“Something’s Happening Here!”: Popular Music Education in the United States


  • Bryan Powell Association for Popular Music Education Amp Up NYC
  • Andrew Krikun Bergen Community College
  • Joseph Michael Pignato State University of New York at Oneonta




Popular music education, United States, music history, modern band, commercial music


Although the number of opportunities to learn popular music in the United States continues to grow, popular music education (PME) programs remain exceptional at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of institutionalized music education. This article provides insight into the unique characteristics of a number of PME initiatives currently operating in the United States. A historical background is established to provide context regarding the history of PME in the United States. Additionally, a focus on an expanding landscape for American PME is included, as is an examination of six specific initiatives that are particularly noteworthy. This review of popular music programs, initiatives, and institutions illustrates the rapid proliferation of PME programs in the United States that has occurred in the twenty-first century. As this brief snapshot of American institutions and organizations demonstrates, PME in the United States is alive with possibilities and promise.

Author Biographies

Bryan Powell, Association for Popular Music Education Amp Up NYC

Association for Popular Music Education- Executive Director Amp Up NYC- Director of Programs Bergen Community College- Adjunct Instructor Hunter College- Adjunct Instructor

Andrew Krikun, Bergen Community College

Associate Professor- Department of Music

Joseph Michael Pignato, State University of New York at Oneonta

Associate Professor- Music Department


About Amp Up NYC. 2014. About Amp Up NYC. http://www.littlekidsrock.org/ampupnyc/. Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Alper, G. 2007. Towards the Acceptance of a Bachelor of Music Degree in Popular Music Studies. College Music Symposium 47: 163-4.

APME. 2014. APME About. http://www.popularmusiceducation.org/about/. Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Bergen Community College Performing Arts. 2014.

http://www.bergen.edu/academics/academic-divisions-departments/performing-arts/our-programs. Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Program. 2014.

http://www.creativeamericanmusic.net/html/about.html. Accessed 11 June 2014.

Byrn, C. 1926. A Vocational Music Course in the High Schools. Journal of Proceedings of the Nineteenth Annual Meeting of the Music Supervisors National Conference, April 12-16: 238-248.

Carruthers, G. 2006. Universities and the Music-Learning Continuum. International Journal of Community Music. http://www.intljcm.com/articles/Volume%204/Carruthers4/Carruthers4.pdf. Accessed: 17 January 2011.

Choate, R. Ed. 1968. Documentary Report of the Tanglewood Symposium. Washington, DC: Music Educators National Conference.

Crawford, R. 2000. The American Musical Landscape: The Business of Musicianship from Billings to Gershwin. Updated edition with a new preface. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Dougherty, K. D. 2001. The Contradictory College: The Conflict Origins, Impacts, and Futures of the Community College. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Eastern Tennessee State University Music. 2014. http://www.etsu.edu/cas/music/. Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Edwards, B. 2011. Alex Waldemar Christensen. http://ragpiano.com/comps/chrstnsn.shtml. Accessed: 1 September 2011.

Girls Rock. 2014. http://girlsrockcampalliance.org/. Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Greenwald, D. 2013. USC Music School Teaches the Art of Making a Pop Hit.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/usc-music-school-teaches-the-art-of-making-a-pop-hit-20130708. Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Grubb, W. N. 1999. Honored But Invisible: An Inside Look at Teaching in Community Colleges. New York: NY Routledge.

Hazell, E. 1995. Berklee: The First Fifty Years. Boston: Berklee Press.

Hebert, D. G. 2011. Originality and Institutionalization: Factors Engendering Resistance to Popular Music Pedagogy in the U.S.A. Music Education Research International 5: 12-21.

Hebert, D.G. and Campbell, P. S. 2000. Rock Music in American Schools: Positions and Practices since the 1960s. International Journal of Music Education 36: 14-22.

Humphreys, J. T. 2004. Popular Music in the American Schools: What History Tells us about the Present and the Future. In C.X. Rodriguez Ed. Bridging the Gap: Popular Music and Music Education. Music Educators National Conference, Reston, VA: 91-106.

Jenks, C. and Riesman, D. 2002. The Academic Revolution. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

Joyner, D. with Murphy, J. 2013. University of North Texas College of Music, Division of Jazz Studies, “The History of Jazz at North Texas”. http://jazz.unt.edu/node/119. Accessed 20 September 2013.

