Music literacy declines in US

According to some sources, only 5% of Americans can read music.  Others estimate it as high as 11%.  Still, the decline of piano or other private instruction in music and budget cutbacks in schools mean that students and parents find it harder to get an education in the basics of music reading. 

According to “The Tragic Decline of Music Literacy,” published in Intellectual Takeout, a smaller population of the people in our country are able to read and understand music now than just a few years ago.   According to the author, who is the president of an investment-oriented firm, the decline in music literacy is responsible for the rise in popularity of lower quality (meaning less varied) popular music, which he claims has been proven scientifically.  In other words, the author contends that the quality of popular music is declining along with the music literacy rate.  (Thanks to Mr. Clay Sanderson for drawing my attention to this article.) 

At Tempe Prep, we are determined to offer every student the opportunity to learn to read and understand music.  In 6th grade, students are exposed to American folk songs from the colonial period onward.  In 7th and 8th grades, students learn to play a musical instrument (the recorder) and also learn

  1. Playing by Ear
  2. Sight-reading
  3. Improvising
  4. Transposing
  5. Technique
  6. Ensemble Performing

In High School, students learn to sight-sing and perform in a choir, as well as the basics of vocal technique, music theory such as the scales and modes and harmony, as well as some of the great choral literature in western music. 

In each of the four, one-semester courses students are required to hear live, classical-music concerts at a professional or near-professional level.  Each of our one-semester courses also includes a unit on “music appreciation,” listening to some of the great masterworks of western music. 

Our hope is that every one of our students will leave TPA musically literate. 

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