Joseph Ikner is passionate about the impact that quality guitar education has on young people. This passion fuels an advocacy to put guitar in schools throughout our nation and provide those guitar programs with the support
services they need to achieve optimum success and change lives. He is the direcot of Guitar In Schools, an advocacy component of www.guitarcurriculum.com. and the Austin Classical Guitar Society, a non-profit organization. His charge is to help promote guitar programs in public schools and the regularly conducts teacher trainings and curriculum consultation and is frequently sought to adjudicate, and conduct master classes for high schools and universities.
Music education in the public schools of the United States has made tremendous progress over the past 100 years. Passionate pioneers have propelled music education from the humble beginnings of after-school choir programs to the establishment of the three core programs (choir, band and orchestra) to the new frontier of exploration into other music education curricula. A position for classroom guitar is being forged in this new landscape of music education.
A development plan of school music programs can be discerned from a cursory look into the establishment of choir, band and orchestra programs. There is first a demand and relevance for the program, then the creation of standards in curriculum and resources for teaching followed by extensive training of highly qualified educators. Let’s see how classroom guitar fits into this plan.
There certainly appears to be a demand and relevance. Guitar programs are popular among students, particularly students that would not otherwise enroll in choir, band or orchestra. There are numerous college guitar programs that would benefit greatly from a larger population of trained guitar students entering collegiate study. And with this there is huge potential for a growing consumer market as well as a growing job market for music educators trained in guitar performance.
Curriculum development and published resources for classroom guitar have blossomed over the past decade. Classroom guitar programs, from individual schools to entire school districts, can be found in most states. These programs have educators that are actively developing curricula for classroom guitar that align with their state standards of music education. Further, there are several organizations that are designing curricula for classroom guitar programs that align with national standards for music education. These organizations and guitar music publishers have produced a sizeable library of resources for classroom guitar instruction.
Student guitar groups performing at local, district and state student guitar festivals have garnered the attention of school administrators and the public. It is becoming less uncommon to see student guitar groups performing at prestigious venues such as The Kennedy Center and GFA conventions and student groups are sharing a stage with some of today’s leading performers such as the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. Highly qualified guitar educators are being sought to lead new and established guitar programs to foster this level of artistry. To meet this demand, nationwide guitar teacher trainings and university guitar and music education programs are focusing on classroom guitar education.
Just 90 years ago Edgar B. Gordon, 1925-1926 President of the Music Supervisors National Conference now National Federation of Music Educators (NfAME), advocated for the acceptance of school band programs as expressed in this address to music education leaders, “The high school band is no longer an incidental school enterprise prompted largely by the volunteer services of a high school teacher who happens to have had some band experience, but rather an undertaking which is assigned to a definite place in the school schedule with a daily class period under a trained instructor and with credit allowed for satisfactory work done.” As it was then the case for school band programs it is now the case for school guitar programs and we are the pioneers of this new frontier. A concerted effort from the guitar and music education communities can make classroom guitar a core curriculum in all the schools and enrich the lives of thousands of young people.
 The Band as a School and Community Asset. MSNC Journal of Proceedings. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The Conference, 1923. Page 172