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Educators of the nineteenth century believed that music influenced the will, and thus the character and conduct of human beings. Music instruction during this time was, therefore, used as a tool for shaping the behavior and ideals of young Americans through songs communicating moral and patriotic messages. In the following years, during the Progressive Era (circa 1890s1940s), educators came to value music not for the power of its internal qualities, but rather for the benefits that resulted from engaging in real life musical practices. Consequently, elementary and secondary music curricula expanded to include a greater variety of courses and performing organizations, promoted for their ability to teach students to use leisure time in a productive way and work together in a democratic environment. This study utilizes articles from periodicals, papers presented at meetings of the National Education Association (NEA), and other historical data to show music education's role in shaping American society around the turn of the twentieth century. These goals are then discussed in relation to values and practices found in contemporary music education.


This article is originally published in (2006) Visions of Research in Music Education, v.11 : no.1.