Land of Opportunity

A variety of music experiences not found elsewhere and available to all students can be found in general music.

Sometimes the benefits of and the hard work that goes into the general music program go unnoticed at the secondary level. General music teachers deserve recognition for preparing students for performance ensembles. Often they’re the ones who plant the excitement of learning a musical instrument or singing in the choir.

While ensemble directors do include multicultural music and make curricular connections, often performance schedules minimize available time.

The general music classroom has more opportunities to

  • Study multicultural music in depth
  • Make cross-curricular connections
  • Improvise and compose
  • Listen to and analyze music
  • Study composers and eras of music,
  • Work with notational and music theory software
  • Enjoy music in a variety of ways—singing, playing an instrument, moving
  • Address all the National Standards for Music Education
  • Experiment with making music


In general music, students can take risks and try a variety of ways to make music. They can play a variety of instruments:

rhythm sticks maracas
xylophone bells
recorder guitar
conga drums electronic keyboard
djembe many other instruments

Students can express themselves through movement, improvisation, and composition. Whether gifted, talented, challenged, or average, every student can find opportunities in general music.

MENC member Jim Frisque says, “I have chosen to have all kids perform in concerts, and participation in musicals and small Orff ensembles has been open to all interested students. With concerts, all students learn a set group of songs but may sign up for solos and duets, Orff bell playing, recorder parts, movement, speaking parts, and learning sign language for songs.”

General music teachers provide the first building blocks, teach the first music concepts, and prepare students for their future music participation and appreciation.

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


—Linda Brown, June 25, 2008 © National Association for Music Education (