Senior Researcher Award Addresses

Two members of the faculty in Music and Human Learning received the Society for Research in Music Education's Senior Researcher Award, Bob Duke in 2010 [pdf] and Judith Jellison in 2004 [pdf]. Their acceptance addresses appear below.


Robert A. Duke

When I first learned that I’d won this award, I was deeply touched and honored and humbled. There’s something very special about being recognized by your peers, the ones who actually know what you do and what you’ve done. The colleagues who nominated me for this award are people for whom I have great respect and admiration, and the previous recipients of this award are among the best thinkers in our discipline. I’m truly grateful to be here and to have this chance to tell you about my ideas.

Any time your work is acknowledged in some remarkable way like this, it inevitably prompts a little personal reflection, thinking about how you came to be here and how all of this came about. My goal today is to influence your thinking about the research enterprise in our discipline and what we can do to make it better, more meaningful, and more effective in contributing to human understanding.

But first, just a bit about how I came to be here.

I’m here quite by accident. Actually I’m here as a result of a series of accidents. I had no aspirations to become a college professor and certainly I never aspired to be what anyone might call a scholar, not that I even knew as a child what scholars did. I was an odd little kid with lots of interests, any one of which could have turned into a life’s work. I had the great good fortune to be raised by two parents who skillfully combined undying affection with unbridled curiosity and joy. My father was an intensely inquisitive and self-propelled man, whose formal schooling ended with the 8th grade. He was 50 years old when I was born, and I’m sure he found that raising a kid at his age in the 1950s and 1960s was nothing like what he had imagined. I know that in many ways I was inscrutable to him. But he consistently conveyed to me a sense of wonder about the world. He invented things and built things and fixed things and in the process he broke a lot of things, much to my mother’s silent, and sometimes not so silent, frustration. But in the midst of all his tinkering and breaking and fixing I observed a sense of tenacity and determination that quite often led to satisfying conclusions. Satisfying to him at least, even though my mother never seemed to warm to the idea of black electrical tape as a universal healer of broken appliances and nearly everything else.

When I was very small and my father would tuck me in at night, he’d often sit on the edge of my bed and ask me questions about mathematics or something that required me to work out a solution to a problem in my head. I don’t really know what his motivation was for doing this. Perhaps this was a 1950s parents’ version of Baby Mozart CDs.

All of his tinkering and thinking and puzzling and swearing was leavened by my mother’s unfailing good humor, kindness, and patience with my father and me. My mother is a very bright woman, and though she probably knew the answer to what my father and I were puzzling over long before either of us figured it out, she showed in a quiet way how patience and acceptance create an environment that welcomes play, celebrates accomplishment, and revels in the simple joy of doing something that interests you and that you care about.

My parents were my first and best teachers, and my mother continues to be to this day. But throughout my formal education I seem to have been extremely lucky to have bumped into an unusually large number of wonderful teachers in school. I’ve obviously forgotten many of them by now, but the ones I do remember—at least in my undoubtedly modified recollections of the past—were, to a person, characterized by a joyfulness in their work with us children. They seemed to like knowing things and being able to do things and they seemed to take great pleasure in helping my classmates and me learn about the things they cared about. They smiled a lot.

I took away from all of this a sense of wonder about how things worked, a sense of curiosity that energizes me even now. It doesn’t have to do with a particular subject matter, really. I think I could have loved a lot of things, but I ended up loving this.

One of the big reasons I ended up here is that I met Cliff Madsen, who inspired me and became my mentor and friend and who remains so after all these decades. When I went to graduate school at FSU, I had no idea what I was doing, as Clifford and my classmates at the time can well attest. And then I took a class in research, and I recognized something familiar in Clifford: the sense of curiosity and wonder and puzzling and joy that I’d grown up with, but now directed toward a problem that was powerfully interesting: making sense of the behavior of human beings. I was enrolled in a music school, of course, but the classes I was taking in the basement of what is now the Kursteiner Building weren’t really about music or music teaching or music therapy. The classes were really about people and the machinery in our heads that governs how we think and feel and behave.

On my first visit to Clifford’s office I noticed a copy of the journal Science lying on his desk and thought, What’s that doing here? And the more time I spent in that office over the next four years the more I realized that I was in a place that had few of the intellectual barriers that most people think of as disciplinary boundaries. The place was interdisciplinary before interdisciplinarity was cool.

I observed in those precious years in Tallahassee watching and working with Clifford what it means and what it takes to be a clear-headed thinker and a productive scholar, realizing that the same kinds of practice that led me to be a good musician and teacher would someday lead to my becoming a good psychologist and writer. By practice I mean rehearsal, repetition, doing things again and again with greater and greater levels of discrimination and refinement.

Everything we become good at requires repetition, of course, including doing good research and writing about it. Experiments most often don’t work. Subjects who look like they belong in the control group end up in the experimental group. Equipment breaks and subjects don’t show up or they take a nap between test sessions when you’d asked them not to or you find out after many hours of thankless labor that you’ve been measuring the wrong variable. It’s frustrating and confusing most of the time. But every once in a while it’s quite lovely because you figure out some little thing that no one has figured out before. In those fleeting moments, you know something that no one else knows, and after you’ve gotten the same result enough times to convince yourself that you’re probably not mistaken, you’ll get to tell other people about what you learned.


So, what makes research interesting?

Research that’s interesting is research that explains something, even a little piece of something. The point of research, after all, is to make the world more understandable. Questions that ask What? or Whether or not? seldom make the world more understandable, but questions that ask Why? and How? often do.

Many people, after learning about some recent research result, ask So what? But So what? is a flip, and wrong, question to ask. The more penetrating question is What does this explain? I promise you, if research explains something, almost anything, it will be interesting to many people. It’s not necessary that the explanation even be useful. There’s a lot that we find interesting and compelling that has no immediate utilitarian function whatsoever. The extent to which research is interesting in fact has little to do with the immediate applicability of the findings.

Several months ago, John Tierney wrote a piece in The New York Times called “Will you be emailing this column? It’s awesome,” reporting on a study by Jonah Berger and Katherine Milkman from the Wharton School at Penn who had examined the most emailed articles from the NYT online edition over a period of 6 months, from August 2008 through February 2009—over 7700 articles (Berger & Milkman, 2009). Berger and Milkman’s most interesting finding was that the articles most likely to be emailed were those that had the potential to inspire awe. The most emailed stories in that time didn’t concern how to choose a mutual fund or whether to reduce your intake of dietary sodium; they were about cosmology and paleontology and the visual system of the white-tailed deer. In the authors’ words, “Emotion leads to transmission, and awe is quite a strong emotion. If I just read this story that changes the way I understand the world and myself, I want to talk to others about what it means. I want to proselytize and share the feeling of awe. If you read the article and feel the same emotion it will bring us together” (Tierney, 2010).

Often the sense of awe emanates from understanding something new, when we see some remarkable phenomenon explained in a way that we hadn’t imagined. I’d like to propose that What does this explain? is the question every one of us should ask about the research we read, the research we do, and the research we involve our students in. If the answer is Nothing much, then it’s doubtful that we’re spending time on something interesting. If the research in our field is going to get better, if it’s going to contribute something meaningful to human understanding, then it needs to help explain something.

