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The Core Music Standards are all about Music Literacy. 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 of

  • Creating,
  • Performing, and
  • Responding.

These are the processes that musicians have followed for generations, even as they connect through music to their selves and their societies. And isn’t competence in Creating, Performing, and Responding what we really want for our students?

Students need to have experience in creating, to be successful musicians and to be successful 21st century citizens.

Students need to perform – as singers, as instrumentalists, and in their lives and careers.

Students need to respond to music, as well as to their culture, their community, and their colleagues.

The new standards provide teachers with frameworks that closely match the unique goals of their specialized classes. The standards are presented in a grade-by-grade sequence from pre-K through grade 8, and discrete strands address common high-school music classes, such as Ensembles and Music Composition/Theory. The standards are provided in “strands” that represent the principal ways music instruction is delivered in the United States.

*For more information or to ask a question about the National Music Standards, please use the National Music Standards forum page.

When reading the standards, note that content new to any given level appears in italic type.

Context and Explanation. The Core Music Standards are written in the context of Artistic Processes (with process components), Enduring Understandings, and Essential Questions. Those elements, and words used in the Standards, are defined in these documents:

Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions. The Core Music Standards don’t ignore the development of skills, knowledge, and dispositions that music teaches have stressed for generations. Rather, they involve the use of these building blocks as we move toward each student’s music literacy. Some draft lists of knowledge, skills, and dispositions have been provided by the NAfME Councils here to help teachers and curriculum planners make these essential connections. More such lists are under preparation to serve as guides for other music classes.

Thanks to the NAfME Councils for

  • General Music- Council Chair, Sarah J. Bartolome
  • Guitar-Past Council Chair, Glen McCarthy
  • IN-Ovations- Council Chair, Jeanne W. Reynolds
  • Jazz- Council Chair, Richard Victor

Student Assessment. The Core Music Standards were developed with an eye to student assessment. Model Cornerstone Assessments (MCAs) for the Performing aspect of the Standards appear here. More MCAs are in development, and teachers who are currently part of, or are interested in taking part in, the field-testing of the MCAs can find resources here.


You may also benefit from…

  • “Opportunity to Learn” Standards that can help you understand the structures that need to be in place to support student success in the standards
  • Updated lesson plan database (“My Music Class”)
  • Additional support materials/processes for purchase, including: The Solutions Music Group, powered by NAfME, with consultants ready to help school districts calibrate the standards to their situations. The NAfME Workbooks for teacher evaluation, which draw on the Model Cornerstone Assessments to help inform the student achievement part of the teacher evaluation equation.

A historical note:

As of June 2014, the new National Standards were completed and are available for use.

Developed by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards, and based on artistic processes, these include music standards prepared by NAfME.

Read the new National Standards and create your own online Standards notebook.

The National Coalition for CORE ARTS STANDARDS released New National Core Music Standards on June 4. The new standards replace those previously adopted in 1994, and represent a notable shift in the Coalition’s recommended approach to improving each student’s musical education experience, supporting educators with enhanced instructional strategies, and emphasizing the benefits of music education for the community at large.

Unlike national Common Core standards that have been widely criticized for narrowing student learning opportunities, the New National Core Music Standards aim to broaden and deepen learning opportunities for students.

Unlike controversial education standards mandated within other disciplines, the New National Core Music Standards were written by a team of professional music educators and vetted through a two-year inclusive public review process. The standards were developed by the profession for the profession, with a student-centered focus that respects each professional educator’s teaching style and unique contributions.

The goal of the new standards is not to impose restrictive rules governing what to do or how to teach, but to provide voluntary and pragmatic flexible processes and strategies that can be welcomed, implemented, and assessed in every American school district.

Credits. The Core Music Standards were written by individuals with  more than 1,800 years of experience teaching PreK-12 music: 540 years in general music, 1,000 years in ensembles, 130 years in teaching with and through technology, and 200 years of teaching theory/composition. In addition, the standards writing teams reached out to and involved a group of expert Research Advisers for input based on current pedagogical research. A list of the principal contributors appears at Core Music Standards Contributors.

Copyright. All rights reserved. Copyright in the National Core Arts Standards is held by the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE) in trust for the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards.  For Copyright information and permissions, go to 


View the most recent Q&A session webinar below presented on NAfME’s Learning Network, featuring two of the National Standards writers, Richard Wells & Johanna Siebert