Expanding the Presence of Popular Music in Schools: Partnerships Between Music Teacher Educators, School Music Teachers, and a Non-Profit Institution


Chad West, Ithaca College


Matt Clauhs, Johnson City Schools


Radio Cremata, Ithaca College


Bryan Powell, Little Kids Rock/ Amp Up NYC



Although popular music is the musical style preference of young people (Hargreaves & North, 1997; LeBlanc, 1979; May, 1985; Mills, 2000; Walker, 2005), American K-12 music programs inheriting strong military, church, and aristocratic traditions have been slow to change (Allsup & Benedict, 2008). As students get older they increasingly perceive this disconnect between music experienced inside of school and music experienced outside of school (Hargreaves, Comber, & Colley, 1995; De Vries, 2010; Greer, Dorow, & Randall, 1974; McPherson & Hendricks, 2010).

Unfortunately, many music teachers are not prepared to teach popular music (Byrne & Sheridan, 2000) and are often skeptical of its use in school contexts (Davis & Blair, 2011; Hebert & Campbell, 2000). With less than one percent of the time in music teacher education programs being devoted to popular music (Wang & Humphreys, 2009), it is no wonder music teachers feel unprepared to teach outside of the traditional concert band/orchestra/choir cannon. Further, with relatively few popular music ensembles in schools, many preservice music teachers never get the opportunity to student teach in a popular music setting.


With the aim of expanding the presence of popular music in school curricula, a partnership was formed: Music education professors from [name of college] partnered with popular music pedagogues from [name of non-profit institution] to provide popular music pedagogy workshops to [name of school district] music teachers. These workshops included free instruction on bass, guitar, piano, and drum set within a popular music context. In addition, [name of non-profit institution] provided free curricular materials and instruments so these teachers could fully implement popular music programs at their schools.


The benefits of this partnership were many: Music teachers learned approaches to music education that extend beyond the traditional concert band, orchestra, and choir model; K-12 students received popular music instruments and socially relevant music instruction; music teacher educators gained popular music sites to place student teachers; and [name of non-profit institution] continued its mission of bringing popular music to greater numbers of children.

Since this yearŐs SMTE theme invites envisioning how strategic alliances could be built among music educators, music teacher educators, and related stakeholders, we propose a panel discussion made up of representatives from each arm of this partnership to describe our processes, preservice and inservice teacher experiences, and overall reactions from related stakeholders. We feel that this panel discussion is a natural fit within ASPA #9 (School/University Partnerships) and also fits well within #6 (Professional Development for the Beginning Teacher) and #7 (Professional Development for the Experienced Teacher).




Allsup, R. A., & Benedict, C. (2008). The problems of band: An inquiry into the future of instrumental music education. Philosophy of Music Education Review, 16(2), 156-173.

Byrne, C., & Sheridan, M. (2000). The long and winding road: The story of rock music in Scottish schools. International Journal of Music Education, 36, 46-57.

Davis, S. G., & Blair, D. V. (2011). Popular music in American teacher education: A glimpse into a secondary methods course. International Journal of Music Education, 29(2), 124-140.

De Vries, P. (2010). What we want: The music preferences of upper primary school students and the ways they engage with music. Australian Journal of Music Education, (1), 3-16.

Greer, R. D., Dorow, L. G., & Randall, A. (1974). Music listening preferences of elementary school children. Journal of Research in Music Education, 22(4), 284– 291.

Hargreaves, D. J., Comber, C., & Colley, A. (1995). Effects of age, gender, and training on musical preferences of British secondary school students. Journal of Research in Music Education, 43(3), 242–250.

Hargreaves, D. J., & North, A.C. (Eds.) (1997). The social psychology of music. New York: Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hebert, D. G., & Campbell, P. S. (2000). Rock music in American schools: Positions and practices since the 1960s. International Journal of Music Education, 36(1), 14-22.

LeBlanc, A. (1979). Generic style music preferences of fifth-grade students. Journal of Research in Music Education, 27(4), 255–270.

May, W. (1985). Musical style preferences and aural discrimination skills of primary grade school children. Journal of Research in Music Education, 33(1), 7–22.

McPherson, G. E., & Hendricks, K. S. (2010). Students' motivation to study music: The United States of America. Research Studies in Music Education, 32(2), 201- 213.

Mills, S. (2000). Recognizing middle school studentsŐ taste for popular music. General Music Today, 13(3), 3–6.

Walker, R. (2005). Classical versus pop in music education. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 163, 53-60.