A Reading List for Music Educators

A Reading List for Music Educators


This November presenters at NAfME’s 2017 National In-Service Conference will lead sessions on a variety of topics—including best practices for concert bands; conducting techniques; choral rehearsal tips; technology in orchestra rehearsal; music literacy; and more.

Check out a few of the presenters’ books for your own reading and learning—and register today to meet and learn from the authors.




Peter Boonshaft, Teaching Music with Passion; Teaching Music with Purpose; Teaching Music with Promise; and Teaching with Passion, Purpose, and Promise (Meredith Music, 2002, 2006, 2009)

Teaching Music with Passion is a one-of-a-kind, collective masterpiece of thoughts, ideas and suggestions that will surely change the way you teach. Filled with personal experiences, anecdotes and wonderful quotations, this book is an easy-to-read, must-read treasure!

Like his first critically acclaimed international best seller Teaching Music with Passion, Teaching Music with Purpose is even more poignant and powerful. Called one of the most exciting and exhilarating voices in music education today, Boonshaft’s latest work is both inspirational and instructional and will definitely warm your heart and transform your teaching.

Filled with inspirational anecdotes, thought provoking quotations and motivational ideas on how to improve your teaching, this is a must-read treasure trove for every music educator. (Teaching Music with Promise)

A collection of practical solutions, inspirational stories, thought-provoking quotations and motivational ideas for teachers of all levels and disciplines. It affirms the wonder of education, the true importance of learning and the essence of what being a teacher truly means. It challenges the reader’s mind, enlivens the spirit and engages the heart with realistic suggestions and philosophical reflections that will surely touch your soul. (Teaching with Passion, Purpose, and Promise)



Bob Duke and James Byo, The Habits of Musicianship: A Radical Approach to Beginning Band (Center for Music Learning)

The Habits of Musicianship is an introductory method book for the first year of instrumental class instruction. Appropriate for use in middle school beginning band classes and in college instrumental techniques classes, the book embodies an approach to music learning that is in many ways unique. The Center for Music Learning is distributing the method free of charge through this website; and although it retains the copyrights to the materials, teachers have blanket permission to make unlimited copies for themselves and for their own students.


band directors

Ronald E. Kearns, Quick Reference for Band Directors (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011)

Quick Reference for Band Directors is a go-to guide for new and experienced band directors. With tips on recruiting and retaining members, preparing lesson plans and program objectives, developing a booster group, budgeting, classroom management, using technology, and making emergency repairs, this book will soon number among your closest advisors. Learn how to build, maintain, and improve your program. Get tips on how to structure concert band, symphonic band, wind ensemble, marching band, small ensembles, jazz band, and pep band while developing musicianship. The book focuses on high school band programs but offers advice for elementary and middle school directors as well. Read it sequentially or select the chapters most pertinent to you. You’ll come back again and again to benefit from the author’s thirty years of teaching.




Christopher Selby, Habits of a Successful Orchestra Director (GIA Publications, 2016)

Christopher Selby and his team have created a resource that is rich with practical strategies for developing a successful orchestra program. This book will inspire young and veteran orchestra directors looking for fresh ideas about teaching orchestra students of all ages to:

  • Perform with refined intonation, expressive musicianship, and a beautiful tone
  • Develop advanced performance technique, rhythmic precision, and ensemble skills
  • Sight-read better, rehearse more efficiently in class, and practice better at home
  • Become orchestra leaders and take greater pride and ownership in your ensemble

Additional sections in Habits of a Successful Orchestra Director address rehearsal strategies, classroom policies, long-range planning, assessment, tips for building an orchestra program, and suggestions for communicating with parents and principals to better support the orchestra.




Stephen Paparo (contributor), Musicianship: Composing in Choir (GIA Publications, 2016)

Musicianship: Composing in Choir is a pioneering and practical answer to one of the great music education mysteries: how to effectively bring music composition to the choir room at all levels, in alignment with the National Core Arts Standards. Written and edited by Jody Kerchner and Katherine Strand together with a team of 18 nationally recognized teachers, researchers, and musicians, this book is truly a landmark publication. 

Central to this book are engaging project-based activities for individuals, small groups, and full ensembles. The authors’ goal is to provide singers with exciting new tools for exploring music. By promoting comprehensive choral musicianship, teachers will celebrate their students’ creativity, and their own.




Ronald E. Kearns, Recording Tips for Music Educators (Oxford University Press, 2017)

Recording Tips for Music Educators: A Practical Guide for Recording School Groups provides a go-to guide for music educators to plan and execute a successful recording project for school groups. For those teachers who are not comfortable with the recording process, this book functions as a catalyst to becoming comfortable with the planning, execution, and use of a school recording project. One of the most valuable tools for teaching is for students to be able to evaluate themselves. A good recording of the group helps students listen critically and make accurate evaluations of how well they have performed literature they have been taught over time. Covering planning, equipment needs, and equipment use, Recording Tips for Music Educators ensures that educators not trained in music production will be able to create praise-worthy recordings.


General Music


Denese Odegaard, Curriculum Writing 101: Assistance with Standards-based Music Curriculum and Assessment Writing for Band, Choir, Orchestra and General Music (GIA Publications, 2009)

Help music students learn more in less time, reach higher goals, and become active participants in their education. This important book takes you through the steps needed to create an effective music education curriculum for you, your school, and your district.

