Music education is the discipline focused on the teaching and learning of musical knowledge and skills. Music teaching and learning occur in many locations, take many different forms, and involve a wide range of musical concepts and genres. Although music education occurs most prominently in the K-12 schools, it also occurs beyond the walls of the school building and across the lifetime of an individual. As with all curriculum, the music education curriculum is “a fluid, dynamic, and everchanging phenomenon that is particular to its time, place, and people,” and thus has evolved through the history, culture, and educational system of a particular country (Wing, 1992). Clear delineation of what is and is not music education curriculum is a challenging endeavor as it includes what musical content is taught, how that content is delivered, the justifications for the choices made, and the historical and cultural contextualization for those decisions.
Music education in the United States both influences and is influenced by curricular developments in other countries as well as curricular and philosophical developments within education in other subjects. The development of music education curriculum relies heavily on tradition or “what has always been done” while evidence from research often plays a secondary role in influencing change (Hanley & Montgomery, 2002). Historical developments and initiatives to reform music education curricula have influenced music teaching and learning, particularly within the K-12 school environment. Two major philosophical frameworks, aesthetics and praxialism, are used to justify decisions made about music education curriculum. More recently, the standardization movement in education has required music teachers to consider what “counts” as quality music teaching and learning. Although tradition plays an important role in music education, challenges to the music education curriculum present opportunities for change that might guide researchers and teachers in the future, particularly those who desire to increase music learning opportunities for all individuals across their lifetimes.