Foundations of Music Education



The Philosophy of Music Education

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'The History of Western Philosophy in Under 5 Minutes' (YouTube)

Well, what did you think?  There are lots of ways to explain life's difficult questions.



Three come to mind:

answers based upon faith

(a belief)


These do not have to be based upon religion.  We have lots of beliefs that we take for granted, that are not based upon empirical evidence and that have not been subjected to systematic inquiry.


answers based upon empirical evidence; direct observation and measurement

(a finding)


You do not have to spend your time in a lab to generate findings.  We observe and measure things all the time.

answers based upon reasoning from systematic inquiry

(a philosophy)


Philosophies are also common.  We look for rational explanations and patterns.



"Philosophy searches for consistent relationships of truth, reality, and value in a general inclusive sense" (Schwadron, 1984).


The trouble starts when we try to combine these processes



The trick is to be able to recognize the difference between beliefs, finding, and philosophies.


Here's an example:

If you are making a bookcase

Belief:  "I can 'eyeball' this length because I have faith in my ability to judge the size I need."

Finding:  "I have measured this carefully and have cut the board to my exact specification."

Philosophy:  "Measure twice; cut once."



Are there other ways to explain life's questions?



OK, now back to music education!!

What does the philosopher really know about the practical matters of teaching?

We all have philosophies that we live by. They are inextricably woven into who we are, and therefore what and how we teach.

We transmit to our students (whether we know it or not!)


  • a set of beliefs about music (and other things!)

  • value judgments about music and about the cultures that produce music

  • attitudes about music and its function in our society




    For example, there was an interesting study on students' beliefs regarding why some succeed and some fail in music (Asmus, 1986).  This is important to know because their beliefs about what causes success or failure in musical endeavors will influence how they approach the task next time, or if they even try.

    Here's what they found out:


    The students who believe that if they try hard, they will be able to improve are more likely to practice and more likely to improve


    The students who believe that musical success requires innate ability ("talent") are less likely to practice, and less likely to improve


    The greatest influence on this belief was teacher influence


    The older the student, the more likely they were to believe in the innate ability theory

    The younger students were the most positive about their own abilities!!

    So, no pressure, but the success of your students may depend upon your beliefs and your philosophies with regards to music education.

    Here's a link to the study if you'd like to read it for yourself.



    Now read this article linked below:


    "Considering Beliefs in Learning to Teach Music"




    Your text describes a philosophy as

    "general notions about the environment and how it operates" (Labuta & Smith, 1997).
    The word, philosophy literally means "love of wisdom."


    Philosophy has also been described as a guide for living or a way of thinking about the world.

    Here are some of the difficult questions that philosophy seeks to answer about music:

    What is music?
    What purpose(s) does it serve?
    How should music be judged?
    Is music necessary?
    What does music mean?
    How does music affect feeling and emotion?
    What is the value of music?
    Why must we defend music?


    At this point, read Chapter 2 in your textbook:  "Philosophies of Music Education"

    Here is a great link to compare the Aesthetic Philosophy and the Praxial Philosophy of music education.




  • Works Cited

    Asmus, E. P., Jr. (1986). Student Beliefs about the Causes of Success and Failure in Music: A Study of Achievement Motivation. Journal of Research in Music Education, 34(4), 262-278.

    Labuta, Joseph A. and Deborah A. Smith. 1997. Music Education: Historical Contexts and Perspectives. Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

    Schwadron, Abraham A. . 1984. Aesthetics: Dimensions for Music Education: Aperture.

    Thompson, L. K. (2007). Considering Beliefs in Learning to Teach Music. Music Educators Journal, 93(3), 30-35.





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