Stephen Shoop

Dev. Phil. of Mus. Ed.

Developing a Personal Philosophy

of Music Education


 What would be the value of developing a philosophy of music education?  I believe spending time formulating a personal philosophy of music education is worthwhile for the following reasons: 

 (1) The process forces a music educator to crystallize ones’ beliefs.  In addition to verbally articulating a philosophy, it is important to put your philosophy statement in writing. 

 (2) An educator’s goals and objectives tend to be guided by one’s philosophy.  Developing a statement of philosophy is a good first step in the process.

 (3) A clearly thought out philosophy tends to equip the music educator with the ability to respond to those who might not share the same high level of commitment to music education. 

 (4) Developing a philosophy statement provides an opportunity to compare YOUR personal philosophy with the collective philosophy that seems to be present in a given town, school district, state, and/or region.  (Such a collective philosophy tends to be deeply rooted in tradition, is almost always more utilitarian than aesthetic, and is largely unconscious to those who are not music educators). 

 (5) In many cases, YOU are the primary music education expert in town!  To a great degree, YOU represent music education in that place.  Therefore, you must be able to clearly articulate the value of music education, and convey its importance in the lives of students to the decision makers.  In short, YOU must be the chief advocate for music education within your sphere of influence. 

 Developing a personal philosophy of music education is an excellent starting point, and provides a foundation upon which to build.  Similar philosophies to be formulated include (1) teaching philosophy and (2) philosophy of a particular music/band/orchestra/choral program.  In addition, one’s clearly thought-out philosophy statement can also lead to the formulation of a mission statement.  

Note:  I came across a quote published in an article in the April, 2012 issue of the NAfME publication Teaching Music.  (The passage appears on page 40).  Origin of the quote is Lynn G. Cooper, retired chair of the music department at Asbury University, in Wilmore, Kentucky:

A real concern is that college students do not develop a sound philosophy of music education of music education.... A philosophy is like a lighthouse:  It lights the way for the pilot to set the course.  And a philosophy is an evolving document.  You have one as a student, another after student teaching, another after doing the job for five years of so."  

April 7, 2012


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