Music education, in some form, goes back as far as education itself. While sometimes struggling for legitimacy, it nonetheless has had its champions. More recently, as technology has flourished within education, technological applications designed specifically for the teaching of music have been developed. While much of this technology is designed primarily for the classroom there are programs designed for the student to utilize in the home, albeit limited to those students with a home computer and internet access.
The teaching of music in the American educational setting dates back 1838 when Lowell Mason introduced singing classes to Boston grammar schools. Instrumental music appeared in fits and starts over the next fifty years but was never included during the school day; rather, it was relegated to the ranks of extracurricular activities. Around the turn of the century, instrumental music began to see some acceptance into the classroom, though often was taught by those untrained in the area of music education. Moreover, little if any standardization of the instrumentation or music literature existed. (Rhodes, 2007)
Near the conclusion of World War I the quality of school music began to increase. This was due primarily to veterans who, after having been musically trained in the various service branches, began to fill music teaching positions in the schools. Band, however, was still regarded as an extracurricular activity. (Ibid)
In 1907, the Music Supervisors National Conference or MSNC, (now known as the Music Educators National Conference or MENC) was organized to support school music. In 1912 a proposal was made to include, as accredited subjects, a number of music activities including choruses and general music. Band was included – but at a much lower priority. Later, however, at the Cleveland MSNC conference in 1923, Edgar B. Gordon stated,
“The high school band is no longer an incidental school enterprise prompted largely by the volunteer services of a high school teacher who happens to have had some band experience, but rather an undertaking which is assigned to a definite place in the school schedule with a daily class period under a trained instructor and with credit allowed for satisfactory work done.” (Ibid)
In the same year, and likely due to the increase in both acceptance and importance, Carl Greenleaf (then head of C. G. Conn Ltd.) helped organize the first National Band Contest in Chicago. Later, in 1928, he directed the Conn company to contribute to the founding of the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan and later supported publications designed to support band directors. While these endeavors may have appeared somewhat self-serving in light of his position with Conn, they nonetheless helped establish school band as a significant part of school curriculum. (Banks, 1997)
Despite a gradual, while still limited, acceptance of instrumental music within the school curriculum, budget cuts have often curtailed or even eliminated these programs. Further, with the recent increased emphasis upon “teaching to the test” due to the pressures of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and similar state requirements, support for the inclusion of music in schools has begun to wane. Michelle R. Davis, in “Education Week,” stated “The federal No Child Left Behind Act is prompting many schools to cut back on subjects such as social studies, music, and art to make more time for reading and mathematics…” (Davis, 2006) This is most unfortunate considering that the study of music, especially instrumental music, has proved to be beneficial for all students – even increasing their ability to reason and problem-solve.