Music education is a field of study associated with the teaching and learning of music. It touches on all learning domains, including the psychomotor domain (the development of skills), the cognitive domain (the acquisition of knowledge), and, in particular and significant ways, the affective domain (the learner's willingness to receive, internalize, and share what is learned), including music appreciation and sensitivity. Music training from preschool through post-secondary education is common in most nations because involvement with music is considered a fundamental component of human culture and behavior. Music, like language, is an accomplishment that distinguishes humans as a species.
During the 20th century, many distinctive approaches were developed or further refined for the teaching of music, some of which have had widespread impact. The Dalcroze method (eurhythmics) was developed in the early 20th century by Swiss musician and educator Émile Jaques-Dalcroze. The Kodály Method emphasizes the benefits of physical instruction and response to music. The Orff Schulwerk "approach" to music education leads students to develop their music abilities in a way that parallels the development of western music.
The Suzuki method creates the same environment for learning music that a person has for learning their native language. Gordon Music Learning Theory provides the music teacher with a method for teaching musicianship through audiation, Gordon's term for hearing music in the mind with understanding. Conversational Solfège immerses students in the musical literature of their own culture, in this case American. The Carabo-Cone Method involves using props, costumes, and toys for children to learn basic musical concepts of staff, note duration, and the piano keyboard. The concrete environment of the specially planned classroom allows the child to learn the fundamentals of music by exploring through touch. Popular music pedagogy is the systematic teaching and learning of rock music and other forms of popular music both inside and outside formal classroom settings.
The MMCP (Manhattanville Music Curriculum Project) aims to shape attitudes, helping students see music not as static content to be mastered, but as personal, current, and evolving. American fiddler Mark O'Connor developed a method of violin education that is designed to guide students in developing musical techniques necessary to become a proficient violinist. During its tenure, the Mumbai-based Boss School of Music developed a proprietary method of education using audio-visual technology, simplified concepts, and specially designed musical equipment.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Instructional methodologies
- 2.1 Major international music education methods
- 2.2 Other notable methods
- 3 History of music education in the United States
- 4 Music education in India
- 5 Music education in Africa
- 6 Standards and assessment
- 7 Integration with other subjects
- 8 Role of women
- 9 Influential music educators
- 10 Professional organizations
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Bibliography
- 14 Further reading
In primary schools in European countries, children often learn to play instruments such as keyboards or recorders, sing in small choirs, and learn about the elements of music and history of music. In countries such as India, the harmonium is used in schools, but instruments like keyboards and violin are also common. Students are normally taught basics of Indian Raga music. In primary and secondary schools, students may often have the opportunity to perform in some type of musical ensemble, such as a choir, orchestra, or school band: concert band, marching band, or jazz band. In some secondary schools, additional music classes may also be available. In junior high school or its equivalent, music usually continues to be a required part of the curriculum.
At the university level, students in most arts and humanities programs receive academic credit for music courses such as music history, typically of Western art music, or music appreciation, which focuses on listening and learning about different musical styles. In addition, most North American and European universities offer music ensembles - such as choir, concert band, marching band, or orchestra - that are open to students from various fields of study. Most universities also offer degree programs in music education, certifying students as primary and secondary music educators. Advanced degrees such as the D.M.A. or the Ph.D can lead to university employment. These degrees are awarded upon completion of music theory, music history, technique classes, private instruction with a specific instrument, ensemble participation, and in depth observations of experienced educators. Music education departments in North American and European universities also support interdisciplinary research in such areas as music psychology, music education historiography, educational ethnomusicology, sociomusicology, and philosophy of education.
The study of western art music is increasingly common in music education outside of North America and Europe, including Asian nations such as South Korea, Japan, and China. At the same time, Western universities and colleges are widening their curriculum to include music of outside the Western art music canon, including music of West Africa, of Indonesia (e.g. Gamelan music), Mexico (e.g., mariachi music), Zimbabwe (marimba music), as well as popular music.
Music education also takes place in individualized, lifelong learning, and in community contexts. Both amateur and professional musicians typically take music lessons, short private sessions with an individual teacher.
While instructional strategies are determined by the music teacher and the music curriculum in his or her area, many teachers rely heavily on one of many instructional methodologies that emerged in recent generations and developed rapidly during the latter half of the 20th Century.