A sequenced music curriculum is the ultimate win-win for your program: it gives direction to your teaching, builds cohesion among your colleagues, engages students and parents in goals you set, and builds awareness and support from your school’s administrators.

Curriculum Writing 101 contains the blueprint and examples to help you build the right curriculum for your music program, demystifying the processes of developing a standards-based curriculum with related assessments of student learning.


music research

Bob Duke, Intelligent Music Teaching: Essays on the Core Principles of Effective Instruction (Learning and Behavior Resources, 2009)

In this collection of insightful essays, the author describes fundamental principles of human learning in the context of teaching music. Written in an engaging, conversational style, the individual essays in Intelligent Music Teaching outline the elements of intelligent, creative teaching. Duke effectively explains how teachers can meet the needs of individual students from a wide range of abilities by understanding more deeply how people learn. Teachers and interested parents alike will benefit from this informative and highly readable book. Visit the Center for Music Learning to learn more.


music research

Sandra Doneski (contributor), Handbook: Research on Teaching and Learning in Music Education (Oxford University Press, 2011)

The Handbook: Research on Teaching and Learning in Music Education brings together the best and most current research on best practice for music learning, focusing squarely on the profession’s empirical and conceptual knowledge of how students gain competence in music at various ages and in different contexts. The collection of chapters, written by the foremost figures active in the field, addresses a range of best practices for approaching current and important areas in the field, including cognition and perception, music listening, vocal/choral learning, and the needs of special learners. The book’s companion volume, Strategies, provides the solid theoretical framework and extensive research upon which these practices stand.

Throughout both volumes in this essential set, focus is placed on the musical knowledge and musical skills needed to perform, create, understand, reflect on, enjoy, value, and respond to music. A key point of emphasis rests on the relationship between music learning and finding meaning in music, and as music technology plays an increasingly important role in learning today, chapters move beyond exclusively formal classroom instruction into other forms of systematic learning and informal instruction. 

Either individually or paired with its companion Volume 1: Strategies, this indispensable overview of this growing area of inquiry will appeal to students and scholars in Music Education, as well as front-line music educators in the classroom.



Laura J. Andrews, Integrating Music and Reading Instruction: Teaching Strategies for Upper Elementary Grades (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002)

Addressing the important topic of the effects of music and reading integration on students’ achievements and attitudes, Integrating Music and Reading Instruction presents twenty lessons for integrating selected music and reading concepts and skills. Designed for upper-elementary music and reading teachers, it provides specific materials and teaching techniques.



Alison M. Reynolds (contributor), Music Play: The Early Childhood Music Curriculum (GIA Publications, 1998)

Children are naturally fascinated with sound and movement play as they teach themselves how to function in the world. Moreover, each child born on this earth has the potential to learn music. Without early, sequential music development guidance, however, the potential for true music understanding and enjoyment is left underdeveloped in most children.

This developmentally appropriate music series is based on the groundbreaking book A Music Learning Theory for Newborn and Young Children (Edwin E. Gordon, GIA Publications, Inc., 1997) as well as years of practical and experimental research. Music Play is designed to assist teachers, parents, and caregivers of newborn and young children in the development of basic music skills such as singing, rhythm chanting, and moving.



Alison M. Reynolds (contributor), Jump Right In: The Music Curriculum (GIA Publications, originally published 1990)

Jump Right In: Kindergarten is a compelling collection of songs and activities, brilliantly sequenced with lesson plans that offer unparalleled educational opportunities, convenience, and affordability. All of these resources are based on the pioneering Music Learning Theory of Edwin E. Gordon. Books on other topics in music curriculum are also available.


early childhood

Diana R. Dansereau (contributor), Learning from Young Children: Research in Early Childhood Music (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011)

In early childhood, the most important period of learning and human development, young children often achieve developmental milestones in a short time. Learning from Young Children: Research in Early Childhood Music presents research on the importance of fostering musical growth during this period.


Special Learners

special learners

Alice-Ann Darrow, Music in Special Education (American Music Therapy Association, 2010)

The field of special education has changed greatly over the past three decades. With this change, the responsibilities of music educators and music therapists have also changed. Music professionals in the schools must keep abreast of new laws, terminology, approaches, materials, and technology in order to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Inclusive education has contributed to the changed roles of music therapists and music educators in the classroom. Music in Special Education (2nd edition) provides an introduction to the current role of music education and music therapy in the lives of students with disabilities and their families. This completely updated edition of Music in Special Education explains important features of special education that are essential for interdisciplinary communication and effective teaching.


The Education Profession

professional development

Paul G. Young, Enhancing the Professional Practice of Music Teachers: 101 Tips that Principals Want Music Teachers to Know and Do (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009)

If you want to improve your professional performance and set yourself apart from your colleagues—in any discipline—these tips are for you. If you desire anything less than achieving the very best, you won’t want this book. Rather than addressing research and theory about music education or the “how-tos” of teaching, Enhancing the Professional Practice of Music Teachers focuses on common-sense qualities and standards of performance that are essential for success-everywhere. Whether you’re considering a career in music education, entering your first year of teaching, or nearing the end of a distinguished tenure, this advice applies to musicians in any setting. Affirming quality performance for experienced teachers and guiding, nurturing, and supporting the novice, Young outlines what great music teachers do. Easy to read and straightforward, read it from beginning to end or focus on tips of interest. Come back time and again for encouragement, ideas, and affirmation of your choice to teach music.


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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

Catherina Hurlburt, Marketing Communications Manager, September 20, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)