In the province of Ontario, curriculum is defined by the Ministry of Education as all those experiences of the child for which the school is responsible.  In order to exert their influence over what will be taught in the classroom, the Ministry publishes guidelines that establish the priorities, aims and objectives that influence the writing of courses of study in each local jurisdiction.  These guidelines play a significant role in shaping the experiences that children do have in Ontario classrooms.  There are many factors that shape the effectiveness of curriculum that have been written by the government. 
One of these is the clarity of the guideline.  If the guideline clearly outlines its intent and content, in a manner that is clearly understood by those who receive it (mainly teachers), it will be considerably more influential in the classroom than a guideline that is not clearly understood.  In our research, we have found that there is a clear lack of understanding as to what teachers should actually do when implementing new guidelines or policies.  One needs only to look at some of the Royal Commissions on education between 1950 through to 1998 to determine that one of the major problems in implementing change such as  new curriculum is a lack of time by the teacher to learn the new curriculum and to develop teaching techniques that would best implement the curriculum. 
Another factor is the relationship between the government and the teachers at the time that new curriculum is brought out.  In the 1950's and 1960's, many curriculum documents were well received by teachers as they were seen as a partnership to improve learning in Ontario schools.  Since the early 1970's, the relationship between teachers and the governments has not been seen as a partnership in improving education in Ontario schools.  This has never been more apparent than it is now, under the Conservative government of Premier Mike Harris.
When examining music guidelines published by the Ministry from 1954 on, the reason for each new document is never stipulated.  The question that still remains is what was the reason for change.  There are many specific points that can serve as a basis for comparison between documents.  There are two categories:  the development and presentation of theories, ideas and methods, and the language style and presentation of the documents.
Although the time period we are examining is between 1950 and 1998, we would be remiss not to mention how music actually got into Ontario schools.  In 1848, Egerton Ryerson declared that music was worthy of inclusion in the public school curriculum.  As this became a reality over the next 150 years, a curriculum, methodology and bureaucracy developed.  The teaching of music in Ontario schools was modelled after the British method of teaching, and was very resistant to the American method.   
The 1954 course of study states that "appreciation is the immediate aim and ultimate end of music education." (
Courses of Study Grades IX, X, XI, XII, and XIII Music, Ontario Department of Education, 1954).  This would be achieved by allowing students the opportunity to experience music as  a spiritual, intellectual and social force.  Talented music students should be discovered, and allowed the opportunity to develop their gift.  True love of the art of music is to be the prime consideration of any course of study.  The ultimate facilitators to make all of this happen is the teacher.  It was felt that the teacher would share their own experiences of music and this would help the students find more joy and beauty in their everyday life through music.  The statement of aims is followed by a brief course description that consisted of lists of activities, topics to be covered, and the recommended material required to teach the course.  The course of study is divided into  performance, listening, and theory and sight-reading.  When compared to more recent documents, this was brief.  The whole course of study from grade 9-13 consisted of nine pages in a pamphlet form.  There is no specific methodology proposed, and much leeway was given to the teacher to attain the stated aims through the course of study. 
This leeway extends to the interpretation of the aims of the course.  The word "appreciation" is not defined in the document, however appreciation will be fostered as each pupil experiences music.  This is just one example of the lack of definition in the music document of 1954  and those that followed. 
This brings us to the common thread through all the documents that were studied.  That is the teacher-pupil relationship which drives the curriculum.  This relationship is the most significant part in achieving the aims of the curriculum that we have studied.  Regardless of the curriculum, the teacher is the most integral part of delivering it.  That is not to say that this is not the case in many other subjects, but it is most prevalent in music. 
Things began to change as we approach the 1960's.  In the 1950's, the language of presentation was that of the search for " joy and beauty in life through music."  Things became more analytical as music teaching moved into the '60's.  The aim of the music guideline, published in 1967, was to "educate the student culturally, intellectually, creatively, socially and spiritually."(
Intermediate and Senior Divisions Instrumental Music, Ontario Department of Education, 1967, p.g.2)  The Ministry was exerting more control on the experience of the student by providing more guidance for the thinking of the teacher.  The teacher is being given less leeway in shaping the connection between the aims of the document and the classroom experience.  Objectives were stated more explicitly which actually lessened the involvement required by the teacher, and teachers were participating less creatively in their function as interpreters of Ministry intentions.  The document of 1967 was much more prescriptive in nature as it broke down the elements of music (string, vocal, and wind) into specific sequences.  Term by term and year by year aims were outlined through the Intermediate and Senior Divisions.  The 1967 document introduced a new term to the music program - "a balanced music program."  The balance should be between performing and non-performing aspects of music, and there should also be a balance between vocal, wind instrumental and string instrumental.  Although this is a requirement, there is no attempt in the document to justify this shift in focus.  This did not become a reality in many of Ontario's high schools.  When comparing the 1950's to the 1960's, there seems to be little change in balance in both the guidelines and the classroom.