Major international music education methods
The Dalcroze method was developed in the early 20th century by Swiss musician and educator Émile Jaques-Dalcroze. The method is divided into three fundamental concepts - the use of solfège, improvisation, and eurhythmics. Sometimes referred to as "rhythmic gymnastics," eurhythmics teaches concepts of rhythm, structure, and musical expression using movement, and is the concept for which Dalcroze is best known. It focuses on allowing the student to gain physical awareness and experience of music through training that engages all of the senses, particularly kinesthetic. According to the Dalcroze method, music is the fundamental language of the human brain and therefore deeply connected to who we are. American proponents of the Dalcroze method include Ruth Alperson, Ann Farber, Herb Henke, Virginia Mead, Lisa Parker, Martha Sanchez, and Julia Schnebly-Black. Many active teachers of Dalcroze method were trained by Dr. Hilda Schuster who was one of the students of Dalcroze.
Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967) was a prominent Hungarian music educator and composer who stressed the benefits of physical instruction and response to music. Although not really an educational method, his teachings reside within a fun, educational framework built on a solid grasp of basic music theory and music notation in various verbal and written forms. Kodály's primary goal was to instill a lifelong love of music in his students and felt that it was the duty of the child's school to provide this vital element of education. Some of Kodály's trademark teaching methods include the use of solfège hand signs, musical shorthand notation (stick notation), and rhythm solmization (verbalization). Most countries have used their own folk music traditions to construct their own instruction sequence, but the United States primarily uses the Hungarian sequence. The work of Denise Bacon, Katinka S. Daniel, John Feierabend, Jean Sinor, Jill Trinka, and others brought Kodaly’s ideas to the forefront of music education in the United States.
Carl Orff was a prominent German composer. Orff Schulwerk is considered an "approach" to music education. It begins with a student's innate abilities to engage in rudimentary forms of music, using basic rhythms and melodies. Orff considers the whole body a percussive instrument and students are led to develop their music abilities in a way that parallels the development of western music. The approach fosters student self-discovery, encourages improvisation, and discourages adult pressures and mechanical drill. Carl Orff developed a special group of instruments, including modifications of the glockenspiel, xylophone, metallophone, drum, and other percussion instruments to accommodate the requirements of the Schulwerk courses. Experts in shaping an American-style Orff approach include Jane Frazee, Arvida Steen, Judith Thomas, and many more.
The Suzuki method was developed by Shinichi Suzuki in Japan shortly after World War II, and uses music education to enrich the lives and moral character of its students. The movement rests on the double premise that "all children can be well educated" in music, and that learning to play music at a high level also involves learning certain character traits or virtues which make a person's soul more beautiful. The primary method for achieving this is centered around creating the same environment for learning music that a person has for learning their native language. This 'ideal' environment includes love, high-quality examples, praise, rote training and repetition, and a time-table set by the student's developmental readiness for learning a particular technique. While the Suzuki Method is quite popular internationally, within Japan its influence is less significant than the Yamaha Method, founded by Genichi Kawakami in association with the Yamaha Music Foundation.
Other notable methods
In addition to the four major international methods described above, other approaches have been influential. Lesser-known methods are described below:
Gordon's Music Learning Theory
Edwin Gordon's Music Learning Theory is based on an extensive body of research and field testing by Edwin E. Gordon and others in the larger field of Music Learning Theory. It provides music teachers with a comprehensive framework for teaching musicianship through audiation, Gordon's term for hearing music in the mind with understanding and comprehension when the sound is not physically present. The skills and content sequences within the Audiation theory help music teachers establish sequential curricular objectives in accord with their own teaching styles and beliefs. There also is a Learning Theory for Newborns and Young Children in which the Types and Stages of Preparatory Audiation are outlined.
World Music Pedagogy
The growth of cultural diversity within school-age populations prompted music educators from the 1960s onward to diversify the music curriculum, and to work with ethnomusicologists and artist-musicians to establish instructional practices rooted in musical traditions. 'World music pedagogy' was coined by Patricia Shehan Campbell to describe world music content and practice in elementary and secondary school music programs. Pioneers of the movement, especially Barbara Reeder Lundquist, William M. Anderson, and Will Schmid, influenced a second generation of music educators (including J. Bryan Burton, Mary Goetze, Ellen McCullough-Brabson, and Mary Shamrock) to design and deliver curricular models to music teachers of various levels and specializations. The pedagogy advocates the use of human resources, i.e., "culture-bearers," as well as deep and continued listening to archived resources such as those of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
Influenced by both the Kodály method and Gordon's Music Learning Theory, Conversational Solfège was developed by Dr. John M. Feierabend, former chair of music education at the Hartt School, University of Hartford. The program begins by immersing students in the musical literature of their own culture, in this case American. Music is seen as separate from, and more fundamental than, notation. In twelve learning stages, students move from hearing and singing music to decoding and then creating music using spoken syllables and then standard written notation. Rather than implementing the Kodály method directly, this method follows Kodály's original instructions and builds on America's own folk songs instead of on Hungarian folk songs.