For the past four years I’ve been working on a National Science Foundation grant that places doctoral students from the natural sciences in public schools as “scientists in residence.” It’s a wonderful program for more reasons than I have time to enumerate here. But one of the outcomes that surprised many of my colleagues after we had embarked on this program was the extent to which the experience transformed the doctoral students’ thinking about their own disciplines and about what it means to do science.

I’ll relate one story that illustrates the point. One of my favorite doctoral fellows in the program, a bright, conscientious, talented woman from geological sciences, invited me to watch a videotape of her working in a 7th grade science class, where she had been asked by the classroom teacher to give a lesson on friction. She followed all of the guidelines that science teachers are given about planning good lessons in school. There’s something called a 5E lesson plan that’s popular in the sciences at UT and many other places as well. The 5 Es stand for Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, and Evaluation (I always have to look those up). This doctoral student dutifully planned a lesson that included each of those elements in order. To engage the students, the lesson started with some questions about moving heavy objects across various surfaces and going down a playground slide with shorts or long pants, questions that were followed by a written definition of friction given by the teacher. The definition was mostly accurate, but not entirely so.

After a brief discussion of the definition it was time for exploration, which in this case meant conducting an experiment of sorts. There was a preconstructed “experiment sheet” that went along with a set of “friction kits” distributed by the school district; each kit included a 50-cm board with foam glued to one side and a heavy metal washer to slide down the board. The students’ task was to build an inclined plane with the board and slide the washer down each side to determine on which side the washer moved faster, the wood or the foam. The prefab experiment sheet had a prefab hypothesis to be completed by the students that went something like this: “Hypothesis: I think the washer will travel [faster or slower] on the [wood or foam] because the [wood or foam] will create [more or less] friction than the [wood or foam].” Below the hypothesis were spaces for data from 10 replications of sliding the washer down each side of the board. Each pair of children in the class was given a friction kit, and experiment sheet, and a digital stopwatch. The video camera panned around the room as the children, none of whose facial expressions conveyed a great deal of enthusiasm (not one of the 5 Es) about what they were doing, performed their experiments, timing the washers sliding down the boards. I sensed from none of children that they were thinking to themselves, “So this is why people love science!”

The problem here is not a lack of caring or diligence or sincerity on the part of the teachers involved. And it’s not a matter of the children’s inherent lack of interest in science. The problem is that the experiment isn’t interesting. The kids knew the answer before they started and once they “discovered” it, they had nothing more to say about it. Which side is slower? Foam! Why? More friction! The end.

I proposed to the classroom teacher that the children do a different experiment with the same stuff, asking the question What effect does the angle of the board have on the relative speeds of the washer on the two sides? If the board is laid flat, the washer won’t move at all, of course, no matter which side of the board is facing up. If the board is standing up on its end, the washer will move equally quickly from the top to the bottom. But at some angle the washer begins to move at different speeds on each side. What angle is that? And why’s that? And how does the ratio of the foam-side speed to the wood-side speed change with changes in the angle of the board? I didn’t know the answers to those questions. The science teacher didn’t know the answers to them either. But we could figure them out with some experiments. Unfortunately, the classroom teacher was convinced that answering those questions would be ”over the kids’ heads.” Sadly, it’s all too common in schools for teachers to believe that the interesting stuff is over kids’ heads.

After my discussing the lesson in my graduate class with the doctoral fellow and her peers, and after we all agreed that the kids had had a pretty miserable experience with the friction kits, I worried that I may have been too straightforwardly critical of what she had done. But I was heartened the next day when she sent me an email, asking to stop by my office to talk about a lesson she was planning on plant reproduction. She told me that as she was writing her plan, “I heard your voice asking, ‘Why are you doing this? This is so horribly boring!’” The lesson that she’d begun planning was to start with a worksheet filled with definitions of plant parts. This is a pistil, this is a stamen… (and so on). Being open-minded and thoughtful, she’d realized that there was little of interest in those definitions.

How and why things change are the heart of science. How and why things change are the heart of everything interesting. You can think further with knowing How and Why, beyond the immediate result of the data you have in front of you. The kids in the science class had been experiencing the world around them for 12 years. They’d seen lots of plants in that time, probably without asking many questions about them. I suggested that the next lesson begin instead with some interesting questions: Why would a plant expend all the energy it takes to make a flower? And why would a particular flower have the color and shape it has? And if so many plants have both male and female parts, why do they need other plants to reproduce? And if there’s a male oak tree on one side of a meadow, how’s he going to get his pollen to the female tree on the other side? Each of these questions requires an explanation, and the explanations have the potential to make what the kids observe every day more understandable and thereby more interesting. Coming up with explanations for those phenomena is worth the effort, and once you figure out the explanations, you’re eager to share what you know with other people. I couldn’t imagine a kid trying to impress a friend by asking whether he knows the definition of a pistil and then telling him what it is. I can easily imagine the same kid asking his friend whether he knows how philodendrons have sex and then proceeding to explain it to him.

Understanding complicated ideas is tremendously gratifying. And when you’re able to figure out complicated problems, and you get to explain what you’ve figured out to someone else, it makes research part of a communal enterprise in which individuals and groups feel a collaborative mission to decipher how the world works. My friends in the natural sciences talk about writing research papers that “tell a good story.” What are they talking about? They work on increasing the affinity of molecules to bind with other molecules or with figuring out why clusters of bacteria secrete toxins that kill bacteria from nearby colonies or figuring out what motivates nerve cells to regenerate. Where’s the story in research like that? The stories they’re referring to are explanations of how phenomena work and perhaps also why they came to be the way they are. Historians and philosophers are after the same things, I think, even though their ways of gathering information are quite different from conducting controlled experiments.

In 1994 MENC released a research agenda for music education. I have no idea if anyone looks at it any more, but I read it a couple of weeks ago. In a sidebar early on in the text is a description of four kinds of systematic inquiry that are briefly explained this way:


Historical—What has been

Descriptive—What is

Experimental—Establishing cause and effect

Discussions of research in our discipline often begin like this, with focus on the methods of research rather than on the problems the researcher is seeking to solve. This creates mistaken views of what the task is about. When the goal of research is to explain something, then the methods used to develop an explanation are selected to accomplish the goal of understanding. The questions suggest the methodology, but it’s the questions that matter most. All introductory courses in research should begin not with depersonalized descriptions of what we already know, but instead with a historical review of how inquisitive human beings came to identify interesting problems and how they advantageously employed the methods of research in solving them.

I’d like to amend the descriptions from the research agenda. First, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I don’t think that philosophy is the only branch of inquiry that asks Why. In fact, I’m not even convinced that asking Why is what most philosophers think they’re doing a good deal of the time.

In a very important sense, all good research seeks to tell a story of how things work and how they came to be the way they are. Even so called descriptive research should seek to do that. A couple of recent articles in JRME by Darrell Kinney are splendid examples of asking interesting questions that begin to tell a story (Kinney, 2008, 2010). All of us in our profession have endured a relentless bombardment of correlation data showing impressive relationships between music study in school and students’ performance in academic disciplines. What Darrell has shown with the kids in an urban school district in Columbus, Ohio, is that you can predict the superior academic performance of kids who enroll in a band program before the kids enroll in band; in other words, the more academically able tend to be the kids who enroll in the first place and they are also the ones more likely to continue. This may explain why the correlations between enrollment in school music programs and academic performance look the way they do. Darrell’s results begin to tell a story that may partly explain the correlations, and they show that there is much more work to be done before we can confidently draw any conclusions about how music participation in school affects students’ performance in other classes.

