Modern Band is a new school based music program that utilizes popular music as its central canon. Modern band teaches students to perform the music they know and love and to compose and improvise. Styles that are studied include rock, pop, reggae, hip-hop, rhythm & blues, electronic dance music, and other contemporary styles as they emerge. Modern Band also utilizes (but is not limited to) the musical instruments that are common to these genres: guitar, bass, drums, piano, voice and technology.
Millions of school-age children currently attend schools in districts that offer Modern Band classes as a part of their standard in-school music programming. In addition, one million children attend schools in districts that have piloted large-scale popular music programming, but have yet to codify those classes into distinct, official courses. Programs like these have been rapidly unifying behind the Modern Band moniker as a means of making popular music programs more systemic, scalable and sustainable.
Modern Band programming has been officially adopted by 3 out of 4 of the nation’s largest school systems. New York City Department of Education, Los Angeles Unified School District, Chicago Public Schools and the Dallas Independent School District have modern band available for their 2.2 million school age students for K-12. High School Modern Bands reflect what other music programs have done across the country and offer various levels to meet students’ needs such as regular, honors, non-audition and audition ensembles.
Prior to Modern Band, the most recent category of music education introduced in the US public school system was Jazz Band, which gained acceptance on a national level in the 1970s. Like its predecessor, Jazz Band, Modern Band is the newest instrumental and vocal music program to expand the horizons of school music instruction, and is spreading quickly through public school districts across the country.
Why Modern Band?
Contemporary popular music is a pervasive and abundant cultural asset that has been under-utilized in public education. Modern Band offers teachers easy access to this material and can help bridge the gap that can sometimes exist between the music children experience daily in their communities and that which they experience in school. Bringing music that is familiar to students into schools allows students to see themselves reflected in the curriculum. By validating and leveraging the cultural capital of youth, Modern Band can help form stronger bonds between students and the schools that serve them, and engage marginalized students who otherwise might not take part in existing school music programs.