Where We Stand

Where We Stand – MENC’s position on a variety of music education topics and issues

MENC: The National Association for Music Education is the only national professional organization that addresses all aspects of music education. Its more than 85,000 members represent all levels of teaching from preschool to graduate school. Since 1907, MENC has worked to improve the lives of America’s young people by promoting access to a balanced, comprehensive, and high-quality program of music instruction taught by certified and qualified teachers. The following statements represent MENC’s position on a variety of topics and issues that concern music education.

The Role of Music in American Education

Music and the Other Basics

  1. The Arts constitute one of the five fundamental components of basic education, along with language arts, mathematics, physical sciences, and social sciences. These fields of study should be at the core of every child’s education.
  2. The Arts are defined as music, visual arts, theatre, and dance. Only courses that emphasize these subjects should be accepted as satisfying requirements in the visual and performing arts.
  3. Every high school should require at least one year of study in music, visual arts, theatre, or dance for graduation and should encourage additional study in the arts.
  4. Every college and university should require at least one year of study in music, visual arts, theatre, or dance for admission and should encourage additional study in the arts.

Access to Music Education

  1. Because of the role of the arts in civilization, and because of their unique ability to communicate the ideas and emotions of the human spirit, every American student, preK through grade 12, should receive a balanced, comprehensive, sequential, and rigorous program of instruction in music and the other arts. This includes students in public schools, private schools, and charter schools, as well as home-schooled students.
  2. Music study should be a required part of education for every student each year through grade eight, and every student in grades 9-12 should have the opportunity to elect music study each year.

Support for Music Education

  1. The professional staff of every state education agency should include a music supervisor, coordinator or specialist in order to provide professional leadership and assistance to local boards of education, teachers and administrators, as well as to facilitate liaison with local communities and decision-makers.
  2. Every school or school system should provide adequate financial resources to support a quality music program as described in Opportunity-to-Learn Standards for Music Instruction. In public schools, this support should come from public funds. Programs should not be dependent upon funds raised by students, teachers, or support groups.
  3. If fiscal pressures require cutbacks in school programs, music should not suffer a cutback disproportionate to the rest of the instructional program. Cost reductions should be sought first by eliminating auxiliary and non-instructional services. If further cutbacks are required, the goal should be to preserve a balanced curriculum at all grade levels as opposed to eliminating any part of the basic instructional program.
  4. Pre-service and in-service education for teaching music should be designed to help music educators plan and teach a comprehensive music program based on the National Standards for Music Education.

Objectives of Music Education

  1. The music program should be based on the skills and knowledge outlined in The School Music Program:  A New Vision. These skills and knowledge will provide students with a well-grounded understanding of the nature, value, and meaning of music in order that they may participate fully in their musical culture.
  2. The PreK music education program should enable children to explore music by:
    • singing and playing instruments
    • creating music
    • responding to music
    • understanding music

The K-12 music program should enable students to develop skills and knowledge in:

  • singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music
  • performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music
  • improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments
  • composing and arranging music within specified guidelines
  • reading and notating music
  • listening to, analyzing, and describing music
  • evaluating music and music performances
  • understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts
  • understanding music in relation to history and culture

Conditions and Expectations for Music Instruction

The Importance of Standards for Music Instruction

  1. Both history and practice support the belief that there is a high correlation between successful student learning in music and the existence of favorable learning conditions. Detailed standards for curriculum and scheduling, staffing, materials and equipment, and facilities necessary to implement the program described in The School Music Program: A New Vision are described in Opportunity-to-Learn Standards for Music Instruction.

Curriculum and Scheduling

  1. The music curriculum should (1) be suited to the needs of the individual students, (2) reflect the multicultural nature of our pluralistic American culture, (3) include music of the world and other times in history, (4) be responsive to the requirements of the diverse populations in our schools, including the musically talented, (5) provide sufficient course offerings for students to participate in performance and nonperformance courses, and (6) incorporate the media and technology of contemporary America.
  2. The music curriculum should be described and outlined in a series of sequential curriculum guides for each grade level or course offering.
  3. Music should be taught during the school day.
    • Every elementary school student should receive at least ninety minutes of general music instruction each week in periods of age-appropriate length.
    • Alternative scheduling initiatives, such as block scheduling, multi-age grouping, and year-round schools, should provide every student with the same access to comprehensive, balanced, and sequential music instruction as more traditional scheduling procedures. In schools with traditional schedules, the school day should include no fewer than eight instructional periods.
  4. All secondary school programs should include course offerings in instrumental, choral, and general music.
  5. Opportunities to begin instrumental music instruction should be available at all levels beginning no later than the upper elementary level as outlined in Opportunity-to-Learn Standards for Music Instruction.
  6. The study of music should be integrated as appropriate into all of the disciplines of the curriculum. Similarly, content from other disciplines can be used effectively to enrich the study of music. In efforts to integrate instruction, the study of music should maintain its integrity and music should be taught primarily for its own sake rather than as a means to achieve nonmusical goals.


