FAQs: The Standards in General
What are the NASM standards?
NASM standards are statements regarding basic requirements and conditions for the study of music, and for the awarding of degrees and credentials in music and music-related fields at precollegiate, collegiate, and graduate levels. The official current standards are published in the latest edition of the NASM Handbook and in current Handbook addenda, if any.
What is the fundamental purpose of the NASM standards?
To help students pursuing studies in music obtain the best possible education and training by creating a national conceptual foundation to support the efforts of institutions with significant goals for music study.
What is the source of the present NASM standards?
The current NASM standards represent the evolved consensus of the institutional members of NASM, developed over the ninety-one year history of the Association. Consensus positions reflect the results of field-wide consultations.
Do the standards force all schools to operate in the same way?
No. The standards focus on functions to be served, not methods for implementation. Thus, the standards are met in as many different ways as there are institutions. The standards do establish basic competencies expected of those who hold specific degrees and other credentials, and fundamental conditions for the operation of schools and departments of music. They maintain a common set of expectations that provide the basis for specific institutional practice.
Do all the standards apply to all schools in the same way?
Yes and no. “No” in the sense that all standards are not applicable to all music units, as an example, not all institutions offer master’s degrees. “No” in the sense that each standard is met in unique ways by each institution — adequate facilities for 100 music majors is different than adequate facilities for 400. “Yes” in the sense that all are bound by common function and competencies associated with particular goals, objectives, and curricula.
Do the standards preclude innovation?
Because the standards provide a framework, not a blueprint, they facilitate innovation. NASM officially encourages experimentation, and the development of new approaches to curricula. The standards now contain many sections based on innovations by member institutions that eventually became common practice.
What is the relationship of the NASM standards to issues of quality?
The NASM standards outline the basic conditions for quality. Beyond these basics, quality itself comes from the efforts of individuals working both alone and together. NASM standards support efforts to raise quality where it can be raised by establishing the characteristics of a contextual framework for pursuing the highest possible quality, individual by individual and institution by institution.
In general, how are the NASM curricular standards structured?
The curricular standards sections start with common requirements for all programs of a certain type. Then, specializations are addressed. Thus, the complete set of standards for a specific degree program includes both the specific and the general standards applicable to that program.
How are statements regarding percentages interpreted?
Percentages appearing in curricular standards indicate the normal time necessary to develop (a) competence in specific areas of study, and (b) the range of competencies expected of those who receive various specific degrees and credentials. Percentages are benchmarks, not standards. Content, time, competence, and their interrelationships are the primary issues. Percentages are indicators about, not substitutes for, the development of competence.
How are words such as “must” and “should” interpreted?
Criteria and provisions in NASM standards are applied with careful attention to distinctions among standards, guidelines, and recommendations. Statements using terms such as “shall,” “must,” and “essential” outline threshold standards. Statements using the word “normally” indicate one or more of the numerous conditions usually present when there is compliance with a threshold standard. Statements using the word “should” represent guidelines. Statements using the terms “recommendation” or “suggestion” indicate advice based on consensus of the profession. Accreditation is based on assurance that an institution meets the threshold standards agreed upon by the Association. Guidelines and advice, while related to fulfillment of functions required by the standards, are not themselves threshold standards.
See NASM Handbook, Standards and Guidelines for Accredited Institutional Membership, III. Interpreting Specific Terminology in NASM Standards.
What do I need to do to keep current with the NASM standards review?
NASM conducts reviews of its standards for institutional membership in two formats: comprehensive reviews and specific reviews. Comments and feedback on the standards are always welcome and may be submitted to the NASM National Office. You may follow and participate in the standards review process by regularly visiting the Proposed Revisions section of the NASM website.
How can I have access to the present standards in the NASM Handbook?
The most recent edition of the NASM Handbook is available in PDF format to review, print, and/or search the text. Visit the Standards/Handbook area of the website to access the current Handbook.
FAQs: The Standards Review Process
When do the standards change?
Usually annually. Almost every year, there are small adjustments to the standards. Major comprehensive reviews are scheduled periodically and changes may result.
What causes the standards to change?
Evolving conditions, new technologies, constant attention to textual clarity, experiences in the accreditation process all contribute to change at one time or another. Changes are made only after comment periods and a vote by the membership. The standards are always open for comment through the office of the Executive Director.
What do I need to remember as I review NASM standards texts and revision drafts?
- The NASM standards are national statements of consensus about threshold requirements for various degrees and credentials, and for the operations of schools of music. Thresholds define what is necessary for all.
- They provide a basic framework, not a detailed blueprint, for the individual programs developed by institutions and faculties.
- They must leave ample room for institutions and faculties to create and operate their own programs and fulfill their own and their students’ aspirations. The standards should produce a reasonable commonality in certain areas, but not standardization.
- They must be sufficient to articulate the requirements and needs of the field to those outside the field, including those with policy or funding influence over institutions, programs, and the field as a whole. The standards must protect as well as provide basic guidance.
- They must explain degree and program requirements to the public as well as to musicians.
- They must be usable in the peer-review process for NASM accredited institutional membership.
How can I engage other faculty, staff, deans, and students in the review process?
NASM has drafted sample memos that can be used to provide information to other interested parties, including music professionals, deans, accreditors, students, and the general public. Those wishing to comment are also urged to read the material and use the Response Form provided on Reviewing and Commenting on NASM Standards. Individuals may access the sample memos by clicking the links below:
What kinds of comments should be avoided?
- Comments that seek to impose the particular unique approach of an institution or individual as a national requirement.
- Comments on general requirements associated with breadth of competence that specifically promote the welfare of a particular field or specialization, or its practitioners, at the expense of other fields or specializations.
- Comments that seek to impose specific repertory or content choices.
- Comments that are not germane to the standards review process.
Will I receive a response to my suggestions?
NASM is grateful for all comments and will give careful review and consideration to each one. However, due to the volume of responses, those who submit comments will be contacted only if questions regarding a submission arise.
How will the NASM standards review proceed?
- Comments on the standards or draft revisions received in any comment period will be considered as the next draft is developed. Local advice, counsel, and comment may be sought and is welcome. Subsequent drafts, if any, will be posted on the website for review and comment. This sequence may be repeated as necessary.
- At the point when the NASM Executive Committee determines that sufficient consensus has been reached, a final draft will be sent to the institutional representatives of NASM member institutions, who will be asked to comment, and ultimately vote on a standards revision proposal.
- This same pattern will be used as specific standards and the standards as a whole are considered.
- Notice is provided prior to all votes as required in the NASM Bylaws.
Who can I contact for assistance and how do I submit my comment?
Assistance may be sought from, and may be forwarded to, Paul Florek (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the NASM National Office.