City students’ access to an active music life requires the ongoing development of robust music ecosystems.

An ecosystem is a network of interacting individuals, communities, and systems in which diverse elements are balanced and thrive. A music ecosystem, then, is the network of music-making people, places, and systems that characterize a city’s music and cultural life. Its participants in each community can include (but are not limited to):

  • Students
  • Music educators
  • General education teachers
  • School leadership
  • Families
  • Communities
  • Partner organizations
  • Musicians
  • Local universities and institutions

An “ecosystem approach” is particularly strategic for city students because it harnesses the rich cultural and organizational assets available in America’s cities. This strategy extends students’ music lives beyond the classroom, connecting them to a rich network of school, community, and regional resources and opportunities. This network can, in turn, support and enrich in-school music opportunities.

A city’s music ecosystem interacts with larger ecosystems that include school districts, public services, neighborhoods, and its local, state, and federal government. Like biological ecosystems, a music ecosystem is at its healthiest when it hosts a range of diverse elements and when all its participants and systems are in balance with one another. Where there is a healthy music ecosystem, students have opportunities to make, study, and enjoy music.

Each participant plays a key role in the ecosystem and exerts influence on the community. The following elements are influential in whether a music ecosystem is healthy, diverse, and balanced:

  • School, district, and city leaders who prioritize access to music-making as an essential part of every school’s curriculum.
  •  Local partner organizations that complement and support music opportunities for city students in- and out-of-school.
  •  Music educator and teaching artist preparation that cultivates and equips teachers to serve in diverse urban settings.

The following sections examine these three key elements of cities’ music ecosystems. We identify some of the barriers that can prevent students from enjoying access to an active music life and respond with ideas that can disrupt current patterns of inequity.


Resources → Learn more about music ecosystems