All levels:

  1. Music should be taught by certified and qualified teachers. The contributions of professional musicians and classroom teachers may complement but not substitute for a balanced, comprehensive, and sequential music program taught primarily by certified and qualified teachers.
  2. In order that the instructional program be adequately coordinated and articulated from level to level, one or more music educators, according to the size of the district, should be designated as coordina-tor, supervisor, or administrator and appropriately
    compensated and supported.
  3. Professional development opportunities should be provided for all music educators to increase their musical knowledge and skills, to learn new instructional strategies and to remain current in the profession.
  4. Every music educator should have at least thirty minutes during each school day for preparation, planning, and student evaluation.
  5. Sufficient travel time should be calculated in the teaching schedule of every music educator who must move from school to school or room to room.
  6. Students with disabilities should, to the fullest extent possible, have the opportunity to participate in elective choral and instrumental experiences. Teacher aides or paraprofessionals should be provided in music classes for students who require them in other classes.


  1. In the elementary grades, classroom teachers should be qualified to complement the music instruction delivered by the music specialist.
  2. The music teacher:student ratio should be no higher than 1:400.


  1. An accompanist should be provided during regular daily rehearsals for choral ensemble classes.

Materials and Equipment

  1. Every teacher should be provided with sufficient and appropriate materials, instruments, and equipment with which to teach. All materials should be current and in good condition. All equipment should be of high quality and in good repair.
  2. Every student should have access to appropriate educational technology and the opportunity to explore its potential. Technology should be used to achieve the objectives of music education, rather than used for its own sake.
  3. An annual budget should be provided to update materials and equipment and for the repair or replacement of equipment necessary for music instruction.


  1. Every music educator should be provided with appropriate facilities in which to teach and plan. All facilities should be large enough to accommodate the largest group taught.
  2. All facilities should have adequate acoustical properties and should provide sufficient, secured storage. Additionally, music programs should have access to a performance facility with acoustical properties to appropriately showcase student performance.

Current Issues in Music Education

Academic Eligibility Requirements

Academic eligibility requirements are not appropriate when applied to students enrolled in scheduled, credit-bearing music classes, including performance groups. Such classes include requirements for out-of-school performances, concerts, festivals, and other activities that serve as laboratories to demonstrate and assess what has been learned.

Supplementary Fees

No student should be required to pay a supplementary fee to participate in a scheduled, credit-bearing music class.

Music with Religious Texts

The study and performance of music with religious texts within an educational context is a vital and appropriate part of a comprehensive music education. The omission of sacred music from the school curriculum would result in an incomplete educational experience. Music educators should demonstrate sensitivity to the diversity of beliefs represented by their students.

Assessment of Students, Teachers, and Programs

Every school district should use reliable, valid, and appropriate instruments and techniques for assessing student learning, teacher competence, and program effectiveness in music. Music educators should be effectively represented on the committees that establish the criteria, materials, and procedures by which music educators are evaluated. Special instruments, items, or techniques may be required to evaluate the special competencies needed by music educators. The evaluator of a music educator, or at least one member of the evaluation team, should be knowledgeable about music education.

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools can provide an enriched music education for musically talented or interested students. Such schools may play an important part in the music instruction program of a school district provided they do not result in a reduction in the quantity or quality of music instruction in other schools within the district.


Trips by school music organizations should be justified on the basis of their educational value to students. Teachers should consider the following in making decisions regarding whether or not to schedule a trip: (1) the effect of the trip on the students’ educational programs, (2) the cost and effort required in relation to the educational value, (3) the age of the students, and (4) the effect of the trip on other aspects of the music curriculum and the total school curriculum.

Educational Partnerships

Music educators should seek opportunities to advance music education by utilizing the resources of their communities and by working cooperatively with other individuals and groups such as professional musicians, the music industry, arts organizations, and educational organizations.

The Music Code of Ethics

In making judgments concerning the jurisdictions of professional musicians and school musicians, music educators should be guided by The Music Code of Ethics, an agreement signed by the American Federation of Musicians, MENC, the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.


“The Music Code of Ethics.” Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1997.

Opportunity-to-Learn Standards for Music Instruction: Grades PreK-12. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1994.

Performance Standards for Music: Strategies and Benchmarks for Assessing Progress Toward the National Standards–Grades PreK-12. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1996.

“Religious Music in the Schools.” Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1996.

The School Music Program: A New Vision. The K-12 National Standards, PreK Standards, and What They Mean to Music Educators. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1994.


The following professional organizations join with MENC in promoting this music education position paper:

American Association of School Administrators
American Bandmasters Association
American Federation of Musicians
American Music Conference
American String Teachers Association
American Symphony Orchestra League
Chamber Music America
Council for Basic Education
Fender Musical Instruments
Future Business Leaders of America
National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors
National Association of Pastoral Musicians
National Association of School Music Dealers
National Federation of Music Clubs
National Piano Foundation
National School Orchestra Association
Piano Manufacturers Association International
Sweet Adelines International


The following professional organizations have added their support for the goals and ideals implied in the music education position paper:

American Guild of English Handbell Ringers
Association of Teacher Educators
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
National Association of Schools of Art and Design
National Association of Schools of Dance
National Association of Schools of Music
National Association of Schools of Theatre
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts
Young Audiences, Inc.

Adopted by the National Executive Board, March 1997

MENC: The National Association for Music Education
1806 Robert Fulton Drive

Reston, VA 20191