Every Student Making Music!

What if all 4th – 6th grade students (upper elementary) in the nation’s public schools were provided with instrumental and vocal music instruction during the regular school day? A school-wide delivery system such as this would help develop students’ potential for musical understanding. At the intermediate level, twice-weekly instrumental music would be embedded with components of the general music curriculum (i.e. Kodaly, Orff, Dalcroze). The students would also receive vocal music instruction once a week in a third class.

 Requirements for the Delivery System

All intermediate students would attend strings or band classes at the same time. The classes would be taught two highly qualified music teachers (specialists) and would eliminate the dreaded pullout system. While students attended instrumental music class, their classroom teacher would meet with other grade level teachers to collaborate, provided the schedule has been aligned with Art, PE, Media Center, etc.

 Removal of the Pullout System

Why is the study of instrumental music limited in many schools to the pullout system? Could it be due to insufficient funding in the district? Is it a means of offering music instruction during the school day as opposed to a before- or after-school program? No matter the reason, all students should have equal opportunities to learn and during the regular school day.

 Granted, an inclusive music program would most likely require additional contract allocations, instruments, etc. However, supplemental funding (e.g., grants) could be secured to purchase instruments. Also, at the onset, instead of providing each student with an instrument to take home, why not provide a classroom set of instruments, which would remain at the school?

 There are many things to consider when proposing an extensive change such as this. However, I clearly see at least two non-negotiable items. The music program must be:

  • Taught by highly skilled, effective music specialists and
  • Aligned with State Music Standards.

 Providing students with a sequential, comprehensive music education (including multiple experiences in moving, speaking, singing, listening, playing, reading and creating music) is essential. The young people in our schools today will soon take our places in the work force and community. They should be provided with as many opportunities during their developmental years to help ensure that they become outstanding, productive citizens.

 As students progress through elementary school, they are taught to read, write, do math calculations, etc. Why should they not also have mandatory music instruction during which time they experience singing, moving, playing, listening to and creating music? The music program should be designed so that it maintains the integrity of music for music’s sake, with the goal of creating students who develop a life-long appreciation for the various aspects of music and music making. After all, as Daniel Levitan’s theory embraces, music is what makes us human.

Source: The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature, Daniel Levitan

Author Ruth Argabright serves as District Music Education Coordinator for Mesa Public Schools. If you have questions or are interested in looking into the possibility of opening an in-house instrument repair shop, feel free to contact her at reargabr@mpsaz.org