General Music–Truly Music for All

“To advance music education by encouraging the study and making of music by all.” This is MENC’s mission statement. General music teachers carry out this mission every day.

Who sees every student in the school?
Who teaches 400 to 500 students each week?
Who teaches 18 to 20 different classes?
Who teaches gifted students?
Who teaches students with special needs?
Who frequently addresses all the National Standards for Music Education?

General music teachers do. They also try to make music meaningful for everyone they see and often give up lunch and after-school time to work with students.

The general music program encompasses all ages and a variety of elements. It’s impossible to name them all, but here are some:

Singing on pitch Composition
Rhythm and rhythm instruments Folk dancing
Music notation–reading and writing Orff instruments
Solfège Cross-curricular studies
Musical Instrument families Major and minor scales
Multicultural music–from around the block or around the world Accommodating multiple learning styles and abilities
Movement activities Differentiating curriculum
Listenting to and analyzing music Field trips to cultural arts events
Music software and lab School musicals
Recorders Schoolwide sing-alongs and concerts
Music forms (rounds, rondos, call and response) Understanding music from a historical or cultural focus
Improvisation Before- and after-school ensembles

MENC member Jim Frisque says, “I feel I have the best opportunity to influence the most children musically by teaching general music. It is challenging to teach 7 to 8 classes per day with little prep time and extreme ability levels in each class, but it can be rewarding to see that struggling student find success with music or that introverted student come alive with musical expression.”

If you teach middle school and beyond and your choral, band, or orchestra students can read music and understand rhythm, if they understand major and minor scales, are familiar with various composers, and are used to performing, please thank their general music teachers.

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

—Linda Brown, June 18, 2008 © National Association for Music Education (