This early-childhood approach, sometimes referred to as the Sensory-Motor Approach to Music, was developed by the violinist Madeleine Carabo-Cone. This approach involves using props, costumes, and toys for children to learn basic musical concepts of staff, note duration, and the piano keyboard. The concrete environment of the specially planned classroom allows the child to learn the fundamentals of music by exploring through touch.
Popular Music Pedagogy
'Popular music pedagogy' — alternatively called rock music pedagogy, modern band, popular music education, or rock music education — is a recent development in music education consisting of the systematic teaching and learning of rock music and other forms of popular music both inside and outside formal classroom settings. Popular music pedagogy tends to emphasize group improvisation, and is more commonly associated with community music activities than fully institutionalized school music ensembles.
The Manhattanville Music Curriculum Project was developed in 1965 as a response to declining student interest in school music. This creative approach aims to shape attitudes, helping students see music not as static content to be mastered, but as personal, current, and evolving. Rather than imparting factual knowledge, this method centers around the student, who learns through investigation, experimentation, and discovery. The teacher gives a group of students a specific problem to solve together and allows freedom to create, perform, improvise, conduct, research, and investigate different facets of music in a spiral curriculum. MMCP is viewed as the forerunner to projects in creative music composition and improvisation activities in schools.
American fiddler Mark O'Connor developed a method of violin education that is designed to guide students in developing musical techniques necessary to become a proficient violinist. The method consists of a series of pieces covering a wide range of genres. Teacher training sessions based on the method take place around the country.
Boss School Method
During its tenure, the Mumbai-based Boss School of Music developed a proprietary method of education using audio-visual technology, simplified concepts, and specially designed musical equipment. They trained novice students for standardized electronic keyboard graded examinations conducted by Trinity College London, requiring only 3–6 months of training using their methods. Traditional methods required up to 8 years to prepare students for testing. Dr. Vidyadhar Vyas, Head of the Music Department at the University of Mumbai, claimed that they "revolutionized" music learning by teaching complex musical concepts in short periods of time. They also trained a few young children ages 6–10 for the Trinity College Grade 8 examination; after passing the examination, the students were reportedly considered child prodigies. Although the Boss School Method is not formally documented, various notable musicians in Mumbai such as Louis Banks agreed that the school had developed a "revolutionary technique". Some controversy has surrounded the school and its methods.
The Think System
Meredith Willson's groudbreaking methodology was pioneered by instrumental music educator Prof. Harold Hill (Gary Conservatory '05).
History of music education in the United States
After the preaching of Reverend Thomas Symmes, the first singing school was created in 1717 in Boston for the purposes of improving singing and music reading in the church. These singing schools gradually spread throughout the colonies. Music education continued to flourish with the creation of the Academy of Music in Boston. Reverend John Tufts published An Introduction to the Singing of Psalm Tunes Using Non-Traditional Notation which is regarded as the first music textbook in the colonies. Between 1700 to 1820, more than 375 tune books would be published by such authors as Samuel Holyoke, Francis Hopkinson, William Billings, and Oliver Holden.
Music began to spread as a curricular subject into other school districts. Soon after music expanded to all grade levels and the teaching of music reading was improved until the music curriculum grew to include several activities in addition to music reading. By the end of 1864 public school music had spread throughout the country.
