Systems Analysis, Incentives Theory, and a

New Perspective on Music Education


D. Brett Nolker

University of North Carolina at Greensboro


Systems Theory and Incentives Theory offer valuable insight on potential changes needed in music education. Open systems adapt quickly to the surrounding environment through new information and ideas. Adaptability sustains growth offering a stronger probability for survival. Conversely, closed systems resist the incorporation of new ideas, and may become unnecessary to the surrounding environment, risking atrophy. The music education profession may form a closed loop system. Incentives for entrance, activity, and perceived success in the complex system of music education are delivered and measured through activities that perpetuate the existing system.

Whether student or teacher, incentives are in place that protect this closed system. Scholarship money, acceptance into institutions, perceived success and prestige, are shaped by the incentives in place. The present system includes tangible and intangible incentives at each level that ensure the continuation of goals, ideals, and the supporting activities that are incapable of adapting to societal change and the 21st-century American School. For healthy growth and change to occur, it will be necessary to facilitate a change in the system structure of music education and a foundational change toward an incentives system that promotes activities consistent with a new environment.