Teaching experience has shown that repetition increases the likelihood that something will be memorized and what was taught today is more likely to be recalled than what was taught yesterday - and this is especially so in the case of music. Learning music can be enjoyable as well as educational. A student can choose how and when to engage with music and can use music for different purposes, including as a background to other activities, to enhance social events or for peer group reinforcement. Music education embraces not only teaching in the formal classrooms of schools and colleges but also the activities of instrumental instructors. There are many other people who teach music and facilitate access to music without necessarily thinking of themselves as teachers in any formal sense, including music promoters, composers, performers, program writers, critics, people in TV, film and radio and organizers of festivals.
Teaching music could be defined as a process during which a musical educator inducts students into musical practices through active music making. Achieving the aims and values of music education depends on engaging students in sustained and purposeful musical thinking that is in line with the practices of different music cultures. However, in teaching students how to practice effectively, it is important to consider that frustration and boredom often arise from disconnected, acontextual efforts. Teachers must help students understand how their practicing leads to chosen ends. Even exercises designed to help correct basic problems must be taught in an interesting way by linking the student's individual efforts to the larger artistic goals of the practicum.
There are many differences between formal schooling and apprenticeship methods in teaching music. Apprenticeship embeds the learning of skills and knowledge in their social and functional context and therefore it is the way students learn most naturally, especially when it comes to music. The informal, impressionistic and supervisory musical knowings possessed by an expert music teacher are potent. These understandings have led many music teachers to the conclusion that music teaching and learning are best carried out in a learning environment that emphasizes reflective music making. Of significant importance for success in teaching music is the educator's commitment to being a musical mentor.
Music is taught throughout the U.S. school system in elementary, middle and high schools with additional opportunities for extra-curricular activities such as the increasingly popular Glee clubs. In the college system, there are also specialist schools such as Pinnacle College, VanderCook College of Music and McNally Smith College of Music which offer extensive educational opportunities for budding musicians. According to reports in the U.S. press, music programs in the country's schools have been hit badly by budget cuts, with local boards taking the decision to axe teaching in this area as funding becomes tighter. Ricki Pedersen, a music teacher at Chula Vista Elementary School told the San Diego Union Tribune (November 19, 2004): "I don't know how long any elementary school is going to be able to keep a music program." Other music teachers have expressed concerns that their subject is being hit hard because music results don't contribute to the test figures provided by schools to the U.S. Department of Education. The Weill Music Institute, supported by the world-famous New York-based Carnegie Hall, also runs school programs for children in elementary, middle and high school in music making and helps them develop an understanding of the important role played by music in America's culture and globally. For middle school children, it offers teaching in African American music to children in grades 6 to 8.
In his term of office between 1993 and 2001, President Bill Clinton encouraged support of music education. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Education reinstated the arts in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, with an emphasis on music and instruction in the arts as part of improving performances of the children in American schools. Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education in the administration of President Barack Obama, is a keen advocate of the teaching of music in schools. Duncan echoed the words of First Lady Michelle Obama by saying "the arts are not just a nice thing to have or do if there is free time or if one can afford it… paintings and poetry, music and design… they all define who we are as a people." In 2009, Duncan highlighted his support in a series of music events at the White House showing the importance of its arts education program.