In 1832, Lowell Mason and George Webb formed the Boston Academy of Music with the purposes of teaching singing and theory as well as methods of teaching music. Mason published his Manuel of Instruction in 1834 which was based upon the music education works of Pestalozzian System of Education founded by Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. This handbook gradually became used by many singing school teachers. From 1837-1838, the Boston School Committee allowed Lowell Mason to teach music in the Hawes School as a demonstration. This is regarded as the first time music education was introduced to public schools in the United States. In 1838 the Boston School Committee approved the inclusion of music in the curriculum and Lowell Mason became the first recognized supervisor of elementary music. In later years Luther Whiting Mason became the Supervisor of Music in Boston and spread music education into all levels of public education (grammar, primary, and high school). During the middle of the 19th century, Boston became the model to which many other cities across the United States included and shaped their public school music education programs. Music methodology for teachers as a course was first introduced in the Normal School in Potsdam. The concept of classroom teachers in a school that taught music under the direction of a music supervisor was the standard model for public school music education during this century. (See also: Music education in the United States) While women were discouraged from composing in the 19th century, "later, it was accepted that women would have a role in music education, and they became involved in this field...to such a degree that women dominated music education during the later half of the 19th century and well into the 20th century."
Early 20th century
In the United States, teaching colleges with four-year degree programs developed from the Normal Schools and included music. Oberlin Conservatory first offered the Bachelor of Music Education degree. Osbourne G. McCarthy, an American music educator, introduced details for studying music for credit in Chelsea High School. Notable events in the history of music education in the early 20th century also include:
- Founding of the Music Supervisor's National Conference (changed to Music Educators National Conference in 1934, later MENC: The National Association for Music Education in 1998, and currently The National Association for Music Education - NAfME) in Keokuk, Iowa in 1907.
- Rise of the school band and orchestra movement leading to performance oriented school music programs.
- Growth in music methods publications.
- Frances Elliot Clark develops and promotes phonograph record libraries for school use.
- Carl Seashore and his Measures of Musical Talent music aptitude test starts testing people in music.
Middle 20th century to 21st century American Music Education
The following table illustrates some notable developments from this period:
|Date||Major Event||Historical Importance for Music Education|
|1950||The Child's Bill of Rights in Music||A student-centered philosophy was formally espoused by MENC.|
|1953||The American School Band Directors Association formed||The band movement becomes organized.|
|1957||Launch of Sputnik||Increased curricular focus on science, math, technology with less emphasis on music education.|
|1959||Contemporary Music Project||The purpose of the project was to make contemporary music relevant in children by placing quality composers and performers in the learning environment. Leads to the Comprehensive Musicianship movement.|
|1961||American Choral Directors Association formed||The choral movement becomes organized.|
|1963||Yale Seminar||Federally supported development of arts education focusing on quality music classroom literature. Juilliard Project leads to the compilation and publication of musical works from major historical eras for elementary and secondary schools.|
|1965||National Endowment for the Arts||Federal financial support and recognition of the value music has in society.|
|1967||Tanglewood Symposium||Establishment of a unified and ecletic philosophy of music education. Specific emphasis on youth music, special education music, urban music, and electronic music.|
|1969||GO Project||35 Objectives listed by MENC for quality music education programs in public schools. Published and recommended for music educators to follow.|
|1978||The Ann Arbor Symposium||Emphasized the impact of learning theory in music education in the areas of: auditory perception, motor learning, child development, cognitive skills, memory processing, affect, and motivation.|
|1984||Becoming Human Through Music symposium||"The Wesleyan Symposium on the Perspectives of Social Anthropology in the Teaching and Learning of Music" (Middletown, Connecticut, August 6–10, 1984). Emphasized the importance of cultural context in music education and the cultural implications of rapidly changing demographics in the United States.|
|1990||Multicultural Symposium in Music Education||Growing out of the awareness of the increasing diversity of the American School population, the three-day Symposium for music teachers was co-sponsored by MENC, the Society for Ethnomusicology, and the Smithsonian Institution, in order to provide models, materials, and methods for teaching music of the world's cultures to school children and youth.|
|1994||National Standards for Music Education||For much of the 1980s, there was a call for educational reform and accountability in all curricular subjects. This led to the National Standards for Music Education introduced by MENC. The MENC standards were adopted by some states, while other states have produced their own standards or largely eschewed the standards movement.|
|1999||The Housewright Symposium / Vision 2020||Examined changing philosophies and practices and predicted how American music education will (or should) look in the year 2020.|
|2007||Tanglewood II: Charting the Future||Reflected on the 40 years of change in music education since the first Tanglewood Symposium of 1967, developing a declaration regarding priorities for the next forty years.|
|2014||Revised National Standards for Music Education||The National Standards created in 1994 were revised with an emphasis on musical literacy. Instead of the 9 content standards, there are 3 artistic processes (Create, Perform, and Respond) with 2-3 anchor standards per process.|
Music course offerings and even entire degree programs in online music education developed in the first decade of the 21st century at various institutions, and the fields of world music pedagogy and popular music pedagogy have also seen notable expansion.
