Campbell-Dahm—Music in US Schools

A Social History of Music in US Schools: The Coalescence of Research and Practice

Patricia Shehan Campbell and L. Clayton Dahm

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ABSTRACT: Our aim in this article is to provide a critical review of the research on music in K–12 schools, from its historical origins and pedagogical developments to contemporary practices in a time of new and ongoing cultural awakenings. The article is rooted in a conceptualization of music education philosophy and practice found in the United States. We address the role of music in society and its schools, as well as the long-standing aims and purposes that define music education. The article chronicles the evolution of music education in schools, examines the reasons given for the enthusiastic continuation of bands, choirs, orchestras, and general music courses, and describes the turn in the mid-twentieth century toward research that would help shape contemporary pedagogical practices and learning processes. While the first part of the article offers a social history of American music education contexts and pedagogies, the second part reveals the coalescence of research and practice in the field over the course of some seventy years, with streams of influence arriving from musicology, psychology, sociology, and anthropology that have generated research questions and pedagogical policies and applications. Prevalent topics in contemporary research are reviewed, including developmental matters, modalities of musicianship, music education contexts, justifications for public school music education, teacher education, identities of students and teachers, and the issue of tradition and change in the formation of school music canons. We address societal factors that shape music education scholarship, including demographic currents and the diverse communities of US families whose children comprise school-age populations. Finally, we briefly consider the promise of music education for young learners and for the future of research in the field through a reevaluation of the aims of teaching music in schools and ways that it can serve the common good.

How to cite this article: Campbell, Patricia Shehan, and L. Clayton Dahm. 2022. “A Social History of Music in US Schools: The Coalescence of Research and Practice.” Music Research Annual 3: 1–32.

About the authors: Patricia Shehan Campbell is professor emeritus at the University of Washington and Fulbright distinguished research chair at Carleton University, Canada. A singer and pianist, with studies of the Japanese koto, Celtic harp, Carnatic Indian mridangam, and Bulgarian and Wagogo song, she has lectured internationally on the pedagogy of world music cultures and children’s musical cultures. She is author of Lessons from the World (1991), Music in Cultural Context (1996), Songs in Their Heads (1998, 2010), Teaching Music Globally (2004), Musician and Teacher (2008), and Music, Education, and Diversity: Bridging Cultures and Communities (2018); co-author of Music in Childhood (4th ed., 2017) and Redefining Music Studies in an Age of Change (2017); and co-editor of Oxford University Press’s twenty-eight-volume Global Music Series (2004–18), as well as the edited books Global Music Cultures (2021) and The Oxford Handbook of Children’s Musical Cultures (2013). Campbell is recipient of the 2012 Taiji Award and the 2017 Koizumi Prize for work on the preservation of traditional music through educational practice. In 2021, she was awarded honorary membership in the Society for Ethnomusicology. An educational consultant to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the Alan Lomax recordings, and the Global Jukebox, she is editor of the seven-volume series World Music Pedagogy (2018–21) for practicing educators from early childhood through higher education.

L. Clayton Dahmis a PhD candidate and lecturer at the University of Washington. His research interests span ethnomusicology and music education to include diversity and representation, contemporary postcolonial global popular music, and the musical practices of families. He has worked as a consultant on curriculum design and also as an educator in public schools and in multigenerational community music programs in the US and UK. Dahm is the recipient of the 2022 Elisabeth May Slater Prize, which is awarded by the Education Section of the Society for Ethnomusicology to recognize the most distinguished student paper in the ethnomusicology of children, youth, or the education or pedagogy of aspects of the world’s musical cultures. An active clinician and presenter, his publications can be found in The Orff Echo, Music Educators Journal, Journal of Popular Music Education, and International Journal of Community Music.

ISSN 2563-7290