When Did Music Become a Part of Education?

Music has been an integral part of human culture for thousands of years. It has been used for entertainment, celebration, and religious ceremonies. However, when did music become a part of education? This is a question that has puzzled many people. The history of music education is fascinating and complex, with roots dating back to ancient civilizations. In this article, we will explore the evolution of music education and its significance in modern society. We will delve into the reasons why music was first introduced into the educational system and how it has evolved over time. So, let’s embark on a journey to discover the fascinating history of music education.

Quick Answer:
Music has been a part of education for centuries, with the earliest known music education taking place in ancient Greece. In Europe during the Middle Ages, music was an essential part of the church’s liturgy and was taught to choir boys as part of their religious education. With the rise of the modern educational system in the 19th century, music became a more formalized part of the curriculum, with many schools and universities offering music courses and degrees. Today, music education is considered an important aspect of a well-rounded education and is offered in schools and universities around the world.

The Origins of Music Education

Ancient Civilizations and Music

Music in Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, music was considered an essential part of education. It was believed that music had a powerful influence on the soul and could cultivate virtues such as courage, wisdom, and grace. The Greek philosopher Plato even argued that music should be used as a tool to educate children, as it could shape their characters and instill moral values.

Music education in ancient Greece was primarily focused on vocal music, and boys were taught to sing and play the lyre, a stringed musical instrument. The study of music was seen as an important aspect of a well-rounded education, and it was integrated into the curriculum of schools and academies.

Music in Ancient Rome

Similarly, in ancient Rome, music played a significant role in education. Roman parents believed that music education was essential for the development of their children’s minds and bodies. Boys were taught to sing and play various instruments, including the lyre, the cithara, and the cornu, a type of horn.

Music education in ancient Rome was not limited to the elite, as it was accessible to children from all social classes. Music schools were established throughout the empire, and many of these schools had a strong focus on vocal music. The study of music was seen as a way to improve one’s physical and mental health, and it was believed to have a positive impact on the soul.

Overall, the inclusion of music in the education system of ancient civilizations such as Greece and Rome highlights the importance of music as a means of fostering intellectual and moral development.

The Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Monastic and Secular Music

During the Middle Ages, music played a significant role in the religious life of the community. Monasteries were the primary centers for the study and performance of music, with monks using their singing skills to praise God and elevate their spirits. Gregorian chant, a form of monastic plainchant, was widely used during this period and remains an essential part of Catholic liturgy to this day.

In contrast to monastic music, secular music emerged during the Renaissance period as a form of entertainment for the aristocracy and the wealthy. Instrumental music, such as lute and harp pieces, became increasingly popular, and secular songs with romantic themes were also composed.

The Development of Music Notation

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, music notation underwent significant development. The earliest forms of music notation were used in monastic communities and consisted of text-based descriptions of melodies. These descriptions were later replaced by more systematic methods of notation, such as the Guidonian hand, which used a system of lines and spaces to represent the pitches of a melody.

With the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, music notation became more widespread, and printed music began to be produced. This made it easier for musicians to learn and share music, leading to the development of new musical styles and forms.

In conclusion, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were important periods in the history of music education. During this time, music became an integral part of religious and secular life, and the development of music notation made it easier for musicians to learn and share their music.

The Emergence of Modern Music Education

Key takeaway: Music education has been an integral part of education since ancient civilizations such as Greece and Rome. The field of music education has evolved over time, with the Enlightenment marking a turning point in making music education more accessible to the general public. The 20th century saw a significant evolution in the way music was taught and perceived in education, with technology playing a crucial role in transforming music education. In contemporary times, music education remains an essential component of a well-rounded education, providing students with numerous benefits, including enhanced cognitive abilities, academic performance, and social skills. However, challenges such as funding, curriculum and standards, and equity and access persist in music education. As technology continues to advance, it is expected to play an increasingly important role in music education, while the integration of STEAM subjects and multiculturalism in music education is also expected to gain prominence in the future.

The Enlightenment and Music Education

The Influence of Philosophers

During the Enlightenment, philosophers played a significant role in shaping the way music was perceived and integrated into education. The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for example, believed that music should be taught to children as a means of cultivating their emotional and moral development. He argued that music had the power to unlock the imagination and stir the soul, and that it should be a central part of the educational experience.

The Development of Music Pedagogy

As the idea of music education gained traction, the field of music pedagogy began to develop. Teachers and educators began to experiment with different methods of teaching music, such as the use of solfege, a system of music notation that uses syllables to represent musical pitches. They also began to develop new teaching materials, such as the “musical dictionary” created by the French composer and music theorist, Fran├žois-Joseph Gossec.

The Enlightenment also saw the emergence of music education as a means of social reform. Many educators believed that music could be used to bring people together across social and economic divides, and to promote national unity. This led to the establishment of music schools and conservatories throughout Europe, where students from all walks of life could come together to learn and perform music.

