High-Quality Music Teaching, Part 1

In a world of “exponential technological growth, market-centered culture, and test-centered education,” what drives our profession?

Alfred S. Townsend, who posed the question, enumerates six key areas over which music educators have control and that can lead to better teaching and learning.


  • Make it challenging:  Effective teachers in other subject areas are constantly striving to expose learners to “first-rate content through the study of the monuments of literature and art and by helping students analyze these creations. We as music educators should do the same by using quality literature in our teaching,” says Townsend.
  • Make it worth their time:  When you choose music for performance and listening experiences, ask yourself, “Does this literature have acknowledged artistic merit?” Cleverly promoted current music may not withstand the merit test.
  • Make it multicultural:  For students to be meaningfully engaged in today’s global society, Townsend says, “content should include frequent listening experiences and performance of high-quality musics from a range of cultures.”

This six-part series is adapted from “Driving Music Education: Who’s at the Wheel?,” a Lectern column by Alfred S. Townsend printed in the August 2008 issue of Teaching Music.
MENC member Alfred S. Townsend is the first appointee to the F. Ludwig Diehn Endowed Chair in Instrumental Music Education in the music department of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate music education courses. His current research includes developing a research-based philosophy of music teaching and learning, and connecting parents with learning what their children are studying in music classrooms.

–Ella Wilcox, December 14, 2010, © National Association for Music Education (www.nafme.org)