General Music Curriculum

Bryan Wilkins, BM, MEd
Music Teacher
Otto Petersen Elementary School

Students at Petersen receive music instruction in two thirty-minute sessions each week  as part of our school's core curricula. The music curriculum is designed to build upon the  foundation given in grades K-3, advancing key musical skills with increasing complexity and sophistication as they progress through their study.

The stated objectives of the music curriculum are as follows:

  1. To enable all students to attain grade level proficiency standards set forth in the National Standards for Music Education.
  2. To develop the holistic child-musician to the fullest extent possible in the four key dimensions of musicianship: the well-trained ear, the well-trained hand, the well-trained heart, and the well-trained mind.
  3. To foster an appreciation and understanding of music through performance of great works of musical art and to expose students to their musical heritage.
  4. To produce musically literate individuals, able to understand and perform in context the essential elements of music, thereby enabling students to become independent musical learners and consumers of music.
  5. To provide interested students a solid foundation for choral and/or instrumental study.


The National Standards for Music Education (Music Educators National Conference, 1994) and the associated Performance Standards for Music (1996) inform both the content of instruction and the levels of proficiency students should be able to attain through their musical study at Edy Ridge. These include the following nine content standards:

  1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
  2. Playing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
  3. Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments.
  4. Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.
  5. Reading and notating music.
  6. Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.
  7. Evaluating music and performances.
  8. Understanding music in relation to the other arts and other academic disciplines.
  9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.


As it seeks to fulfill these standards, the music curriculum embraces the philosophies and teaching methods of Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) and others. A Kodály-inspired music education affirms the following ideals:

  1. Music is for everyone - music is universal.
  2. Only music of the highest quality is worthy of the child.
  3. To be musically literate is the right of every human being.
  4. Music is at the core of the curriculum.
  5. Singing is the foundation of a musical education.
  6. Music education should begin at birth.
  7. The folk song is the musical mother tongue.
  8. The musical mother tongue is the best vehicle for instruction.

Domains of Musical Skill Development

The music curriculum advances student abilities in 18 core domains of musical skill.

1. Rhythmic Development: the ability to hear, sing, read, write, improvise, and compose with and perform rhythmic elements, figures, and patterns.

2. Melodic Development: the ability to hear, sing, read, write, improvise, and compose with and perform melodic elements, intervals, note-groups, and turns.

3. Form Development: the ability to hear, identify, memorize, improvise within, and create motivic, phrasic, and sectional formal structures; the ability to identify identical, similar, and different patterns.

4. Harmonic Development: the ability to identify, write, read, perform, improvise over, and create basic chords and harmonic sequences.

5. Style Development: the ability to recognize musical styles and adjust performance accordingly.

6. Development of Terminology: the ability to recognize and use musical terms and symbols, both verbally and in performance.

7. Singing and Vocal Development: includes good habits, correct use, range expansion, stylistic instruction, intonation, and expression.

8. Listening Development: the ability to aurally apprehend and analyze musical structures; the ability to respond to aural stimuli.

9. Movement Development: the apprehension through expression of space, time, force,
direction in free and organized formations during singing and listening using locomotor
and non-locomotor activity.

10. Memory Development: the ability to memorize or hold in the memory patterns, phrases, texts, sequences, harmonic changes, movement sequences, songs, etc.

11. Inner Hearing Development: the ability to imagine, hear, and hold musical sound patterns (in the mind) in structured and creative contexts

12. Part Work Development: the ability to engage in different activities simultaneously (e.g., singing while walking the beat and clapping an ostinato; playing outside voices on a keyboard while singing the middle voice of a three-part work)

13. Reading Development: the ability to translate accurately music notation (solfa, staff, or other notation) into sound, both orally (singing) and tactily (instrument playing).

14. Writing Development: the ability to translate sound into notation (solfa, staff, or other) in collective and individual settings; the ability to take dictation and compose.

15. Improvisation Development: the ability to create rhythms, melodies, forms "on the spot" in structured and open-ended settings using shorter to longer forms

16. Composition Development: the ability to create new musical ideas with known element, concepts, and forms in a written medium

17. Instrumental Development: the ability to recognize instruments (visually and aurally); the ability to play simple rhythmic (percussion), melodic, and harmonic instruments, illustrating understanding of rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic principles, concepts, and elements through iteration, reading, improvisation, and composition.

18. Conducting Development: the ability to express beat and subdivisions of beat using standard patterns; ability to direct others in music making by using common cueing and phrasic gestures.


Further Resources

Choksy, L. (1999). The Kodály Method I: Comprehensive music education. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Consortium of National Arts Education Associations. (1994). Dance, music, theatre, visual arts: What every young American should know and be able to do in the arts : National standards for arts education. Reston, Va: Music Educators National Conference.

Eisen, A., & Robertson, L. (2002). An American methodology: An inclusive approach to musical literacy. Lake Charles, La: Sneaky Snake Publications.

MENC Committee on Performance Standards. (1996). Performance standards for music: Strategies and benchmarks for assessing progress toward the national standards, grades PreK-12. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference.

Music Educators National Conference. (2006). The school music program: A new vision. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Organization of American Kodály Educators. (2009). Kodály Music Education and the National Standards. [brochure]. Moorhead, MN: Organization of American Kodály Educators.

Trinka, J. L. (1996). The little black bull: And other folk songs, singing games and play parties for kids of all ages. Dripping Springs, TX: Folk Music Works.