and social environment for student in school. Only the combination of all above will produce the best teaching result,


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