Music instruction moves beyond Beethoven and Bach

Students are collaborating in small groups to create their own music or record versions of hit songs
By: | June 23, 2020
A wider music palette that includes hip-hop, rock and electronic music is an example of how music instruction has become more culturally inclusive in recent years. (GettyImages/ Eleonora Cecchini)A wider music palette that includes hip-hop, rock and electronic music is an example of how music instruction has become more culturally inclusive in recent years. (GettyImages/ Eleonora Cecchini)

Over the last several years, a growing number of K-12 music programs have been adding hip hop, electronic dance and other popular music to their repertoires in an effort to becoming more “learner-centered,” says David Williams, a professor of music education at the University of South Florida.

This often means having students collaborate in small groups to create their own music or record versions of hit songs.

“Even without saying the words ‘technology’ and ‘popular music.’ you end up doing both because that’s typically what students want,” Williams says. “They want to make popular music on instruments that are digital.”

But it’s not all synthesizers, samples and sound effects—many schools have also added guitar instruction and modern rock band classes over the last several years, Williams says.


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A wider music palette is an example of how music instruction has become more culturally inclusive in recent years, adds Denese Odegaard, the immediate past president of The National Association for Music Education.

“Music lends itself to that so well because of all the rich cultures, traditions and backgrounds of our students,” Odegaard says. “Sharing this music allows students to understand each other better.”

While some K-12 administrators have made it a priority to provide an instrument to every student who wants one, music remains at the back of the funding line in some schools and districts.

Other schools and districts rely on outside groups—and parent fundraising efforts—to provide funding for instruments and music instruction. “Music can take up a large part of the budget,” Odegaard says.

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