Evan's Philosophy of Music Education

Evan Smith, Jamie Fischer, and Dr. Lilli Levinowitz Co-creator of Music Together (Dec. 2017)



Evan Smith

February 16,2017


         The value of music and education are both priceless. As I have matured through educational institutions, musical experiences, and life, I have learned that I will never be able to give back, in full, what education and music have gave to me, even if I accumulated all the riches and valuables of the world, it still would not be enough for repayment. Music and education have shaped me what into what I am now. My philosophy on music education is formed by my life experiences, but it is not for me nor is it centered around me, it is centered around my students.his.

         My educational approach is centered around utilitarian, humanistic, civic, economic, and social melioristic philosophies. Meaning my methods of teaching are centered around the student with the intention to make the student a better civilian. Making the student a better civilian reforms society to produce a better economy. This is facilitated through an educational approach which maximizes happiness of learning. Music teaches many important aspects such as Responsibility, Respect,  Time Management , Hard Work yields good results, Team Work, Self Confidence, and more. 

          To begin I will start talking about actions, maxims, imperatives, and consequences (Warburton, The Basics of Philosophy). When teaching one should have a set of morals and actions and know how to execute them. I have a utilitarian view on ethics. I do not agree with Kantian Ethics, to where all ends justify all means. I agree with John Stuart Mill, and Felicific Calculus. This is a system in which one’s actions will minimize pain and maximize happiness for all parties involved. This is also a system where the consequences are based off hypothetical imperatives and conditional maxims.  I recently talked to Jack Murtha, a general music teacher at Rosa International Middle School, and I am going to integrate his philosophy of music education into mine, because of its utilitarian view. Murtha’s philosophy of music education is called the “No Tears Method” he explained to me “In my class I want no one to cry or go to the principal’s office crying. What does that say about music? Music should appeal to everyone, music is for everyone. Other subjects such as, math, health, physed, and language arts, have the capability of being discouraging and difficult for students. Music resonates in everyone” it just depends on the genre. If this is true, when a student goes crying to the office a music teacher has failed. It is the teachers job to maximize happiness and minimize pain, I would like to go even further and say that in the music classroom there should be no pain, only happiness! The teacher must facilitate the classroom to accomplish. Although that seems impossible to manage, it should still be a goal.

         Felicific Calculus plays a big role in my approach to executing actions, but when I use this methodology I do not aim the first six steps of “intensity (how intense the happiness/pleasure is) , duration (How long it will last), certainty (I certain I am of the outcome of my action), propinquity (How long it takes for the action to cause happiness), fecundity (how likely my action will lead to similar actions), and purity (how likely my action will lead to opposing actions)” towards myself, I combine them with the seventh step extent and think how it will affect everyone at all times. It is my philosophy as a teacher to put my students first that’s why utilitarianism goes well with the humanistic approach to education.

        The humanistic approach to education puts the student first. It is also known as the Personal Development approach. Abraham Maslow, created this approach he calls it “person centered” education. Any constructivist educator agrees with Maslow.  One executes this approach through empathy, caring about students, genuineness of the teacher, being a learning facilitator and not didactic. In this approach students control the course of their education, their education focuses on their concerns, it is about the whole person, self-evaluation, and self-actualization. I will say I have officially grasped the humanistic approach to education, after Elementary Learning Methods(TNLA), teaching private saxophone lessons to ages 8-13, and teaching karate to ages 4-71. When I started to utilize the humanistic constructivists teaching methods in TNLA under Dr. Levinowitz, all my students improved exponentially. When students can construct knowledge through the facilitated actions of the teacher, the information sticks in their brains, because they created the knowledge they were not told it, they actually created it! Like a scientist discovering and experimenting in the laboratory, and creating a ground-breaking theorem!  The personal investment of the student in the class helps their passion grow. When a student watches a teacher, they are seeking approval because more than likely the student looks up to you. When students have there “lightning bolt” moments and see the teacher is ecstatic because they found the right solution, they are now encouraged to pursue education further! They are now more personally invested, they create their own map to the treasure known as knowledge. Lastly, as the student starts to learn how to facilitate himself through the teachers actions he is now becoming a better civilian, this goes along the economic and civic rationale for education.

         Through humanistic ideals, we support the civic rationale for education. The humanistic and constructivists approach to education develops students into lifelong independent learners. This independence goes hand in hand with the civic rationale. The civic rationale is a concept where educational institutions teach students “civic competence and responsibility”, students learn not to just accept the commands of others, they learn to think about decisions and weigh options based on personal morals they have developed, students are involved on their own governance, and can function in a society. It is an idea where education promotes social responsibility, to create active members in our society by being good citizens. Once the civic approach is accomplished the economic rationale for education builds off it.

          The economic rationale for education supports the idea that through education we can prepare students to be better, hardworking, dedicated, well educated workers, it also supports the that students who are educated will be able to sustain a job upon graduation. The economic rationale also believes that if school systems educate more students it will yield more jobs in society. These two ideals of the economic rationale promise to help society progress and a better society. But to truly reform society through education, such the objectives of the civic and economic rationales buttress, a teacher must also support social meliorism.

        Social meliorism is the belief that education is a tool to reform society and the belief that the ability to improve one’s intelligence and life is done through education. It states that one’s future is not determined by their gender, socio economic status, race, heredity, and any other factors. The truest of teachers reach out to all students and care about improving the students.

      The primary purposes of education: personal development, economic, civic, and social meliorism rationales are the most important to me. The knowledge preservation rationale is not a strong argument to me, especially as a musician. To keep your genre of music alive as a reason to teach is too much of an intrinsic value for the teacher, it is about the student’s education not ones needs. Yes, it is important to preserve all forms of music and that’s why jazz and classical music has been institutionalized at college universities and public schools, because outlets for these genres are not as common outside of school systems any more. The purpose of the teacher should be to inspire and reach out to students through the music we choose to teach, to expose them to genres they will pursue and through those means that specific music will be preserved and brought back to society by their actions of sharing and enthusiasm towards that music, not through institutionalization. I do not want to teach my students for them to preserve knowledge, that will be making my students no better than a library, a data base, and inanimate object. My students are alive! I want to teach my students in such a way where they can choose the knowledge they preserve, and with that chosen knowledge they will want to share their passion with the rest of the world, I want to make my students preachers of their passion, whether it be a scientist, mathematician, or musician.

         The reason I describe the purpose of education first is because the value of music is found in these rationales. Music is a social organization, it develops feeling, cognition, and consciousness, creativity, interpretation, ethics, expression, independence, group skills, and much more. It connects to all subject’s history, math, science, language arts, etc. Daniel J. Levitin explains in his book, This is Your Brain on Music, that music accesses all part of the brain, and that is why other subjects are improved by it. It is also genetically encoded in us, there have been many form of homo-sapiens but the ones that survived had music. Charles Darwin wrote “I conclude that musical notes and rhythm were first acquired by the male or female to attract the opposite sex. Thus, musical tones became firmly associated with some of the strongest passions” (Descent of man) thus it was a serious part of natural/sexual selection, also rhythmic dancing and music making that have characterized most music across the ages serve as a warranty for mental and physical fitness, perhaps a warranty of reliability and the conscientiousness… because expertise requires mental focus”. Music show cunning, strategizing, and intellect for music was a characteristic of the smarter Neanderthals (Levitin 245-250). From here music evolved, instead of being a base for Neanderthals to determine a mate, became a form of praise to the highest of beings, it also became family and friend activity to create music together at social gatherings. To not teach music in schools would be preventing self-actualization in school, music is literally in our DNA. I can guarantee that every adult in the world has one song of any genre that resonates with in their soul, because music is a part of us.

        This shows how music can reach out to everyone! One of the reasons deals with civic rationale, school keeps children occupied and off the streets. If a child is occupied by school activities he will not have that free time of wondering around, not knowing what to do, or experimenting certain things (an example can be drugs). If a student is in a music program for both during school and after school this keeps kids off the streets. Sometimes a teacher’s class is the only reason a kid comes to school, and that class can possibly be band class.

        It is also a social outlet for students, all students of all backgrounds: Jock, Mathlete, Latin Club, Photography Club, Theatre, Special Needs, all races, all religions, etc. all combine to make a band. Then they work together in group setting during band class, and individual settings by practicing by themselves (To be able to practice an instrument for an hour it requires dedication, responsibility, and self-organization). This teaches good team work skills listening, respecting, helping, sharing, participating, and more. A music teacher must guide a group of 4-60 students to create music together, but as the teacher facilitates the music making, when he/she waves the baton, by themselves, do you hear music? No, you may see a musical gesture, such as a crescendo or pianissimo, but no music. The music comes from the ability of the students who poured hard work and dedication into their practice, the music comes from the students who can communicate the 40 other students without speaking a word but by playing a single note, the music comes from the students who now know how to take something that is black and white on a page and make it portrait of sound color for all to hear. This facilitates humanistic, civic, economic, and social melioristic rationales. Music facilitates all educational rationales.

        In conclusion, the civic, economic, personal development, and social-melioristic rationales are reasons public education should remain a part of society, and music should remain a part of public education because it facilitates these rationales. If I were to condense my philosophy of music education into one sentence it would be: “My philosophy of education is to teach students how be the best they can be through music”.  My job is to make students dig deep and accomplish what they never thought possible; my job is to teach diligence, cooperation, , curiosity, resilience, critical thinking, and problem solving; my job is to be in loco-parentis for when a student has failing parents; my job to make an A- feel like an F to certain students, and to make a C- feel like an A+ to others; my job to be so captivating that students want to go to school and learn, to teach as if I was the first falling of snow in the winter season in the eyes of a child; It is my job to be the best person I can be so my students can be the best people they can be.













Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. New Delhi: Sarup Book (P), 2016. Print.

Levitin, Daniel J. This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. New York, NY: Dutton, 2016. Print.

Mali, Taylor. What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World. New York: Berkley, 2013. Print.

Mark, Michael L., and Patrice D. Madura. Music Education in Your Hands an Introduction for Future Teachers. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Reimer, Bennett. A Philosophy of Music Education: Advancing the Vision. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2012. Print.

Warburton, Nigel. Philosophy: The Basics. Abingdon: Routledge, 2013. Print.