Character Education in the Music Class

My purpose in this post is to hopefully open up a discussion about what part character education plays into your music program.

A year or two ago, I served as a member of my district’s music curriculum guide planning committee. We debated whether anything should be included in the curriculum regarding character education.

One teacher said that character education was not part of his teaching goals, but that he felt students would learn to be responsible citizens indirectly by being part of a successful music program. I agreed, but argued that some element of character education should be addressed somewhere in the curriculum guide. We debated the subject a little, but everyone agreed one bi-product of the music program is students becoming more responsible citizens.

Here are a few character traits I would like to see my music students develop:

Responsibility: It almost goes without saying that members of a school music group have a variety of responsibilities, including remembering to bring their instrument to school, turning in permission slips, showing up to rehearsals, not to mention practicing their instruments.

Teamwork: Students must learn to work together as an ensemble for good rhythm, balance, and intonation.

Punctuality: I can’t think of a really excellent director who doesn’t believe in starting rehearsals on time. In my district’s music program, students are responsible for leaving their classrooms to come to music class on time. The classroom teachers do not remind them, and there are no external prompts.

Kindness: Students should encourage each other as they learn new skills and concepts. We avoid laughing at anyone who has a hard time with a new skill.

What about you? Do you purposefully teach character education in your music classes? What other traits can you add to this list?


4 thoughts on “Character Education in the Music Class

  1. This is a really interesting post, Steve. I taught Character First! Education in our local school district for five years, so I find myself incorporating a lot of the same principles in my music teaching. I primarily teach privately, so the situation is different from a classroom teacher, but I actually build my whole year around different character-based themes, depending on what areas I think need the most attention.

    One of the most effective principles I’ve learned is the importance of praising character versus achievement. For example, instead of saying, “Wow, you got all the notes right” I might say, “I really appreciate how attentive you were to the patterns of the notes so that you were able to play them accurately.” It may seem like a small distinction, but when you address the character that underlies the behavior, students will be motivated to apply the same character to future assignments. The value of praising character increases exponentially in a group environment when students realize that it’s demonstration of good character that garners them attention, not misbehavior.

    Obviously this is an area that I could go on and on about, but I won’t. 🙂 I just think it’s wonderful that you are making a concerted effort to incorporate character education into your teaching!

  2. I have always thought that one of my greatest responsibilities is teaching my students how to be good people. I am always re-inforcing responsibility issues with my students. Our situations just lend themselves so easidy to character education.

  3. Hey Steve,

    I really enjoyed this post. Interesting enough, Bennett Reimer poses the same kind of question in his 3rd edition of his Philosophy of Music Education. Does music education make more ethical students?

    I would agree that it is a natural bi-product of what we do in our daily rehearsals. We ask for Responsibility, Compentence, Trust, Cooperation, Respect, and Courage from our students in order to create meaningful musical experiences. I had always considered this an “unofficial” part of my job, but not realized the depth of the impact until I read the well articulated thoughts of Dr. Reimer last spring. He presents a very compelling case that this is part of our job – whether we see to it or not.

    TRUST – Depending on others who are depending on us
    COMPETENCE – Work to be done to attain the skill that we need
    COOPERATION – The working together of people towards a mutual goal, the working together of a person and the medium to bring about the musical moments full potential.
    RESPECT – Respect is a sense of one’s worth/esteem within their creative musical role. It is also a measure of respect towards the materials, the equipment, the uniform, the music.
    COURAGE-Musical creation calls upon our courage to wrong as often as right, to keep working towards what is needed in face of our limitations. Every musical or artistic decision we make can be wrong – we can choose not to meet what is required of us, we can be musically or socially insensitive to others.

    When you consider how the thoughts above listed by Dr. Reimer (2003) play out in our rehearsals, in our teaching, and how we motivate our students we cannot ignore this responsibility. It is no more of a burden than studying our scores – it is something we do naturally. Great post Steve!

    Reimer, B. (2003). A philosophy of music education: Advancing the vision (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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