1972 Music Intermediate Division document from the Ministry is a much closer reality to the balanced music program spoken of in the 1967 document.  In this document, it is very evident that the Ministry has shifted its perception of the teaching force.  There is no longer a perceived need to compensate for the new, young, and hastily trained teaching force of the early 1960's.  This document is heavily influenced by normative theory that establishes direction and clarifies intentions related to the original aims of the course of study - the contribution of music to the affective and the aesthetic.  Remember that in 1954, the aim was appreciation of music.  In 1967, it was expanded to cultural, intellectual, creative, social and spiritual education of students through music.  The emphasis  was still technical in nature in the 1967 guideline.  The 1972 guideline attempts to clarify the aims in a new way.  Instead of breaking the affective and aesthetic aims into behavioural objectives, there is a series of essays, suggesting to the teacher ways in which those aims might become a part of the classroom.  After reading the guideline, it is apparent that only a "super-teacher" could possibly include all of which it expects you to do.  In order to balance their program, teachers could divide their program into three main categories: creating music, listening to music and performing music.  "The teacher, it is assumed, will blend these various elements into a harmonious whole." (Music, Intermediate Division, 1972, Ministry of Education, p.4)  One new emphasis in this document that is worth including is that on Canadian composers.  One can only assume that this is a result of an emphasis on Canadian nationalism that grew out of the late 1960's as a result of Expo '67.  This also introduced music teachers to the new concept of integration with other parts of the curriculum, which was a result of a current educational trend that influenced the development of the guideline. 
Senior Division Guideline of 1977 was a giant step away from anything we had seen to this point.  The 1972 document avoided the establishment of objectives, the 1977 guideline enforces them.  "The teacher should ensure that clearly stated objectives are developed in accordance with the aims of this guideline."(Music Senior Division, Ontario Ministry of Education, 1977, p. 3)  The word "must" appears seven times on the first page alone.  This guideline introduces a new concept - Ministry policy appears in blue print for the first time.  In this guideline, suggestions and criteria are outlined.  The teacher's task is defined as simply that - a task.  In 1977, the teacher was to ensure that clearly-stated objectives are formulated. 
Between 1977 and 1984, there were a number of "Curriculum Ideas for Teachers" that were published by the Ministry.  Those include
Music In Action, published in 1978 that was designed to aid the classroom teacher, and the activities are suitable for developing the skills and understanding that lead to greater musical awareness and sensitivity.  This supplement states that "music should be a part of every child's learning experience...and many songs will be sung without accompaniment of any kind for the sheer joy of singing."(Music in Action, 1978, p.2)  To read the introduction of Music is Special, Children are Special, 1981, one would think that we have not come very far since Hall-Dennis.  This supplement is designed specifically for children with exceptionalities.  This is the first introduction of music in the curriculum that is specifically designed for children with exceptionalities. 
The next major document that had a huge effect on music in the intermediate and senior divisions happened in 1984. 
Ontario Schools-Intermediate and Senior Divisions - Grade 7-12/OAC's, commonly referred to as OS:IS, had more of an impact on the high school music program than the intermediate(grades 7-8).  (this is the opinion of many high school teachers and from personal experience)  This document said that in the Arts, schools should plan programs that enable students to experience the enriching environment that the arts provide.  What created the furor in the high school is that students had to acquire only one Arts credit to gain their Ontario Secondary School Diploma(OSSD).  Arts was defined as either music, visual arts or dramatic arts, and many music teachers felt that this was a backward step in promoting their programs.  Jim Smythe, Head of Music at Clarke Road Secondary School, felt that it was wrong of the government to create a competition in the schools among the visual arts, drama and music departments.  In the grade 7/8 program, there was a definition of instructional hours.  A child should receive a minimum of 925 hours of instructional time, of which the Arts(visual arts, drama, and music) would receive 125 hours of instructional time.  This allowed principals to choose an emphasis of the three strands.  If a principal had a visual art background, he/she could justify spending more time on that subject, which was also cheaper than music.  Luckily, in London elementary schools, OS:IS had little effect on the existing programs.