No matter the means, research that helps explain the world is research that captures the interest of readers and listeners, not because a teacher can use it on Monday or because it will help individuals make decisions about their own medical care, though those may be included in the outcomes from time to time. Research that explains the world is interesting because it allows people to share in a bit of new understanding that’s simply a joy to be a part of.


So, now being officially declared an old person by dint of this award, I would like to offer my advice to the young who are thinking about or who are just now embarking on a career in research—advice about how you can contribute something interesting and meaningful to our field.

Read, read, read. Read the best work you can get your hands on. And today it is possible to get your hands on just about anything online without even getting dressed. (Back in my day, we had to walk to a library. Imagine.) There’s simply no excuse for reading mediocre work. You don’t have to. There’s superb work at your fingertips. Read great science, read great history, read great literature, read great news reportage. Immerse yourself in intellectual excellence every day. This isn’t to say that you can’t or shouldn’t partake of the delightful pablum you recognize as unrigorous. I enjoy a good Keith Olbermann screed and a David Sedaris essay and a Mariah Carey song from time to time. But do that stuff all the time and it’ll make you stupid.

Write, write, write. Writing is hard. And if my experience is an indication, it will always be hard. The trick, if you can call it a trick, is to come to enjoy the difficulty of it. One of my favorite pithy quotes about writing I learned from my friend and former colleague at Texas, John Trimble, who wrote what I think is the best book about how to write that’s ever been written (Trimble, 2000). The quote is from the great sports writer Walter W. “Red” Smith, who said, “Writing is easy. All you do is sit in front of a typewriter keyboard until little drops of blood appear on your forehead.” That’s pretty much how it is. I’m not a particularly gifted writer. But I’m a tremendously gifted editor. After many painstakingly composed drafts that I pore over on my own, and after my friends and colleagues and graduate students hack at them with Track Changes switched on, and after journal and book editors go hacking at them some more, and I write more painstaking drafts and the cycle continues, I’m sometimes left with a pretty good paper. It almost never happens without all of that.

Writing is frozen thought. It’s easy to delude yourself that you really understand something when you’re just thinking and even talking about ideas. Self-delusion is much more difficult when you try to explain yourself in print. When we write we have time to examine our ideas in ways that seem otherwise impossible. We have the ability to read what we’ve written and consider carefully whether what’s on the page or on the screen is actually what we think we mean. The important thing about this process is that it inevitably refines the precision of our thinking.

There is a fascinating phenomenon related to human creativity that was first reported by Simonton in 1977. Now known as the equal-odds rule, it states that in scholarly and artistic endeavors “quality correlates positively with quantity, so that creativity becomes a linear statistical function of productivity” (Simonton, 1996, p. 235; see also Simonton, 1999). Simonton observed this phenomenon after exhaustive analyses of artistic productivity and published research in a range of academic disciplines. In other words, across the span of an individual’s career and among different individuals in a given discipline, the number of important works tends to be proportional to the total number of works produced. It would be understandable for us to imagine that the writers and scholars we’ve heard of, precisely because they’ve produced important work, are very smart and creative and thus produce only important works. In fact, Simonton has found, they simply produce more works, and the ratio of the number of important works to total works is relatively constant across their careers. It’s not that productive scholars who are making meaningful contributions are sitting around thinking hard and then cranking out important paper after important paper. That’s almost never the case. Instead, productive scholars are producing lots of work, much of it forgettable, but some of it quite lovely.

The function of producing all this work seems clear: Each time you conduct an experiment or write an essay or conduct a survey or document historical precedents and you show it to people, you get feedback, some of it wonderful and glowing, some of it (if you’re lucky) incisively critical. And that ongoing stream of feedback shapes your thinking and your writing and your planning. It helps you become a better scholar.

Don’t mistake form for substance. I like a well-applied t-test as well as the next guy, but that’s not what makes for good research. As we say in my part of the country, doing a Bonferroni correction on data from a dumb experiment is lipstick on a pig. It doesn’t make the study any less dumb, it just dresses it up a bit to look like research. I know that many people taking their first experimental research classes come to believe that the really important stuff about research is the statistical tests. My conjecture is that they think this way because, to them, statistics are algorithmically tangible and because they don’t understand them at all. Statistics are a way of calculating the likelihood of events. That’s it. They’re not research. They’re not data. They’re summarizations of data. What makes for good research is the substance of the questions posed and the skillfulness in collecting data that are applied in answering the questions. Framing good questions is much harder than calculating F-ratios, and if the questions aren’t meaningful, if they don’t lead to explanations of something, then there’s no point in doing the F-tests at all.

Talk to people all the time about your ideas and your work. You should do this with people who know a lot about what you’re working on and with other people who don’t. The knowledgeable people will ask you good questions, if they care about you, questions that will focus your thinking and challenge you to think better, and they’ll tell you about ideas and techniques and resources that you don’t know about. The less knowledgeable people will ask you different kinds of questions, ones that often will prompt you to think about what you’re doing in ways you’ve not considered before. I find that undergraduates are particularly good at this. My Texas colleague Steve Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, said once that the best idea he ever had came to him while he was talking to a group of undergraduate students.

Find one or more research buddies. The act of collaboration among people of like interest is one of the most compelling aspects of the research enterprise. I am energized by the people I interact with day to day, not only the people in music and music education, but other colleagues in biology, psychology, and neuroscience. All of them contribute to my thinking, enhance my perspective, and challenge my understanding. This is especially true about the people who are closest to me, my research peers whom I work with day in and day out. I have the great good fortune to be surrounded by blindingly smart, boundlessly creative, unfailingly kind, deeply caring people who encourage my good ideas when they arise from time to time and who tell me I’m full of shit with equal doses of vigor and affection. It’s a wonderful place to be. Research alone in your office is much harder, not least because you have no one checking your capacity for self-delusion. I know how I want things to come out. I’m a human being with wants and expectations and an ego, all of which conspire to sabotage my science. The people around me help keep those obstacles in check.

Grow thicker skin. No one learns anything without feeling at least a little bit uncomfortable in the process. It’s quite peaceful and calm when everything is as you imagine and expect it to be. It’s much less so when you’re faced with powerful evidence that it’s not. One option is to avoid experiences that contravene our cherished ways of thinking. Communing only with like minded people who think exactly as we do certainly has emotional appeal, but, intellectually, it’s a bad option. Another option is to embrace such intellectual dissonances, pursue them, examine them, and let them refine the way you think. We sometimes mistake honest criticism for personal hostility. The criticism is a necessary part of refining ideas. To avoid the criticism for fear of the perceived hostility is a big mistake.

Hang out with kind, smart, interesting, interested people. I’m very explicit about that list of adjectives, and the people you hang out with should each be aptly described by all four. I put kindness first, because it’s a sine qua non. You certainly can learn something from unkind, smart, interesting, and interested people, but I find that they tend to make you miserable in the process, and I’m unconvinced that the misery is worth the trade off. The interested part is a big one as well. There are many smart and interesting people who are not at all interested in others, least of all, you. But there are a few individuals in all of our environments who meet all of those criteria. They are truly interested in our well being and they have the courage to tell us what we’d rather not hear. They care that much. Of course, if they’re smart and interesting, then what they tell us is more likely to be actually useful in our developing a better understanding of the world and of ourselves.

Go to professional meetings where you’re likely to learn something about what you’re working on. I wrote in the preface to Intelligent Music Teaching (2009) some years ago that I was not so distressed by the fact that presenters at a music conference would choose to lead a group of musically literate adults through a rendition of “Duck Duck Goose” that was designed for third graders as I was distressed by the extent to which the session attendees seemed to like it. There are conferences in and out of music where you can go and learn from people who are working on interesting problems. When it’s cooked right, a conference like that is like a smorgasbord of delicious lectures by very interesting people. It’s like being in your favorite classes in college and it’s an intellectual delight.

Write research that will be read with interest by people outside of music education. E. O. Wilson, the great entomologist and the acknowledged founder of the field now known as sociobiology, published a book in 1998 called Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, in which he proposed that all branches of knowledge—the sciences, humanities, and the arts—are really all working toward similar ends, based on “a conviction, far deeper than a working proposition, that the world is orderly and can be explained by a small number of natural laws” (Wilson, 1998, p. 4). Wilson may have overreached a bit, and he’s been taken to task by many writers for doing so. Nevertheless, it’s a powerful assertion, one which suggests that the advancement of human knowledge is leading inexorably toward a confluence of ideas among what are now seemingly disparate disciplines. Whether or not Wilson’s arguments are wholly supportable, the increasing connectedness among what were once widely separated disciplines is an objective fact. The more we remain confined in our own bailiwick in music education, the more limited our thinking and our understanding will remain. There are tremendous rewards to be had from reading and writing outside what you may think of as your discipline. You open yourself to a whole new range of ideas and a whole new level of scrutiny, one that will challenge you to think better and learn more.


I’d like to conclude today with expressions of gratitude to a number of people I’ve not yet mentioned. I’d like to thank MENC, and in particular Chris Johnson and the members of the Music Education Research Council, who selected me for this great honor.* I’d also like to thank my friends and colleagues who were generous enough to nominate me for this award. I am grateful for the tremendous support for my work that I have received from The University of Texas at Austin, where I’ve spent the last 25 years, and from Director Glenn Chandler and what is now proudly known as the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music.

I’d also like to thank the classmates, friends, collaborators, and students who have shaped my thinking and brought me joy over the years. In particular, I’d like to express my deep appreciation to Jim Byo, my dear, longtime friend and most recently my coconspirator in overthrowing the hegemony of published method books, and to Amy Simmons, Carla Cash, and Sarah Allen, my closest collaborators who sharpen my thinking and enrich my life more than they know.

And most especially I’d like to thank the 2004 Senior Researcher Award Recipient, Judith Jellison, who day in and day out puts up with my contemporary versions of my dad’s black electrical tape, and who is undoubtedly the most conscientious, hard-working, and meticulous thinker and scholar I know. She inspires me every day and she possesses the most sophisticated bullshit detector that a person could ever hope to live with.

There was a big bash in Avery Fischer Hall in New York a little over a week ago celebrating Stephen Sondheim’s upcoming 80th birthday. The event included performances by all of the greats of the stage whom you’d expect to see and hear singing all of Sondheim’s best music. From the report I read in the NYT, Sondheim was very touched by the whole affair, and when he said a few words at the end of the evening, he quoted Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt’s oldest daughter and quite a character, who said, “First you’re young, then you’re middle-aged, then you’re wonderful.”

And to all of you who’ve agreed to give me your precious attention this morning, thanks as well. This has been wonderful.



Berger, J., & Milkman, K. L. (2009). Social transmission and viral culture. Unpublished manuscript, University of Pennsylvania. 

Duke, R. A. (2009). Intelligent music teaching: Essays on the core principles of effective instruction. Austin, TX: Learning and Behavior Resources.

Kinney, D. W. (2008). Selected demographic variables, school music participation, and achievement test scores of urban middle school students. Journal of Research in Music Education, 56, 145-161.

Kinney, D. W. (2010). Selected nonmusic predictors of urban students' decisions to enroll and persist in middle school band programs. Journal of Research in Music Education, 57, 334-350.

Simonton, D. K. (1996). Creative expertise: A life-span developmental perspective. In K. A. Ericsson (Ed.), The road to excellence: The acquisition of expert performance in the arts and sciences, sports, and games. (pp. 227-253). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Simonton, D. K. (1999). Origins of genius: Darwinian perspectives on creativity. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tierney, J. (2010, February 9). Will you be emailing this column? It's awesome, The New York Times.

Trimble, J. R. (2000). Writing with style: Conversations on the art of writing (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Wilson, E. O. (1998). Consilience: The unity of knowledge. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

* Thanks also to my longtime friend and former classmate, Wendy Sims, able editor of the JRME, who allowed this talk to go to print just as I’d submitted it.



The following talk was delivered by Judith Jellison at the March 2004 meeting of MENC—The National Association for Music Education, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. [pdf]

It's About Time

Judith A. Jellison

It is indeed a great honor to receive this award. I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the National Executive Board of MENC, to the Music Education Research Council (MERC) and its Executive Committee, and to the members of the Society for Research in Music Education. It is a particular honor for me to join the ranks of the distinguished scholars who have received the Senior Researcher Award since its inception in 1988: Clifford K. Madsen, Allen P. Britton, Albert LeBlanc, James C. Carlson, Cornelia Yarbrough, Rudolph E. Radocy, John Geringer, and Patricia S. Campbell. l I can think of no greater honor than to have the opportunity to talk with all of you, my esteemed colleagues and members of SRME, and I thank you for being here on this occasion.

I am indebted, for all that they have taught me, to the many students whom I have been fortunate to work with—typical children and children with disabilities, undergraduate and graduate students— and to my colleagues and friends as well. A single teacher can have a profound effect on the lives of many individuals, and I count myself fortunate to be among those who began their careers as teachers and researchers under the tutelage of a master teacher and researcher. For that early guidance on a path to question, a path that has influenced my thinking forever, I am grateful to my teacher, mentor, and dear friend, Cliff Madsen.


Trying to Teach Too Much with Too Little

I'd like to talk with you about concerns that have been with me for many years now. Perhaps as a result of my increasing age and definition as a "senior," I have come to feel with a growing sense of urgency that our profession, especially the revolutionaries among us, must act to remove the impediments that keep us from accomplishing all that we hope to accomplish with children. Rather than attribute my changing perspective merely to increasing age, I prefer to define it as a maturing of a research attitude—an attitude that I've learned to apply to problems that have no immediately apparent solutions.

You here today are respected colleagues, friends, and interested people who share a deep concern about the welfare of children and their music education. My comments are about elementary music education, an area that may seem unglamourous to some. But I hope to engage you in this topic to the point that you will share my concerns. Better yet, I hope to engage you in such a way that you will work to bring about what I believe are much-needed changes.

As I see it, many, many elementary teachers are confronted with an insurmountable problem: that of trying to teach too much content in a limited amount of time to far too many children and with limited resources. I think many of you would agree with my assessment.

My thinking about this issue is a direct result of collecting and reviewing years of descriptive, experiential, and anecdotal data about music participation and achievement in our country and the realities of the elementary music teacher's school life. I want to clarify that my concern is not about the quality of elementary teachers, most of whom work very hard to bring meaningful music experiences to children. Nor am I concerned about the National Standards2 or the myriad published curricula, any of which can serve as useful resources for teachers.

Most of you who know me know that I am a positive and optimistic person, although the concerns I express today may seem somewhat disheartening. But we need to look carefully and honestly at all types of data available to us, even those that are less than positive, including data that suggest that children may not be learning what we intend to teach them. My optimism leads me to believe that we have the capacity to improve the quality of school music experiences for children. I'd like to give you some personal background that may explain my optimism.

Changing Ineffective Practices with Data and Courage

Much of my career has involved children with disabilities in a variety of educational settings. 3 When you make mistakes in teaching children with disabilities, the consequences of those mistakes are often immediately visible in the responses of the children. Mistakes in teaching that persist across many years of school are magnified exponentially in the behaviors of adults with disabilities. As a result of years of mistakes by us well-intended teachers of the 1960s and 1970s, many children with disabilities grew to adulthood having few choices in life, dependent for their well-being on the monetary policies of society and the goodness of caretakers.

I was a young teacher who followed the traditional approach, for lack of a better term, in special education and music education, as all teachers were taught to do. For children with disabilities, we tried to teach everything needed in life in a limited time-frame. We did the best we knew at the time, and children encountered many positive experiences. But we came to learn, from years of descriptive assessments of adults who were "graduates" of institutional special education programs, that our approach was fundamentally flawed. Children with disabilities had not learned what we had intended to teach, and our failings were clearly visible in their adult behavior.

Within the field of special education, a small group of professionals, considered rebels at the time, made public their criticisms of traditionally accepted teaching approaches and services in special education. Acting on behalf of individuals with severe disabilities, a number of these people in higher education made substantive changes to their teacher-preparation programs, and advocates, parents, and professionals in state and federal agencies pressed for changes in educational and social policies.4 Positive data subsequently obtained from children and adults who had been taught by graduates of those iconoclastic university programs led to even broader changes in thinking across the field—changes in research and changes in teacher preparation. As a result, adult data collected over the past two decades demonstrate improvements in the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of individuals with disabilities, although much remains to be done, particularly in secondary education.

I'm telling you about this because I have witnessed the entire field of special education change dramatically in my lifetime, and, being the optimist that I am, I believe that similarly dramatic positive changes can happen in music education as well. (I know there are some rebels in this group.) Although some of the oldest among us may not see such a transformation in music education in our lifetimes, others will. Most important are the significant improvements that can happen in the future musical lives of children and adults.

One reason I'm pleased to talk to this group, the honor of the occasion notwithstanding, is that this meeting comprises the majority of data people in our organization. You are advocates for change based on data. You know the data that show that, in many ways, the art of music is flourishing in this country, but you also know that relatively few people are participating in the types of music activities for which they were prepared in school. You are also data people who hold influential positions in teacher preparation programs in colleges and universities. Some of you are directly responsible for the education of children in music classrooms and rehearsals, and others of you are students who represent the future of music education practice and research.

In a moment, I will summarize a collection of data, some of which is probably familiar to you. I hope to make a strong enough argument from these data so that you will turn your attention and time to the area of elementary education—an area that most would agree can be the foundation for a musical life. I will not make separate comments about children with disabilities since the issue I will talk about today affects all the children we teach in inclusive elementary classrooms—those with and without disabilities.

The goal of providing a high-quality elementary education for young children is a major theme of our citizenry (most noticeably among politicians during election years). There are positive relationships between success in the elementary years and success in secondary school and in life. Although we have no data to support the idea that there are similar positive relationships between high-quality music experiences in the early school years and successful music participation in secondary schools and throughout adult life, this seems a reasonable hypothesis.

Many of us have lived long enough to have experienced the flux of highs and lows in education across time, and we've lived long enough to actually remember where we were, both physically and intellectually, when the various movements in the histories of our society and music education occurred. Throughout my lifetime, music professionals have continued to express the concern that active music participation and the demonstration of music skills in children and adults are not what they should be.

Unfortunately, the persistence of this concern may have desensitized us to the issue. Less-than-positive outcomes are often attributed to factors outside the control of music education professionals: usually instructional time, money, and other resources. Teachers, however, still have control of some of the most powerful and influential variables influencing educational outcomes—what we teach and how we teach.

I value, as you do, the privilege to exercise this freedom to control what happens in our classrooms and to encourage prospective teachers to do this as well. We have always had opportunities to make changes in music classes and in our teacher preparation programs, and there are some good reasons to think about further changes that I hope you will consider today. There are data, hard and soft, but data nonetheless, that support the institution of changes in elementary music programs and in the way we go about preparing elementary teachers.

My least favorite data come from several surveys and the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP).5 These data indicate unhappy truths that we have known for some time: children in music classrooms often do not learn what we intended to teach them. There are, of course, reasonable cautions to be considered in interpreting these data, but the results cannot be ignored. The data I'm about to summarize, along with years of observations of classrooms and anecdotal evidence from teachers and students, have convinced me that the way we think about elementary music, music curricula, and instruction must change. At the end of this presentation, I hope that you data people will agree and will begin to challenge those traditional practices that simply are not working.


Population Growth and Teacher Shortages

I'd like to begin with some demographic data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). I'm reporting 2001—2002 school population data, which were used to make predictions for the year 2013. In 2001—2002, more than 90,000 schools provided instruction for 53 million students, most of them in grades K—8. Of the school-age population, approximately 13% were reported as having disabilities, and 8% were identified as non-native-English speakers. In 2001—2002, 37% of school-age children—that's more than 17 million children—were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.6

If the statistical predictions by NCES are accurate, by 2013—only 9 years from now—-we can expect a 5% increase in the school-age population, an increase from 54 million in fall 2001 to 56.7 million students. With the growing population of children, we can expect teacher shortages for all areas, including music. By their fifth year of teaching, nearly one-third of all new teachers will have left the workforce. It is estimated that nearly 11,000 music teachers will leave their positions each year due to retirement, burnout, or dissatisfaction with theirjobs, yet only 5,000 to 6,000 bachelor degrees in music education are awarded annually.7

Many of us are aware that several states are attempting to alleviate these problems by issuing emergency certificates, developing alternative certification programs, and studying standards specific to licensure, certification, and evaluation—all of which raise questions about teacher quality. As a result of the growing school-age population and district budget cuts, many elementary music teachers are traveling among several schools, seeing more and more children less and less frequently.

Time and Resources

A study of arts education in public schools during the 1999—2000 school year was reported by NCES in June 2002, and elementary music is included in that report.8 Unfortunately, there is no breakout of elementary general music from other specialized types of elementary music instruction identified in the report (i.e., elementary chorus, band, and orchestra). I suspect that the data may be skewed in a more positive direction as a result of the specialized programs, but with that in mind, some of the findings are still relevant to understanding the teaching conditions of elementary music teachers.

Ninety-four percent of the elementary schools reported having an elementary music program, 72% of which were taught by music specialists. Only 67% had dedicated rooms with special equipment for instruction. Among the 94% that offered music instruction, only 6% had music every day, and 73% had music only one to two times a week. Class periods for music instruction lasted, on average, 38 minutes, and for a typical school year based on 40 weeks of instruction, children had an average of only 46 hours of music instruction.

Given the seriousness of challenges in education caused by population growth, teacher shortages, and dwindling budgets for children's educational and health programs, arguments to promote and improve the quality of music education and music teaching conditions can understandably seem less important to those outside our discipline. Of course, many of us would argue that the more troubled the times, the greater and more far-reaching the benefits of a musical life.

In the past, music educators, concerned members of communities, the MENC leadership, and music advocacy organizations have rallied, sometimes successfully, to preserve music opportunities for children. Fortified with the results of systematic research, the philosophies that seek to describe a meaningful life, and an inherent belief in the goodness of music and the benefits of music learning for all humankind, the arguments are timeless.

Until these arguments are more successful in increasing instructional time and resources, training and hiring more skillful music teachers, and bringing additional weight to the merits of music instruction in school, elementary teachers will continue to face tremendous challenges in bringing high-quality, meaningful music experiences to children in their classrooms. But, remember, I am an optimist, and I believe that teachers and prospective teachers can, in fact, accomplish something meaningful in those precious, fleeting 46 hours of instructional time spread across 40 weeks.

Music Participation

Considering the limited quantity of instructional time in music, the data about music participation by adults and music achievement of eighth-grade students from the NAEP report should not be surprising. Many of you are familiar with most of these data, but I'd like to review the findings for background.

I will refer to data from annual reports from the music industry, reports from the National Endowment for the Arts, survey reports on attitudes toward music and attitudes toward music making from the Gallup Organization for the American Music Conference, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress 1997 Arts Report Card for music. I brought together most of these data in preparation for my work as one of six commission authors for Vision 2020: The Houseumight Symposium on the Future of Music Education.9 An expanded report of these data and papers from other commission authors can be found in the published document from the symposium.10, 11

We know that a large majority of adults have positive attitudes about music, music making, and music education, although more than half of those who once played instruments stopped playing before the age of 18, and another 25%, before the age of 35. A large majority of current and former players report that they began to study because of parent encouragement or their own interest, and less than 15% because of encouragement from a teacher. Most of these adults, with or without ensemble experiences in schools, did not join community choirs, bands, or orchestras.

Although sales of electric guitars and electronic keyboards have grown, sales of band and orchestral instruments are not consistently increasing, a result that some attribute to the high numbers of rental returns and used instruments on the market. Recorded classical music represents less than 3% of all shipments to music companies and retailers. Adult attendance at live performances of classical music continues to decline, even though incomes rise and hair turns gray.

I find it fascinating that 90% of all adults continue to report highly positive attitudes about music and believe that music should be part of a well-rounded education; 70% believe that the state should mandate music education in schools; 88% believe that playing a musical instrument can be fun; and 96% believe that playing an instrument can provide lifelong enjoyment. Yet, perhaps paradoxically, 41% of adults believe that it isn't worthwhile to invest in an instrument unless a child has some degree of talent. This response came from approximately equal percentages of adults who play or were former players of instruments. What factors would lead to such a response?

Consider next the students who were the participants described in the NAEP Report for music. They are now in the adult world. You are familiar with the results of this report. Although I well recognize the limitations of the research, I cannot help but see the results as disappointing. Recall that the average scores were low for Responding (150 or below on a scale of 0—300) and extremely low for Creating (34 on a scale of 0—100) and Performing (34 on a scale of 0—100). Of the 18% who reported playing in a band, 3% in an orchestra, and 22% singing in a chorus, scores were also low, with ranges of 43 to 52 for Performing and 40 to 50 for Creating. Performance averages for the 16% of the students who played instruments every day and the 13% who sang every day were higher than the average of 34, but were still low. The average performance score for students who played instruments daily was 53; for students who sang daily, the average performance score was 40.

Scores were low even for students attending schools with the attributes we frequently associate with good programs. For the 91% of the population who received music instruction, their scores on the assessment were unrelated to the frequency of music instruction or whether a full-time music specialist or a part-time specialist was teaching music. Students' scores were also unrelated to the presence or absence of required district or state arts curricula, and to visiting artists programs in the schools.

In addition to these data, we all have stories and personal observations of student performances that are charming but musically mediocre, teachers who are dedicated but exhausted, and adults who, by their self-reports, love music but confess to being terrible singers, never having played an instrument, and not being musically "talented." Even though a large majority of our students leave school with positive attitudes about music (perhaps as a result of participation in music classes), it seems that many have not internalized the values, knowledge, and skills taught in music classes, irrespective of the efforts of hard-working teachers.

Elementary music education is the common music experience for children in schools, and it is here that future generations may begin to experience the joy of music. Although more surveys and systematic assessments will undoubtedly be conducted in the future, I am of the opinion that we now have sufficient information to act—to change the way we think about elementary music education-—before more and more children move through the system of school music and new generations of adults leave school without the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that we care so deeply about imparting. Of course, changing our thinking about elementary music education will lead to changes in the ways we prepare undergraduates in professional education programs as well.

Rethinking the Notion of a "General Music Curriculum"

It is not uncommon for all of a child's elementary school experiences to be provided by a single music teacher who sees 600—800 students every three days, or less, and may travel between schools, valiantly trying to teach (1) singing, (2) playing instruments, (3) improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments, (4) composing and arranging, (5) reading and notating music, (6) listening to, analyzing, and describing music, (7) evaluating music and music performance, (8) understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts, and (9) understanding music in relation to history and culture. How does someone do all of that in 46 hours a year?

Our current practices in elementary education do not predict a new generation of musical adults who provide musical homes for their children and who support the art music community. There is simply not enough instructional time to accomplish all of the many tasks with which teachers are charged, especially when they are thought of as separate components, each of which needs "a lesson on it."

Changes in elementary music can begin by rethinking the notion of a general music curriculum as it is traditionally practiced. Again, my concerns are not with the teachers, the National Standards, or with extant published curricular materials, but more with the interpretation that content areas (Content Standards, in the language of the National Standards for Arts Education) are separate.

One way to resolve the problem of an overcrowded curriculum in elementary music education is to give teachers better resources, more money, and more time. Teachers should have more time, but they don't. Yet despite the reality of limited instructional time and resources, the elementary curriculum, over a period of decades, has become "supersized," with all of the consequences that come from having too much of a good thing.

This is not to ignore that there are exemplary programs that ascribe to what many refer to as the traditional general music curriculum. In many cases, these programs are deemed exemplary based on highly visible music performances by the children who participate. But I wonder how "general" these programs are? We should applaud successful programs, of course. But my concerns are more for the vast majority of schools where teachers are trying to distribute teaching time across a general music curriculum for hundreds of students whom they may see 20 to 40 minutes once a week.

School and teaching have always been governed by the clock. Many of you will recall the 1994 report from the National Education Commission on Time and Learning titled Prisoners of Time,12 which considered the amount of instructional time necessary to teach the recently adopted National Standards in what was referred to as the core subjects, which did not include music at the time. The topic of attitudes and time was eloquently expressed by the following statement: "The simple truth, however, is that none of [the recommendations about time] will make much difference unless there is a transformation in attitudes about education. The transformation we seek requires a widespread conviction in our society that learning matters. Learning matters, not simply because it leads to better jobs or produces national wealth, but because it enriches the human spirit and advances social health." And in another statement, "Both learners and teachers need more time—not to do more of the same, but to use all time in new, different, and better ways.13

Learning matters. Music learning matters. We cannot continue to use precious instructional time to "do more of the same." Change can begin by recognizing transfer of learning as an essential part of education and facing the reality that teaching for transfer requires almost all instructional time. From a substantial base of research in human learning we know that the probability of transfer increases when valuable instructional time is used to create frequent opportunities for students to (1) learn skills and knowledge deeply and thoroughly, (2) practice the same skills and tasks, (3) apply the same skills and knowledge in a variety of contexts and with numerous and varied examples, and (4) learn meaningful principles rather than isolated facts and skills. Teaching a general music curriculum, as we currently define it, in 46 hours or less per year, violates many of these principles.

Although the principles of human learning can be taught successfully to prospective teachers and practiced in the course of teacher preparation programs, the disparities between methods course experiences and the real world pressures of a full-time position in a traditional general music program can send even the best young teachers reeling.

Trying to do it all often results in children's demonstrating poor to mediocre performing skills and encountering bits of knowledge that are fleeting and ultimately meaningless. Competent teachers, while trying to meet the demands of a general curriculum within the strictures of limited time, can become disillusioned. They may lower their expectations, limit performances, avoid assessment of their students, and perhaps eventually burn out. Or worse, teachers may simply resort to frivolous activities as a way to fill class time.


Make Music

In an elementary curriculum where instructional time is dispersed across numerous, disconnected activities, there is no time for children's music skills to be refined and no time for a deeper understanding of music. My goal here today is to place on the table the following proposal: that we make performance the core of the elementary curriculum and the core of elementary methods courses for music teachers. I don't want to rehash the ideas of Elliot and Reimer. You have read their arguments.14 The point is that learning to perform with competence and confidence is central to a musical life. Expressive, technically accurate performance incorporates skills and knowledge from many other standards.

Time and good instruction are required if we are to expect children to not only learn to perform, but perform beautifully and with confidence. Teachers must be prepared for this task. Undergraduate students in elementary music courses can be taught to go beyond simply introducing new music to sing or play—to refining the quality of children's performance skills.

For the vast majority of children who will not experience private lessons, their only opportunity to learn to sing or play instruments is in school. If children do not leave the elementary grades competent and confident in their music making, for many, their music education in school is essentially over.

The performance program I visualize for the elementary grades is vastly different from the narrow focus of some secondary programs, where all efforts are on public performances and contests; where students have few opportunities to gain a deep understanding of music and learn musical independence. I have in mind an elementary performance curriculum where children have frequent opportunities to learn a varied repertoire of music and have frequent opportunities to sing and play instruments expressively and with technical accuracy, alone and with classmates, in large and small ensembles, in informal settings with audiences composed of classmates, teachers, parents, and administrators. Where children develop skills of reading and interpreting music through singing and playing instruments. Where they become discriminating listeners and have frequent opportunities to make independent musical decisions and evaluations of their own performances as well as the live and recorded performances of others. VVhere they practice using the language of music to express preferences and describe and analyze music they perform. Where they have successful experiences leading to feelings of self-efficacy, and where children come to develop personal values and attitudes about the importance of music in their lives. These goals are attainable at all elementary grade levels if teachers make appropriate decisions about music literature, tasks, and contexts.

Some of these ideas are reminiscent of Bruner's Spiral Curriculum,15 and to some extent the Manhattanville Music Curriculum Program (MMCP) and comprehensive musicianship practices.16 I find a closer association with empirically derived research findings about teaching and learning—principles from decades of research examining environmental factors and cognitive factors that influence learning: perception and attention; memory and forgetting; concept learning; practice and study strategies; transfer and problem solving; motivation and affect; expectancies; attributions; and selfdetermination, self-efficacy, and competence.

The challenge for all of us in teacher preparation programs is to bring prospective teachers to the point where they internalize principles of teaching and learning and independently apply them in classrooms with children. Many factors contribute to the success of new teachers, of course, but it is we who perhaps can have the greatest influence on their success. The sobering truth is that faculty in teacher preparation programs can have a profound influence on the quality of music education in the schools.

Teacher Preparation and Research

Ultimately, children's learning in schools is at the core of professional activities in music research and teaching. Ironically, the performance (success) of children in classrooms and rehearsals is rarely used in music education research as a dependent measure of teacher effectiveness.17 The lack of research examining causal relationships between teaching and learning, in teaching practice and in teacher preparation, is a void in music education research. The advancements that we have made in research are notable, although (with apologies to those who have read this phrase far too often) "more research is warranted," and as amended for this address, "more research examining causal relationships between teaching and learning in elementary classrooms is warranted."

Rudy [Rudolf E.] Radocy, in his senior researcher address, suggested that the problems of teachers "will not be served simply by producing more research, regardless of how elegant it may be," and he went on to say that the basic problem lies with the lack of a research-oriented attitude on the part of teachers.18 He makes an important point. I would like to add further that assessment of student learning, even with young children, is part of that attitude. Application of research-based findings to teaching singing is part of that attitude. Knowledge and skillful application of principles of learning is part of that attitude.

Learning to think with a research-oriented attitude takes time and requires consistency in values across a college curriculum. Many of us have integrated components of research, for lack of a better phrase, into our courses. Although a research-oriented attitude is the goal for future teachers, if we teach students to make important discriminations, to assess their students, and to understand causal relationships between their teaching and their students' learning, they are well on their way to developing a research-oriented attitude.

It's difficult to find time in a semester's course to do it all. Although our daily routines are dramatically different from music teachers' in schools, we do share the problem of having too little time and too much content. The consequences of our decisions in teacher preparation courses ultimately influence the musical lives of vast numbers of children every year, if prospective teachers teach as they were taught to do. Again, a very sobering reality.


Changes in elementary music programs must begin with those of us in teacher preparation programs. Considering the evidence that students may not learn what we intend to teach them, considering the overcrowded elementary curriculum that is taught to increasingly more students within less and less instructional time, I am proposing that we prepare teachers for elementary programs in which the focus is on children's competent performance of music.

Our own limited instructional time in music methods classes should be directed toward teaching prospective teachers the refinement of music performance skills. Not merely the demonstration and introduction of skills, but the refinement of skills. The goals of elementary music education must move beyond "exposing" (a word I believe should be expunged from all curricula) or simply "introducing students to." Competence and confidence must be our goals. If we are successful, new teachers will (1) devote themselves to providing a high-quality music education for young children—one that is based on competent, confident performance; (2) successfully apply well-established principles of teaching and learning in the development of fluent skills in all children; (3) demonstrate attitudes and skills for self-evaluation based on the progress of their children's performances; (4) make informed decisions regarding children's repertoire and activities; and (5) embody the research attitude that we have longed for, and demonstrate this attitude in decision-making.

It is difficult to change tradition, even when faced with compelling empirical data that support change. When enough individuals become dissatisfied with the way things are, a movement begins and change happens. I've suggested that a movement to improve the quality of elementary music education and the quality of teachers' lives can best begin with faculty in higher education who prepare new generations of elementary music teachers.

Researchers are wonderfully optimistic people in that they frequently tackle problems, examine data, and propose solutions. I hope that my concerns for the elementary education of all children are shared by many of you and that you find some merit in my proposal, or at least find merit in the conclusion that change is warranted. Monday will be here shortly, and a new teaching day begins.


  1. Most acceptance addresses of former recipients of the Senior Researcher Award can be found in alternate years beginning in 1988 of the Fall issues of the Journal for Research in Music Education: Madsen (1988); [Britton (1990, unpublished)]; LeBlanc (1992); Carlson (1994); Yarbrough (1996); Radocy (1998); Geringer (2000); Campbell (2002).
  2. Music Educators National Conference (MENC), The School Music Pmgram: A New (Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1994).
  3. On a personal note, one of my earliest professional experiences with children and adults with disabilities was in a residential institutional setting where I worked as a music therapist. Increasingly more children with disabilities were included in regular schools and communities as a result of the deinstitutionalization movement and particularly with the mandate of The Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, now known as The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). My experiences in music education, music therapy, and teacher training provided an ideal opportunity to combine my professional goals for research and teaching. For information about the field of music therapy, contact the American Music Therapy Association (
  4. Many current curricular and instructional practices in special education can be traced to the early actions of professionals and parents who questioned the quality of educational services for persons with severe disabilities. Until the 1970s, the human development model dominated curricular and instructional decisions in special education services. A significant challenge to the model was presented in a 1978 paper by Lou Brown, Mary Beth McLean, Susan Hamre Nietupski, Ian Pumpian, Nick Certo, and Lee Gruenewald titled "A Strategy for Developing Chronological Age Appropriate and Functional Curricular Content for Severely Handicapped Adolescents and Young Adults." The paper was first published by the authors in 1978 in a grant report, Curricular Strategies for Developing Longitudinal Interactions Between Severely Handicapped Students and Others and Curricular Strategiesfor Teaching Severely Handicapped Students to Acquire and Perform Skills in Response to Naturally Occurring Cues and Correction Procedures, Vol. VIII, Part 1. Madison, WI: MMSD. A revised version appeared in 1979 in the Joumal of Special Education, 13 (1), and a 1996 version is available on the first author's Web site through the University ofVVisconsin. Ideas from these authors and other "rebels" who challenged early educational practices are noted by Ed Sontag and Norris G. Haring in "The Professionalization of Teaching and Learning for Children with Severe Disabilities: The Creation of TASH," The Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 21 (1), 1996. For an interesting and contemporary overview of basic concepts, supportive research, and strategies that have been used to facilitate inclusion and improve the quality of life of individuals with mild and severe disabilities, refer to Diane L. Ryndak and Douglas Fisher (Eds.), The Foundations of Inclusive Education: A Compendium ofArticks on Effective Strategies to Achieve Inclusion, 2nd ed., 2003, available from TASH (
  5. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. The NAEP 1997 Arts Report Card (NCES 1999-486 by Hilary R. Persky, Brent A. Sadene, and Janice M. Askew, Washington, DC: 1998); also available online at
  6. For detailed statistical reports, refer to the following publications from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics: Overview of Public and Secondary Schools and Districts: School Year 2001-02 (NCES 2002411, by Lee McGraw Hoffman, Washington, DC: 2002) and Projections of Education Statistics to 2013 (NCES 2004-013, by Debra E. Gerald and William J. Hussar, Washington, DC: 2003); also available online at
  7. Teacher shortage data, prepared by the MENC Information Resources Department, were presented by Carolynn A. Lindeman, past-president of MENC, in a speech, "How Can Higher Education Address the K—12 Music Teacher Shortage?" at the 78th Annual Meeting of The National Association of Schools of Music in New Orleans, November 2002. The speech is published in Proceedings: The 78th Annual Meeting, 2002 (Number 91, July 2003): 30-33.
  8. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, 1999—2000 (NCES 2002-131, by Nancy Carey, Brian Kleiner, Rebecca Porch, and Elizabeth Farris. Project Officer, Shelley Burns, Washington, DC: 2002); also available online at
  9. Judith A. Jellison. "How Can All People Continue to Be Involved in Meaningful Music Participation" in Clifford K Madsen (Ed.), Vision 2020: The Housewright Symposium on the Future of Music Education (pp. 111—137). Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 2000.
  10. Clifford K Madsen, Ed., Vision 2020: The Housewright Symposium on the Future of Music Education (Reston, VA: MENC: The National Association for Music Education, 2000).
  11. The Housewright Symposium on the Future of Music Education, which took place in September 1999 at The Florida State University in Tallahassee, was the vision of June Hinkley, then president of MENC. Vision 2020, as it was called, was created and developed in the spirit of the Tanglewood Symposium of 1967 and named to honor Wiley Housewright  for his leadership as president of MENC during the implementation of the findings of Tanglewood. The published document begins with Michael Mark's description of Tanglewood and the historical context for Vision 2020. His article is followed by papers from six commission authors (Terry Gates; Judith Jellison; Paul Lehman; Bennett Reimer; Carlesta Spearman; Cornelia Yarbrough) who were asked to respond to questions that would give direction to music education in the next millennium. Responses to authors' papers by professionals in education, music administration, music performance, and music industry are included in the document. The final product was the result of the collective wisdom of small groups of members working with authors, commission members, and more than 150 participants representing music education at all levels and with representation from industry and the community. In keeping with the tradition of Tanglewood, the symposium ended with a summation of agreements concerning the future of music education.
  12. National Education Commission on Time and Learning, Prisoners of Time (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1994). Public Law 102—62 (The Education Council Act of 1991) established the National Education Commission on Time and Learning as an independent advisory body and called for a comprehensive review of the relationship between time and learning in the nation's schools. Many of the concerns regarding instructional time and learning expressed in the commission's 1994 report persist in contemporary educational settings.
  13. Archived Information, Prisoners of Time, April 1994, available online at No page numbers available. Refer to section "The Imperative for an American Transformation."
  14. I am aware of the danger in attempting to summarize what have been defined as two conflicting philosophies of music education and refer you to extensive descriptions of each in major books by the proponents. One of the historically influential philosophies, "aesthetic education," has been articulated for the field of music education by Bennett Reimer (A Philosophy of Music Education, 2nd ed., Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice Hall, 1989). David J. Elliot proffers a new philosophy based on music as human activity (Music Matters, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
  15. Jerome Bruner, in his book On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand, put forward the idea of "a spiral curriculum in which ideas are first presented in a form and language, honest though imprecise, which can be grasped by the child, ideas that can be revisited later with greater precision and power until, finally, the student has achieved the reward of mastery" (New York: Atheneum, 1976 [originally 1962]): 107—108.
  16. The MMCP and comprehensive musicianship practices were innovative programs that had their beginnings in 1965. One phase ofMMCP included a "spiral" curriculum with emphasis on expressive music making and creativity throughout the curriculum. The idea of comprehensive musicianship was based on recommendations from collaborations among teachers and composers as participants in the Contemporary Music Project during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Consult Ronald B. Thomas, Manhattanville Music Curriculum Program: Final Report. (New York: Manhattanville College. ERIC document number ED 045865AA000653, 1970) and William Thomson, Comprehensive Musicianship through Classroom Music (Belmont, CA: Addison-Wesley, 1974).
  17. Robert A. Duke, "Measures of Instructional Effectiveness in Music Research," Bulletin ofthe Councilfor Research in Music Education, no. 143, 1—48.
  18. Rudolf E. Radocy, Senior Researcher Acceptance Address. Journal of Research in Music Education, 46, 346.