Special music educators are typically trained to teach music knowledge and skills to
students with disabilities in the general school population. The primary purpose of music
education programs for students with disabilities is to actively involve them in
meaningful music experiences that develop music concepts and skills appropriate to the
students’ individual functioning level. Music education may be provided through general
music classes for elementary grades, music appreciation and music theory for upper
grades and music performance classes such as band, orchestra and chorus. Special
music educators typically have a background in special education or music therapy, and
have expertise in instructional strategies for teaching students with a wide variety of
disabilities. Students with disabilities are taught in their self-contained classrooms or in
inclusive music classes offered in the school music curriculum.
Special music education goals follow the music standards set for all students. The
standards emphasize conceptual understanding in areas that reflect the actual
processes in which musicians engage. The standards cultivate a student’s ability to
carry out the three artistic processes:
Creating – Students need to have experience in creating, to be successful musicians
and to be successful 21st century citizens.
Performing – Students need to perform – as singers, as instrumentalists, and in their
lives and careers.
Responding – Students need to respond to music, as well as to their culture, their
community, and their colleagues.
Research in inclusive school settings supports music’s effectiveness with students who
have a wide variety of disabilities. Special music educators may also address social and
behavioral goals with their students, as well as use music to support the general
education curriculum.To find out more information about special music education, please visit the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and International Society for Music
Education (ISME) websites shown in the right column of this page.
Although there are no degree programs in special music education, a number of
universities, such as Florida State University, Wichita State University, and James
Madison University offer certificate programs or specialized study programs in special music education. In addition, NAfME regularly offers pre-conferences on teaching
music to students with disabilities that precede their annual National Inservice