In 1990, the
Curriculum Guideline-Music, Intermediate and Senior Divisions was introduced by the Ministry.  Again, there was a statement of the Aims of Music Education in Ontario.  These aims included the development of the students understanding of music through the study of pitch, rhythm, dynamics, tone, colour, texture and form.  Students should become aware of careers for which a background in music is a necessity or an advantage in life skills.  Also, for the first time in the aims of music education, there was the mention of the importance of learning the new technological developments in music.  The guideline also included suggestions on how to incorporate the following into the music program
Sex equity
Racial and Ethnocultural equity
The Library Resource Centre
Language Across the Curriculum
Values Education
Exceptional Students
Career Education
Life Skills
Computers in Music Education
Co-operative Education.
This guideline was unique in that it presented its expectations for each area of the music program, except for that of Grade 7 and 8.  It breaks the high school program into the three levels of difficulty, those being basic, general, and advanced.  It includes a section on evaluation and on the three areas of program development - listening, performing and creating.  It also includes a 7 page section on the OAC credit for music.  There is an extensive list of selected works for formal study that includes a generous helping of Canadian composers.
The introduction of
The Common Curriculum, Policies and Outcomes, Grades 1-9 , 1993, brought to teachers a whole new way of looking not only at their programs, but at the way they were delivered.  This was the introduction to Outcome Based Education.  This was a document that included all subjects from grades 1-9, and the statement was made that "the arts offers a picture of what people have felt, thought, and valued over the ages." (The Common Curriculum, p.38)  Once again, music was clumped in with the Arts, and a balanced program that included all the Arts was stressed.  This document included outcome statements for the end of Grade 3, 6, and 9.  It was broken down into four areas:

Understanding Form
Exploring Meaning in the Arts
Understanding the Function of the Arts
Experiencing the Creative Process in the Arts

There were 29 outcomes that related to the Arts.  This document was full of ideas, but it lacked substance and pedagogical theories, and implementation time.  It was the latter that caused the most distress amongst teachers.  But again, very little changed in London with the
Common Curriculum and music in the Intermediate Division.
1998 brought all music teachers in the elementary panel something they had not seen in many years.  A curriculum guideline that was prescriptive in nature and full of both overall and specific expectations for each grade.  The introduction states that "the music curriculum is intended to help students develop understanding and appreciation of music, as well as practical skills, so they will be able to find in music a lifelong source of enjoyment and personal satisfaction.  It is well documented that the intellectual and emotional development of children is enhanced through the study of music...Children learn to love music when they have opportunities to experience it in the context of a rich and varied curriculum." (
The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8, The Arts, 1998 p. 10)  It also states that "all teachers of music will develop meaningful programs that will enable their students to achieve the expectations for music in each grade."(The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8, The Arts, 1998, p.11)  For each grade there is, as already mentioned both overall and specific expectations.  Herein lies the difficulty with the document.  Very few music teachers would disagree that it would be true musical utopia if even half of the specific expectations for every grade could be achieved.  Music educators could also argue that this document supports the idea of music specialists in every school teaching music to every grade level.  Very few non-musically trained teachers could implement much of this document.  Like many of its predecessors, it includes the three areas of music: listening, creating and performing.  It breaks these three areas into three groups under the specific expectations - knowledge of elements, creative work, and critical thinking.  It is too early to make any judgement as to the success and effect that this document will have on music programs in Ontario elementary schools.
Although not necessarily brief, this is nonetheless, a general overview of the curriculum guidelines that are specifically related to music in the last fifty years in Ontario.  To sum up how each document influenced classroom activity is not easy.  One can say that the clearer the intentions of the document, and the clearer the establishing of the need for change, the more likely the success of implementation will be.  As with all Ministry documents relating to curriculum, it is the teacher that is the focus in making them successful.  To look back at the last fifty years in music education, one could ask the question as to how has the curriculum influenced what has happened in the classroom?  Again it goes back to the teacher.  Music specialists began filtering into school in the 60's, and began changing the focus of the music program to that of a performance based art.  After speaking to a number of music teachers in London and the surrounding area, the focus still remains on performance.  "Music is a performing art, and if we don't continue to perform and share our art, it will disappear." (Harold Riddolls - music teacher)