Music education in India
Institutional music education was started in colonial India by Rabindranath Tagore after he founded the Visva-Bharati University. At present, most universities have a faculty of music with some universities specially dedicated to fine arts such as Indira Kala Sangeet University, Swathi Thirunal College of Music or Rabindra Bharati University.
Indian classical music is based on the gurushyshyaparampara system. The teacher, known as Guru, transmit the musical knowledge to the student, or shyshya. This is still the main system used in India to transmit musical knowledge. Although European art music became popularized in schools throughout much of the world during the twentieth century (East Asia, Latin America, Oceania, Africa), India remains one of the few highly populated nations in which non-European indigenous music traditions have consistently received relatively greater emphasis. That said, there is certainly much western influence in the common popular music associated with Bollywood styles.
Music education in Africa
The South African Department of Education and the ILAM Music Heritage Project SA teach African music using western musical framework. ILAM's Listen and Learn for students 11-14 is "unique" in teaching curriculum requirements for western music using recordings of traditional African music.
Standards and assessment
Achievement standards are curricular statements used to guide educators in determining objectives for their teaching. Use of standards became a common practice in many nations during the 20th century. For much of its existence, the curriculum for music education in the United States was determined locally or by individual teachers. In recent decades there has been a significant move toward adoption of regional and/or national standards. MENC: The National Association for Music Education, created nine voluntary content standards, called the National Standards for Music Education. These standards call for:
- Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
- Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
- Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments.
- Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.
- Reading and notating music.
- Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.
- Evaluating music and music performances.
- Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.
- Understanding music in relation to history and culture.
Many states and school districts have adopted their own standards for music education.
Integration with other subjects
Some schools and organizations promote integration of arts classes, such as music, with other subjects, such as math, science, or English, believing that integrating the different curricula will help each subject to build off of one another, enhancing the overall quality of education.
One example is the Kennedy Center's "Changing Education Through the Arts" program. CETA defines arts integration as finding a natural connection(s) between one or more art forms (dance, drama/theater, music, visual arts, storytelling, puppetry, and/or creative writing) and one or more other curricular areas (science, social studies, English language arts, mathematics, and others) in order to teach and assess objectives in both the art form and the other subject area. This allows a simultaneous focus on creating, performing, and/or responding to the arts while still addressing content in other subject areas.
The European Union Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013 has funded three projects that use music to support language learning. Lullabies of Europe (for pre-school and early learners), FolkDC (for primary), and the recent PopuLLar (for secondary). In addition, the ARTinED project is also using music for all subject areas.
A number of researchers and music education advocates have argued that studying music enhances academic achievement, such as William Earhart, former president of the Music Educators National Conference, who claimed that “Music enhances knowledge in the areas of mathematics, science, geography, history, foreign language, physical education, and vocational training." Researchers at the University of Wisconsin suggested that students with piano or keyboard experience performed 34% higher on tests that measure spatial-temporal lobe activity, which is the part of the brain that is used when doing mathematics, science, and engineering.
An experiment by Wanda T. Wallace setting text to melody suggested that some music may aid in text recall. She created a three verse song with a non-repetitive melody; each verse with different music. A second experiment created a three verse song with a repetitive melody; each verse had exactly the same music. A third experiment studied text recall without music. She found the repetitive music produced the highest amount of text recall, suggesting music can serve as a mnemonic device.
Smith (1985) studied background music with word lists. One experiment involved memorizing a word list with background music; participants recalled the words 48 hours later. Another experiment involved memorizing a word list with no background music; participants also recalled the words 48 hours later. Participants who memorized word lists with background music recalled more words demonstrating music provides contextual cues.
Citing studies that support music education's involvement in intellectual development and academic achievement, the United States Congress passed a resolution declaring that: “Music education enhances intellectual development and enriches the academic environment for children of all ages; and Music educators greatly contribute to the artistic, intellectual and social development of American children and play a key role in helping children to succeed in school.”