Kaplan, M. 1943. Beethoven or a Bottle of Beer? Junior College Journal 13: 373-75.

Krikun, A. -

Popular Music and Jazz in the American Junior College Music Curriculum During the Swing Era (1935-1945). Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 30 (1): 39-49

Mixing Memphis Soul into the Community College Curriculum Stew, Journal of Popular Music Studies 21 (1): 76-89.

Teaching the “People’s Music” at the “People’s College”: A Historical Study of American Popular Music in the Junior/Community College Curriculum, 1924-1955. Ph.D. dissertation, New York University.

Levine, L. 1988. Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lewis, R. 2008. USC Acts by Popular Demand. Los Angeles Times.


Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Mantie, R. 2013. A Comparison of “Popular Music Pedagogy” Discourses. Journal of Research in Music Education 61 (3): 334-352.

Mark, M. 2007. A History of American Music Education. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

MSU Songwriters Take Center Stage. 2014. http://music.msu.edu/news-archive/spring-news-2014/faculty/msu-song-writers-take-center-stage. Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Music Makes Us. 2014. http://www.musicmakesus.org Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Music Makes Us Facebook page. 2014. https://www.facebook.com/musicmakesusmnps. Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Music Makes Us Initiative with Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. 2014.

https://cppr.ku.edu/music-makes-us-initiative-metropolitan-nashville-public-schools. Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Music Makes Us: The Nashville Music Education Project. 2014.

http://www.nashville.gov/Mayors-Office/Priorities/Education/Programs-and-Initiatives/Music-Education.aspx Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Oberlin. 2014. Music for Everyone. http://new.oberlin.edu/conservatory/music-

for-everyone/. Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Pignato, J. M. –

An Analysis of Practical Challenges Posed by Teaching Improvisation: Case Studies in New York State Schools. DMA. Boston University, Boston. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. Publication No. 3430429.

Angelica Gets the Spirit Out: Improvisation, Epiphany and Transformation. Research Studies in Music Education 35 (1): 21-38.

Powell, B. 2011. Popular Music Ensembles in Post-Secondary Contexts: A Case Study of Two College Music Ensembles. DMA. Boston: Boston University Press. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. Publication No. 3463242.

Prouty, K. 2012. Knowing Jazz: Community, Pedagogy, and Canon in the Information Age. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Randles, C. 2011. Course Syllabus. http://clintrandles.com.

Accessed: 11 June 2014.

Richmond, J. W. 2013. “All In” for Composition Education: Opportunities and Challenges for Pre-Service Music Teacher Curricula. In M. Kaschub and J.P. Smith Eds. Composing Our Future: Preparing Music Educators to Teach Composition. Boston: Oxford University Press: 289-304.

Sanjek, R. 1996. Pennies from Heaven: The American Popular Music Business in the Twentieth Century. New York: Da Capo Press.

Smith, G. D. 2014. Popular Music in Higher Education. In G.F. Welch and I. Papageorgi Eds. Advanced Music Performance: Investigations in Higher Education Learning. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Spencer, M. T. 2013. Jazz Education at the Westlake College of Music, 1945-61. Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 35 (1): 50-65.

SUNY College at Oneonta Music Department. 2014.

http://www.oneonta.edu/academics/music/. Accessed 11 June 2014.

Teach Rock. 2014. http://teachrock.org/about/. Accessed 11 June 2014.

Tempera, J. 2014. Berklee College to Help Expand Music Programs for New York City Schoolchildren. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2014/03/19/berklee-college-help-expand-music-programs-for-new-york-city-schoolchildren/TW7JJjM5m8qdYufrok4ENM/story.html.

Accessed 11 June 2014.

Traveling Guitar Foundation. 2014. http://travelingguitarfoundation.org/ Accessed 11 June 2014.

Wang, J.C. and Humphreys, J. T. 2009. Multicultural and Popular Music Content an an American Music Teacher Education Program. International Journal of Music Education 27 (1): 19-36.

Westerlund, H. 2006. Garage Rock Bands: A Future Model For Developing Musical Expertise? International Journal of Music Education 24 (2): 119-125.

Wilson, R. 2010. For-Profit Colleges Change Higher Education’s

Landscape. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 February.

Wittstruck, C. 2014. Interview with Cliff Wittstruck, by B. Powell, 10 June 2014.






Popular Music Education: Articles