Respond and Connect to the Music for Lifelong Music Appreciation

Christine Carruci • August 2022Wind Talkers • August 2, 2022

The National Standards for Music Education were put into place to help ensure all students receive varied and robust experiences in their training.  Each standard is broken into strands, representing specific components of each of the artistic processes of performing, creating, responding, and connecting.  While the goal of the 2014 standards was to promote literacy in the arts, there are various ways in which students can engage within the artistic processes. I want us to focus on the “respond” and “connect” standards and how those deepen students’ understanding of and relationship to the music.

When students respond to music, they are learning to understand and evaluate how the arts convey meaning for the listener.   In connecting to music, students form ideas about how music can create personal meaning or relate to external contexts.  Unfortunately, many of our graduates will step away from active music making after their high school experiences, losing regular opportunities to perform and actively create music.  For this reason, it is imperative we help students form a path toward understanding the arts that is both deep and meaningful, allowing them to forge a connection with music that will endure long after they leave our classrooms, rehearsal spaces, and concert halls.  This is where the “respond” and “connect” standards serve as a gateway to lifelong appreciation and support of music. 

The “respond” standard offers three strands for engaging students with music.  These include offering opportunities to “perceive and analyze artistic work” (anchor standard 7), “interpret intent and meaning in artistic work” (anchor standard 8), and “apply criteria to evaluate artistic work” (anchor standard 9).  Affording students opportunities to respond to music helps to give them a vocabulary to describe what they hear, an opportunity for their perceptions to be honed, and a space for personal judgements to be considered.  In the “connect” standard, the strands include providing space to “synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art” (anchor standard 10), and the ability to “relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding” (anchor standard 11).   Within the connect standard, we help the student “open a window to their soul” by relating music to personal experiences, as well as to consider the roles and functions of the art of music within society. 

The national standards are published with a list of essential questions to help guide lessons related to the respond and connect standards.  This list is by no means exhaustive, but offers a glimpse into ways educators can help students listen and think more critically about music:


  • What qualities (musical, historical, personal) make this work have lasting value?
  • How is this music balanced (or unbalanced)?  What does the composer do to affect this perception?  How do I apply balance in my own life?
  • How do my interests and values influence my tastes and preferences?
  • How does this composition make you feel, and what specific aspects of the music contribute to this feeling?
  • What does the composer do to create energy in the music? Similarly, what can I do to create energy in my life?
  • What was the composer’s intent for this music, and in what ways did they achieve this?
  • Where would I want to hear this music, and why?
  • Whom would I like to share this music with, and why?


  • What world events helped to shape this piece of music?  How did this affect the work?
  • What is significant about this piece of music and why?
  • How does the story behind this work parallel events in modern society?
  • What can I learn about others through this piece of music?
  • In the ensemble, I play an integral part to the whole. In what ways does this parallel my position in my community, and in what ways can I contribute?
  • Does this work relate to any personal memories or experiences?  How so?

When we help our students realize personal meaning in music, they will be able to engage with it far beyond their last formal school music experience.  These standards bring affective learning opportunities into the classroom, encouraging students to develop themselves in complex ways and through creating personal meaning.  Recognizing music as a continued and valued presence in our lives and society is what keeps community music thriving, audiences in our concert halls, and taxpayers supporting school music programs.  It is up to the professional music educator to respond to this challenge and connect our students with a deep appreciation for all that music brings to the world. 

Christine Carucci currently teaches orchestra for the Boardman (OH) Local Schools and serves as an online learning specialist for Lisa’s Clarinet Shop.  She can be contacted at

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