In addition to these developments, the Enlightenment also saw the rise of the “musical amateur,” or the individual who pursued music as a hobby rather than as a profession. This shift in attitudes towards music led to the growth of music clubs and societies, where people could come together to perform and appreciate music in a social setting.

Overall, the Enlightenment marked a turning point in the history of music education, as it shifted from being solely the domain of the church and the aristocracy to becoming a more widely accessible and integrated part of the educational system.

The 19th Century and the Democratization of Music

The 19th century was a pivotal period in the history of music education. During this time, music began to be recognized as an essential component of a well-rounded education. This period witnessed significant developments in public school music education, as well as the influence of composers and music educators.

The Development of Public School Music Education

During the 19th century, the concept of public school music education emerged. The introduction of music as a subject in public schools marked a significant shift in the way music was perceived. This development was driven by a growing recognition of the importance of music in the overall education of children.

One of the key figures in the development of public school music education was Zollikofer. He was a Swiss educator who believed that music should be taught in schools as a core subject. His ideas were influential in shaping the curriculum of many schools in Europe and North America.

The Influence of Composers and Music Educators

The 19th century was also a time when many influential composers emerged. These composers played a crucial role in shaping the direction of music education. Some of the most notable composers of this period include Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven.

In addition to composers, music educators also played a vital role in the democratization of music. These educators recognized the importance of making music accessible to everyone, regardless of social status or background. One such educator was Franz Liszt, who established the first music conservatory in the 19th century.

Overall, the 19th century was a time of significant growth and development in music education. The recognition of music as an essential component of a well-rounded education, the establishment of public school music education, and the influence of composers and music educators all contributed to the democratization of music.

The 20th Century and the Evolution of Music Education

The Influence of Psychology on Music Education

The 20th century saw a significant shift in the way music was perceived and taught in education. With the growing influence of psychology, educators began to view music as an integral part of a child’s overall development, rather than just a subject for a select few talented students.

One of the most notable figures in this shift was Dr. Zenaide Desmond, a Canadian music educator who pioneered the concept of “Music Learning Theory.” According to Desmond, children learn music through active engagement with sound, and music education should focus on developing a child’s innate musical abilities, rather than trying to mold them into a particular type of musician.

Another important development in the field of music education was the emergence of the Orff Schulwerk approach, developed by Austrian composer and music educator Carl Orff. This approach emphasizes hands-on, experiential learning through the use of rhythm instruments, movement, and improvisation, and has become a popular method for teaching music to young children.

The Impact of Technology on Music Education

As technology advanced throughout the 20th century, it had a profound impact on music education. The development of electronic instruments, recording technology, and music software opened up new possibilities for music educators, allowing them to incorporate new tools and techniques into their teaching.

One notable example of this was the introduction of the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) standard in the 1980s. MIDI allowed electronic instruments and computers to communicate with each other, enabling a whole new world of digital music creation and experimentation.

In more recent years, the rise of digital music technology has continued to transform music education. Software programs like Ableton Live and Logic Pro have become essential tools for music production and composition, and online resources like YouTube and Spotify have made a vast library of music accessible to students of all ages and skill levels.

Overall, the 20th century saw a significant evolution in the way music was taught and perceived in education. With the influence of psychology and the impact of technology, music education has become a more holistic and inclusive part of the educational experience.

Contemporary Music Education

The Current State of Music Education

In the contemporary education system, music education has become an integral part of the curriculum. With the growing recognition of the importance of music in human development, schools and educational institutions have started incorporating music education in their programs.

The Role of Music Education in Schools

Music education is now considered as a fundamental part of the educational experience. Schools have started to recognize the value of music education in enhancing the overall learning experience of students. Music education has been found to improve cognitive abilities, academic performance, and social skills. It also provides students with an opportunity to express themselves creatively and develop their talents.

The Benefits of Music Education

Studies have shown that music education has numerous benefits for students. It helps in the development of language skills, memory, attention, and reasoning abilities. Music education also enhances the emotional and social development of students, improving their ability to work in groups, cooperate with others, and communicate effectively. Furthermore, music education has been found to improve academic performance, with students who receive music education performing better in reading, mathematics, and science.

In conclusion, music education has become an essential component of the modern education system. It provides students with a unique opportunity to develop their creative abilities, express themselves, and enhance their academic performance. The current state of music education is continuously evolving, with schools and educational institutions striving to provide the best possible education to their students.

Challenges and Controversies in Music Education

Funding and Resources

One of the primary challenges facing music education today is securing adequate funding and resources. Schools often struggle to provide basic musical instruments and equipment, let alone professional-grade instruments and technology. This can limit the quality of music education and the opportunities available to students.

Curriculum and Standards

Another challenge is developing a comprehensive and consistent curriculum that meets the needs of all students. The lack of national standards for music education can lead to variation in the quality and content of music programs from state to state and even from school to school. This can make it difficult for students to transfer credits or participate in extracurricular activities outside of their school district.

Equity and Access

Equity and access are also ongoing concerns in music education. Low-income students and students of color are often underrepresented in music programs, and many schools lack the resources to provide music education at all. This can perpetuate systemic inequalities and limit opportunities for underserved students.

Furthermore, some argue that the focus on standardized testing and core subjects has led to a decline in the emphasis on arts education, including music, in many schools. This can limit students’ exposure to music and its benefits, such as improving cognitive skills, fostering creativity, and promoting social and emotional learning.

Despite these challenges, music education remains an essential component of a well-rounded education. As such, efforts are being made to address these issues and ensure that all students have access to high-quality music education opportunities.

The Future of Music Education

Emerging Trends in Music Education

Technology and Music Education

Music education has seen a significant transformation in recent years due to advancements in technology. Digital music production tools, online resources, and music software have become more accessible, enabling educators to incorporate technology into their lessons. This trend has enabled students to explore new ways of creating and producing music, opening up new opportunities for creative expression. Additionally, technology has made it easier for students to access a wide range of musical genres and styles, helping them to develop a broader understanding of music.

STEAM and Music Education

Another emerging trend in music education is the integration of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) subjects. Music has long been a part of the arts, but it is now being recognized as a discipline that intersects with other areas of study. By incorporating STEAM principles into music education, students can learn about the science of sound, the technology behind music production, and the mathematics involved in creating music. This interdisciplinary approach has the potential to enhance student engagement and promote creative problem-solving skills.

Multiculturalism and Music Education

Multiculturalism is another emerging trend in music education. As society becomes more diverse, it is important for music educators to incorporate music from different cultures into their lessons. This not only promotes cultural awareness and understanding but also exposes students to a wide range of musical styles and traditions. Additionally, music education can play a role in preserving and promoting cultural heritage, especially for minority communities. By incorporating multiculturalism into music education, students can develop a deeper appreciation for the richness and diversity of the world’s musical traditions.

The Importance of Music Education in the 21st Century

Preparing Students for the Future

Music education has long been recognized as an essential component of a well-rounded education. In the 21st century, the importance of music education has only increased as society continues to evolve and change.

One of the key reasons why music education is so important in the 21st century is that it prepares students for the future. In a rapidly changing world, the skills and knowledge that students acquire through music education can be invaluable. For example, music education can help students develop their creativity, which is a highly sought-after skill in today’s economy. Additionally, music education can help students learn how to work collaboratively, which is essential for success in many careers.

The Role of Music Education in Society

Music education also plays an important role in society. Through music education, students can learn about different cultures and historical periods, which can broaden their perspectives and increase their understanding of the world around them. Additionally, music education can help students develop a sense of empathy and appreciation for others, which can contribute to a more compassionate and understanding society.

In conclusion, the importance of music education in the 21st century cannot be overstated. It prepares students for the future, helps them develop valuable skills and knowledge, and plays a crucial role in society. As such, it is essential that music education continues to be a priority in our schools and communities.


1. When did music become part of education?

Music has been a part of education for centuries, with the earliest known music education taking place in ancient Greece around 400 BCE. However, music education as we know it today began to take shape in the 19th century, particularly in Europe and the United States. This was driven by a growing recognition of the importance of music education in developing well-rounded individuals and in fostering creativity and artistic expression.

2. What was the first music education program in the United States?

The first music education program in the United States was established in 1870 at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. The program was designed to provide training in music theory, performance, and composition, and it was intended to prepare students for careers in music.

3. When did music education become a standard part of the school curriculum?

Music education became a standard part of the school curriculum in the United States in the early 20th century, as part of a broader movement to make education more well-rounded and to promote cultural enrichment. The National Association for Music Education (now known as the National Association for Music Education) was founded in 1907 to promote music education in schools, and the organization has played a significant role in shaping music education policy and standards in the United States.

4. Why is music education important?

Music education is important for a number of reasons. It can help to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as enhance creativity and self-expression. Music education can also have a positive impact on academic performance, as well as on social and emotional development. In addition, music education can provide students with a sense of community and belonging, and can help to foster cultural understanding and appreciation.

5. What are some common music education programs in schools today?

There are many different types of music education programs in schools today, ranging from general music classes that introduce students to basic music concepts and skills, to specialized programs that focus on instrumental or vocal music, music theory, or music technology. Some schools also offer extracurricular music programs, such as bands, choirs, and orchestras, which provide students with opportunities to develop their musical skills and to perform in front of audiences.

What if every child had access to music education from birth? | Anita Collins | TEDxCanberra

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *