The Situation

Over the last two decades, several organizations and individuals have brought to light the importance of ensemble directors shifting their instruction toward a more student-centered approach. The 2014 National Core Arts Standards further encourage the adoption of more student-centered values. However, do resources for instrumental music teachers reflect this desired change in pedagogy? This study compares the 2014 National Core Arts Standards for Music and the education-specific articles in The Instrumentalist, a popular magazine for instrumental music teachers. Does the content in The Instrumentalist align with the student-centered focus of the 2014 Music Standards?

What’s Going on in Instrumental Ensembles?

  • The teaching tradition surrounding band is controlled and predictable, focused mostly on techniques for performance (Allsup & Benedict, 2008).
  • The traditional model may be the cause for dwindling enrollment in large ensembles (Williams, 2011).
  • By giving students more autonomy in music classes, they can develop skills to become lifelong musicians (Williams, 2011).

2014 National Core Arts Standards

  • “Emphasize the process-oriented nature of the arts” (National Coalition for Core Arts Standards, n.d.).
  • Students should be able to “independently carry out the artistic process of creating new music, performing existing music with understanding and expression, and responding to others’ music with understanding” (Shuler, Norgaard, & Blakeslee, 2014).

Research Approach

143 education-specific articles from The Instrumentalist magazine were analyzed and placed in one of three categories:

  • skills and knowledge, focusing on what students should know and be able to do
  • understanding, independence, and literacy, with a focus on the artistic process, including creative practices and artistic literacy
  • Neither skills and knowledge or understanding, independence, and literacy


After looking at 143 articles,

  • 23 articles (16%) mentioned understanding, independence, and literacy
  • 7 articles (4.9%) focused on understanding, independence, and literacy
  • 120 articles (84%) did not relate to the 2014 Music Standards
So what? What content is included in teaching and rehearsing articles from The Instrumentalist magazine

Of the standards-related articles,

  • 20 (87%) articles matched the Performing strand
  • 8 articles (35%) matched the Creating strand
  • 2 articles (8%) matched the Responding strand
What about the standards?


  • Articles with a student-centered focus, relating to the 2014 Music Standards, had become more prevalent, especially in 2017-2019 when 27% of the articles mentioned this content, suggesting that student-centered approaches had become more common.
  • The last article with student-centered content was published in August 2019. Since that time, all teaching and rehearsing articles focused on skills and knowledge, or did not have a musical focus.
  • Given the literature suggesting the need to move to a more student-centered approach in instrumental music and NAfME’s commitment to the National Core Arts Standards, this study indicates a need for more articles relating to student understanding, independence, and music literacy within The Instrumentalist magazine to help music educators move their practice forward.


Allsup, R. E. & Benedict, C. (2008). The problems of band: An inquiry into the future of instrumental music education. Philosophy of Music Education Review, 16(2), 156-173.

Johnson Turner, C. (2013). Another perspective: Crowdsourcing our ensemble rehearsals. Music Educators Journal, 100(2), 68-7. 

Shuler, S. (2014) Music national standards comparison: 1994 versus 2014. National Association for Music Education.

Shuler, S., Norgaard, M., and Blakeslee, M. (2014). The new national standards for music education. Music Educators Journal, 101(1), 41-49.  

Williams, D. A. (2011). The elephant in the room. Music Educators Journal, 98(1), 51-57.

Student Centered Pedagogy