Year of Publication


Date of Thesis


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Music in Composition


Music (School)

Subject Categories

Music theory; School music -- Instruction and study -- United States


The growth of technological and vocational education in public schools threatens the rebuilding of music programs which were cut during the taxpayer revolt of the seventies. If the threatened music programs are unable to equip the students choosing music careers with the fundamental tools of the trade, they are destined to be deemed expendible. The current investigation sought to determine the current ability of the public schools to provide their students with an understanding of the structure and language of music. The study examined the comprehension of music theory by 119 high school seniors from eight school districts in six counties in central New York State who had lived in their public school district since fourth grade and had participated in the music program throughout high school. The districts supplied data on enrollment, budget, staffing and other information relevant to their music programs; the students answered a questionnaire on their music experiences both in and out of school. The investigation found generally that the students pursuing music careers had studied privately, had had piano instruction, and had a functional music theory education. However, the study also found that most of the students tested had only a minimal comprehension of key signatures, intervals, scales and chords, but scored somewhat better on enharmonics, note values, meter, and terminology. The study concludes that more research in the present condition of music education, other than performance, needs to be done. Schools need to have private voice, as well as instrumental lessons available to students and need to offer secondary courses in music theory, music history, and sightsinging, and, if at all feasible, piano instruction because these factors had the most impact on the students' knowledge and ability to communicate the principles of music theory.

Included in

Music Commons



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