Music Education in Our Schools: Supporting Public Policies That Work

By Thomashower, James E. | The American Organist, March 2019 | Go to article overview

Music Education in Our Schools: Supporting Public Policies That Work


Thomashower, James E., The American Organist


March is "Music In Our Schools" month, a time when many of our collegial organizations and their constituents are focused on strengthening the music programs in educational institutions at the K-12 level. We should be doing so too. After all, the AGO is a not-for-profit educational association, and it is our program of educational activities that specifically entitles us to operate as a 501(c)(3) organization exempt from paying income taxes. Our mission includes the phrase "share our knowledge" in recognition of the ongoing educational efforts our thriving community of musicians undertakes to inspire passion for the organ among students of all ages.

The AGO belongs to a consortium called the National Music Council, which counts several dozen prestigious national music organizations among its members. The public policies detailed below were discussed in a recent meeting of the NMC Board of Directors that I attended. To that end, I am thankful to my NMC colleagues and to the National Association for Music Education, which conducted the research and developed the themes that form the basis of this column.

Every member of the American Guild of Organists knows that the health of our musical culture depends on many factors: ease of access to inspiring musical performances, wide distribution of published and recorded music, the continuing manufacture and sale of high quality instruments and musical accessories, the development of new technologies, and much more.

Foundationally, every area of activity in music will be enhanced by the maintenance of a strong and ongoing system that provides music education to all. While music education can take many forms and show up in many places, the most important-and most nearly universal-venue for music education is our nation's schools. Collectively, these schools form a system that is truly enormous, serving nearly 75 million students.

As in all large systems, a daunting set of policies drives and directs our schools. At the federal level, the controlling legislation is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a rare bipartisan success passed in 2015 and listing music for the first time as a part of a "well-rounded" education. …

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