Most public school music performance programs fit neatly into one of four distinct categories: Concert Band, Jazz Band, Orchestra and Chorus; each of which has instruction that emphasizes prescribed canons played on instruments standard to a corresponding musical genre. At schools with robust music programs, all of these ensembles may exist harmoniously under a single roof. Other schools may offer fewer choices, due to a lack of resources, enrollment or budgetary constraints. These music education categories are distinct from General Music or Music Appreciation courses.
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.