A (Major) Case for an Overhaul of the Current Music Education Curriculum

Aaron Cecchini-Butler
4 min readOct 21, 2018

I spent half of my childhood in the band room at my school. My dad is a music teacher — and in a small town that meant band, chorus, music theory, general music, individual instrumental lessons and everything else imaginable. His love for band and choral music is readily apparent, and can be exemplified by his Master’s thesis on “Wind Bands in the 1900's.”

I spent many mornings setting up chairs, stands, and chorus risers. I spent summer days moving percussion around and putting sheet music into score order. Additionally, as I got older, I was a member of the band and the chorus, the jazz band, and the music theory class.

Eventually, I graduated from high school and spent four years at Berklee College of Music. Then I spent another two getting an MFA in Music Composition. The point of all this being — I owe a LOT to music curriculum I went through. For an added bonus, I ended up married to a music teacher — who continues this noble work.

However, the system is broken. And I’m not here to talk about the pathetic lack of support and funding. I’m not here to talk about the disgraceful level of musical literacy among adults now. I’m here to talk about what is being taught.

The music education curriculum in the US is still heavily centered on band and chorus with a sprinkling of music history and theory. Third graders still do “Recorder Karate,” and music theory is still largely avoiding parallel fifths. The bottom line is:

The current music curriculum is outdated.

Photo by Manuel Nägeli on Unsplash

The era of wind bands and community choruses is falling to the wayside while at the same time kids in their basement are getting famous off of making electronic dance music (EDM).

Public schools have never been particularly adept at adapting to technologic changes. There are schools that still don’t offer typing classes and despite graduating high school in 2010, I still left knowing only a few software programs — and I wasn’t particularly skilled at any of them.

However, I’m advocating for a modernization of the music curriculum based on what popular music is. Rather than attributing the lack of musical literacy to some sort of inherent laziness of a generation, or…



Aaron Cecchini-Butler

Senior Systems Designer at Grubhub working on Cookbook (our design system) — as well as contributing to product design work.