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Music Education: “State of the Nation” Benchmark Study

January 11, 200611 January 2006

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This survey of music education programs in schools was “intended to provide some directional information on music program penetration, types of programs, teacher qualifications, resources, support and the importance of music instruction in the educational experience”. Given that most of the schools responding had music programs, the detailed survey results may not provide a representative sample of all schools in , many of which do not have music programs.

Based on the results from those schools that did respond, “Manitoba stands out as a leader in delivering quality music programs in their schools”, while Ontario “is facing the greatest challenges in delivering quality music programs”. Even though schools with music programs were most likely to respond to the survey, over half of the respondents indicated that non-specialists are teaching music at their school.

Respondents’ written comments regarding funding, time, instruments and space include: “music is taught in the gym”; “more time is needed in the school day to teach music”; and “music programs base their survival on parent support and fund-raising”. One teacher noted that “it is a constant struggle to maintain funding, and I often buy most of my resources and try to gain available space.” Crucial elements of successful programs include a supportive principal, colleagues and community.

Regarding teacher qualifications, respondents indicated that many music teachers are not specialists. One principal noted that, “while I personally feel music is important, I had to make choices, and music with a qualified teacher had to be cut along with Phys Ed and art”. Teacher training in the arts was also an important concern.

Concerning curriculum issues, respondents highlighted the outdated curriculum in some jurisdictions as well as “the secondary school pressures for students and timetabling pressures for teachers”.

Respondents indicated that “students are coming into the middle school and secondary programs almost musically illiterate”. Given limited time, many secondary students drop “frill” subjects such as the arts in favour of compulsory credits and “academic” programs that are considered more “marketable”.

Regarding advocacy, a teacher noted that “it is a constant struggle to keep kids and parents convinced that music is important”. One respondent indicated that “workshops for teachers around the integration of music in other subjects would be beneficial (connections to numeracy, literacy, etc.)”. Others would like to know how to better promote music programs and encourage others to “respect and encourage the power of music”.

The report also highlights a few success stories: “Our school has 37 students with profound physical and cognitive disabilities. Music is key around here for language development, attending, responding, choice making. Music therapy is now … part of our school budget – hurray!” “Music is at the heart of what makes our school beat. It is the outreach to the community and the lighthouse to draw others towards its importance to our city.” “Music is every bit as important as any academic subject. It is a lifelong gift.”

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