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Content Areas: Music


“Inclusivity goes beyond the range of musical genres. A genuinely inclusive classroom is one that is respectful of present diversity, adapts to the needs of all learners, and provides opportunities for collaboration between students.”

Music Standards

California Standards in Music (2019) has five set of performance standards; Music - PK-12, Harmonizing, Ensembles, Composition and Theory, and Technology.

Visual and performing arts framework: for California public schools: Kindergarten through grade twelve. Sacramento: California Dept. of Education.

MTSS in Music Blog sharing how they used Tiers to support middle school music instruction.

Inclusive Practices In Music

Music provides both academic (instruction in music) and social inclusion opportunities. Music classes require small group or section work such as percussion, brass, alto.

General Strategies

  • - Design lessons and activities through UDL lens; looking for barriers and removing them
  • - Create an inclusive culture (music genres, cultural diversities, student interests, student abilities, …)
  • - Embrace student interests
  • - Incorporate technology (Garageband, Logic, ProTools, DAW apps…)

Strategies for Instrumental Music

  • - Color Code notes
  • - Magnify Printed Music
  • - Make accessible recordings of the music students are to learn
  • - Simplify part of the music so students can participate across the pieces
  • - Rewrite parts of the music so students can participate across the pieces

Strategies for Marching Band

  • - Write or amend the drill with different student needs in mind (uses a wheelchair, vision impairment,…)
  • - Create a painted step off “paper carpet” for the consistent size step required. Use to practice.
  • - Have behavior plans in place for unstructured time
  • - Buddy assigned to ensure music, uniform, instrument, other… are ready for events

Strategies for Choral Music

  • - Color Code notes
  • - Magnify Printed Music
  • - Make accessible recordings of the music students are to learn
  • - Simplify part of the music so students can participate across the pieces
  • - Rewrite parts of the music so students can participate across the pieces
  • - Special seating if required


Music and UDL   Seymour (2016)

Additional Resources


Abramo, J., (2012). Disability in the classroom: Current trends and impacts on music education. Music Educators Journal, 99(1), 39-45. doi: 10.1177/0027432112448824 

Adamek, M. & Darrow, A. A. (2012). Music participation as a means to facilitate self-determination and transition to community life for students with disabilities. In S. M. Malley (Ed.), Intersection of arts education and special education (pp. 101-112). Washington, DC: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 

Adamek, M. & Darrow, A. A. (2010). Music in special education. Silver Spring, MD: American Music Therapy Association. 

Battersby, S. & Bolton, J. (2013). Nonverbal communication: Implications for the global music classroom. Music Educators Journal, 99(4), 57-62. doi: 10.1177/0027432113483143.

Coates, R. (2012). Accommodating band students with visual impairments. Music Educators Journal, 99, 60-66. doi: 10.1177/0027432112448478 

Colwell, C. (2002). Learning disabilities in the music classroom: Implications for the music educator. Applications of Research in Music Education, 21(2), 9–16.

Darrow, A., & Adanek, M. (2018). Instructional Strategies for Inclusive Music Classrooms. Retrieved from

Darrow, A. A. Applying the principles of Universal Design for Learning to approaches in general music. In C. Abril, & B. Gault, (Eds.), Oxford Handbook on Approaches to Teaching General Music: Methods, Issues, and Viewpoints. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. 

Darrow, A. A. (2006). Teaching students with behavior problems. General Music Today, 20(1), 35–37. 

De I’Etoile, S. (2005). Teaching music to special learners: Children with disruptive behavior disorders. Music Education Journal, 95, 37-43.

Fuelberth, R. V., & Laird, L. E. (2014). Tools and stories: Preparing music educators for successful inclusive classrooms through Universal Design for Learning. In S. M. Malley (Ed.), 2013 VSA intersections: Arts and special education exemplary programs and approaches. Washington, DC: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Hammel, A. & Hourigan, R. (2011). Teaching music to students with special needs: A label-free approach. New York: Oxford University Press.

Heikkila, E. & Knight, A. (2012). Inclusive music teaching strategies for elementary-age children with developmental dyslexia. Music Educators Journal, 99(1), 54-59. doi:10.1177/0027432112452597 

Hourigan, R., (2007). Preparing music teachers to teach students with special needs. Applications of Research in Music Education, 26(1), 5-14. 

Hourigan, R. & Hourigan, A. (2009). Teaching music to children with autism: Understandings and perspectives. Music Educators Journal, 96(1), 40–45. 

Holley, S. (2018). Towards a more inclusive music education: Diversifying the styles of music we study.

Kern, P. & Humpal, M. (Eds.) (2012). Early childhood music therapy and autism spectrum disorders. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley. 

Lapka, C. (2006). Students with disabilities in high school band: We can do it. Music Education Journal, 92, 54-59. 

McCord, K., Gruben, A., & Rathgeber, J. (2014). Assessing Music: Enhancing music in the general education music classroom using UDL. Alfred Music: Los Angeles.

McCord, K., Gruben, A., & Rathgeber, J. (2014). Accessing music: Enhancing student learning in the general music classroom using UDL. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Music.

McCord, K. & Watts, E. (2010). Music educators involvement in IEP processes and their knowledge of assistive technology. Application of Research in Music Education, 28, 79-83.

Ott, P. (2011). Music for special kids: Musical activities, songs, instruments, and resources. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Price, B. (2012). Zero margin for error: Effective strategies for teaching music to students with emotional disturbances. Music Educators Journal, 99(1), 67-72. doi:10.1177/0027432112451620 

Schraer-Joiner, L. & Prause-Weber, M. (2009). Strategies for working with children with cochlear implants. Music Educators Journal, 96(1), 48-55.

Van Weelden, K. (2011). Accommodating the special learner in secondary music classes. General Music Today, 24, 39-41.

Zdzinkski, S. (2001). Instrumental music for special learners. Music Education Journal, 87, 27-30.