What Music can Teach

The purpose of this exercise was to challenge myself to organize everything I believe music can teach. Surely my thinking will evolve, and I will build on this as I continue to learn, think, and write.

Listen, Play, Create

By directly engaging with sound through listening, playing, or creating, we can learn to hear our world in greater detail.

Listen – dissect, audiate, play by ear
Play – many instruments and styles, including singing and digital instruments
Create – imagine, improvise, design

Challenge musicians to apply what they learned in one musical experience to new ones. And to consider the perspectives of the audience, performers, and designers when listening, playing, and creating.

Musical Style & Expression

Musical style – Just as people in different places and times develop unique sounds to their languages and accents, so too for their music. Students should experience diverse musical styles through listening, playing, and creating. As in all things, balance depth with width.

Musical expression – To me this means, just as with speech, utilizing inflection, diction, and dynamics to communicate feelings and emotions. Practice expressing, through playing and creating, idiomatically in a variety of styles. And with time, develop a unique musical voice.

General Skills

Work ethic, critical thinking, creativity, design

Playing the Game

By this I mean skills that, regardless of whether you think these are important for a music teacher to teach or for students to learn, there may be pressures for you and them to do so:

The game of school – self-control, compliance, and discipline. And reading, writing, math, and technology
The game of school music – familiarity with western notation, theory, instruments, repertoire, and styles


Music as a lens for understanding our world. Learning is exponentially more powerful when we are able to apply ideas to new contexts.

Connect classroom experiences with students’ prior musical experiences, lived experience, other classes, local music communities, the wider world of music, the wider world of the arts, and the wider world in general. Where did this music come from? What musical culture? What musicians? What other historical and cultural context? How can we experience (listen, learn, play, create) it more authentically?

How can we challenge their understandings of morality, power, privilege, and oppression?

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