Bobbett (1990) suggests that most public school music programs have not changed since their inception at the turn of the last century. “…the educational climate is not conducive to their continuance as historically conceived and the social needs and habits of people require a completely different kind of band program." A 2011 study conducted by Kathleen M. Kerstetter for the Journal of Band Research found that increased non-musical graduation requirements, block scheduling, increased number of non-traditional programs such as magnet schools, and the testing emphases created by the No Child Left Behind Act are only some of the concerns facing music educators. Both teachers and students are under increased time restrictions”
Dr. Patricia Powers states, “It is not unusual to see program cuts in the area of music and arts when economic issues surface. It is indeed unfortunate to lose support in this area especially since music and the art programs contribute to society in many positive ways.”  Comprehensive music education programs average $187 per pupil, according to a 2011 study funded by the national Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation The Texas Commission on Drugs and Alcohol Abuse Report noted that students who participated in band or orchestra reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances including alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.
In some communities - and even entire national education systems - music is provided little support as an academic subject area, and music teachers feel that they must actively seek greater public endorsement for music education as a legitimate subject of study. This perceived need to change public opinion has resulted in the development of a variety of approaches commonly called "music advocacy". Music advocacy comes in many forms, some of which are based upon legitimate scholarly arguments and scientific findings, while other examples controversially rely on emotion, anectodes, or unconvincing data.
Recent high-profile music advocacy projects include the "Mozart Effect", the National Anthem Project, and the movement in World Music Pedagogy (also known as Cultural Diversity in Music Education) which seeks out means of equitable pedagogy across students regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic circumstance. The Mozart effect is particularly controversial as while the initial study suggested listening to Mozart positively impacts spatial-temporal reasoning, later studies either failed to replicate the results, suggested no effect on IQ or spatial ability, or suggested the music of Mozart could be substituted for any music children enjoy in in a term called "enjoyment arousal." Another study suggested that even if listening to Mozart may temporarily enhance a student's spatial-temporal abilities, learning to play an instrument is much more likely to improve student performance and achievement. Educators similarly criticized the National Anthem Project not only for promoting the educational use of music as a tool for non-musical goals, but also for having overtly promoting nationalism and militarism.
Contemporary music scholars assert that effective music advocacy uses empirically sound arguments that transcend political motivations and personal agendas. Music education philosophers such as Bennett Reimer, Estelle Jorgensen, David J. Elliott, John Paynter, and Keith Swanwick support this view, yet many music teachers and music organizations and schools do not apply this line of reasoning into their music advocacy arguments. Researchers such as Ellen Winner conclude that arts advocates have made bogus claims to the detriment of defending the study of music, her research debunking claims that music education improves math, for example. Researchers Glenn Schellenberg and Eugenia Costa-Giomi also criticize advocates incorrectly associating correlation with causation, Giomi pointing out that while there is a "strong relationship between music participation and academic achievement, the causal nature of the relationship is questionable." Philosophers David Elliot and Marissa Silverman suggest that more effective advocacy involves shying away from "dumbing down" values and aims through slogans and misleading data, energy being better focused into engaging potential supporters in active music-making and musical-affective experiences, these actions recognizing that music and music-making are inherent to human culture and behavior, distinguishing humans from other species.
Role of women
While music critics argued in the 1880s that "...women lacked the innate creativity to compose good music" due to "biological predisposition", later, it was accepted that women would have a role in music education, and they became involved in this field "...to such a degree that women dominated music education during the later half of the 19th century and well into the 20th century.""Traditional accounts of the history of music education [in the US] have often neglected the contributions of women, because these texts have emphasized bands and the top leaders in hierarchical music organizations."  When looking beyond these bandleaders and top leaders, women had many music education roles in the "...home, community, churches, public schools, and teacher-training institutions" and "...as writers, patrons, and through their volunteer work in organizations." 
Despite the limitations imposed on women's roles in music education in the 19th century, women were accepted as kindergarten teachers, because this was deemed to be a "private sphere". Women also taught music privately, in girl's schools, Sunday schools, and they trained musicians in school music programs. By the turn of the 20th century, women began to be employed as music supervisors in elementary schools, teachers in normal schools and professors of music in universities. Women also became more active in professional organizations in music education, and women presented papers at conferences. A woman, Frances Clarke (1860-1958) founded the Music Supervisors National Conference in 1907. While a small number of women served as President of the Music Supervisors National Conference (and the following re-named versions of the organization over the next century) in the early 20th century, there were only two female Presidents between 1952 and 1992, which "[p]ossibly reflects discrimination."
