Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions

Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions. The Core Music Standards don’t ignore the development of skills, knowledge, and dispositions that music teachers have addressed for generations. They involve the use of these personal and collaborative habits as student’s participate and engage in music education while achieving literacy in music.   

NAfME Councils have provided in-depth templates for teaching area and level to assist teachers and curriculum planners make these essential connections. Please refer to the additional document following a teaching area for a description of the dispositions along with the format and descriptions of the knowledge and skills sections.




Thank you to the the following NAfME Councils and its members for providing the Dispositions, Knowledge, and Skills content:

  • Band– Council Chair, John Miller

  • General Music– Council Chair, Bridget James. Past-Chair and Member-at-Large Sarah J. Bartolome.       Jennifer Bailey (Central Division Representative);  Amy Anderson (Southwestern Division Representative); Erin Zaffini  (Eastern Division Representative);  Val Ellett (Northwest Division Representative); Anne Fennell (Western Division Representative);  Sarah Watts  (Member-at-Large); Rob Lyda (Southern Division Rep/Chair-Elect)

  • Guitar-Council Chair, Bill Swick. Past-Council Chair, Glen McCarthy

  • IN-Ovations– Council Chair, Anne Fennell. Past-Chair Jeanne W. Reynolds

  • Jazz– Council Chair, Richard Victor

  • Music Composition– Council Chair, Patricia Riley

  • Orchestra – Council Chair, Joanne May.  Past-Chair, Christopher Selby


“Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions” defined (revised January 2017):

This category of knowledge refers to the understanding and application of the organization of music, using knowledge of music theory and notation to identify how the elements of music (pitch, rhythm, harmony, dynamics, timbre, texture, form, and style/articulation) are used within a piece, including the difficulty or challenges of music being performed or created.

This category of knowledge refers to the historical, cultural and social context of the music as well as the impact of the purpose and venue of our choices (selections) and presentation of music, including programming, etiquette, performance, and behavior.

Evaluation Criteria
This category of knowledge refers to the understanding of the criteria that are used to evaluate music and performances and how this knowledge impacts our ability to identify and solve musical problems and make decisions based on an awareness of individual and other participants’ strengths, needs, and/or preferences.

This area of skills refers to the performance abilities and qualities that are expected at a specific grade or level (often embedded in core music standards developed at states or national levels and/or on audition and adjudication forms). These include areas such as technique, sound quality, technical accuracy, interpretation and expression and ensemble skills; as well as implementing effective approaches for selecting and programming appropriate work(s) for performance and refining work using effective practice strategies and work habits. In addition, it includes the presentation or performance of work demonstrating appropriate etiquette and deportment (see context). These skills are expressed through singing, playing instruments, and movement.

This area of creating refers to  skills that are expected at a specific grade or level, in areas such as imagination, craftsmanship, and the ability to create and/or refine work by making effective choices for specific contexts to express personal intent. These are expressed through improvising, arranging, and composing.

Listening, Reading, Notating
This area of skills refers to literacy in music at specific grade levels, including the aural and notational skills needed to hear, read, and notate the melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, and expressive elements of music. These are expressed through listening (audiating), reading, and notating music.

This area of skills refers to the application of evaluative or assessment criteria to the processes of creating, performing, and responding to music. It is expressed through assessments (self and group), including critiques of music and performances.

DISPOSITIONS — qualities of character and mind
Working with others interdependently to perform a task and to achieve shared goals

Demonstrating the ability to see and hear multiple perspectives and monitor and/or adjust work based on input from a variety of sources and depending on differing conditions.

Establishing specific and timely goals for completion of work.

Having curiosity and drive to learn more about known and unknown strategies, techniques, concepts, applications, ideas and musical phenomena.

Openness and respect for the ideas and work of others
Listening with understanding and empathy to others who have differing ideas, understandings, and/or cultural backgrounds.

Responsible Risk-Taking
Willing to chance making mistakes while tackling challenging musical or ensemble problems that do not have easy, obvious, or conventional solutions, and seeing these challenges as opportunities for learning and growth.

Applying self-knowledge and objective evaluation to personal work through questioning and introspection.

Self-discipline and Perseverance
Demonstrating independence and self-motivation, managing impulsivity, and learning/applying delayed gratification while striving for excellence.

  • Katherine Lauson-Iriarte

    Hmm, I do not see vocal or choral. What accommodations are being provided for this area?

    • Adriane Darvishian

      Hello. The guiding documents for the Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions have been contributed by various NAfME Councils within their expertise area. Supporting information from the Council for Choral Education is a work in progress at this time. Please also visit if you have not already reviewed these other resources. Thank you.

  • ABrownJazzOrch

    I am astonished that the word “melody” does not appear in this list of ELEMENTS of music. Melody may be made of pitches, but melody is the central component of common practice music theory and as such should be listed: “This category of knowledge refers to the organization of music, using knowledge of music theory and notation to identify how the elements of music (pitch, rhythm, harmony, dynamics, timbre, texture, form, and style/articulation) are used within a piece, including the difficulty or challenges of music being performed or created.” Also, can someone please explain to me why students of performing ensembles such as band, orchestra or chorus have to learn to “compose” and “arrange” music? Isn’t the purpose to learn to read and interpret music to perform? I am a composer so I do see the importance of these activities, but do not understand why there is anything cited other than the enormous tasks related to getting young players to be successful performers within an ensemble. These opportunities are better suited in the general music or music theory classroom, in my opinion. Please forgive my confusion.

  • Amanda

    One thing I’m struggling with is aligning my Music Theory and Music Theory 2 (similar to AP) curriculum to the theory/composition standards. These standards are almost entirely based on composing expressively and analyzing compositions for the composer’s intent. These are great, but not what we do in Music Theory. Maybe I’m better off using the general music standards for these courses, but they only go up to 8th grade and I teach high school.