Elementary Music Experience

I have worked at several K-6 elementary buildings in the same district over the last two years. In most of the schools, my students participate in all musical activities to the best of their abilities. However, at one building I teach three classes and have a handful of students exempted from general music entirely for religious reasons.

These students currently are sent to the library during the two forty minute music classes their class attends each week. If those students are given work, it is not given by or shared with the music teacher.

My music educator colleagues at this building have not received any information or policies on how to work with students with religious exemptions to music class. The school’s policy is to require a written letter from a parent or guardian stating that a specific aspect of music or music class is against their religious beliefs, and the student is pulled from the mentioned activities. There is no curriculum in place for students who cannot be taught in the traditional general music classroom due to religious exemptions, or discussions with parents around how their beliefs impact their child’s education in the music classroom.

I was previously familiar with Jehovah’s Witness students not participating in patriotic or birthday music in the classroom, and was prepared to give alternate assignments that still met our music standards. When presented with a situation where the student is not allowed to be in the general music class, what should their curriculum look like? Should they have a music curriculum at all?

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