After 1990, however, leadership roles for women in the organization opened up. From 1990 to 2010, there were five female Presidents of this organization. Women music educators "outnumber men two-to-one" in teaching general music, choir, private lessons, and keyboard instruction . More men tend to be hired as for band education, administration and jazz jobs, and more men work in colleges and universities. According to Dr. Sandra Wieland Howe, there is still a "glass ceiling" for women in music education careers, as there is "stigma" associated with women in leadership positions and "men outnumber women as administrators."
- Julia Crane (1855-1923) was an American music educator who set up a school, the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, New York, which was the first school specifically for the training of public school music teachers. She is among the most important figures in the history of American music education. Crane was a student of Manuel García. Crane was inducted into the Music Educators Hall of Fame in 1986. As of 2015, the Crane School of Music is one of three schools which make up the State University of New York (SUNY) at Potsdam. It has 630 undergraduate and 30 graduate students and a faculty of 70 teachers and professional staff.
- Frances Clarke (1860-1958) was a music supervisor in the Milwaukee Public School system. She founded the Music Supervisors National Conference in 1907. It was an organization of American music educators dedicated to advancing and preserving music education as part of the core curriculum of schools in the United States. In 2011, it was renamed the National Association for Music Education and it had more than 130,000 members. and in March 2012, Professor Glenn Nierman was elected President-Elect of NAfME.
- Elsie Shaw (1866-1962) was a music supervisor in St. Paul, Minnesota. She supervised and taught elementary school teachers and conducted choirs and orchestras. She encouraged the offering of music education at the high school level.
- Mabelle Glenn (1881-1969) was a music supervisor in Bloomington, Indiana and a director of music in Kansas City, Missouri. She wrote music appreciation books and music textbooks. She was President of the Music Supervisors National Conference from 1928-1930.
- Lilla Pitts (1884-1970) graduated from Northwestern University. She was a faculty member of the teacher's college at Florida State University. She served as President of the Music Educators National Conference (the new name for the Music Supervisors National Conference) from 1942-1944.
- Marguerite Hood (1903-1992) graduated from the University of Southern California. She was a supervisor of music for Montana, a faculty member at the University of Montana, the University of Southern California and the University of Michigan. She was President of the Music Educators National Conference from 1950-1952. She was the first woman to be appointed as chair of the Music Educators Journal.
- Frances Andrews (1908-1976) received her Masters and Doctorate from Pennsylvania State University, where she was a faculty member from 1943 to 1973. She was President of the Music Educators National Conference from 1970-1972.
- Mary Hoffman (1926-1997) graduated with a Bachelors degree in science from Lebanon Valley College and a Masters from Columbia Teachers College. She was a music supervisor in Milwaukee and Philadelphia. She gave graduate courses at Columbia Teachers College, Temple University and the University of Illinois. She wrote and contributed to textbooks. She was President of the Music Educators National Conference from 1980-1982.
- Dorothy Straub (born 1941) graduated with Bachelors and Masters degrees in music education from Indiana University. She was the music coordinator for Fairfield Public Schools in Connecticut. She was a violinist in two orchestras. She was given awards from the American String Teachers Association and the National School Orchestra Association. She was President of the Music Educators National Conference from 1992-1994.
- Carolynn Lindeman (born 1940) graduated from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, the Mozarteum Academy, San Francisco State University and Stanford University, where she received her Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA). She was a professor at San Francisco State University from 1973 to 2005. She was President of the Music Educators National Conference from 1996-1998. She edited the "Strategies for Teaching" series. She "[a]cknoledge[d] discrimination in academia."
- June Hinckley (1943-2007) graduated with a PhD from Florida State University. She was a music and fine arts supervisor in Brevard County in Florida. She wrote articles on music education. She was President of the Music Educators National Conference from 1998-2000.
- Lynn Brinckmeyer received her PhD from the University of Kansas. She was an Associate Professor and Director of Choral Music Education at Texas State University. She was President of the Music Educators National Conference from 2006-2008.
- Barbara Geer graduated from the University of North Carolina. She was a music consultant for a school system in North Carolina. She was President of the Music Educators National Conference from 2008-2010.
Influential music educators
- Jamey Aebersold
- Ysaye Barnwell
- Leonard Bernstein
- Edward Bailey Birge
- Nadia Boulanger
- Allen Britton
- Rylie Brown
- Pamela Burnard
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