Brianne Gidcumb | September 2015

Core Music Anchor Standard 8

This month, as part of our year-long series unpacking the Core Arts Standards for General Music, we will look at Core Music Anchor Standard 8. Last month, we started on the journey into the “responding” strand of standards, focusing on the process of selecting and analyzing musical works and performances. Today, we look at interpreting musical works.

Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Artistic Process: Responding (Interpret)

Enduring Understanding: Through their use of elements and structures of music, creators and performers provide clues to their expressive intent.

Essential Question(s): How do we discern the musical creators’ and performers’ expressive intent?

Big Ideas

The recurring theme throughout the grade level standards under Core Music Anchor Standard 8 is “expressive intent.” Students are expected to observe and synthesize their understanding of various musical concepts (including dynamics, tempo, timbre, articulation, genre, and cultural/historical contexts) to come to conclusions about a composer’s or performer’s expressive intent in a musical work or performance.

Then and Now

The 1994 standards include “listening to, analyzing, and describing music” (Content Standard 6), as well as “evaluating music and music performances” (Content Standard 7), which are closely related to the responding strand of standards in the Core Arts Music Standards. The practice of analyzing musical elements to determine expressive intent has been present in the “best-practice” music classroom, but these new Core Music Anchor Standard Arts really explicitly ask students to synthesize knowledge of musical concepts to make conclusions about a composer’s or performer’s expressive purpose.

These new Core Music Anchor Standard Arts increase the depth and rigor of our students’ music education by asking students to support their opinions, observations, and connections with a level of evidence that wasn’t explicitly present in the 1994 standards, and keep us as music educators accountable to students’ progress through this standard.

Common Core Connections

In both the Common Core and the National Core Arts Standards, we are increasing the rigor of the content and the level of thinking in our students by putting great emphasis on the process of analyzing texts (both literary and artistic texts), and asking students to provide support for the observations and connections they make as well as the opinions they form. Students synthesize those observations to determine the purpose of a piece of text (expressive intent).


Anchor Standards for Reading: If we treat a piece of music as “text,” we can apply every one of the Anchor Standards for Reading to the process of responding to and interpreting a musical selection. Students will “read” explicit content, make inferences, determine central themes, interpret and analyze content, structures, and ideas, and provide supported reasoning for their conclusions. Truly a standard RICH in ELA connections! (See my Teachers Pay Teachers store for a $1.00 downloadable “ELA Standards at a Glance” graphic!)

Practices and Processes

As with Core Music Anchor Standard 7, if we look at the practices and processes that are inherent in the Standards for Mathematical Practice, Science and Engineering Practices, as well as the inquiry and design processes, we see that analysis and observation are key components of each of these areas. This is a great place for music educators to begin looking at how to make connections to other contents! (See my Science Standards and Math Standards “At-a-Glance” resources!)

What practices do you have in place to encourage interpreting expressive intent?

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: