Building Respect for Music Teachers

“How do we get more performance area teachers on board with us?” asks Jim Frisque, a general music teacher. Better relations are a two-way street. If you’re an ensemble director, have you tried something that improved your working relationship with an elementary general music teacher? If so, I’d like to hear from you.

Below are some suggestions from general music teachers for increasing the respect and appreciation they receive:

  • Christine Nowmos recommends regular districtwide meetings. Her district gives teachers in-service time to meet as a department. “The middle and high school teachers know what and how I teach because we talk about it,” Nowmos says. “I can explain the approach and philosophy behind what I do and some of the research I’ve read.”


  • Amy Anderson’s colleagues work together as a vertical team during summer curriculum writing, but, “My district still has a long way to go on vertical alignment in daily practice. My hope is that we can meet often enough to get to know one another and build a solid vertical team of music educators focused on the needs of all students at every grade level.”


  • Anderson also recommends attending state MEA meetings “where elementary music teachers are treated with respect and consideration. At the meetings, the comments and opinions of the elementary music teachers are given the same consideration as those from the band/choir folks.”


  • Anita Willard is developing a working relationship with the local high school music teacher. She arranged reciprocal concerts with her 4th- and 5th-grade chorus and the high school chorus. “Students at both levels came away charged with pride in their accomplishments,” she says.


  • Nowmos “trades accompanying duties” with the high school choir teacher, giving him firsthand knowledge of the work she does and her musicianship. She also mentors her elementary school band teacher. Both ensemble teachers can see how her work fits into the big picture of their students’ music education.


Surprisingly, some teachers posting on the general music forum told of negative comments from college professors about choosing to teach general music. One professor told a poster she was selling out and trying to take the easy path. Nowmos also has noticed an attitude among “performance track” faculty at some colleges that “general music isn’t as prestigious as instrumental or choral music is, and of course this attitude rubs off on students.”

MENC members quoted:

Jim Frisque teaches general music in the Monona Grove School District at Cottage Grove School in Cottage Grove, WI.

Christine Nowmos teaches at Mary S. Shoemaker Elementary School in Woodstown, NJ.

Amy Anderson teaches at Maggie Cordova Elementary School in Rio Rancho, NM.

Anita Willard teaches at Nellie Hart Sterling Elementary School in Warrensburg, MO.


–Linda Brown, July 2, 2008, © National Association for Music Education (