The Validity of Popular Music in American Music Education

October 25, 2011 / By: Scyler Shearer

The problem of this thesis was to determine whether popular music has a musically valid role in the American music classroom.  Three sub-problems were addressed: (1) What is the validity of popular music in American music education for students?  (2) What is the validity of popular music in American music education for teachers?  (3) How would traditional music educational practices need to change in order to teach popular music in an authentic way?  This theoretical thesis presents the views of many leading educators and theorists on this controversial subject.            

This thesis determined that popular music does hold validity for students and teachers.  Students’ personal identities are closely tied to popular music and its inclusion in music education makes learning relevant and applicable to their lives outside of school.  Popular music can be used to effectively address each of the National Standards in Music.   The informal learning practices of popular musicians hold great possibilities for student-centered, active music education.  By allowing students more choice in the music they study, and by providing opportunities for purposive listening and active music-making in popular styles, teachers can promote higher levels of student motivation, cooperation, and musical achievement.